Rob Burbea, who died aged 54 earlier this month, was a Dharma teacher loved and valued by many of us in the Triratna community. His clear teachings on emptiness and the imaginal may prove to be of great significance for the development of Dharma traditions in the West.
Rob was steeped in the Insight meditation tradition in the USA and Europe. He was also, among other things, a classical and jazz pianist, a climate activist and a lover of Jewish and Christian mysticism. I met Rob just once on a Buddhafield Yatra in 2003, a year before he took up residence as a teacher at Gaia House. His sensitivity, playfulness and sheer love of the Dharma was evident in the short talks he gave around the campfire after a days walking.
For many though, their first encounter with Rob was in his seminal book Seeing That Frees, published in 2014. After a startling chapter laying out the connections between Samadhi and Insight practice, the reader is guided deep into the heart of emptiness and dependent arising. In his inimitable prose - gentle, precise and inviting of personal exploration - Rob sets out what he had discovered about how to use the wisdom teachings with skill, subtlety and without limiting the profundity of the Buddha’s core teaching to any single conception. Seeing That Frees joins up the dots and has become a classic manual for practitioners, one to take on a solitary retreat and really soak up.
What people might not know is that Rob struggled with finishing his book and not only because had a heavy teaching round at Gaia House and many students to meet. By 2012 he had already begun on a new phase in his practice and thought. He said his experience of Dharma practice left various important questions unanswered. After all, one cannot spend all one’s time in the realm or neither-perception-nor-non-perception, can one? Rob had turned his attention to the much broader and possibly more vital matter of how we really breathe life or soulfulness into our Dharma practice, in an age which is dominated by modernist, reductionist and materialist assumptions about reality.
Such questions will be familiar territory for those of us grown up in the Triratna tradition founded by Sangharakshita. He too was unusually insistent in stressing the need for a wide scale re-imagining of the Buddha and a re-animation of our understanding of the human in relation to the wider Cosmos. Sangharakshita taught that art was a spiritual path, that myth and ritual were necessary to engage the full range of our human potential and that imagination is an integral spiritual faculty. So pronounced was his syncretic approach, drawing on sources from East and West, that it lead some people to wonder if he was really a Buddhist.
Rob Burbea went even further in stepping outside classical Buddhist terminology, including notions of soul, divinity, eros and even God in his teaching. He delighted in exploring and exposing what he saw as Buddhist dogmas that have taken root, particularly in the West, or at least pointing out the limitations of those views, as well as the ways in which they can usefully be taken up. For example, he thought the cultivation of “bare attention” and the cessation of prapañca was certainly a fruitful practice, but naive if conceived of as the goal of Buddhist practice, especially if one also believes that to have bare attention of sensory objects is coterminous with experiencing things “as they really are”.
One of Rob’s favourite pastimes was to unpick and expose the secular worldview fostered by materialistic science, which he saw as founded on beliefs, usually unexplored, and then to show in turn how these beliefs were shaping how many of us conceive of and limit the Dharma. Speaking personally, it has taken me 20 years to really open up to how conditioned I am by my secular education and upbringing and I expect I’ve hardly begun that journey. Scientific materialism has defined truth as objective truth for such a long time now that other ways of knowing - such as imagination, myths, poetry, dreams - are denigrated to a merely subjective and unreal status. Thus many of us have grown up with an uneasy relationship to all that. In the talks and retreats he gave and which are freely available online, Rob showed how many people come to the Dharma with an atrophied imaginal capacity. He encouraged his students to reclaim the realm of the Imaginal. He reasoned that if the core Dharma teachings of emptiness are sufficiently realised, then one sees that any perception or conception of reality is neither finally real nor unreal. That being so, one is free to take up different conceptions and images and even fantasies, so that one could, in one of his favourite expressions, “entertain the possibility” of angels, for example.
Apparently some people saw Rob’s teaching and even Rob as dangerous. On one level at least, that is surely correct. Rob exposed underlying views. Who among us can say they’ve never found it uncomfortable when our clinging to a teaching or a conception of practice is exposed? The Buddha himself was surely a dangerous man to be around for the same reason. But maybe Rob was dangerous in another sense also. In the West and in other parts of the world, the Dharma is finding new forms. Any form of practice is always particular, with particular institutions and ways of doing things, as well as a common language and broadly shared understanding of practice flowing from a lineage of teachers. The form is what defines a tradition and we love our traditions and quite rightly hold them precious. How will it be if we all start bringing in angels, unicorns and the Virgin Mary or whatever pops up in our imagination after a morning meditation? Pandaemonium!
