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Report on the January 2016 European Chairs’ Assembly (by Nandavajra)
Adhisthana hosted a gathering of 35 Triratna European Centre Chairs (from 6 countries) for the winter 2016 European Chairs Assembly, from 4th to 11th January. They were joined by representatives from movement wide projects, members of the Development Team and Saddhaloka and Padmavajra from the Preceptors College.
On the second day Ratnaguna inspired and gladdened the meeting by introducing the Pure Land texts as a practice in themselves and discussing their relationship to Sangharakshita’s core teachings. In the first session he explored the imagination which is essential for understanding the sutras on their own terms. In the second session he explained how the texts hint at what Sangharakshita calls the supra-personal force of the Bodhichitta, and in the third session he revealed the importance of Sangha in the sutras. It was a very uplifting and illuminating start to the meeting and Ratnaguna presented the material with his usual clarity, patience and charm. Ratnaguna’s presentations can be listened to as a post at this group.
The Assembly has been exploring the theme of ‘Creating a Culture of Triratna Centres’ over the last three meeting and this again was the overarching theme for the meeting. Amalavajra lead a stimulating and challenging workshop on ‘Awakening Money’ and how to create a culture of clarity, confidence and abundance around money at Triratna Centres. The point was made that a chair’s own attitude to money can influence the financial and dana ‘culture’ of a Centre.
For some time it has been noted that at some Centres there is a lack of men, and particularly young men, coming to introductory events and making a deeper commitment to the Dharma. Clearly this will have an influence on the culture and development of a Centre. A morning of the ECA was devoted to this matter and to how to inspire and encourage men to engage more fully and deeply with the Dharma. Padmavajra shared his thoughts from the perspective of the UK men’s ordination team and Arthavadin and Jnanavaca talked about, and offered observations from, their experience at urban Centres.
An aspect of the culture of a Centre is the awareness that Triratna is a united, worldwide Sangha – ‘One Sangha’. Events and festivals that are marked by Triratna globally can help to foster this awareness and the ECA discussed a number of events that could serve this purpose. This year there will be, in April, the 125th anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar’s birth and the 60th anniversary, in October, of the mass conversions to Buddhism in India. April 2017 will see the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Triratna Buddhist Community and the idea of developing an annual event promoting and celebrating Triratna as ‘one sangha’ worldwide – perhaps based around Triratna Buddhist Community day – was presented. This idea will be explored further with the Preceptors College and the International Council.
The Chairs also heard a presentation from Munisha about her work as the liaison and communications officer for Triratna in Europe, including guidance on how to deal with and make good use of various forms of media. Prajnaketu, the new Young Buddhist Coordinator, was introduced to the meeting and he talked inspiringly and confidently about his plans for supporting and developing Young Buddhist activities throughout Europe. Rijupatha shared a preview of the exciting new design of the FreeBuddhistAudio website and updated the meeting on the redesign and upgrading of the TBCO. Mokshini reported on plans for Buddhist Action Month in June of this year and the refinement of resources available for Centres and groups. Saddhaloka gave an account of some of the topics explored at the last Preceptors College meeting and there was a short report on the International Council. A more formal element of the meeting was the business meeting of the Triratna Chairs Assembly and full minutes of the business meeting can be found attached.
The less formal side of the meeting included presentations from Samantabhadri on the Taraloka Retreat Centre and Maniraja on the Guhyaloka Retreat Centre. The last day included a session of pop-up talks and presentations that included topics such as an update on the Sangharakshita complete works project, the ethics of Centres, the nature of money, the importance of encouraging newcomers to go on retreat and the new style of Newsbyte.
As always the presentations, discussion and business were set in the context of developing and deepening friendships, and the sharing of the joys, inspirations and challenges of running a Triratna Centre or project. Each day was set around with mediation in the morning and a puja in the evening and there were special pujas to mark the death of Chatral Sangye Dorje and Jvalamalini becoming an Anagarika.
As ever the Chairs were very grateful to the Adhisthana team and community of hosting the event in their usual warm, generous, attentive and responsive manner.
If you want further information or have any questions please contact Nandavajra at nandavajra [at] triratnadevelopment.org