On Saturday 18th March, 2017, in a public ordination ceremony at Guhyaloka Retreat Centre in Spain
Ruben Sánchez became Yaśomani: “He who is an excellent jewel”
(Westernised spelling Yashomani).
Private preceptor Moksananda
Public preceptor Moksananda
Ruben Sánchez se convirtió en Yaśomaṇi: “El que es una joya excelente”
(Ortografía occidentalizada Yashomani ).
Preceptor privado: Moksananda
Preceptor público: Moksananda
In a public ordination ceremony at Guhyaloka Retreat Centre in Spain, on Saturday 18th March, 2017
Ruben Sánchez became Yaśomani: “He who is an Excellent Jewel”
(Westernised spelling Yashomani).
Private preceptor Moksananda
Public preceptor Moksananda
Ruben Sánchez se convirtió en Yaśomaṇi: “El que es una Joya Excelente”
(Ortografía occidentalizada Yashomani ).
Preceptor privado: Moksananda
Preceptor público: Moksananda
Suvannavira is a member of the Triratna Translations Board and lives in Moscow.
The Triratna Translations Board came into existence at the end of 2015, to promote and co-ordinate translations and publications projects. One of our tasks has been to administer funds made available for translations by Bhante Sangharakshita, following his hugely successful 90th birthday appeal in 2015.
Of the £30,000 given for translating his books, £5,000 went to projects in India and the remaining £25,000 was given to projects elsewhere in the world, for which we received 15 different applications totaling nearly £70,000. We are very glad to say we managed to partially fund every application, so they can all begin. To complete them we will apply for further funding from Triratna’s FutureDharma Fund and European Chairs’ Assembly.
Of the 15 applications, seven were for translations into languages we have not funded before:
- Albanian: translating The Noble Eightfold Path
- Estonian: Who is the Buddha? and What is the Dharma?
- Greek: Who is the Buddha?
- Hebrew: What is the Dharma?
- Hungarian, (re-publishing): Ambedkar and Buddhism
- Italian: The Noble Eightfold Path
- Turkish: Living with Kindness
Six were for translations into other languages:
- Dutch: The Bodhisattva Ideal
- German: Living Wisely and the second and third chapters of A Survey of Buddhism
- Polish: The Drama of Cosmic Enlightenment
- Portuguese: What is the Dharma?
- Russian: the introduction and first chapter of A Survey of Buddhism
- Swedish: editing The Inconceivable Emancipation
There were also three special projects:
- Spain and Mexico: part-time support for two people to co-ordinate translations work from these two countries. This has been done on an ad hoc basis over the last 25 years, so there is a bit of a backlog!
- Venezuela: support for editing articles and books already translated free of charge as part of a university programme by students studying translation.
- Sweden: Bhante donated money directly for a Right Livelihood translations project.
- Finally, an Indian Translations Board has been established to administer funds there. We will bring you further news when we have it.
Since the funding came from Bhante’s 90th birthday present, he has also seen the awards, and sent us this message:
“A lot of discussion must have gone into the allocation and I very much appreciate the fair and objective manner in which it was conducted. The allocation certainly has my approval and blessing, and I was interested to see how many languages were involved.”
Naturally we have received thanks from the grant recipients:
Prakashika for the grant for Hebrew:
“This is good news indeed, and will certainly make a difference. Thank you, and everyone on the Translation Board, for doing this work! It’s great to hear that there is so much translation work being done out there.”
Padmaketu for the grant for German:
“Das ist ja wunderbar, dass wir einen Zuschuss aus der Bhante 90th fund grant allocation bekommen sollen - vielen Dank!!” (“It is wonderful that we should be allocated a grant from the fund from Bhante’s 90th birthday – thank you very much!”)
Vaddhaka for the grant for Estonian:
“Many thanks for the news. We are very grateful for this financial support.”
Seden for the grant for Turkish:
“Knowing that every application can get started is hope-inspiring. I am excited to start the project. And receiving Bhante’s blessings is great! Thanks again for your intense effort.”
Val for the grant for Italian:
“That is wonderful news! Thanks for the offer and trust you are all placing in me.”
Would you like to take part in this great adventure? Are you inspired to participate in this positive flow of energy contributing to the communication of the Dharma as elucidated by Bhante, to share that great gift in as many languages as possible?