Rob was the first to admit that his teachings weren’t for everyone or even necessary. So long as there was eros, love, a movement of the soul, it doesn’t matter what you call it or whether you even know it’s there. He wasn’t trying to start a new religion. Yet for many people he voiced a crucial insight: that the profound teachings of emptiness give rise to the possibility of holding different perspectives on reality for different purposes and cultivating a range of qualities which enrich and deepen the journey of life. I don’t know how to reconcile the creative tensions between innovation and tradition. Maybe it’s always just a tension. However, I do know I’m grateful to Rob for his teachings and his way of teaching. They have expanded and enriched the way I practice and conceive of practice and I’m sure they have impacted many individuals and communities beyond Gaia House and beyond even the Buddhist Sangha.
Rob died of cancer after several years of treatment. Despite his suffering, or maybe because of it, he poured out teachings during long retreats all this time. His body was buried in the grounds of Sharpham House, in a rolling green meadow leading down to the River Dart. We might think that Rob died too young or that his later teachings needed more time to develop, or another book maybe. But I can hear Rob questioning our views and reminding us that everything depends on the way we look at it.
Satyadasa, May 30, 2020
Buddhist Action Month (BAM) - an annual festival of social action overseen by the Network of Buddhist Organisations - has been taking place every June since 2012. This year is no exception, despite the changed circumstances, with sanghas going online to offer opportunities to engage with this year's theme - "...for the Earth", where the suggestion is to put this phrase in the title of any event that's being organised for BAM 2020.
Read more about the theme for this year
Visit the BAM 2020 Events page hosted by the Network of Buddhist Organisations
Throughout June The Buddhist Centre Online in conjunction with friends will be offering some live events to explore this theme of '..for the Earth'. We will be announcing these events soon - so keep an eye on the live events and classes section of the Dharma Toolkit.
In the meantime you can take a listen to a special BAM podcast where we discuss the plans for Buddhist Action Month, interconnectivity, active hope and much more to get you in the zone! We are pleased that our friends in the Karuna Trust will be participating this year, bringing to bear their perspective and learnings from 40 years of working to alleviate poverty and caste-based discrimination in India and Nepal.
And, of course, we want to hear about you and your sangha's plans for the month so please share what you are doing on the Action space. 🌍🌎🌏
+Follow Buddhist Action space
The Triratna Arts and Culture Catalogue is an initiative to document every four years, for 40 years, a selection of Art and Culture that represents the unfolding exploration of how to convey the Dharma into a globalised culture and so form the aesthetic foundations for a society based on caring for all that lives. It will collate work for no cost to artists, and distribute work to Triratna Buddhist Centres and beyond at no cost to those institutions.
Sangharuci, an Order member based in Birmingham, UK, is now looking for artists, musicians, dancers, poets, writers, arts therapists and other creatives of different kinds who are involved in the Triratna Buddhist Community (Order members, Mitras and friends) to send him details of their work to be featured in a The Triratna Arts and Culture Catalogue 2021. The work does not have to be explicitly Buddhist and you do not have to be a professional artist.
Sangharuci is hoping to compile this catalogue in the next couple of weeks so if you are interested fill in the questionnaire (which only takes two minutes) as soon as you can!
You can fill in your details here to take part.
View PDFs of 2013 and 2017 catalogues
Here are Triratna’s model Ethical guidelines and policies for Safeguarding children and adults, updated for 2020 by Triratna’s Safeguarding team, part of Triratna’s Ethics Kula.
(See below for more information on Safeguarding, the Safeguarding team, the Ethics Kula and the difference between Safeguarding matters and Matters of Order conduct.)
Safeguarding and ethical policies and procedures are a practical expression of ahimsa, non-harming, the value underlying Buddhist precepts and the Bodhisattva activity of protecting living beings from harm.
The model Ethical guidelines (first published in 2015 on the initiative of Triratna’s International Council) are an internal statement of values for those teaching in Triratna centres, groups and retreat centres. Based on the five precepts, they complement our model Safeguarding documents, which follow external legal and regulatory requirements of charities in England and Wales, home to half our Order worldwide.
The Safeguarding polices have been substantially updated in the light of new regulations and improved understanding, and in response to requests for guidance from Triratna centres.
Who uses these documents?
These model documents are made available to Triratna charities and other enterprises, to use as the basis for their own documents, or to adapt, translate or replace with other documents better suited to their local cultural, regulatory and legal requirements. They’re intended to provide guidance on in the prevention of harm in various situations, and how to respond when harm is reported.
