In order to build on the already vibrant Young Buddhist activities in Australia and New Zealand, Future Dharma are now supporting a Triratna Young Buddhist Coordinator for the entire Area for 2 days per week. Dhammakumāra, currently Triratna’s youngest Order member, moved from the UK to take up this role in August 2018.
Dhammakumāra is currently based in Sydney but travels to other centres in Australia and New Zealand quite often. Here he explains a bit about the role and what he’s been up to so far.
Why did you take on the role of Young Buddhist Coordinator in Australia and New Zealand?
I didn’t really move for the role. I had been wanting to leave the UK and see a bit more of the world. I had found myself in Sydney because an Dharmachari here, Dharmalata, had posted on The Buddhist Centre Online offering any Order members wanting to visit a place to stay in Sydney for 6 weeks, which I had taken him up on. When I came here, I quickly fell in love with this side of the world and decided I wanted to stay a while. So the decision to move across the world came first. There’s been loads of excellent work for Young People’s activities already in the region, and really amazing people at each centre - so it’s not, by any stretch, like someone from outside needed to come in.
After I was ordained (in September 2017) I almost immediately felt like I wanted to do more for our movement - to give back to what had given me so much. The opportunity to work in an international role seemed like a good step in that direction!
And it just so happened that while I was in Sydney was when they were conducting the interviews [for the Young Buddhist Coordinator role], so it seemed too perfect to not apply! Future Dharma Fund has provided funding for the first year, and the hope is that they will be able to extend that to a second year.
Given that it’s a part-time role how do you support yourself?
I’m a software programmer. I do most of my work as a contractor for a company based out in the US, so I work from home and so have the ability to do that anywhere in the world. This is pretty ideal to supplement the part-time role as I have the flexibility to be able to travel around while still being able to look after myself financially.
What kinds of things have you been involved in?
In November I was at a ‘Coming Home to Freedom’ retreat with the Melbourne Young Buddhists. It was a great retreat: we had 15 young people ranging from 17 to 35(ish) years old - 9 men and 6 women - plus myself and Itir (a Mitra who has asked for ordination) who co-led with me. For several of the attendees it was their first retreat. One of the things that really struck me on the retreat was the depth of practice that already existed for the Young People on the retreat, even those quite new.
In early January I was on a long weekend retreat at Sudarshanaloka in New Zealand on the theme ‘Mettā as Insight’. We had 11 attendees, mostly from Auckland - but we also had one person fly up from Wellington, and a Mitra who asked for ordination from Spain who is currently travelling in New Zealand also flew up from the South Island to join us. The retreat was a huge success and I am confident that many of the attendees will be taking their commitment deeper off the back of it.
There is a dramatic difference in scenery between the Australia and the New Zealand landscapes. This was my second visit to Sudarshanaloka, and I am particularly taken by its beauty. (Any Order Member who hasn’t visited should definitely aim to do so - they have especially excellent solitary facilities which are particularly well suited for longer solitary retreats.)
I’ve also been involved in activities with the Adelaide Sangha, co-leading a retreat for young people from the Auckland Sangha and in April I’ll be heading back to Melbourne to lead a men’s retreat.
At the end of April/beginning of May we are having the Australia/New Zealand Region Area Council Meeting, followed by the Order Convention at Vijayaloka. In between these two events, the Area Council is planning to bring together some key people in the region (all the Chairs, the Public Preceptors, etc.) which I will be attending as part of my role. In June I’m planning to have an Australia/New Zealand equivalent of the Big One [a gathering for young Buddhists that takes place annually in the UK].
So they’re keeping me busy!
Has there been anything particular that has struck you in your work so far?
There’s a lot I could say! I think there is much more similarities than differences. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook the unity in our Order, but going to different countries and meeting people practicing in fundamentally the same way oneself… there’s something quite magical about it.
The main difference is of course there are much less Centres (4 Centres plus smaller groups), so there’s much more direct interaction with each one than similar work would entail in the UK. Secondly, they’re very spread out from each other - so one can feel a bit isolated, and the majority of the Order seems very far away. Back in the UK, I would go to Padmaloka for weekends, or go visit friends in the Order in other cities - but here that broader sense of the Order is a bit harder to maintain.
Here’s an interesting initiative: Pujas with Altitude! It’s a chance to climb Snowdon, the highest mountain in the UK, take part in three pujas - on lake, hill and ancient woodland - as well as raise money for Taraloka, in particular, to help build an ‘Earth-Sky’ Garden.
Animisha is one person who has accepted this challenge! She writes: “Taraloka has been an important retreat centre for women to be able to come together to practice. It was the first retreat centre I went to and I have been back several times over the years. The old concrete stand just outside the shrine room is not the most beautiful part of Taraloka so it will be great if they can transform that space, especially if they can make it accessible to all.”
This sponsored challenge will help raise funds for Taraloka’s major project for 2019: the Earth-Sky Garden, transforming the area outside the shrine room windows, making it an accessible as well as a sacred space for all.