There are many ways in which you can help us:
If you are not a native English speaker, you can tell us how important it is for you to be able to read the Dharma in your native language. translations [at] triratnadevelopment.org (Email us. )
- Let us know of any situation where resources for translations might be needed.
- Share your skills with us in the areas of publishing, design, editing, proof-reading, website creation, etc.
- Donate to the FutureDharma Fund or directly to our Just Giving page.
- Let us know of any other ideas you may have! translations [at] triratnadevelopment.org (Email us.)
Parami is one of the Triratna Buddhist Order’s two Order convenors. She writes:
“In 1994, a book called Women, Men and Angels was published, with the subtitle: ‘An inquiry into the relative spiritual aptitudes of men and women’. It was written by Subhuti, a senior Triratna Order Member, with the intention of elaborating on an impression or ‘idea’ that had originally come from Sangharakshita. While I am sure this was not Subhuti’s intention, the book had a painful effect on many people – especially women – even causing some to leave our community. Over the years there has been debate and discussion within Triratna around the book and the themes outlined within it, and at times people have asked whether Subhuti still stands by those ideas. I am very pleased to see that Subhuti has now written a public statement expressing his regret for the publication of the book, and highly recommend that this is read by all.”
Women, Men and Angels: A personal statement by Subhuti
I want to make it quite clear that I very much regret the publication of my book, Women, Men, and Angels, which I think was a serious mistake. I am happy that the book was long ago withdrawn from distribution by the publisher and that all remaining copies were pulped for recycling about 10 years ago.
Unfortunately, the book drew attention to a relatively peripheral aspect of Sangharakshita’s thinking, giving it a status it did not warrant and having effects that I did not anticipate. I especially regret that some people have been caused pain by it, and some have been put off involving themselves with Triratna. I also regret the fact that it offers those who have criticisms of Triratna a further stick to beat us with. I expressed my regret in Shabda, the Order’s internal newsletter, in 2004, and have not changed my opinion since.
As to my personal attitudes, I do not meet a woman assuming that she is going to be inferior to me, especially because that has not been my experience. I have personally no difficulty in serving under the leadership of a woman should she be the best person for the job. And I have spent quite a bit of time in my life supporting women, as well as men, in their spiritual endeavours as best I can, especially in India, where they demonstrably still suffer many social and economic disadvantages.
So far as I am aware not many Order members these days would be willing to back Sangharakshita’s sense of the issues the book discusses. What this indicates to me is that we are free to disagree with our teacher, without disloyalty, on such matters that are not directly connected with the nature of the goal and the following of the Path. That surely is a sign of maturity.
The women’s wing of the Triratna Buddhist Order is flourishing – in many ways, it could be said, more so than the men’s at this present moment. Women now have leading positions in many of the key areas of our community, and it is quite clear there is no reason why a woman should not be Chair of Triratna’s senior body, the College of Public Preceptors, if she is the person best qualified to take that role. Indeed, I believe Sangharakshita was quite revolutionary at the time, 50 years ago, in founding an Order in which men and women receive the same ordination, with no difference in status.
During the earlier years of Triratna/the FWBO, I was often a leading and influential figure, as we tried to forge a new Buddhist community. Like many others at the time, I came to Buddhism with a strong urge to break away from existing convention and that counter-cultural impulse fuelled much experimentation and exploration. I benefitted greatly from that myself, but I have become aware over the years that my own words and deeds had a far greater effect on others than I was able to take account of then, sometimes in ways that were painful and even harmful. I sincerely regret that and ask anyone so affected to forgive me. I will do my best to respond to anyone who has anything to raise with me.
As you may know, Triratna featured in the British newspaper The Observer on Sunday 19th February 2017, in an article referring to allegations of sexual misconduct in the FWBO in the 1970s and 80s.
As the person interviewed for the article, I thought I’d explain how this came about and what I actually said; in several places the article was misleading or quoted me inaccurately.
On 8th February a journalist emailed Adhisthana:
“Hi. I’m a journalist writing about what is going on within the Triratna community re sexual abuse claims. I understand you have reported some concerns about one individual to Croydon social services. But other people say claims of abuse against a senior figure in the community is not being investigated. It would be good to talk to someone about this urgently. Many thanks, Jamie Doward”
Given the subject matter, it was decided that I should respond, as Triratna’s Safeguarding officer.* I emailed Jamie Doward immediately but he postponed the article by a week and so the interview took place on the phone on the following Wednesday, 15th February.