What happens when someone brings a serious allegation?
All Triratna centres in the UK now have Safeguarding policies and Safeguarding officers to whom local concerns can be reported, or reports can be made directly to the Triratna Safeguarding team via secure email at safeguarding [at] triratna.community. Triratna centres in other countries are encouraged to have the same, or to do whatever is required locally.
Where an allegation is made of a criminal nature it is the Safeguarding team’s policy that it be reported to the police, without exception. However, where for any reason an allegation cannot be pursued by the police and yet is too serious to ignore, we now have a publicly accountable internal ‘Panel process’ for addressing allegations of serious ethical misconduct.
Alongside developing our policies we have continued to address controversial matters in Triratna’s past, as can be seen in the Frequently Asked Questions document produced 2017-2018 by the Adhisthana kula.
Anyone with concerns or information regarding the ethical misconduct of members of Triratna in the past or present is requested to email the Safeguarding team at safeguarding [at] triratna.community.
What is Safeguarding?
Is every allegation of misconduct or harm automatically a Safeguarding matter?
‘Safeguarding’ is a term used in England and Wales to refer to the duty of an organisation to protect children and adults and adults from ethical misconduct which is also unlawful, in the course of that organisation’s activities. (In Scotland it’s 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 trustees responsible for Safeguarding/Protection in the course of their charity’s activities. 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 asked 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.
In relation to concerns about the behaviour of Order members we distinguish between Safeguarding matters and matters of Order conduct.
Safeguarding can be said to refer to unethical behaviour which is also unlawful; for example: murder, physical violence, rape and sexual assault, sexual abuse of children (including viewing sexual abuse images of children online), stalking and bullying.
It also covers the institutional obligation of charity trustees to prevent - in the course of their charity’s activities – discrimination against, or harm to, those who may be vulnerable, for example because of mental health problems, race, disability or gender identity.
Matters of Order conduct are things which, while not against the law, need to be addressed because they cause significant harm; concerns that an Order member, for example:
- appears to have a problem with addiction, or
- persistently flirts with and attempts to date newcomers
The way to report a concern is either to your local Centre’s Safeguarding officer, or to the overall Safeguarding team via our secure email: safeguarding [at] triratna.community. This is shown in red at the top of every page in the Triratna section of The Buddhist Centre Online website.
Who are the Ethics kula and Safeguarding team?
As Triratna’s overall Safeguarding officer, I set up Triratna’s Ethics kula in January 2017 to ensure that serious ethical questions could be addressed at a more senior level where they went beyond the remit of the Safeguarding team; for example where an ethical concern had implications for a person’s membership of the Order.
The Kula presently comprises Ratnadharini (Chair of the College of Public Preceptors), Saddhaloka (former Chair of the College) and Aryajaya and Lokeshvara (Order convenors), Jnanasiddhi (Triratna Restorative kula) as well as the Triratna Safeguarding Team: me and our volunteer Safeguarding adviser, Amaladipa, who is very senior in the criminal justice system in Britain. College members Punyamala and Jnanavaca will join soon.
The Kula reviews new or updated documents and ensures that matters brought to them via the Safeguarding team are dealt with in the most appropriate manner, whether they require formal disciplinary action or a simple referral to the Triratna Restorative kula.
Triratna Safeguarding team (part of the Triratna Ethics Kula)
Read more about Safeguarding and Ethical guidelines in Triratna.
Read more about Restorative process in Triratna.
|Triratna Model Child protection policy 2020||174.67 KB|
|Triratna Model Child Protecction Code of Conduct 2020||51.34 KB|
|Triratna Model Safeguarding adults policy 2020||142.74 KB|
We are very happy to announce the public ordination of ex-Gus Miller took place on Sunday 5th April at the London Buddhist Centre.
The ordination was not public, but was live-streamed (you can see it here).
Gus becomes Sthiramanas, a Sansksrit name meaning Steadfast Mind. (Registered spelling Sthiramanas.)
Maitreyabandhu was his private preceptor and Paramabandhu was his public preceptor.
Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!
The Abhayaratna Trust is responding to the financial hardship resulting from the spread of Covid-19 by offering short term relief through cash grants of up to £500 per Order member as support at this time.
Many Order members are self-employed and the sudden loss of income has left some of them without the resources to pay food and utility bills and with rent shortfalls. Access to state benefits can be too slow or not available in many countries.
So if you are an Order member who is struggling financially and would be helped by a cash grant, you can now apply online for support.
