College of Public Preceptors

Chair's Letter – January 2024

On Wed, 31 January, 2024 - 20:00
ratnadharini's picture
ratnadharini

Dear Order members and friends,

December and January were relatively quiet months for me. Zoom meetings and emails tend to ease up over the festive season and I was able to spend two weeks in Wales doing house repairs and having some time to myself as well as catching up with family; it was my mother’s 95th birthday in early January.

The women’s Area Order weekend back at the beginning of December – which is traditionally led by Public Preceptors and an opportunity to welcome new Order members – was on the theme of Bodhicitta. Vajratara gave a commentary on Sangharakshita’s 1984 talk ‘Buddhism, World Peace and Nuclear War’ entitled ‘An Example of Sanity and Compassion In the World’, which has seemed especially relevant in recent months. 

It’s also been the time of year for community ‘at home’ retreats. I joined the Tiratanaloka community in December and am with them again now, as their president, for important discussions around Tiratanaloka Unlimited. The fundraising appeal is going well and during the coming week we’ll be concentrating on the two properties that we currently think have the most potential. 

Last week was the Adhisthana community period with the theme Community Living: Building Amitabha’s Buddhaland. Dhammarati led study on Bhante’s talk ‘Building the Buddhaland’ from the Vimalakirti Nirdesa series (the third talk in the series, On Being ‘All Things to all Men’, was my first encounter with the FWBO/Triratna and a turning point in my life) and we ritually installed the specially commissioned painting of Amitabha, by Chintamani, in the new Padmasambhava shrine room in the library building. We heard short accounts of all the different responsibilities associated with Adhisthana, and were treated to the lifestories of Liv, Harry and Saddhaloka. 

We recently said goodbye to Ksantikara, the Young People’s Coordinator, and Dhivan, resident scholar, as they left Adhisthana. Each of them made a significant contribution to the project and will continue to do so from further afield. On the other hand Subhuti, who among his other responsibilities is president of Adhisthana, and Srimala have moved from North Wales and are now a short walk away across fields and along a country lane and receiving a steady stream of visitors.

The European Chairs’ Assembly (ECA) meets at Adhisthana in early January and it’s always a pleasure to join the meeting – and meet up with friends – as much as possible (Mahamati would normally be there as well but was in India this year). Too many impressive presentations to do justice to here so I’ll just mention the keynote talk: ‘Chair in the Mandala’ by my friend Prasadacarin, and an encouraging update from the Racial Diversity Steering Group.

More personally I was glad to be able to attend Satyamala’s funeral online. It was led by her private preceptor, Padmasuri and followed a few days later by a celebration of her life at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre. Satyamala was a feisty young woman from The Netherlands who – soon after moving to work at Windhorse Trading – was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I vividly remember conducting her public ordination in the theatre space attached to the Centre; she had let me know to just be patient if she struggled to respond and it was an intense experience of communication witnessed by a large gathering of friends. She initially fought against her deteriorating health but was well supported by family and a few good friends and was eventually able to let go into impressively positive mental states. 

Now I’m into my final year as College Chair the time is passing quickly – especially as I’ll be spending six weeks in New Zealand and Australia in the late summer / autumn. Last year the theme I was most aware of was that of our lineage; five years after the death of the founder of our Order and ten years on from the opening of Adhisthana prompted reflections on our Refuge Tree and the practice of pilgrimage. This year I want to focus on the topic of being ‘in the world but not of it’; how to continually deepen our practice of the Dharma and be sure to engage with ourselves, each other and the world in general on the basis of dharmic principles. 

I was delighted to hear news of the ordination of 21 women in India.

with metta,
Ratnadharini

> See January’s ‘Features from the College’ and Subscribe to the Preceptors’ College mailing list here

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