It was a very friendly 35-minute phone conversation, which started with him asking me to explain the content of last September’s BBC report because he hadn’t seen it. At the end of our conversation he said,
“I’ll do a very straight story saying a few people have come forward, you’re aware of it and have apologised, you’ve put in new measures, you’re offering to talk to people from the past who’ve had these problems; it’s a legacy of the 70s and 80s and the Order is looking to address these issues but there is nothing contemporary that gives rise to concern.”
The finished article differed somewhat from this description. Let’s take it bit by bit:
Fears mount over scale of Buddhist sect sexual abuse
Jamie Doward never asked me whether I had any fears over the possible scale of sexual misconduct in Triratna and I did not express any such fear.
One of the UK’s largest Buddhist orders has been forced to report allegations of sexual abuse after a former follower claimed he was coerced into sex with one of its elders.
From his email to Adhisthana, we know the journalist had been told that Glenn’s account of being groomed for sex as a teenager by the former Chair of Croydon Buddhist Centre during the 1980s had been reported to social services. He did not ask whether or not I had been “forced” to report; and indeed we were not “forced” to report. I reported swiftly and willingly, and I said so in the interview.
In the 1980s its Croydon centre was closed down…
I said the Croydon Buddhist Centre had been “closed down by Sangharakshita” but later reopened “with a completely new leadership”, and that “it is a very thriving centre today.” [Author’s note 10th March 2017: I have since learned that I was wrong in stating that the Croydon Buddhist Centre closed down. The arts centre, Independent Arts, closed down but the Buddhist Centre continued without a break, with completely new leadership.]
A document produced by the order suggesting that relationships between students and teachers could be beneficial was until recently still available online. ‘We took it out of public circulation, not as a way of covering it up but because we agreed it was unsuitable,’ Munisha explained.
He asked about something he’d heard about Sangharakshita suggesting somewhere that sex between teachers and students was a good idea, something to do with “a Clear Vision website”. I said several times that he was referring to a 4.5-minute video clip from an interview with Bhante [many years ago] which had been on the Clear Vision website, among hundreds of other such clips, 35 seconds of which had featured in the BBC report.
In this 4.5-minute clip Bhante is asked if there is anything he would like to say to lay to rest some people’s concerns about his sexual relationships. He says that people will always speculate, “people being what they are” and goes on to say how creative the late 60s, the 70s and, to some extent the 80s, were. In the 35 seconds the BBC extracted from this video, Bhante says “there was a lot of experimentation within the FWBO and for me personally within my own life there was also quite a lot of experimentation. In fact I may say that this was for me personally one of the richest and one of the most creative periods in my whole life. And it is because of that, because the FWBO was like that in those days, and because I was like that in those days, that we now have the FWBO that we have today.”
I told the journalist I thought this a “wholly inadequate” response to the question. I said, of the whole video clip, “We took it out of public circulation, not as a way of covering it up but because we agreed it was unsuitable”, but that it remained in the offline archive.
I’ve checked the full clip and at no point in it does Bhante say anything directly about relationships between teachers and students, or that they are a good idea. However, he does say that we should not look back and apologise for our past.
I explained that it had been alleged on the BBC programme that the presence of the video on the Clear Vision website indicated that Triratna still advocated sex as an element in friendship between Buddhist teachers and students, but that this was not the case: it was there because an archive’s job is to keep everything, whatever we think of it, for posterity.
I said our current teaching materials were on our main website [The Buddhist Centre Online] and that they did not advocate sex between teachers and students.
Munisha said: ‘Everybody knows he’s had sexual relationships with some of the people in the community. Some people around today say they were very happy with those relationships, and some say, no, they didn’t really want to, and felt confused by his advances and felt he should not have put them in that position.’
He’d asked me about Bhante’s having “admitted” in 2009 to having sex with some of his students and whether I would “accept that there might be a systemic problem in the Order”.
I said, “It’s not really a question of him admitting to it because it’s never been a secret. Everybody knows that he had a number of sexual relationships and some people are around today and say they were very happy with those relationships and they gained a lot from them, and then there are some who say they know that they didn’t really want to, and that they felt confused by his advances and afterwards felt that he shouldn’t have put them in that position. So I wouldn’t accept that there is something systemic there. There may be more to come out - that’s always a possibility - but nothing I’ve seen so far suggests anything systemic.” I said that so far at least there had been just two allegations of abuse committed by Order members in the 30 years since the late 1980s.