Apply to the Abhayaratna Trust’s Coronavirus grants scheme
This is a quote from one Order member who recently received a grant from The Abhayaratna Trust:
Also, as a small charity, The Abhayaratna Trust are appealing for donations to help them meet the need for these grants. If they are able to raise £10,000 they will be able to make urgent grants available to an additional 20-25 Order members worldwide.
Donate towards the Abhayaratna Trust grants scheme
Alternatively you can jinavamsa [at] abhayaratnatrust.org.uk (email Jinavamsa) , Communications Support, for information on other ways to give.
We are delighted to announce that Itir Binay from Melbourne, Australia was publicly ordained in Melbourne on Saturday 28th March, 2020.
Ex-Itir becomes Varadhī. Her name means ”She who has the highest wisdom”. (Westernised spelling: Varadhi). Her Public Preceptor is Maitripala and her Private Preceptor is Chittaprabha.
The ceremony was witnessed by over 100 members of the Melbourne Sangha live on Zoom. You can watch a recording of the ceremony here which ends with a beautiful wave of sadhus around the world.
Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread across the world, how have Triratna Buddhist Centres and team-based right livelihood businesses been responding?
By now most Triratna Buddhist Centres and groups have closed their doors - but many have opened up on the digital universe and invited their sanghas to join them online. Various Triratna Centres across the world are now offering courses classes, pujas, urban retreats and other events online. Now is a great time to try out joining in some of the activities of a completely different sangha! Several Triratna practitioners have also begun to run online classes, including yoga and meditation.
You can let us know what your sangha is offering online by replying in the comments below or info [at] thebuddhistcentre.com (email us the details!)
Visit the ‘Online Events Around Our Community’ page
One significant impact the coronavirus has had on our community has been the cancellation of both the women’s ordination course at Akashavana retreat centre and the men’s course at Guhyaloka retreat centre, in Spain. Ordination represents a significant step point in the life of our community: the moment when a person’s commitment to their Buddhist practice is recognised and witnessed by those in our community as being effective. Twenty three women from seven countries were due to attend the women’s ordination course, starting on 20th April for three months. This was to be largest ordination retreat yet held at Akashavana. Sixteen men from UK, Ireland, Spain and Sweden were also invited on the four month ordination course at Guhyaloka.
Listen to Parami, one was due to lead the women’s ordination course this year, talking about the difficult decision to cancel these courses.
However, not all ordinations have been cancelled. On Saturday 28th Itir Binay will have her public ordination in Melbourne, Australia, having been privately ordained on 12th March. While the ceremony will be attended in person by just two Order members, the local sangha have been invited to witness the ceremony on Zoom. And the public ordination of one of the men who was due to attend Guhyaloka in April will take place in the coming weeks at the London Buddhist Centre - keep an eye on Triratna News for further information!
All the retreat centres in the UK have also closed: Padmaloka, the men’s retreat centre in Norwich, have cancelled all their retreats until the end of June. Tiratanaloka retreat centre in Wales, finished a retreat a week early and closed on 20th March. Similarly Taraloka retreat centre has closed until the beginning of June. Dhanakosa retreat centre in Scotland have created an online programme involving videos, talks, online live sessions, and pictures, to keep us all inspired and connected through this difficult time. And, at Adhisthana, the burial place of Sangharakshita, the founder of the Triratna Buddhist Community and Order, the community there are using this time as an opportunity for work and practice together - you can take a look at their ‘home schedule’ and follow them on instagram to see how it’s all going.
And of course, it’s not just urban Buddhist centres and retreat centres that have been affected by this global crisis. Lama’s Pyjamas, the charity shop for the London Buddhist Centre, has closed its doors for a time. Likewise, Karuna Trust - which exists to end caste-based discrimination, poverty and inequality in India and Nepal - has taken the significant step of postponing all their door-to-door appeals until the autumn in order to look after their volunteers, supporters, staff and other members of the public. The majority of their fundraising is done by Buddhist volunteers who give six weeks of their time to live and work together, raising money through door-knocking appeals, so this decision will have a serious impact on Karuna’s ability to work with the poorest communities.
Some Triratna businesses have responded by generously offering some of their resources for free. Windhorse Publications, which is Triratna’s main publishing house, are giving away a free eBook each week, for as long as is needed, in order to help make the Buddha’s teachings and practices more widely available whatever your situation. This week’s free eBook is Solitude and Loneliness: A Buddhist View by Sarvananda. Breathworks, which runs courses and training around mindfulness for those living with stress, pain and illness, are offering a free, self-paced online course, Mindful Self-Care for Troubling Times to support those who might be feeling overwhelmed or who are isolated at this time.
