Chairs' Letter – April 2022On Sat, 30 April, 2022 - 23:01
Dear Order Members and friends,
A year ago, someone rejoiced in my merits – and those of College members generally – as they put it: ‘out of the blue’. He said he was following up an intention to express gratitude when he felt it, and I’d like to take this opportunity to respond ‘in kind’.
Saddharaja has rheumatoid arthritis, and recently Covid on top of that, however he’s just set out to complete his cycle ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats (the southernmost to the northernmost point of mainland UK) raising funds for Triratna activities in Kolkata. Last summer, after 420 miles and having raised £14,000, illness forced him to stop in Shrewsbury; this summer he’s aiming to cover the remaining 650 miles with Prajnakara as support. You can follow his blog triratnakolkata.blogspot.com or contribute here https://gofund.me/d272b9b1.
One of the benefits of being based at Adhisthana, is the opportunity to drop in on events. I’d found a previous Philosophy Seminar very stimulating, and was looking forward to this year’s theme ‘In Search of the “Transcendental”’, but was only able to attend one talk: ‘Sangharakshita’s Transcendental Critique of Literalism’ by Viryadeva, based on a couple of Bhante’s lectures from the Vimalakirti Nirdesa series. I won’t attempt a précis, but it included reference to the Yogacara model of consciousness (that Subhuti has done so much to unpack) and culminated in an uplifting evocation of the nature of transcendental beings, which resonated for me with a thread I’ve been following from Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.
I was also glad to be able to drop in on the gathering of an impressive cohort of 24 young Order members at Adhisthana. Khemabandhu interviewed me on the topic of ‘tradition is the handing on of the flame, and not the worship of the ashes’ and it was interesting to explore the overlap between the image of flame as tradition, and the meaning of adhiṣṭhāna, and to talk about the experience of holding specific responsibilities within our community. I was especially glad to get to share my overall very positive sense of our Order, as the last few years seem to have been overly involved in trying to resolve difficulties – which can give a lopsided impression. We ended up touching on how crucial it is that we are able to exemplify harmonious communication, if we are going to be effective in playing a part in transforming human tendencies to polarise, that lead to such devastating and unnecessary dukkha (suffering) in the world.
I’m delighted to rejoice – in her absence – in Lizzie Sparkes, who is set to take over from Akasajoti as our youngest dharmacharini. We’ve just seen her off from Adhisthana, where she is clearly much loved and appreciated by everyone, on her journey to Akashavana. The spiritual community is a strong home for her and she’s made lasting friendships wherever she’s been, beginning with the Colchester sangha. I’ve mainly got to know Lizzie by bumping into and hanging out with her in the community. She’s intelligent and creative; ethically ‘clean’ and doesn’t hold on to grudges; and knows what she thinks and feels, and communicates that openly with a willingness to learn and change.
I’ll also rejoice in Danasamudra, who has just handed over librarianship of the Sangharakshita Library, having overseen overseen the books since they arrived in cardboard boxes, to Sally Malsingh (who is also heading off to be ordained). Danasamudra has had a lot of help, especially from the FOSLs (Friends of Sangharakshita Library), but her passion and dedication to the task has been the driving force behind full categorisation and general organisation of the impressive library.
I’m fortunate in having several very supportive contexts. Working with Akasajoti continues to be a delight, with her skilful communication and organisation, talent for beautiful and evocative design, and the pair of us seeming to be of one mind on just about everything. I also continually draw on my team of College Deputies and will miss having Punyamala and Jnanavaca around while they are both away on the three-month ordination retreats – that happily are taking place at Akashavana and Guhyaloka again. I’ve recently begun a new configuration of College Chair’s Council, initially with Aryajaya and Saraha (as the International Order Convenors), and Khemabandhu (as Adhisthana Chair), hopefully to be joined by Arthavadin (as International Council convenor), which is intentionally not a business meeting, and which I’m finding both useful and enjoyable. Personal friends, such as Dhammarati and Padmasuri, are important mainstays in my life, and when I became College Chair I let Subhuti and Dhammadinna know that I would be regarding them as unofficial extra kalyanamitras!
See April’s ‘Features from the College’ here.