She said the order had set up a safe space for people who had been members of the order in the 70s and 80s who believed they were abused to have their stories heard.
What I said was that we had “set up a safe online space for the Order, where they could share their stories and be heard – the beginnings of a sort of truth and reconciliation process - first of all closed because you wouldn’t expect people to tell personal, painful stories in public. We’ve been criticised for that because it’s closed but we have to start somewhere. And the College have now set up a small subgroup which is going to work every day for the foreseeable future on looking at a process including possible external reconciliation processes so that we get to the bottom of absolutely anything that is still outstanding. We really want to do right by anyone who is still hurt.”
Finally he asked me if there was anything else I wanted to say. I said, “I want to make it clear we really do want to get into dialogue with anyone who feels that they have been hurt, that we are ready to listen, that we very much regret if anyone has been hurt through their encounter with Triratna.”
*I stepped down as Communications officer last October when it became clear there was a conflict of interests between that job and the work of a Safeguarding officer.
Afterwards, I emailed the journalist these documents:
Sangharakshita’s 2009 quote:
“…I have had many, many human encounters, the great majority non-sexual, and most of those encounters, including the sexual ones, have been satisfactory for both parties. If there were any encounters that were not satisfactory for the other person, whether at the time or in retrospect, then that is a pity and I am truly sorry that that should be the case.”
This comes from an interview on his website transcribed as ‘Conversations with Bhante’
The public page we have had on Triratna’s main web platform since 2013, regularly updated, containing links to material critical of Triratna: Our Development & Values
Statement from the College of Preceptors (endorsing Sangharakshita’s statement)
Statement from the College of Preceptors making explicit their pre-existing rule on sexual relationships between those conducting ordinations and those they ordain
Triratna’s model ethical guidelines for those who run/teach at our centres, including one on sexual relations with those new or relatively inexperienced to Triratna (reviewed and developed annually)
Our latest model safeguarding documents (reviewed and developed annually)
Job ad for new Safeguarding officer
Our public static page on safeguarding in Triratna
Various public posts relating to safeguarding in Triratna
Sthanashraddha is Bhante’s secretary. He writes:
“As this short month of February comes to a close here at Adhisthana it’s clear the seasonal battle between summer and winter is on. We have enjoyed a few delightful days of blue skies and warm sunshine as the snowdrops blossom all around the hills, but the winds have howled too! The rain has lashed the window panes on more than one side of the building and the temperature has fluctuated. Nonetheless summer is winning, as it always does, even if the victory can seem a little weak in England sometimes.
During some of the worst weather this month we lost an old friend. Toppling over one morning, one of the beech trees by the front pond crashed to the ground. Apart from this Adhisthana suffered no losses even during storm Doris. Just to further my usual opening verses on the natural world around Adhisthana, Bhante thought a nature note was in order: the ducks and drakes here are all pairing off and beginning to roam around the buildings searching out their familiar nesting sites before they settle and lay their eggs. Bhante mentioned a pheasant spotted outside the conservatory recently. Some of you on more than one occasion will have already spotted a robin in the main dining hall which also visited the annexe kitchen once or twice while Sanghadasa was preparing Bhante’s lunch.
Bhante’s health is continuing to be very good since his recovery from the attack of pneumonia in December. Though he has taken to using his zimmer frame about the house for support, he has also commented on feeling, health-wise, better than he has done for some time. There have also been two hospital trips this month, one for his fourteenth Lucentis injection in the left eye, and the other trip to see Mr Gandhi, his consultant ophthalmologist, one of a team of six eye consultants at his hospital, who is a very talkative and friendly man with a turban.
As I mentioned last month Bhante has received many personal replies to his personal statement and clarification. These continue to arrive and are almost all expressions of understanding and much appreciation and gratitude, there being just two or three replies of a more searching or critical nature which were also expressed in an overall mood of gratitude. Along with these letters Bhante is also aware of the recent article in the Observer newspaper which was read to him later on the day it was published.
This month Bhante has been going through a book about the ‘Book of Job’ with Paramartha in the evenings. Though as he pointed out to me this was not his first encounter with Job. He has something to say about the book in his own book From Genesis to the Diamond Sutra including this: ’When I was in my teens my favourite books of the Bible were the ‘Book of Job’ and the ‘Song of Solomon’, especially the former, which I read over and over again.’ (p.17)
On 24th February four years ago Bhante arrived at Adhisthana; apparently it was very cold with ice and snow around. This month then, on the 24th, the sangha here marked the anniversary with a photo outside the men’s community in the sunshine with Bhante, followed by a more-than-usual festive tea break and homemade cake, some of which was sent through to Bhante.