And for Order members now experiencing hardship as a result of the Covid-19 virus, the Abhayaratna Trust, which supports Order members experiencing financial hardship through illness, old age or disability, has begun offering small grants.
Find out more about the grants for Order members affected by the coronavirus
Lastly, here at The Buddhist Centre Online, we have set up a ‘community toolkit for uncertain times’ to bring you a daily supply of the best Dharma content from around the world – new features and teaching, and highlights from our extensive archives - to keep you connected with the Dharma and with the sangha. You can join our twice daily online meditations (with about 150 others each day from all around the world), tune into our daily podcasts, sign up to our newsletter or just take a look at the resources on offer in the community toolkit space.
We hope you stay well in these uncertain times and look out for each other, however you can, whether it’s by reaching out to any elderly, disabled and ill members of your sangha confined to the home, doing the Metta Bhavana for all beings, helping with delivering shopping to those vulnerable or self-isolating, and or even helping others set up Skype or Zoom on their computers so they can stay connected online. 🙏
Find out what Triratna Centres and individuals are offering online
+Follow the Community Toolkit
Accessing the Dharma in your own language can make a significant difference to a person’s ability to practice. The Triratna Translations Board was set up at the end of 2015 to promote and coordinate translation projects in many languages and have enabled the translations of many Triratna books.
Prakashika, born in Israel, but now living in Australia, undertook this task and she writes about that experience:
“I moved from Israel to Australia in my 20s, and it was in Sydney that I encountered the Dharma. Five years ago, following a visit to my home city of Jerusalem, I felt inspired to translate What is the Dharma into Hebrew, my native language. I thought that this book with its clarity, depth and playfulness would be quite compatible with Israeli secular culture: informal and very wary of religion, direct, appreciative of the value of friendship, and starved of true spirituality.
I had practically no experience as a translator, but figured that with my reasonably sound command of Hebrew, and a better understanding of Sangharakshita’s teachings than any professional translator was likely to have, and with the help of an editor, I could do the task justice. So I sought Bhante’s blessing for the project and set about a journey that culminated just recently in the publication of the first-ever translation of a Triratna book into Hebrew. It was unfortunate that the latest Guardian article criticising Sangharakshita and Triratna came out just days after the translation was published, with the controversy impacting on the book’s reception.
The process of channelling Sangharakshita’s teachings in my own words, in a different language, with its different cultural connotations, has been an insightful journey, highlighting the point that Bhante emphasises so often: that the Dharma is beyond all words, concepts and cultural conventions.
I have no way of gauging the numbers, but going by the prevalence of meditation groups, Buddhist workshops, retreats and centres of various traditions that operate in Israel, from Insight Meditation to the different Tibetan schools, Zen, Thai Forest, Diamond Way – you name it! – there must be quite a lot of interest in Dharma in that tiny country, barely visible on the world map, with a population of less than 9 million, and of those only around 40% secular folk.
An Israeli online Buddhist forum helped me get to know my audience. I was impressed by some people’s level of Dharmic understanding and dismayed at others’ confusion. Through this online forum I engaged a professional editor, a casual practitioner herself, who helped make the text flow more naturally, and conform to publishing standards. Smadar did the work at “mate’s rates”, which a grant from the Triratna Translation Board helped fund, and we developed a lovely friendship in the delicate process of critiquing each other’s suggestions. Occasionally we would get into a Dharmic discussion, and I was pleased to learn how much this work had helped her through a very difficult time in her life. The work progressed in dribs and drabs, until finally we decided it was good enough to face the world. My friend Priyada designed a beautiful cover based on Dhammarati’s original design, and suddenly there it was, on its own, available to order online, one of about 90 Dharma titles available in Hebrew, both translated and original.
It would be great if you could share the link and help spread the Dharma in Hebrew: https://dharmainhebrew.wordpress.com.”
Read more about Triratna translation work.
Chris McKenna is a mitra practicing with the Hastings sangha on the south coast of England. Five years ago, after discussion with friends, Chris approached the local independent cinema - The Electric Palace - about the possibility of showing regular screenings of films that would be of interest to the local Buddhist community.
Initially the cinema was reluctant and asked if he could guarantee that twenty five of the fifty seats would be filled. Obviously he couldn’t be sure of that level of attendance but he assured them that he would work tirelessly to promote the films as widely as possible to groups that may also have an interest. (This has been so much the case that it has become a running joke in Hastings that Chris can’t hold a conversation without mentioning Buddhist film night!)
