Chairs' Letter – October 2022On Wed, 2 November, 2022 - 12:41
Dear Order members and friends,
Yesterday at Adhisthana we marked the fourth anniversary of Bhante Sangharakshita’s death; with several events taking place it was a full shrineroom, and many more joined us online. Ratnavyuha gave a delightful talk, sharing the history of his personal experience of Bhante and the development of their connection from when they first met at Aryaloka retreat centre in the US, through further encounters in the UK and Spain. I imagine we were all in touch with our own personal connection with Bhante, many of us with vivid memories of hearing of his death four years ago, as we moved into chanting the five mantras that were recited day and night until – and during – his funeral eleven days later. Mahamati, who had been one of those conducting Bhante’s funeral, was with us to choreograph the five mantras, each accompanied by an associated reading of Bhante’s words.
The 9th meeting of the International Council is currently underway at Adhisthana, and as Chair of the College of Public Preceptors I am also Chair of the IC – although I am fortunate in being able to delegate the convening of the meeting to Arthavadin, who is a wonderful mixture of skilled and calm, firm and responsive; we are in good hands.
Between meetings a steering group meets every month to follow through decisions that have been made and prepare for the next meeting. This is made up of Arthavadin and myself; two other College members, Nagapriya (Mexico) and Abhayadana (India); the two International Order Convenors, Aryajaya and Saraha (both based at Adhisthana); the Indian Movement coordinator Amrutsiddhi (India) and our newly appointed International Movement coordinator, Jnanadhara (Ireland); with the support of Aparajita, as assistant to the IC.
Eleven years after the inauguration of the IC, this meeting is dedicated to a review. There are 34 of us here in total, mainly drawn from each of the three Strands (Order / Movement / College) and six Areas: India / Latin America / mainland Europe / north America / Australia & New Zealand / UK & Ireland. We also have the benefit of guests: Nandavajra (Future Dharma), and also Candradasa and Sanghadhara (The Buddhist Centre Online) who are covering the meeting on social media and creating podcasts.
We began the meeting with Nagapriya giving a talk connecting the Bodhisattva Ideal with the lineage of responsibility (which together with the lineages of teachings, practices, and inspiration, makes up the ‘4 lineages’ we have received from Bhante). I especially appreciated Nagapriya’s reflections on the far-reaching implications of our action or non-action, which spread throughout time and space and are impossible to grasp in their entirety.
So far we have had an update on the work of the IC and steering group, also the Ahimsa Kula and Communications Working Group; the development of a new IC website and legal structure; and the appointment of Jnanadhara as the first International Movement Coordinator. I’m especially glad we finally have an IMC (thanks to the support of Future Dharma and the ECA); Jnanadhara is well suited to initiate this responsibility, having been Chair of the Dublin Centre for 10 years and having represented the Movement Strand on the IC steering group for some time, and looks excited and engaged!
We began our review of the IC with a SWOT (strengths / weaknesses / opportunities / threats) analysis within each Strand, and followed that with an in-depth exploration of the current aims, responsibilities, and powers of the IC, as well as an exploration of the issues likely to face Triratna in the future, in order to clarify the purpose of the meeting. Some of the topics that have arisen have been in the areas of leadership and representation, and where in our organisation different kinds of decisions should take place.
One of the issues we are facing more generally in Triratna, is how to maintain meaningful connections between Order members living in different cultures and at considerable distances from each other – especially now long haul flights are more contentious. The development of online communication has opened up one avenue (one example being Order members from all over the world meeting weekly to do the Practice for the Arising of Bodhicitta) and the network of experienced Order members who are willing and able to travel builds ‘live’ connections. However many of our international institutions are needing to consider how best to operate in the future, which may involve more emphasis on Area gatherings, as well as international ones, and finding a balance between ‘in person’ and online or ‘hybrid’ events.
I’m aware of a few Order members who – for various reasons – have appreciated being in online international Chapters, and have been wondering whether this is something more of us might like to build on. I could imagine some Order members joining intentionally international Chapters, possibly as well as their existing local Chapter, and maybe for a fixed time period such as a year. It would mean any Order member anywhere could share their life and explore their practice in a context that transcended their own culture and emphasised the common factor of Going for Refuge to the Three Jewels.