And finally, on the subject of past events and memories, Bhante is working on more than one set of personal reminiscences at the moment, which he hopes before too long will be ready for publication.”
Clear Vision’s latest NewsByte takes us to Triratna’s Gender diverse group’s first day of study and sangha at the Sheffield Buddhist Centre. Kamalanandi shares his own story of transitioning and explains how and why the group was set up.
The second gender diverse retreat runs 4th-7th May 2017 at Adhisthana, UK.
See a report on Triratna’s first gender diverse retreat.
Catch up with the interview ”Gender diversity in Triratna”: Video | Audio
Today we report on a group of women practising the Dharma in a really challenging environment: Venezuela.
You might have missed it, but Venezuela is in the middle of a severe political and economic crisis. According to Bloomberg, the annual inflation rate is about 1200%. With Brexit going on, here in the UK the rate is around 1.8%, and that’s considered high. Food and medicine shortages and a currency nosedive are just some of the problems Venezuelans are facing.
In the midst of this is the Buddhist Center of Mérida, where a small group of women, many of whom have asked for ordination, are practising without any Dharmacharinis to support them. Their nearest Dharmacharinis are in Mexico, a manageable flight if it weren’t for the economic crisis which makes it impossible.
Parami first visited them in March 2015. She writes “I was deeply moved to meet the six women there who have asked to enter the Triratna Buddhist Order. They practise with very little input, have only met two Dharmacharinis so far (myself and Jñanadakini) and yet have felt moved to practice within our community.”
Their inspiration and commitment to practice is clear from their personal stories, which you can find on the group’s Facebook page.
Henriette says “Practising and studying the Dharma has changed my life, guided my actions and cultivated clarity in my consciousness. My friendship with Vajranatha has been a thread that has helped me to always return to the Triratna Community and to lose my fear of a deeper commitment. I love the Sangha and always learn by listening to them. Their stories often move me and they are a mirror that more faithfully returns my own story.”
Maria Elena writes “The wheel of the Dharma turned in our favour and Jñanadakini came to visit us, and with deep compassion has contributed to our growth and development. We have learned many things from her and she have been an example of metta and commitment.”
Parami has been on a fundraising drive to get the women who have asked for ordination to Mexico for a training retreat.
Gleysa (21) says “I have never traveled outside of Venezuela, and my chances of doing so are completely zero… I am infinitely grateful for the possibility of attending my first retreat in Mexico in 2017. I would like to have the pleasure of meeting more women in the process of ordination training and other Dharmacharinis.”
Parami writes “We have hit the target of £2000. Alongside some other money directly donated we can probably pay for five of the nine women from Venezuela to fly up to Mexico for the GFR retreat in April. That is so so wonderful! Of course, if you have not donated and would like to please, please do as there are lots of other expenses we could put money towards.”
Many of our readers and friends will be aware that over the years Triratna has periodically needed to revisit troubling issues relating to events in our past. These derive in part from allegations of sexual misconduct by our founder, Sangharakshita, in his relations with a number of adults in the 1970s and ’80s. You can read about the general background here: Our Development & Values
At present there is a renewal of interest in these matters at Triratna Centres and online, after they were the subject of a 12-minute BBC local television report in eastern England in September 2016. Obviously, we take them very seriously as a community and as an Order. We also see them as an opportunity to hear and learn from the new perspectives that are arising in this latest examination of our shared history.
Sangharakshita himself published a personal statement at the end of last year. It ends with these words: “I would therefore like to express my deep regret for all the occasions on which I have hurt, harmed or upset fellow Buddhists, and ask for their forgiveness.” He later confirmed that “his apology extends to anyone he has harmed in any way at all, including those who were Buddhists at the time if not now, and their non-Buddhist family and friends.” The spirit of this was welcomed in a further statement from the College of Public Preceptors (a key body in Triratna’s leadership).
Now a working group of senior members of the Order, drawn from the College and beyond, has established the “Adhisthana Kula”, at Adhisthana, Triratna’s headquarters in Herefordshire, UK. These six women and men have been meeting very regularly, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. They will be considering ways of responding to and - where possible - resolving the issues arising, consulting with others as appropriate. They write:
“One of the areas we have already started exploring is possible approaches to reconciliation, including whether this might involve an independent agency. These processes are very sensitive and need a great deal of patience, care, and empathy and may need to go on quietly, in the background.”