The films are sourced by exploring the programmes of Buddhist festivals in Europe and America or are suggested by members of the community. They are mostly films that would be very hard to find elsewhere: they are not generally available on streaming services and certainly won’t be found at the local multiplex.
The screenings have been mostly well attended both by Buddhists and non-Buddhists with the films proving a way of raising the profile of Triratna within Hastings.
One cold February Sunday night when they showed ‘Zen for Nothing’ - a mostly silent film set in a monastery - they had to turn away a dozen people!
If you are interested in following Hastings’ example and setting up your own evenings at a local cinema Chris is happy to answer any questions and provide film suggestions. His email address is palomboliz [at] aol.com.
If you fancy a trip to Hastings these are the forthcoming presentations -
15th March, 7.30pm: ‘Honeygiver Among the Dogs’ - A Bhutanese film noir.
19th April, 8.00pm: ‘The Medicine Buddha’ - A film about a Mongolian Lama who is considered a national treasure.
14th June: ‘The Dalai Lama - Scientist’
Tickets can be booked via The Electric Palace website.
Un travail d'équipe international: Le nouveau Centre bouddhiste Triratna de Paris / International Team Work: The New Paris Buddhist CentrePosted 3 months ago
« Nous avons reçu tellement de soutien - beaucoup de gens étaient intéressés par l’idée d’un nouveau centre à Paris. Cela a été un travail d’équipe international - sans la communauté internationale de Triratna, il n’aurait pas été possible d’avoir ce local ». - Aryanita, présidente du Centre bouddhiste Triratna de Paris.
Après plusieurs collectes de fonds et un travail acharné de la part de nombreuses personnes, et en particulier de Vassika, le nouveau Centre bouddhiste Triratna de Paris a été officiellement inauguré en novembre. Ce fut un événement véritablement international, avec des participants venus de France, des Pays-Bas, de Belgique, d’Allemagne et du Royaume-Uni, et incluant aussi des cartes postales de vœux en provenance de la Communauté bouddhiste Triratna du monde entier.
Voici une courte vidéo de Clear Vision sur cet événement joyeux et prometteur.
“We received so much support – a lot of people were interested in the idea of a new Centre in Paris. It was international team work – without international Triratna it wouldn’t have been possible to have this building.” – Aryanita, Chair of the Paris Buddhist Centre
After a lot of fundraising and hard work by many, and especially by Vassika, the new Paris Buddhist Centre was officially inaugurated in November. It was a truly international event with people attending the ceremony from France, Holland, Belgium, Germany and the UK – but also incorporating well-wishing postcards from right across the Triratna world.
Right Livelihood is an important aspect of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. The Buddha encouraged his followers to engage in compassionate activity, and to make their living in a way that does not cause harm and that is ethically positive. But what does that look like in today’s world? How do we engage with work as Buddhists, and what are the options if you want to work with other Buddhists? The idea behind the “Building a Buddhist Business” workshop held recently at the London Buddhist Centre was to explore these issues and come up with some practical answers!
Sanjay Poyzer, one of the organisers of this event, writes about how it went and what might come next:
“What we do for work is one of the biggest decisions we need to make in our lives. We all know the kind of impact it can have on our mental states, and it can also be one of the biggest ways we make a difference in the world.
We’ve got a history of integrating spiritual practice into work in Triratna, with a whole host of “team-based right livelihood” projects across the world. But what does the future look like for Buddhist businesses? That was the question on my, and my friend Joris’, mind when we came up with the idea for the Build a Buddhist Business day at the London Buddhist Centre (LBC). As Jnanavaca said in his talk which opened the day: starting a business is hard, but if our motivation is right, it’s the exact kind of self-transcendence we need to move towards Enlightenment.
Both Joris and I have experience in the start-up world, where everybody wants to be the next Facebook or Uber. New startups often come out of day events called “Hackathons”, where strangers are brought together into teams around new ideas. They’ll elaborate on these ideas over the course of the day, and often pitch them at the end to investors. I actually started a business in exactly this way a few years ago.
So we decided to see if the format would work at the LBC, with less focus on tech, and more on creating viable businesses that were really Buddhist. We weren’t sure if the idea would be particularly popular, but it really was! More than 60 people showed up on the day, many coming from outside of London. After being inspired by talks by Jnanavaca, plus Gabi talking about New View Letting Agents and Abhayanandi about Lama’s Pyjamas, the Centre was alive with energy and excitement as people started pitching their ideas and forming teams. We had everything from a Buddhist ethical management consultancy, to a support service for women experiencing the pain of losing a baby.
