College of Public Preceptors

Sangharakshita + the Gestalt

On Wed, 31 March, 2021 - 14:44
akasajoti's picture

You asked, ‘What is this transient pattern?’
If we tell the truth of it, it will be a long story;
It is a pattern that came out of the ocean
And in a moment returned to the ocean depth.

– Omar Khayyam
the epigraph in The Rainbow Road

A series of personal reminiscences from some Public Preceptors, on the theme of Sangharakshita + the Gestalt. These were shared during a couple of sessions of the March 2021 College Weekend, choreographed by Maitreyabandhu, as a ritual and personal setting for College Members to connect with one another.

We opened with a short talk from Padmavajra on the theme of the Gestalt, and then a number of College members shared personally about significant threads in their lives, ending with a short ritual led by Maitreyi.

We decided to share these recordings more widely for those of you interested in hearing more personally from members of the College about their life and practice.

01 | Introduction – Padmavajra
02 | Kulanandi
03 | Adityabodhi
04 | Punyamala
05 | Surata
06 | The Parting Glass – Parami
07 | Vajrashura
08 | Subhadramati
09 | Offering, a Poem – Jnanavaca
10 | Parami
11 | Nagabodhi
12 | Transference of Merits – Maitreyi

The emphasis here is on the word pattern. There is a pattern there in the ocean depths, but the pattern doesn’t fully emerge from the ocean’s depths, you see only a part of the pattern, you have to infer the rest. In a way, Browning says the same sort of thing: “On the earth the broken arcs, in the heaven a perfect round.” So on earth you only see the broken arc, and the ordinary autobiography, or the autobiography I am writing gives only the broken arc, not the perfect round. I think (the latter) is quite beyond that sort of structure.

– Sangharakshita, Forest Monks of Sri Lanka Seminar, 1985

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Viryabodhi's picture

Thank you all for these generous offerings. Some real gems in there.

So much that could be said, but let me just say I wish Nagabodhi writes more.

Could you say where the reading at the end that Maitreyi reads about the bodhicitta and the Order comes from?

much love,


akasajoti's picture

Hey Viryabodhi. Glad you enjoyed them and nice to see you online today! Here’s the reading from the bodhisattva ideal mitrata.


(You should not take the Bodhicitta literally, as a sort of doctrine or theory. By saying that it is a myth one means that the term Bodhicitta refers to an experience, a transcendental experience if you like, which cannot be adequately described in conceptual terms. The words myth or symbol suggest that the Bodhicitta is something which is emotionally moving, which stirs us on a much deeper level than that of the intellect or the ordinary waking consciousness. The term myth or symbol suggests something that has a definite impact on us, something that we necessarily experience, something that we cannot simply think about.)

I have spoken of the Bodhicitta arising within the context of a spiritual community.  One could even think of that in a poetic rather than a precise doctrinal sense as constituting their myth.  One could speak of the Bodhicitta as constituting the myth of the Movement. Actually what one sees as the Movement, materially, is only a tiny fraction of what is happening. Something else is happening on some other level, on some other plane, which is infinitely vaster. What one sees of the Movement that we call the [Triratna Buddhist Community] is just a tiny part, a very limited manifestation, of that: a working out of that ‘myth’ on a particular level, at a particular time, in a particular set of historical circumstances. 

The Movement has its existence or its being on this other level which we call the mythical or, if you like, the archetypal or the symbolic, and is a bodying forth of that. If it merely existed on the material plane, then it would probably wither away pretty quickly. It needs to have really deep roots – roots so to speak, in the sky – if it is to survive at all. 

Thus one needs to have one’s roots in the sky instead of in the earth; and when one speaks of the myth of the [Triratna Buddhist Community], one means something like this, that it has its roots in the sky, so one can’t really understand it without reference to the sky. 

If one can feel oneself as a member of the [Triratna Buddhist Community] working out that myth, that will give one a much truer idea of what is actually happening or what one is actually involved in.  It has to emerge as different people start becoming aware that the Movement is more than it appears to be.  And that will only happen when they start becoming aware that they are more than they appear to be.  They will become aware that they are playing a part in that myth and that their physical activity is only a bodying forth of that.  Then they will see that other people with whom they are connected are doing the same and in that way they will begin to appreciate the myth behind the [Triratna Buddhist Community] as a whole.


Amoghavajra's picture

I was very moved to listen to this, thank you so much for posting it here. It reminds me of such an important aspect of Triratna that can take courage and openness to communicate. Thanks.