The Kula is blogging about the process of their work in a dedicated public space.
If you have any questions or concerns about this please see the list of resources below, or feel free to contact the Adhisthana Kula at any time: kula [at] adhisthana.org
Useful resources around historical controversy
- +Follow The Adhisthana Kula
- Our Development & Values: a public page on this site (Triratna’s main web platform since 2013), regularly updated, referring to past controversy and linking to material critical of Triratna
- Triratna Communications Team response to BBC request for comment about ‘Inside Out’ (September 2016, also in archive above)
- Sangharakshita’s Personal Statement (2016)
- Statement from the College of Public Preceptors endorsing Sangharakshita’s statement (2017)
- Statement from the College of Public Preceptors making explicit their pre-existing rule on sexual relationships between those conducting ordinations and those they ordain
- Triratna’s model ethical guidelines for those who run/teach at Triratna Centres (2016, reviewed and developed annually)
- Triratna’s latest model safeguarding documents (2016, reviewed and developed annually)
- Our public page on safeguarding in Triratna
- Various public posts relating to safeguarding in Triratna
- A list of all public resources around these issues on The Buddhist Centre Online
Sthanashraddha is Sangharakshita’s secretary. He writes:
“There is not much to report from the early part of December apart from Bhante having a rather quiet time having recovered from a long spell of poor sleep over the summer and autumn. During that time he saw Subhuti, Lokamitra and Devamitra, having seen almost no one in the previous month or two.
Then Bhante caught a cold. He quickly deteriorated and was admitted on the evening of Tuesday 20th December to Hereford County Hospital suffering from pneumonia. Whilst in hospital the Uddiyana team arranged 24-hour attendance between Sanghadasa, and Paramartha and Suvajra who took it in turns to stay overnight with Bhante. He was in hospital for 10 days and left in the afternoon of Friday, 30th December.
As soon as he was out of hospital, that evening, he dictated his personal statement to Paramartha before going to bed, which has been circulated to the Order and others. There have been many emails, cards and letters posted in reply [including 125 from Order members], the vast majority expressing appreciation and gratitude, which I must say even as secretary have been deeply moving to read to Bhante.
It has taken several weeks for his health to improve and only now does he feel fully recovered. Bhante hopes to write something about his hospital experience but in the meantime said it would surface to say that the experience was very different from his life at Adhisthana and he was glad to return home.
However, this recent illness does seem to have marked a change in Bhante’s life. Things are and will be quite different now and Bhante will be receiving quite a bit more help and care from the health care services. He has already received a new hospital-style bed that can be raised or lowered at the touch of a button, and a visit from a physiotherapist who has given him a set of exercises to help him keep mobile. (These are done every day with the help of Sanghadasa.) Soon there will also be a visit from an occupational therapist and a Community Matron. Bhante also had another visit to the eye clinic on Thursday 19th January at Kidderminster Hospital for his 13th Lucentis eye injection.
Apart from the world of health of course other things continue, such as study with Paramartha. At the time of going into hospital they had gone through the first chapter of The Lotus Sutra: A Biography, by Donald Lopez on the White Lotus Sutra; and after his return from hospital they picked up where they left off and have now finished it. Listening to Audio Books also has resumed - at present it’s Evelina by Fanny Burney, the daughter of Charles Burney, a friend of Doctor Johnson.
With returning strength and energy Bhante has also been able to begin seeing people for short meetings again and has during the later half of January seen the following people: Jnanavaca, Saddhanandi, Nityabandhu, Rijupatha, Parami, Kalyanaprabha, and Sue Shepard. And as the days begin to lengthen and slowly but surely the spring bulbs make their way up through the earth, I know Bhante is looking forward to once again walking out in the garden by the pond and feeling the sun shining on his face.
In this 4.5-minute video pupils and teachers at a London primary school talk to Srivati about the effect of their mindfulness programme. Srivati runs the Breathing Space in Schools project, in London, UK, and will be running training this month for others who’d like to teach mindfulness for schools. She writes:
“I love teaching mindfulness in London schools. You get to meet loads of young people and their staff and introduce them to a set of positive skills and approaches that may last them a lifetime. Recently, working with a small group of 10 year-olds over eight weeks I was delighted how they each felt they could cope better with the challenges of not reacting to things and people. ‘The good things inside are winning over the bad things’, says Ahmed.