To help people develop their ideas, we expanded on the Business Model Canvas, an established idea in the startup world, to create a Buddhist Business Model Canvas. This gave participants a format to think through all the core aspects of their business - costs, customers and so on, whilst also considering how it helps deepen their going for refuge and practice generosity.
The day ended with a feedback session with our esteemed panel of investors: Suryagupta, chair of the LBC; Amalavajra, co-founder of FutureDharma Fund; Keturaja, chair of Windhorse Trust, and Milly, an associate at Bethnal Green Ventures, Europe’s leading early stage ‘tech for good’ venture capitalist firm. An absolute wealth of experience! This was an opportunity to hear how experts responded to their ideas and what kind of questions they have for them, but also to make contact with people who might help them, either financially or otherwise.
In the end there were twelve teams pitching to the panel, with some really exciting work being proposed. The panel made insightful comments about who the customers might really be, what might be more expensive or difficult than assumed, and how the ideas could be taken forward. There was lots of rejoicing as well as constructive critical feedback - really showing our community at its best as we support each other to create projects that help the world.
After such a successful day, we’re now talking about what we do next. Our plan is to run another day the LBC later this year with a follow-up course for people to continue developing their ideas. We’re also talking to other Triratna Buddhist centres about how we might support them to do similar things.
We ended the day with the transference of merit and self-surrender, from the Sevenfold puja, which really underlined what Buddhist businesses can offer the world that’s different: “So may I become that which maintains all beings situated throughout space, so long as all have not attained to peace.”
Read more about Right Livelihood
Watch Jnanavaca’s talk ‘Why build a Buddhist business?’
Gabi Thesing talking about New View Residential
Abhayanandi speaks about Lama’s Pyjamas
Recording of the Dragon’s Den and pitches
Visit the Jobs, Volunteering and Communities space on The Buddhist Centre Online
After a substantial thirty years as the President of the Wellington Buddhist Centre, Nagabodhi handed on this role to Jnanadhara in a beautiful ritual, with rejoicings, meditation and song on Tuesday 25th February.
Saradarshini, the Chair of the Wellington Buddhist Centre, writes about this significant occasion:
“How fortunate we are! Not only have we had a fabulous President in Nagabodhi for the last thirty years, now we have Jnanadhara, experienced, dedicated, capable and young (ish). And that’s not all! Jnanadhara found the Dharma at the WBC many years ago and is keen to contribute to the growth of our Sangha. He won’t be able to visit us in 2021 but after that, his intention is to visit each year.
Thirty-two of us gathered at the WBC on Tuesday 25th February to witness Nagabodhi handing on the responsibility of President of the Wellington Buddhist Centre to Jnanadhara.
The evening began with Varadevi and Achala, rejoicing in Nagabodhi and thanking him for his 30 years’ involvement with the Wellington Sangha. Achala and Varadevi were the first two Chairs of the Centre and have known Nagabodhi since before he became our President.
During this time Nagabodhi has worked with the five Chairs of the Centre and developed personal connections with the whole of the Sangha. His two-yearly visits for two weeks included leading a weekend retreat, giving talks at the open nights at the Centre, meeting with the Council and individually with members of the Sangha. A very popular visitor, he tended to have lunch and dinner dates every day of his visits, squeezing in coffee catch-ups in any spaces.
He has also been leading the men’s GFR retreats and so making deep connections with those training for ordination and subsequently joining the Order.
Nagabodhi responded to these rejoicings with appreciation and gave an inspiring talk on building the Buddhaland in Wellington. He also pointed out how lucky we were to have Jnanadhara as our incoming president.
I led the ritual in the shrine room which began with a short sit followed by the Dharma singers, Suryagita, Jasmine and Trish, singing “Transient as Dreams” a song composed by Suryagita using the words of Kukai’s poem “To a Nobleman in Kyoto”.
Jnanadhara ritually received the keys of the WBC and took on the responsibility of President with the four lines of acceptance we use at our ordination.
We made our offerings as we all sang “As we all go for refuge” – a composition by Suryagita for the Australasian Great Gathering in 2018
Jnanadhara then celebrated all the people who have contributed to initiating sustaining, developing and growing the WBC. This is where he first came across the Dharma. He left Wellington in 1999 with the intention of returning once ordained and here he is in 2020 as our President.
After a final song from the Dharma singers, a poem and haiku by Ryokan set to music by Suryagita, the ritual ended with The Transference of Merit.