In December the Bristol Buddhist Centre hosted a practice morning on the theme ‘The Three Jewels Meet the Climate Emergency’. The event offered a space for the Sangha to come together to explore thoughts and feelings around the climate emergency, how Dharma practice helps with facing the reality of the situation, and what ‘taking action’ might look like in this context. This was followed by an action outside Barclays bank in the afternoon with meditation, leafletting and singing ‘climate carols.’
Listen to the guided meditation and talks from this event
Read more about the Triratna Global Emergency Initiative and get involved!
Amrtanadi was one of those involved in this event. Here is an interview with her about her involvement in climate activism, the event that took place in Bristol, and what she thinks the Dharma can bring to the table.
Do you have a background in activism?
One of the strongest guiding principles in my practice of the Dharma is my desire to live from love and to avoid causing harm. Making choices that minimise the harm I cause through contributing to climate change has been important to me for a long time - for example, around transport and where my food comes from.
But I’d never taken that further into collective action or activism - in part, because I didn’t quite know where to put my energy, and perhaps also because of a feeling of powerlessness, not having a clear sense of what I could do that might make a difference beyond my own individual ethical choices. I think this is a common response in the face of such a massive, complex and emotive issue as climate change. I very often hear from other people that there is nothing we can do, it’s all much bigger than us, a kind of collective sense of disempowerment, together I think with the emotional overwhelm that can quite easily arise when we try to take in the enormity of the situation that we face.
Something really changed for me when the latest IPCC report came out in at the beginning of October of last year which stated, in much more urgent terms than I had heard before, the need for us to act now. What really affected me about the report was the almost deafening silence that greeted it in the mainstream media, and life carrying on all around me as usual. I think it really sank in to me at that point just how much we really can’t take in what is happening and what the climate emergency calls on us to do. The group Extinction Rebellion (XR) rose out of this time, calling for mass civil disobedience to try and force the issue more into public consciousness and to make the government take notice and take action, spelling out in black and white the reality of the situation that we are facing: the potential extinction of much life on earth and a real threat to human survival. This felt like a much more real and congruent response to the IPCC report than the business as usual life I saw going on all around me.
I also began reflecting a lot on what it means to be a practicing Buddhist in this time, and what part we, as a Sangha, and as part of the larger faith community might play - and, perhaps, have a responsibility to play - in raising awareness and being part of the collective change that must happen.
I saw clearly that focusing on individual ethical actions is not enough in the face of the urgency of our need to act. It wasn’t that my, and our, individual actions and choices didn’t now matter - they do. But my perspective on my practice of the first precept, my sense of what it means to practice non-harm and take loving action for the benefit of all beings in this age of climate breakdown, expanded and deepened. It felt clear that this must include engagement with collective action directed to raising awareness and to systemic change to try and bring about the dramatic and urgent reductions in carbon emissions now needed.
So, from never having taken part in any activism, apart from a march or two over the years, I quickly found myself involved in many actions and events with Extinction Rebellion and the Dharma Action Network for Climate Engagement (DANCE). It felt so helpful and important for me to make connections with others who are also in touch with the reality of the situation, to have a context to share our feelings, to be able to express them through positive action, and to experience a strong sense of solidarity and empowerment through coming together.
Who organised the ‘The Three Jewels Meet the Climate Emergency’ event in Bristol and what was its purpose?
My friend Dayajoti, who has been involved with Buddhafield for many years, and I were talking about the IPCC report, Extinction Rebellion and activism on the way up to Bhante’s funeral and the idea to run an event at the Bristol Buddhist Centre came out of that conversation. We knew that many people had been affected by the report and wanted to offer a space where the Sangha could come together to share thoughts and feelings around the climate emergency, how our Dharma practice might help us engage and face the reality of the situation, and explore taking action as a part of our practice.
We asked Rowan, who is a Mitra who has asked for ordination with the Oxford Sangha, to join us and give one of the talks. Rowan has been very involved with XR and DANCE and activism around the climate emergency is an integral part of her going for refuge and expression of the Bodhisattva ideal. We also asked Taranita to give one of the talks, who had also been at an XR event I was at in Bristol, Beth, who had also become involved with XR, and Amaragita who has been involved with Buddhafield and activism for a number of years.
This was the first recent Sangha event exploring the issue – though we did run BAM (Buddhist Action Month) at the Bristol Buddhist Centre in 2015 on the theme of climate change. The climate emergency will also be the theme for this year’s BAM. Both Dayajoti and I are away from Bristol for 3 months until the spring so haven’t been able to run any follow on events, but hope to pick up some momentum again with BAM in June and will see if anything more ongoing may emerge from that.
What happened during ‘The Three Jewels Meet the Climate Emergency’ event?
We began with Dayajoti leading a guided meditative reflection in the shrine room, inviting us to allow the issue into our hearts and notice our response. Myself, Rowan and Taranita then gave short personal talks on the climate emergency. We had space in small groups and then as a whole group to share anything that we wanted to in response, and ended in the shrine room chanting the Bodhicitta mantra together and transferring our merits.
