Fifty Years, Fifty Voices: Sobhanandi (Highlights)On Thu, 15 September, 2022 - 11:58
You come to a bridge. You look down. You see fish swimming in the water. But the fish don’t know you’re there, because that’s not their world. So the fish, their world is the water… You are conscious of the fish, seeing them, but it’s not your world. If you put the fish on the bridge, they’ll die. If you’re in the water, they die. That’s the world you live in, but it’s not the only world, because for the fish there’s a completely different world.
My name was Joke Evers and is now Sobhanandi.
In 1968 I was 1 year into my 3 year training to become a nurse, working in the same hospital as my twin sister (now also ordained as Tarini). We also started to live together in a rented apartment. I remember my sister asked me to share the apartment with her, when her housemate had left. I was in hospital recovering from a head injury and I was glad to leave the nurses house where I was obliged to live as a training nurse. But being 22 at that time, after some objections from the training staff, they could not forbid me to leave and live in the city. So we started to live together again after many years.
In 1978 I was working as a nurse-anaesthetist in the hospital’s operation theatre, still the same hospital, and was the deputy head of the anaesthesia department. A stressful job with a lot of work hours and responsibility and two months holiday a year. I started travelling to distant countries during the holidays, first in Europe, later in the Far East, with my sister. I loved travelling and other cultures. I became interested in Eastern Philosophy and meditation. I followed courses and a correspondence course with the Buddhist Society in London in later years. The travelling triggered my interest in Buddhism and led to going on an FWBO introduction retreat in 1984.
In 1988 I was much involved in the FWBO, going to evenings and retreats and a study group. I had asked to become a Mitra but was told to wait as my sister had asked at the same time and they wanted to be sure it was an individual choice for both of us. We became Mitras in October 1988 and I asked for ordination in 1989 without telling anyone. I did not think it was necessary to tell the OMs. In 1988 I started training in Chinese medicine as I wanted to stop working in the theatre. I had worked there for nearly twenty years and wanted something more involved with people on a more personal level. And also, although the work was mainly ethical, there were some aspects to it that went against my beliefs. So I resigned in 1990 after 19 years as a nurse-anaesthetist and started a Chinese medicine practice with agency work to support my income.
In 1998 I was living in a women’s community in Amsterdam. My sister and I had stopped sharing a house to follow our own path in 1994. This was a very painful separation indeed. A year after moving into the community, in 1996, I became seriously ill and had to stop working. From what you do to what you are. A difficult six months of acceptance and change. I had stopped my practice of Chinese medicine when I moved to Amsterdam, intending to start it up again but it never happened. In 1998 I was still seriously ill and at the same time had a lot of time to pursue my practice and meditation. I simply loved meditation and still do. I also helped out in the Triratna centre in Amsterdam. I was involved in the centre team and helped out as much as I could. I was ordained in 1999 in Il Convento, one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. I became an anagarika in 2000 and moved out of the community in 2001 to live on my own.
In 2008 I was still in Amsterdam, living on my own in a small house. I felt that life was too hectic for me in Amsterdam and decided to move to Arnhem, in the east of Holland, where there was a Triratna centre, started by two Mitras with the occasional help of Order Members coming to do the evening. I had been there a few times, knew the city from my childhood and had worked there in my teens, a small provincial town with a leisurely pace.
Early 2009 I moved there and am still living there. I helped out in the centre but after some time they asked me to take over, they had been running the centre for five years and wanted a break. So I got more involved, started teaching most evenings and took full responsibility after some time. I like to teach in a very practical way with stories and images. We became an official charity and in some years it evolved into a real centre. I became the official chair of the centre in 2015. We also had to move the centre twice and ended in our own rented place where we still are. I did nearly all the teaching and the study groups. The centre slowly attracted more people and activities became more. It inspired me a lot and had a deepening effect on my own practice. Every year I went on a solo retreat for a month, mostly meditating. That helped me to keep inspired. Another area that keeps me inspired is the translation charity I set up with another Mitra in 2003. I do most of the editing work and like to read the translations and edit them. I learned a lot from the books about Bhante’s teachings.
In 2018 I am still living in Arnhem and the chair of the centre. I am also a private preceptor and have ordained two now Dharmacharinis and good friends, and I’ve been asked by four others. A great pleasure and inspiration. I am nearly 73 and still active in a lot of things, contacts with people in the Low Countries Sangha, study groups, precepting, teaching meditation and everything else that comes with that.. And still doing translations work and chairing the translation charity ‘de3juwelen’. I still enjoy doing it, it is my life, but my energy is less than it was. There is a facilitators team from Mitras training for ordination who have taken on most of the organisational things in the centre. The centre council is also very active. There is more help from other Order Members in teaching on Sangha nights. I am slowly letting go of being involved in the running of the centre and some of the teaching. After such a long time I find it sometimes difficult to let go. And at the same time I am very glad with the space it gives me to follow my own interests in practice and meditation. There is no Order Member willing or able to take over so I am a bit worried about the future of the centre. But there is a very committed group of Mitras training for ordination, and some help from other Order Members so I trust that they will continue should something happen to me.