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I’m thinking about the upcoming Order Retreat in Bodhgaya, and it reminded me to post some of my thoughts from my visit to India last year.
It soon became evident that the Order retreat was powered by a band of brothers, some very good friends who had taken on organising the retreat. Watching their ease of working with each other, their laughter and joking, it reminded me of the team at Tiratanaloka and I was interested to hear their story.
They met in Nagpur more than 20 years ago when they were still idealistic and energetic youths.
Luckily not much has changed in the intervening time. They decided that our Movement in Nagpur could do with a new, more central, Buddhist Centre to attract the growing middle class. So they decided to set one up and fundraise for it themselves without asking for money from the West. And so it was. I was invited to give a talk there one evening to their mitra class in a small Centre in a central shopping Centre and was warmly received by a group of around 25 Mitras all enthusiastic and eager to know more about the Dharma.
Sadhanaratna also realised the Dhamma needed to be spread to the slum areas. He is a 5th Dan in karate, so with a group of karate friends he teaches karate in the slums. He says it is through karate he can teach the young men, many of whom would otherwise take up criminal behaviour. Their families have learnt to trust him and his team and are more receptive to hearing the path that Buddhism offers.
This, I later found out was also the team behind the legendary ‘Dhammakranti’ (Dhamma Revolution) retreats for 1-5000 people, many of whom were introduced to the Dhamma for the first time.
As if that wasn’t enough, the team also decided that we need to develop more of a Buddhist culture in the arts in India and so they decided to create the ‘Buddha Festival’. “It was just an idea, we had no budget at all!” Laughed Sadhanaratna when he told me. Still, with the force of their friendship and with good humour and dedication they fundraised themselves in India and set up one of the major festivals of the Buddhists in India attracting some world class Indian musicians and artists. “We made a small loss this year” he said shrugging his shoulders, “but maybe we will make more next year”.
It was directly after organising the Buddha Festival that they had come to set up the Order retreat. “Our wives will have forgotten us” smiled Saddhanaratna, I discretely reminded him of the potential opportunity that Valentine’s Day might provide, but it turned out he was staying for the next Order retreat on being an effective kalyana mitra. I left delighting and marvelling in our Order, and what a group of friends can do.
Ratnadarshi, Rahul Thorat, Padmadarshi, Maitriveer Nagarjuna, Sadhanaratna, Akshobhyamitra, Maitrijit, and the newly ordained Kushalveer, as well as some temple dogs. Sadhu brothers! I look forward to meeting you again for evening chai. Your friendship is one of the highlights of the retreat for me.