Around 25 people came to the event. I was deeply moved by everyone’s honest sharing of their responses to the climate emergency itself and to the morning’s input. People shared their fears around the situation, sense of overwhelm and not quite knowing what they could do, but also hope, energy and enthusiasm to take action, a sense of empowerment, and a desire to try and stay open to the situation and to support one other in this. It felt that there was a strong sense of solidarity in the simple act of our coming together to engage with the issue with honesty and courage. Something in this that felt very significant, meaningful and necessary for all of us there.
Some of us helped organise a separate action after the morning event at the centre under the DANCE umbrella. DANCE and other groups, including Greenpeace, have been holding actions calling on Barclays Bank to divest from fossil fuel projects and companies for some time. Our action involved a sitting mediation protest outside the main branch of Barclays in Bristol and singing ‘climate carols’, with posters calling on Barclays to wake up to the climate emergency and divest from fossil fuel projects. We gave leaflets and explained the issue to members of the public who were interested in what we were doing. Around 10 of us took part in the action, and there was a collective sense of it being helpful and important to take the energy of our contemplative and discursive morning into action on the streets. I found it particularly meaningful to be involved in helping to raise awareness with members of the public - many people I talked to expressed gratitude and support for what we were doing.
What do you think the Dharma can bring to climate activism?
I think the Dharma can help us to try and make some sense of the climate emergency and our collective inability to really know its truth and take action. The Buddha named the roots of our own personal suffering as greed, hatred and delusion and, as well as manifesting in us individually, these roots will of course manifest in the structures, systems, behaviours and values of the societies and cultures we create collectively.
Delusion at heart is ignorance of our interconnectedness. We are intimately interconnected with the earth, her living systems and the other species and human beings we share this beautiful planet with. Our actions have consequences throughout the web of life, and these consequences are becoming increasingly destructive and dangerous to life on this earth. However, our belief that we are separate, autonomous selves is much more alive and real to us, and individually and collectively, we don’t live from this place of deep interconnectedness.
This not seeing, this ignorance, is, of course, basic Buddhism. It is perpetuated by our tendency to pull towards us that which makes us feel real and secure. This is the same pull that drives the entire, deeply damaging, consumer culture that we are part of, and also leads us to hold on to the normality of business as usual, the belief that ‘perhaps climate change isn’t real after all’, or ‘it won’t affect me and what I love’.
And, we’ll also push away that which threatens us or our sense of self, which in relation to climate change may include the unease and fear that all of us must surely on some level feel, the reality that our way of life must and will radically change, as well as our pain and grief about the situation.
Knowing the depths of the roots of the poisons in myself helps me to understand the very surreal situation of ‘business as usual’ and helps me to avoid falling into judgement, anger and blame around what is happening to our planet and our collective inaction. And I think that the reality of the climate emergency can be an urgent, potent and positive ethical challenge to wake ourselves up more and more to the reality of our own interconnectedness and to our delusions. We are not separate to the collective karma that has created the situation we are in, nor to what we collectively are called to do.
This understanding and perspective is something that the Dharma and we, as practicing Buddhists, can bring into climate conversations and actions to help guard against the danger of polarisation. Hopefully we can also bring awareness of our own motivations and views and a commitment to try to act from loving-kindness and in a way that supports harmony and understanding. It’s so easy to fall into seeing, for example, politicians, fracking or oil company executives, or people who seem to act as if they don’t care about climate change as ‘other’ than us, to see the problem as ‘out there’ and to set ourselves apart, taking ourselves out of the web of interconnectedness; in short re-creating and perpetuating the very tendencies that have led to this situation in the first place.
The Metta Bhavana can be a fantastic tool for helping to guard against this, something we can take into our actions and offer to others. I introduced the practice at a day in London organised by DANCE to support XR activists, including how it can help us to avoid falling into polarisation - as well as helping us to remember self-care - as we try to hold the reality of the situation we are in and take action. The response was very positive and affirming, with people expressing how important they felt it was to have tools to support them in this way.
Our practices and the teachings of the Dharma can help us and others stay open and in touch with the the climate emergency and all the feelings that that may bring up for us, whether that might be grief, anger, fear, despondency, complacency or something else. From my own experience, it can be very hard to stay open, and not to fall into overwhelm or shut down. What we are called on to do, to hold in our hearts and minds, in this era of climate breakdown is huge. I feel an important part of what is needed is to grow our collective capacity to stay open, to stay engaged, to stay in touch with the reality and with each other as we face it. All of the practices that help us stay centred, positive, open-hearted, resilient, in touch with the beauty of life and our gratitude for what we have, and open to a bigger perspective are an essential part of this. And, of course, we need to do this together, in open, supportive communication and solidarity with others.
33 young people from Wardha, India, recently made a commitment to follow the Buddhist path in the context of the Triratna Buddhist Community during a Dhammamitra Diksha Ceremony. More than 500 people were present to witness the public declaration they made of their ‘Going for Refuge’ to the Three Jewels. Here is a short video by Triratna India Media about this event.
