Over the past couple of years our community has been working on a new organisational structure to coordinate its many activities and communities worldwide. This work first bore visible fruit last Autumn with the inaugural meeting of the new Triratna International Council. We’re pleased to bring you this report from Vidyatara in Birmingham, who was there. She says -
“On the evening of 22 August 2011, at Padmaloka Retreat Centre in Norfolk UK, Sangharakshita addressed a group of 36 Order members* representing the Triratna Buddhist Order and Community, giving his blessing to the first gathering of the International Council. This was the first time in Triratna’s history that a truly international group of Order Members had come together in this way. Between them they represented all three strands of Triratna (the Order, the Movement, and the Preceptors’ College) and all six of Triratna’s ‘Areas’ - the USA/Canada, India, South Pacific, Latin America, Mainland Europe and UK/Ireland.
What followed was five days of intense, lively discussion, workshops, presentations, practice, ritual, sharing and building of friendships and consensus all focused on ensuring the future of the Triratna Buddhist Order and Community.
The meeting was opened by Bhante, who encouraged the Council to be bold in its approach to decision-making. He likened his relationship to the Council to a retired gardener, sitting in his garden listening to the bees working away together harmoniously in a near-by hive – close enough to be heard, but able to work autonomously.
The following morning, Dhammarati set the historical context for the meeting drawing on earlier work and thinking about the future of the Order and the Movement by Vishvapani and Subhuti.
On the basis of this and the ‘Working Practices’ document, (based on 12 months of discussions with Order members across the world), the Council then worked together to develop the principles that would guide the remainder of the meeting.
The rest of the programme came out of the first morning’s discussions and reflected the wide range of issues put forward to Council participants by members of the Order, Movement and College across all of the six Triratna Areas.
Three major areas of focus emerged, being the development and communication of a ‘whole-of-life’ Shared System of Training that would more clearly define the Triratna Buddhist tradition; improved ways of engaging the Order; and new ways of funding the Order & Movement.
The next two days focused on more in-depth explorations of these themes through workshops – in smaller groups and all together - facilitated by Maitrisara and Viveka. This work was supported by presentations from Subhuti, Parami and Vajragupta.
Where required, the Council came together to consider its support for various proposals that come out of the workshops, with a view to gauging the level of consensus. All the proposals for further work on the priority themes that were presented to the Council received unanimous support.
On the final full day, the Council agreed three working groups (on a Shared System of Practice, Engaging the Order – Building Better Channels, and Funding the Order and Movement) to take the initial ideas forward and develop their next steps. A fourth group was asked to develop plans for communicating the outcomes of the first meeting to the Order, Movement and College.
It is difficult to capture in words participants’ feelings about the meeting, but the reporting out on the last morning reflected a collective mixture of excitement, inspiration, relief and most importantly confidence in the future of the Triratna Buddhist Order and Community and the on-going realisation of Bhante’s vision for a new Buddhist tradition.
The next formal meeting of the International Council will take place in 2013. The International Council Steering Group will meet regularly over the next 2 years to monitor the progress of the working groups.
With metta, Vidyatara”.
For more background to the new Triratna International Council we recommend a 50-minute talk by Dhammarati, current chair of the Preceptors’ College and principal architect of the new Council, in which he gives an introduction to the process and outcomes of Bhante’s handing on the last of his major responsibilities to the Preceptors’ College. It’s a frank account that summarises some significant events and lessons learned along the way, and makes clear the need for and the aims of the Council.