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Dear Order members and friends,
I’ve appreciated being able to work as a team with deputies from as far afield as New Zealand (Ratnavyuha) and India (Amrutdeep) as well as with Punyamala (Sheffield) and Jnanavaca (LBC) within the UK. I appreciated Ratnavyuha’s theme of unity / diversity last month, and look forward to contributions from the others. (You can read Ratnavyuha’s December letter at thebuddhistcentre.com/preceptors)
My last update was about the (online) College meeting in November. Since then, like many of us, I’ve been monitoring the Covid-19 situation and the US election (I happened to be watching the news as Capitol Hill was stormed); and continuing with the bodhicitta practice.
With so much communication taking place online, I’ve been spending even more time than usual on my computer. I tried to cut down on screen time over the UK holiday period, and have been fortunate in having easy access to the countryside during lockdowns.
I’m also fortunate to be spending time at Adhisthana, where life on site has continued pretty much as before, although with fewer excursions and very few physical guests but many more online visitors. The two communities have grown in strength during this time, and it’s been good to welcome Ksantikara, the new Young Buddhists coordinator, and Patrick, who will be ranging from online tech to maintenance.
The two newcomers emerged from quarantine in time to join a week of community days in January. I’d been slightly resisting being dragged away from my inbox, but once I’d made the break from my computer I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being physically on retreat with the others. Saddhanandi and Saddhaloka had crafted a programme that explored our collective life and responsibilities at Adhisthana; from custom-made pizza and life stories, to discussion of the single-sex ‘idea’ and study on ‘Duties of Brotherhood in Islam’.
Dhammarati, Ksantikara and I had been asked to kick off the single-sex discussion, and Dhammarati and I had independently come across the Saññoga Sutta (AN 7:48) on Bondage. Mostly we all talked from our own experience, and the discussion was honest and harmonious. It’s a topic that comes up from time to time as we work out how best to support the single-sex element of the two communities, as well as the harmony of the overall common project. Two days of more meditation and study led by Dhammarati was welcome, and the material in Bhante’s seminar well worth attention.
A lot of work has been taking place at Adhisthana during lockdown, including the transformation of Bhante’s Urgyen House, and it will be wonderful to be able to welcome everyone here again when that becomes possible.
I’m aware that many Public Preceptors have been working overtime to give people the best possible conditions for entering the Order, within these continually changing restrictions. Rescheduling an ordination retreat is a mammoth task of juggling preceptors, ordinands, and retreat venues.
I’m also aware that many people who have been invited to be ordained are having to hang loose to when and where they may be ordained. I hope they are finding ways to make the most of this extended bardo, and I’d like to assure them that every ordination and ordination retreat is special. I remember an ordination retreat at Tiratanaloka when we had three ordination kutis in play, and people following the light path to their private ordination were nonplussed when it led them to the garage, which was a bit of a Tardis on that occasion. We look forward to you joining the Order and joining with us in transforming ourselves and the seemingly increasingly mad world we live in.
> View January’s ‘Features from the College’