Triratna India Media is inspired by the radical vision of Dr B. R. Ambedkar, and the practical teachings of Urgyen Sangharakshita and produces documentaries, interviews and talks (in Hindi, Marathi, English and other Indian languages) as well as news clips on what is happening today in the Triratna Community in India.
+Follow Triratna India to get all the latest news from India.
Mindfulness practices are spreading across western societies, prompting widespread interest as well as challenges from Buddhists and critics. Behind these discussions is the question: can mindfulness be a force for change in society, and if so, what are the risks for Buddhism and for society?
Vishvapani is very involved in these discussions in the UK. He teaches mindfulness in Cardiff, is the Wales Director of The Mindfulness Initiative (an advocacy group that promotes mindfulness to policy makers) and is a leader in taking mindfulness into the Criminal Justice system. Over the last year he’s been engaging in these debates across the UK. He writes of his recent endeavours in this area:-
“How The Light Gets In is a ‘Festival of Philosophy and Ideas’ that runs concurrently with the Literary Festival in Hay-on-Wye in the Welsh Borders. For two days in May 2018 I mingled with the thinkers and participated in several events themed around mindfulness.
The debate, At One With Ourselves, pitted me as an advocate of mindfulness practice against Miguel Farias, a psychologist and author of The Buddha Pill: Can Meditation Change You? who thinks its benefits have been overstated, while Sociology Professor Linda Woodhead commented on the discussion from a non-aligned perspective.
Miguel challenges the claim that mindfulness and meditation are a risk-free panacea (not claims I would make) and believes it shortchanges Buddhism. My own view is that, while there’s much more to mindfulness than the popular version, and more to the Dharma than mindfulness, the mindfulness practice I see in the UK is effective, helpful, and usually taught with care and integrity. For many people it opens a doorway to a different seeing their lives in a new way, in the light of the Dharma.
Watch the debate here
In my talk, Morality and Mindfulness, I connected mindfulness practices with Buddhist ethics, especially the notion of skilful and unskilful - familiar territory for most Buddhists, but language that is lacking from popular versions of mindfulness. I said that in a Buddhist context values derive from understanding the mind itself in a certain way, and seeing how skilfulness and unskillfulness work in our experience.
I was very struck by the level of interest in mindfulness at the Festival. 150 people attended the debate and more were turned away, while my talk and a ‘Philosophical Dinner with Vishvapani’ were full to capacity. It seems that many people who are interested in philosophy are also meditators and the Festival was a rare opportunity to talk Dharma in a non-Buddhist setting.
Mindfulness and Interfaith at Winchester Cathedral
There is growing interest in mindfulness among Christians and in November I gave the annual Winchester Cathedral Lovell Interfaith lecture, which this year was hosted by Winchester University. I was asked to speak about mindfulness again, and my theme was ‘Mindfulness and Spirituality’. I suggested that mindfulness is never wholly ‘secular’ if that implies being an opposite to not just ‘religious’ but also ‘sacred’ and ‘spiritual’. I think that mindfulness is potentially an important meeting ground between Christians and Buddhists and, after I spoke, Brian Draper (a Christian contributor to BBC’s ‘Thought for the Day’ radio programme) responded.
Listen to ‘Mindfulness and Spirituality’ on Free Buddhist Audio
Mindfulness and Public Discourse at School of Oriental and African Studies
I’ve been involved in The Mindfulness Initiative since 2015, when I worked with others to produce Mindful Nation UK, a report by the Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group. Since then work has continued, exploring what it means to bring mindfulness practice into society on a large scale and with the support of policymakers.
Over 100 people attended a seminar on Mindfulness in Public Discourse at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in Central London. There were talks by a range of speakers from The Mindfulness Initiative and I chaired a Panel Discussion at the end of the day. Until now the strongest element of the UK mindfulness world has been Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and this has prompted a ‘therapeutic’ view of mindfulness as something that can be offered to individuals who are stressed, depressed or anxious. What’s emerging is a more ‘social’ perspective that’s concerned with bringing these practices into communities, taking account of issues such as race and poverty. “
Video of all the sessions, including the panel discussion
Follow Vishvapani’s writing and broadcasts on his ‘Wise Attention’ blog.
Ujumani from the Paris Buddhist Centre writes: “After 11 years, Vassika has handed on the chairmanship of the Paris Buddhist Centre to Aryanita. Many people gathered on Sunday 27th January at the Buddhist Centre to celebrate this change - people from Brussels, England, the Alps, Clermont-Ferrand, the Mediterranean coast and, of course, from Paris and its region - including friends of the Centre from long ago, some of whom had not been to the Centre for a long time. All the members of the Council were present, as well as Vajrapushpa, the Centre’s President.
We began with a fulsome celebration of Vassika’s Many Great Merits; without her clarity, sensitivity, vision, generosity, faith and commitment the Centre would not be the place of welcome and growth that it is today for the Paris Sangha. Then Vassika spoke about what chairing the Centre had been like for her, and of the significance of the Buddhist Centre as a portal between the world and the spiritual community, adding warm thanks for those who had supported her over the years.
