College of Public Preceptors

Four Myths + Five Farewells

On Tue, 14 November, 2023 - 10:18
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Over the weekend, the College were joined by a number of retired Public Preceptors: Suvajra, Padmasuri, Sanghadevi, Saddhaloka; with Manjuvajra, Subhuti and Srimala visiting for some elements of the programme and to spend time together as ‘College Elders’. 

Jnanavaca led three sessions of stimulating, interactive study on the ‘four myths of the spiritual life’. He explored this model that Subhuti conceived and introduced in a talk on an international Order convention in 2003 (and was more recently explored by Jnanavaca and Maitreyabandhu on a retreat at Adhisthana in 2020) and articulated it’s potential benefits for us in offering a unifying perspective of different approaches to the spiritual life. Whilst warning against literalising the model, he considered the strengths and weaknesses of each of these ‘myths’ and pointed to underlying principles, suggesting how this could support harmonious communication and allow for an appreciative and discerning engagement across differences in approach.

We also said farewell to the four preceptors retiring from the College at this meeting (Karunadevi, Nagabodhi, Surata and Maitreyi), all of whom have made huge contributions to the Order and movement in quite a range of ways. From pioneering in North America, to initiation of (and decades-long involvement in) the publication of Sangharakshita’s writings, to befriending and ordaining very many people over years of service in Ordination teams. They were fully rejoiced in and celebrated over the course of two evenings.

On the anniversary of Sangharakshita’s funeral, with the Adhisthana Community, we ritually laid a memorial stone for Sudarshan, a Public Preceptor from India who died in a tragic car accident in 2009. A recent development for Adhisthana has been hosting funerals of Order Members, and Khemabandhu, as Chair, has been reflecting on how to weave in this strand of our shared life, and how to honour and remember all Order Members after death. 

The laying of this stone was the beginning of a symbolic record of Public Preceptors who hold the particular responsibility for our lineage of Ordination, handed on by Sangharakshita. Sudarshan was the first Public Preceptor to have died, and there have been four others since (Vajragita, Ratnasuri, Mallika and Abhaya) who will be similarly commemorated at some point in the future. The stones are made from a piece of slate, carved and engraved by a local stone-mason, with the name of the Public Preceptor, the date of the first Public Ordination they performed, and the date of their death, to be placed around the outer circle of Sangharakshita’s burial mound, for future generations to be able to trace the lineage of their Ordination.

It was a simple ritual, following rejoicings in Sudarshan by Amoghasiddhi and Mahamati and an essentialised practice of the Kalyana Mitra Yoga led by Punyamala. Some of Sudarshan’s ashes were laid in the ground by Ratnadharini, and the stone placed by Khemabandhu. Padmavajra recited the poem: The Six Elements Speak, as he had done at Sangharakshita’s funeral, and we ended by circumambulating and chanting the Manjusri Mantra, who had been Sudarshan’s yiddam.

That evening, we watched a short new video from Adhisthana, Remembering Sangharakshita: a series of photographs of the days leading up to and including his funeral, set to Strauss’ ‘Im Abendrot’; followed by a conversation with some of the College Elders (Sanghadevi, Suvajra, Padmasuri, and Saddhaloka) who shared some of the history of the College and their experience since retiring.

International Preceptors' College Meeting 2023
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