The evening concluded with tea and cake and conversation.
It is with gratitude that the Wellington Sangha farewell Nagabodhi and welcome Jnanadhara. As the current chair of the WBC I look forward to an ongoing relationship with Jnanadhara and him carrying the Centre forward as chairs come and go.”
Listen to the singing from Suryagita and the Dharma Singers during the Presidential handover
+Follow the Wellington Buddhist Centre space on The Buddhist Centre Online
The Abhayaratna Trust is embarking on a new project called the Local Care Network (LCN) project! The idea behind this is to help develop and embed a more explicit and organised culture of care and support in the Order for Order members who need it, including accessing financial assistance and other services (for more details, visit their website and watch a short video about it).
The project is a collaborative effort involving external agencies including Age UK, who have given The Abhayaratna Trust access to a tool (called Compass), developed by Age UK in partnership with the NHS, that facilitates a holistic assessment of a person and produces a care/support plan for them.
The LCN will be piloted, in the first instance, in two UK Centres: Manchester and Sheffield, with more Centres to join later in the year. Please contact Mahasraddha (mahasraddha [at] abhayratnatrust.org.uk) if you want to find out more about how your Centre can participate in the LCN pilot.
On the 12th February, representatives from the Manchester and Sheffield Buddhist Centres, as well as Mahasraddha and Taradakini from The Abhayaratna Trust Team, attended a day’s Compass training run by Age UK Kendal in The Lake District, UK.
Following the excellent and comprehensive training day, they are currently working out how to make use of the impressive Compass tool, both in The Abhayaratna Trust team and in LCNs to begin rolling out the pilot project in the Manchester and Sheffield Order Sanghas.
Upeksaraja, who attended the day on behalf of The Sheffield Buddhist Centre, said the following:Our visit to Age UK South Lakeland to view their very comprehensive and well thought out ‘Compass’ software programme was fascinating. It left me wondering why this sort of thing hasn’t been done before as it facilitates co-ordination between services for a much more effective and efficient care system.
We still need to assess how and where it could be helpful to Abhayaratna Trust, but at the very least we have some excellent ideas for further development.
It was very enjoyable meeting other Abhayaratna Trust colleagues, and our presenters were excellent. We also discovered a great vegetarian cafe round the corner!
On Friday 17th January, the Toluca Buddhist Centre in Mexico was formally inaugurated. The Toluca Buddhist Centre arose from the friendship of three friends who wanted to share their practice with each other and with other people.
Fifteen years ago, Sanghadhara, Ruchiramati and Bodhikamala, then 16 years old, living in Toluca, met Buddhism through the Mexico City Buddhist Centre and began practicing together. Toluca is a city located in the middle of the country, 70 km away from Mexico City, so it was difficult for these three friends to attend the existing Sangha as regularly as they wanted. As a result, they started a small meditation group 13 years ago in Toluca, with the aim of creating a space to share their experience of the Dharma amongst themselves and with any others interested. This group continued to grow, and now it is a well-established sangha!
In July 2019 Ruchiramati and Bodhikamala sought a place to carry out Buddhist activities, so a space was rented, with two shrine rooms, a reception and a small study room. You can get a glimpse into this beautiful new Centre in this short video from Clear Vision.
Bodhikamala, now the Chair of the Centre, writes:
We will try to have a positive impact at a local level and have an active social involvement, because we know that the Buddhist Centre has the potential to benefit many people. By creating a context of practice and peace we can help the current complicated socio-cultural and political situation in Mexico, and we hope to be a space that promotes friendship, harmony and mutual collaboration between Centres and Triratna groups in Mexico.
At the moment the Toluca Buddhist Centre has 6 mitras (with three more to come) and a regular sangha of about 25 people, with new people coming every week, and a lively young sangha as well! There are about 15 regulars who are in their 20s (the oldest is 32), but at least, so far, in every beginners class there are more than 8 people in the same range of age. The number of people attending activities varies but on average they are joined by 25 to 35 in every activity.We would like to express our gratitude for all the amazing support we have received throughout the years, from Mexico City Buddhist Centre, the Cuernavaca Buddhist Centre, and more specifically, from Sanghadhara, Upekshamati, Nagapriya, Saddhajoti, and so many others who gave us their unconditional support, friendship and trust. We would also like to extend our gratitude to all of Triratna Buddhist Order and our beloved teacher, Bhante Sangharakshita, and we sincerely hope we can honour the Order legacy. - Bodhikamala