Vajrapushpa spoke about what it means to be Chair of a Centre; the qualities of clarity, courage and compassion needed, and the fact that being Chair is much more than a role: it is a practice. After that, Ujumani introduced Aryanita, and the qualities she will bring to her chairmanship: her clarity, her sensitivity, her sense of the “next step” - her own, in her personal practice and that of others, a step she knows how to see and inspire - and her receptivity, especially to the presence of her yidam, Ratnasambhava.
Then came the moment of the ritual handing on. In the context of a seven-fold puja, led by Manibhadri, Vassika placed on the shrine the bowl which she had received from Varadakini, who founded the Centre 21 years ago, and which we use for our meditations and rituals. Aryanita took it from the shrine and the universe undoubtedly echoed with the three SADHUs that then resounded in the room. Aryanita then read us a beautiful set of vows expressing her commitment as the new Chair of the Paris Centre, and in time-honoured French fashion we rounded off the celebration with a gourmet shared lunch.
One thing has not changed: the Centre remains in excellent hands.”
On Friday 30th November 2018, the Chairs of three of the four main Triratna Buddhist Centres in the South Pacific met in Sydney. European Chairs have long been very well networked via the European Chairs’ Assembly, but such gatherings are still under development in other parts of the world. In Australia/New Zealand, there has never been a Movement Strand (Order members running Triratna Centres) gathering and it is believed that this was the first ever meeting of Chairs across the whole of Oceania.
Dantacitta from Melbourne, Saradarshini from Wellington and Samacitta from Sydney spent a very full day together, taking the opportunity to share ideas and experience, and to give one another peer support. Topics covered included news from their three Centres and other places in the region, sub-35 activities, safeguarding, roles and responsibilities at Centres, Presidents, the relationship of Chairs to the Area and International Council, visiting teachers in 2019/2020, and future Movement Strand meetings.
Australia and New Zealand make up an Area which is collectively known as Oceania and each country is a region unto itself. Oceania has only these two regions, but they both cover enormous distances. The influence of the Triratna Buddhist Community is sprinkled across this vast Area in a collection of groups ranging in size from a single Order Member or Mitra running a weekly class in a hired location to larger groups and city-based Centres offering the full range of Triratna activities.
Australia has Centres in Sydney and Melbourne as well as in Toowomba, Brisbane, Kempsey, Adelaide, Port Fairy and Warnambool district. There are approximately 30 Order Members in both of the two main Centres, Sydney and Melbourne. There is also a retreat Centre, Vijayaloka, approximately an hour away from Sydney by car.
Auckland, Wellington, Melbourne and Sydney all have lively sub-35 groups, and there is a Triratna Young Buddhist Coordinator for the entire Area, supported 2 days per week by Future Dharma Fund.
Dantacitta, Saradarshini and Samacitta found this gathering had been enormously supportive, giving them a wider perspective on their work as Chairs, lots of inspiration and useful information. But perhaps the important aspect of this historic meeting was the growing friendship and cooperation between them. They hope to be able to keep up the momentum and continue to meet in the flesh at least once per year.
+ Follow the Sydney Buddhist Centre on The Buddhist Centre Online
Windhorse Publications have a number of new books in the pipeline for 2019 - from the next four volumes of the Complete Works of Sangharakshita to books by Vajragupta, Paramananda, Anālayo and David Brazier.
Read more about Windhorse Publications in 2019
Some good news: You can now read the forewords of the next four volumes of the Complete Works (which will be published and sent to subscribers in April 2019) online!
- Vol 2: The Three Jewels I – Foreword by Nagabodhi
- Vol 4: The Bodhisattva Ideal - Foreword by Parami
- Vol 13: Eastern and Western Traditions - Foreword by Mahamati
- Vol 22: In the Sign of the Golden Wheel - Foreword by Kalyanaprabha
There are also sample chapters of the four new books to be published in 2019:
- The Dark Side of the Mirror: Forgetting the Self in Dogen’s Genjo Koan by David Brazier (March, 2019)
- Free Time! from clock-watching to free-flowing, a Buddhist guide by Vajragupta Staunton (April, 2019)
- The Myth of Meditation: Restoring Imaginal Ground through Embodied Buddhist Practice by Paramananda (May, 2019)
- Mindfulness of Breathing: A Practice Guide and Translations by Analayo (end of year, 2019)
If you like the sound of any of these publications (and you enjoy the sample) do consider sponsoring a book to ensure that it makes it to the widest audience possible.
Support the Complete Works of Sangharakshita
+Follow Windhorse Publications
Since 2015, ‘Safeguarding’ has become an integral part of the life of Triratna organisations in the UK, and indeed those in many other countries, even where Safeguarding as understood in Britain is unknown. (See below for an explanation of Safeguarding.)
All Triratna centres in the UK now have Safeguarding policies and named Safeguarding officers. Triratna centres in other countries are encouraged to do the same, or to do whatever is required locally; and many have done so.