Twice a year we offer a 3-day training for school staff who want to become mindfulness and meditation mentors for their schools. These are also open to those connected with Triratna centres and groups who would like to do outreach in local schools.
After the training last autumn, some of our participants said:
“I learned how to bring mindfulness to young people in an accessible, practical and fun way.
“I feel equipped and excited about starting my journey of mindfulness in school.”
“ Absolutely worth travelling for, even with train delays!”
To be eligible, you need to have done an 8-week secular mindfulness course and have been practising for at least 6 months.
The next training will be at the London Buddhist Centre on 25th and 26th February and 7th May and costs £450.
srivati [at] breathingspaceinschools.co.uk (Contact Srivati.)
Visit the Breathing Space website.
Vidyamala, founder of Breathworks, spent December running an online video retreat on the American Buddhist site, Tricycle.com. This set of four 20-minute talks isentitled ’Freeing the Mind When the Body Hurts”. She writes:
“I started developing mindfulness courses for people with pain and illness way back in 2001, drawing on my own experience of coming to meditation with a spinal injury and wanting to offer advice for others in similar circumstances. Joined by Sona and Ratnaguna, we developed this to become the Community Interest (not-for-profit) Company Breathworks in 2003.”
Breathworks has since become internationally recognised and its teachers now offer courses in more than 25 countries. Jon Kabat-Zinn has of it: ‘The Breathworks approach to Mindfulness-Based Pain Management (MBPM) is the most comprehensive, in-depth, scientifically up-to-date and user-friendly approach to learning the how of living with chronic pain and reclaiming one’s life that I know of. I admire Vidyamala tremendously…her approach could save your life and give it back to you.” In 2014, Vidyamala’s book Mindfulness for Health, co-authored with Danny Penman, won first prize in the British Medical Association book awards in the Popular Medicine category.
Alongside this work Vidyamala has focussed on deepening her understanding and practice of the Buddhist approach to mindfulness and kindness, offering many retreats at Taraloka and now Adhisthana and Rivendell. She writes, “I’ve been intrigued about the interface between ‘secular’ mindfulness that has a very wide reach into the world, and Buddhism that offers considerably more depth but is less widely accepted within Western society. So I’m increasingly turning my attention to bridging these two worlds in the hope of making the Buddhadharma much more widely known and practised.”
1. The Power of Awareness - looking at the Satipatthana Sutta
2. Letting go of the Struggle - looking at the Salattha Sutta
3. And What of Love? - looking at the Brahma Viharas
4. Six Steps to Living with Choice -
- Compassionate Acceptance
- The Treasure of Pleasure
- Gaining Perspective
- Living with Choice
Maitripala is an Order member in Australia. When I met her a couple of years ago, she told me of her plans to embark on a pilgrimage along the east coast of Australia to volunteer for different Triratna Buddhist Groups and Centres. Wearing her kesa every day for a year, she would also hand out small Buddha figures to strangers she met along the way. Here she describes how this incredibly moving adventure has been unfolding.
Maitripala writes: “I have been given 170 little Buddhas to give away for the ‘Buddhas in my Pocket’ pilgrimage. So far 52 have gone to new pockets and I will continue to hand the others on over the next four months whilst visiting and helping at Triratna centres/groups along the east coast of Australia.
Starting conversations with strangers and hearing the stories, hopes and dreams of so many wonderful people has increased my faith and confidence in the amazing potential of human beings. The effect of hearing these tender stories often stays with me long after we part. One conversation was with a man from Tibet who had spent four years in Chinese prison where he said he learnt to manifest a compassionate response to those beating him. His gentle, dedicated task of developing compassion spurred me on to be more active in opposition to my country’s treatment of refugee families.”
With blog posts on her attending a ‘Grandmothers against Refugee Children in Detention’ protest and catching up with a man she met last year when he was living on the streets, it’s no surprise Maitripala’s name means “Guardian of Loving Kindness.”
Can you help Maitripala continue this journey of metta walks and dharma sharing?
This winter’s gathering of Triratna’s European Chairs’ Assembly ended last week at Adhisthana and was unusually large, with around 60 participants. This partly reflects a changeover in Chairs in around 15 centres and enterprises, the old and new Chairs attending together.
The topic this time was leadership, explored through a series of presentations and workshops. Listen to short interviews on this topic.