Earlier this year Triratna’s Ethics kula (including the Triratna Safeguarding team) published updated model Safeguarding policies for 2018 and the complementary model Ethical guidelines 2018. Triratna Centres and other charities are invited to use these as the basis of their own policies.
More recently we have drawn up a publicly accountable ‘Panel process’ for addressing allegations of serious ethical misconduct by members of Triratna, and we are continuing to address controversial matters in Triratna’s past, as can be seen in the recently updated version of the Frequently Asked Questions document produced by the Adhisthana kula.
Working with other Buddhist organisations
Following the Triratna Safeguarding training days we offered in 2016 and 2017 (Safeguarding children and adults), further child protection training is being provided on 1st December in Birmingham, this time for all UK Buddhist organisations, via the Network of Buddhist Organisations UK. (An earlier NBO day in November (Safeguarding adults) has had to be postponed as it clashed with Sangharakshita’s funeral and most of the bookings were from Triratna.)
As with the first two training days, the training will be led by an external trainer from Thirtyone:eight (previously the CCPAS) who specialise in Safeguarding for faith groups.
Sexual misconduct by Dharma teachers is a growing concern among western Buddhists. It was a key theme at September’s meeting of the European Buddhist Union at Adhisthana, where I was among the speakers, explaining what Safeguarding is and how we do it in Triratna. Those present published a Statement against abuse in Buddhist communities.
Sexual misconduct was also a key topic at the April meeting of the German Buddhist Union, where I was invited to speak about Safeguarding and how we have been addressing the controversial aspects of Triratna’s past.
Safeguarding in Triratna’s development and fundraising charities
Safeguarding is now recognised as a very important aspect of the work of UK development charities, such as Triratna’s Karuna, working in India and Nepal. Karuna is actively contributing to the Safeguarding work led by BOND, the consortium of UK development charities. As required by the Charity Commission, all Karuna’s partner projects in India are now required to adopt Safeguarding standards as a condition of funding and many have now received training from the Indian Safeguarding charity Arpan.
India Dhamma Trust, which funds Triratna’s ordination process in India, is also developing its Safeguarding in co-operation with its Indian partners.
Since 2017 Triratna’s central fundraising charity, FutureDharma Fund, has required evidence of Safeguarding provision as a condition of funding.
What is Safeguarding?
‘Safeguarding’ is a term used in England and Wales to refer to the duty of legally established bodies to protect from harm children and adults. (In Scotland it is referred to as ‘Protection’ or Safeguarding.) While there are parallels in some other countries, there are many in which there is no such concept or requirement.
The Charity Commission for England and Wales and the Scottish Charity Regulator hold charitable trustees responsible for Safeguarding/Protection in the course of charities’ activities. Though it’s not a legal requirement to have policies or officers, if concerns are reported to the Commission or Regulator about misconduct connected with a charity, they will immediately ask to see its policies.
However, Safeguarding is not merely a matter of meeting external requirements. All Triratna charities are expected to have Safeguarding policies and officers because these are recognised as among the best means of avoiding or addressing the suffering caused by failures in Safeguarding.
It’s become clear that the apparently large gathering of 1,200-1,400 people in the barn at Adhisthana on Saturday for Bhante’s funeral was, in fact, a small fraction of the international audience taking part by following the day live on Facebook and YouTube, and by participating in simultaneous events at Buddhist Centres around the world.
For a start, it’s estimated that those watching at public screenings across India numbered at least 61,000 – not including all those who watched at home or in social projects such as children’s hostels.
Often doing the same puja at the same time, often at very different times of day, many thousands of us watched together at at Buddhist Centres round the world. Some of us watched at home: in a small village in Wales; in Sweden, sitting in front of a shrine, dressed in blue.
Some viewers registered their presence and gratitude with posts on Facebook while watching from New Zealand, north America, Mexico, India, China, Singapore, Taiwan and Mongolia.
The numbers are all the more amazing given that much of the broadcast came via Candradasa’s iPhone, which he and I took turns holding up in the air for three hours – the more sophisticated livestreaming arrangements having failed at the last minute.
Here are just two reports, from India and New Zealand, but you are welcome to add yours to the comments section below or add to the remembrance page.
India Most of the Indian photographs here were sent to Lizzie Guinness, Programme manager at Karuna Trust, who writes: “I’ve spoken to people in Goa and Wardha today. They have said how special and amazing it was to be able to screen the funeral. They felt very connected with the atmosphere at Adhisthana and were participating along with the mantras and meditation and puja. It meant a great deal for them to be able to watch live.”
Vandanajyoti writes: “As the sun set in Aurangabad, about 120 people clad in blue saris and shirts gathered in front of the boys’ hostel. It was the last day of the Diwali holiday family retreat so many had been taking part in pujas every day at 7pm since Bhante’s death, holding him in mind in love, reverence and gratitude and now they were ready to participate in this final farewell. The retreat leaders were hard at work setting up the projector, battling against time pressure but meanwhile many retreatants had found better reception on their mobile phones tuned to YouTube.
Gradually the atmosphere settled, the projector started to work and the Shakyamuni mantra began. We had a sense of the mantra spreading across the world to us and beyond, starting with the crowds of people at Adhisthana but also knowing that more than a thousand more were gathered in Nagpur, in Pune at the Mahavihar, and that more were watching at many other Centres in India.
It was so moving to be part of this Indian crowd sitting on the dusty ground of the hostel compound chanting the mantras and joining in with our sevenfold puja, some in Marathi, some in English and most in Hindi. Then as the light began to fade at Adhisthana, everyone marvelled at the beauty of the pale English setting sun with those magical rays of golden light on the autumn leaves beside Bhante’s grave.
For many watching, Bhante had already become a mythic inspiration, a symbol of aspiration and an encouragement to practise. Many people told me how they had longed to visit him as they had heard from others how kind he was, how interested and understanding of their lives, even speaking Hindi to them at times. But we felt his presence strongly around us as we joined in the mantras and recited the puja, knowing that we were chanting with other sangha members across the world. And now people here long to make a pilgrimage to Bhante’s burial place in Adhisthana which looked so mysterious and magical in the misty golden beauty of the fading winter light.”
New Zealand Zoe Lim writes: “Meanwhile in Auckland, 30 Order Members and Mitras braced themselves for a sleepless night with an overnight puja held in tandem with Bhante’s funeral. People were arriving at the Auckland Buddhist Centre from 9.30pm, some traveling from Thames and Waiheke Island, two hours away.
As there is a 13-hour time difference between New Zealand and the UK, live-streaming of the funeral would start only at 1.30am local time. Before that, sleeping bags and snacks were laid out for topping up late-night energy. Hugs exchanged and words whispered in low voices. The atmosphere was solemn, tender and warm. Devotion for Bhante was gently and keenly felt. Video clips of Bhante’s life, compiled by Clear Vision, were played from around midnight. When livestream finally got through at nearly 2am, (silent) cheers of relief were mixed with joy and reverence at the sight of Adhisthana and familiar faces. In the next three hours, speeches were listened to and mantras chanted alongside Adhisthana, sending Bhante metta, gratitude and blessings from the southernmost part of the Sangha. It was a beautiful farewell with Bhante, with heartfelt solidarity with Adhisthana and the Sangha worldwide.”
Read a report on the day at Adhisthana.
See more photographs from the day at Adhisthana
+Follow posts on the Sangharakshita memorial space on The Buddhist Centre Online.
Would you like to thank the teams who made this worldwide livestream possible?
Support Dharmachakra’s work on The Buddhist Centre Online and Free Buddhist Audio.
Support Clear Vision with a monthly or one-off donation.
On Saturday 10th November the funeral of Urgyen Sangharakshita took place with an estimated 1,200 to 1,400 people attending the ceremony and burial in Adhisthana. Here are some of the photographs taken by Dhammarati during this significant day in the life of our community.
See the full album of pictures here
Read Munisha’s reflections from after the funeral
Today Adhisthana welcomed 1,200-1,400 friends from many countries. They arrived throughout the morning by coach, train and car, drank 1,800 paper cups of tea and later disappeared into the darkness - after a few momentous and beautiful hours in which we said goodbye to our teacher, Bhante Sangharakshita.
I’d like to offer two impressions from today and some of Dhammarati’s photographs. (Click to see full-frame.)
The arrangements for a high quality Facebook Live online video transmission from the funeral mysteriously failed at the last minute, which meant transmitting the whole thing from a hand-held iPhone (and Clear Vision did manage to broadcast a lot of the ceremony on YouTube). For Candradasa and me, who had intended to present the event live to camera, the prospect of holding this iPhone up in the air for three or four hours wasn’t attractive.
But then messages and hearts started flowing up the Facebook Live screen from some of the thousands of viewers joining in from all over the world: “Hello from Pune”, “Thank you from Taiwan”, “Joining you from China”, “Dawn is breaking in Seattle. Very magical to be a part of this with you all.” There were greetings from Singapore and Mongolia, and from 100 people watching together from a group of villages in India – just one of many such Indian audiences. I knew my own sangha were watching together in the Stockholm Buddhist Centre too, as in many other Triratna centres around the world.
Realising just how many people were watching in so many countries, it was really no problem to hold up an iPhone for several hours.
The Facebook Live footage does not include the burial itself and the YouTube footage includes the burial but lacks some other parts. Happily Clear Vision filmed everything and will produce a properly edited video programme about the day in due course.
Those gathered here included four people from Bhante’s own family, a few of his non-Buddhist friends and about 15 Buddhists from other traditions. Many of them were deeply affected by taking part and commented on what a wonderful experience it had been, what an extraordinary feat of organisation the event represented, and how marvellously they had been taken care of.
To finish, here is the English translation of the text of the song with which the funeral opened: ‘Sunset’ (Abendrot) one of the ‘Four Last Songs’ composed by Richard Strauss.
We have passed through sorrow and joy,
walking hand in hand.
Now we need not seek the way:
we have settled in a peaceful land.
The dark comes early to our valley,
and the night mist rises.