The Chairs also heard about the work done by the College, Bhante and Triratna’s communications team to respond to the matters raised by the BBC’s local tv programme in September 2016, just after the Chairs’ last meeting.
A new dedicated Safeguarding post was agreed, to build on the work I began in 2013. It was very good to see how much progress has been made in Safeguarding provision since the publication of our first model policies in 2015.
Endorsing a Personal statement from Sangharakshita , Triratna’s College of preceptors have released this letter, sent to all Order members on 15th January.
“Dear brothers and sisters in the Order,
On 31st December 2016 Bhante released a personal statement to all Order members via the Order Information Service. I am speaking on behalf of all Public Preceptors when I say how glad we are that Bhante has felt able to make this statement and how much we welcome the confessional nature of the contents. I believe it will contribute to the further integration of some of the more complex and problematic aspects of our history.
Bhante’s statement is, in part, a response to discussions that have been taking place in the Order recently, especially about his sexual history, following the broadcast of a short report as part of a British local TV programme ‘Inside Out’ on 26th September 2016. Because of his serious ill health at that time, Bhante was not told until the beginning of December about the programme or the ensuing discussions in Triratna and beyond. He had however already been reflecting on these matters for some time and has been talking about them with his companions and close friends in the College.
Although Bhante’s message is personal, it is effectively a public statement and therefore generalised in form; but hopefully it will be heard in the spirit in which it is communicated and will go some way, at least, towards acknowledging the experience of those who feel hurt or upset as a result of past events. Clearly this process may take time. As College members we wish to offer our support to anyone who wishes to contact us to discuss matters further. We would also, of course, be very willing to discuss our own individual past actions in relation to these matters - or any other.
Like many Order members, we have been very concerned by what we have heard and the evident pain and suffering in some accounts, even though it is always hard to know precisely what happened in personal relations between other people, especially at such a distance in time. This is all the more the case since much of our discussion in the Order in the West these days takes place online, especially on Facebook, where the sheer flow of information and comment - and contradiction - can make it hard to know what is accurate. The fact that previously private confidences may no longer be respected and are likely to end up in the public domain further complicates the issue. However we hope that over time more people who were around during that period when Bhante was sexually active will tell their stories about those times and that from this a more rounded picture will gradually emerge; that is why we welcomed the setting up of the ‘Stories of the Past and Present’ forum on the Order pages of The Buddhist Centre Online. [Ed: Given the personal nature of some of the material shared here between friends in the Order, the ‘Stories’ space is a private one.]
Over the years we have made attempts to understand past events; to learn from them and to guard against repeating mistakes; and to ensure that people making a connection with our Order are aware of our history. We have long recognised that Preceptors should not have sexual relations with those they have ordained, nor should they ordain those with whom they have had such relations in the past. We adopted this principle many years ago, with Bhante’s full support, and in order to avoid any ambiguity, we recently communicated this to all preceptors in writing. Furthermore, we have since 2013 championed the development of model ethical guidelines for Triratna teachers around the world, which make it clear they should not have sexual relations with those for whom they are the main teacher; also model safeguarding policies regarding the protection of children and of ‘vulnerable adults’.
Consideration of some aspects of Bhante’s past has been difficult for some of us in the College, as it has been for many of our brothers and sisters in the Order and others associated with our community. Bhante is the founder of our Order and Movement and we feel enormous appreciation and gratitude to him for his teachings and inspiration - and yet at the same time we must acknowledge the effects of some of his past actions. Nonetheless, we in the College remain clear about Bhante’s key position.
Our responsibility as Public Preceptors comes from Bhante as founder of the Order. We conceive of the Order in the terms he defined, and practise and teach the Dharma according to his particular presentation of it; we will continue to carry out our responsibilities as Public Preceptors for guarding the gates of the Order, faithful to the vision and understanding that derive from him.
This is a crucial period in the history of the Triratna Buddhist Order, with Bhante entering the last phase of his life. At this time, may we and our brothers and sisters in the Order learn from our mistakes, as we again go through the process of gaining new perspective on our past. May this lead to us sharing a deeper confidence in our Order and Community, so that together we continue to be a force for good in the world.
Saddhaloka, Chair of the College of Public Preceptors, 12/01/2017
with Amrutdeep, Paramabandhu, and Ratnadharini, Deputy Chairs
on behalf of the College of Public Preceptors of the Triratna Buddhist Order”