Two dreamy larks sally
forth – our souls’ disguises.
We let their soaring flight delight
us, then, overcome by sleep
at close of day, we must alight
before we fly too far, or dive too deep.
The great peace here is wide and still
and rich with glowing sunsets:
If this is death, having had our fill
of getting lost, we find beauty – No regrets.
+Follow the dedicated Sangharakshita memorial space on The Buddhist Centre Online.
See more photographs from the day at Adhisthana
Support Clear Vision with a monthly or one-off donation.
Support Dharmachakra’s work on The Buddhist Centre Online and Free Buddhist Audio
Here at Adhisthana many people have been hard at work preparing for Bhante’s funeral tomorrow, and the arrival in the small village of Coddington of an estimated one thousand people via narrow country roads.
Join us online at 12.20pm UK time.
Watch this space for the live stream embedded on The Buddhist Centre Online.
We’ll also be streaming live on YouTube and on Facebook, with a feed of regular online updates throughout on Instagram and on Twitter.
Download the order of service.
The funeral service starts at 12.30pm, in the old barn, to be followed by the burial in the circular plot already landscaped and made ready.
Though we are all very busy, there is a warm and kind atmosphere of teamwork; work as practice. Since last Tuesday hundreds of us have already been visiting from across the UK and other countries for short periods to spend time sitting with Bhante’s body in the Amitabha shrine room. He is dressed in a slate blue robe with his mala in his hand and, as he requested, his head is resting on Dhardo Rinpoche’s yellow robe. Meanwhile, in the shrine room, members of the community, volunteers, visitors and local sangha have maintained a 24 hour vigil with meditation and mantra chanting since Tuesday.
Bhante having died just before a College meeting, College members from around the world have been here all week. While they get on with their meetings, an ever-growing band of volunteers has been working with the Adhisthana community. A number of different teams have been preparing the grave, planning the shuttle service from the station, building the shrine, cleaning, laying out chairs, cooking, booking portaloos, and installing wheelchair accessible non-slip matting to enable easy access to the barn.
Guests from other Buddhist traditions will be attending and four members of Bhante’s family are coming too.
To enable people to take part all over the world, Clear Vision and The Buddhist Centre Online have arranged to livestream video here on The Buddhist Centre Online. Whilst we obviously cannot guarantee flawless coverage, we are doing everything we can to make it possible - meaning the installation of much faster internet, and a drone to film from the air! Join us there tomorrow.
With great sadness we inform you of the passing away of Urgyen Sangharakshita, today, 30th October 2018, at approximately 10 am in Hereford Hospital. He had been diagnosed with pneumonia and this morning the consultant said that he also had sepsis, from which recovery was not possible.
Please join with us as we direct our metta towards Bhante, recollecting his wonderful qualities and remembering with gratitude all that he has given to so many of us. Local Centres around the world may be holding daily meditations and pujas and you may wish to arrange additional activities in your communities and homes.
Bhante asked that the following mantras be chanted at the time of his death: Shakyamuni, Green Tara, Manjushri, Amitabha and Padmasambhava.
After a few days Bhante’s body will be laid out at Adhisthana where the funeral and burial will also take place.
All details of the arrangements for sitting with Bhante’s body, online coverage of the rituals that will be taking place there, and the funeral arrangements, will be announced on the dedicated public space on The Buddhist Centre Online. Here, too, you may read an obituary, contribute an online post to the Remembrances section, and contribute to the Book of Gratitude if you wish, in any language.
On the 18th to the 20th October the Nagarjuna Institute in Nagaloka, India, organised a celebration of Dhammachakra Pravartana day or the 62nd Anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar’s Mass Conversion to Buddhism. This event included an international conference on the theme of ”The Revival of Buddhism in India and its impact on Buddhist Dynamics in South Asia.”
The Nagarjuna Institute, located in Nagpur Maharashtra, India, each year celebrates the anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar’s Mass Conversion to Buddhism by organising a public programme with guest speakers coming from the Buddhist world. The programme this year was inaugurated by:
- Ven. Master Ren Da (Abbot Boshan Zhengjue Monastery, China)
- Ven. Master Chong Hua (Abbot, Chong Sheng Temple, China)
- Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Theor, (M.P., Sri Lanka)
- Harsha Kumar Navaratne, (Chairman Sevalanka Foundation, Sri Lanka)
- Pro. Sukhadev Thorat, (Former Chairman, UGC & ICSSR, India)
- Dhammachari Lokamitra, UK
- Prof. Jia Da Quing, China
- Raymond Lam, China
- Dong Dong Yu, China
- Rem Bhadur B.K, Nepal
This year the special guests came from South Asian countries such as China, Sri Lanka and Nepal to commemorate this important event and participate in the international conference. The aim of the conference was link up with Buddhists of South Asian countries and share with them the revival of Buddhism in India.
As part of the celebrations, the visitors laid a foundation stone for a hostel for boys, were present at the opening of Nagaloka’s solar panel as well as the unveiling of a large Tibetan Wheel of Life.