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“The growth of the bhikkhus is to be expected, not their decline, bhikkhus, so long as they assemble frequently and in large numbers; meet and disperse peacefully and attend to the affairs of the Sangha in concord..”
From the Maha-parinibbana Sutta.
The Buddha elaborated on the conditions for the Sangha to prosper, one of which, as we see above, was for his disciples to gather in large numbers. Sangharakshita, the founder of the Triratna Buddhist Community and Order, has also emphasised this at various points and it is something that the our community does very well and often - coming together around the world for gatherings large (and small) year round at every level of engagement with the Dharma. And at many of the biggest of these gatherings over the past 5 years, The Buddhist Centre Online team has been there, bringing you online and live coverage, expanding the meeting of sangha minds to include even more people!
Reviewing the best of our online and live coverage starts in 2013 itself with reports from the International Order Convention and Triratna International Council meetings in India. Here’s Yashogar chanting verses from the Dhammapada, Vajrajyoti from New Zealand talking about her first visit to the International Council (+ monkeys and puppies! and a tour of the beautiful shrine room in Nagaloka.
2015 saw coverage of the first Mainland European Order Convention attended by 80 Order Members from 15 countries gathering in Northern Germany. Also that year, 400 Order Members gathered for a weekend in Adhisthana on the theme of ‘Conscious Surrender to the Beautiful’ to celebrate the role of the arts in the Dharma Life as well as to celebrate Sangharakshita’s 90th birthday under the arc of a most auspicious rainbow! What’s it like to attend great gathering like this? You can hear Akasajoti, Amalasiddhi and Suryadarshini chatting about how they found it at the end of the first full day at the 2016 Order Convention. This year the Order returned to India to celebrate our 50th anniversary and you can catch all the goings on - podcasts, practice and pictures - on our dedicated archive for the Convention.
Ordinations are also a focal point for gathering in large numbers and over the years we’ve been pioneering live coverage and live streaming of public ordinations across the world, enabling the gathering of great numbers of friend online. These live streamed ordinations include the public ordination of Rijupatha from Dharmachakra’s team (as part of the North America Convention in 2014), followed by ordinations in the US in 2017, Mexico in 2017 and more recently at Bodhgaya in India. The joy is palpable at these events and it’s a modern miracle that we can stand under the Bodhi tree at the heart of the Buddhist mythic landscape in India and beam such moving rituals to anyone who wants to drop by online…
But is not just Order events that attract large audiences. The last five years have seen events such as the International Retreat in 2014 on the theme of ‘The Bodhisattva’s Reply’, where between 400 and 500 people turned out. Last year’s International Gathering, ‘What the World Needs Now’ saw similar numbers. Both events were family friendly with special entertainment and activities arranged for children - including Polish dancing, and arts activities as well as board games, parachute games and story telling and dressing up sessions! We’ve been there at other special events too, like the 2015 Triratna Writers’ Convention where writers and poets across Triratna came together and shared their inspiration, exploring how the arts can play a central role in the spiritual life. And, of course, big celebrations of any kind are always a good reason for the Sangha to gather together, in person or online - whether it is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Triratna Buddhist Community, the dedication of a stupa at Aryaloka Buddhist Centre in the US or even the poignant ritual that took place when Windhorse:Evolution closed after 35 years in business.
Online coverage of events has enabled the Dharma - and the life of our community - to reach a very large audience. And we’re glad the culture of Triratna now reflects this with a new confidence. The team at Adhisthana have recently begun to share coverage of some of their retreats - both by means of live blogging and ensuring talks and teachings are quickly available online. The ‘Blazing in the Fires of Shunyata’ retreat in June 2017 was one such example, thus enabling more people to benefit from the retreat. Similarly Taraloka also shared online an in-depth Tonglen retreat, as well as a ‘Retreat for mothers’ with many resources, including a talk on how to meditate with your kids. Perhaps one of the most successful examples of online coverage is the International Urban Retreat - where participants ‘go on retreat’ in the everyday conditions of their lives, supported by the online community (as well as their local Sanghas), with talks, resources and led meditations. In 2015 48 Centres and groups across the Triratna Buddhist Community participated in the Urban Retreat including Mexico, Russia, Turkey, Norway, Ireland, Poland, Belgium and many more! The internet has even enabled Triratna’s first online Mitra Ceremony for someone who first came across Triratna through The Buddhist Centre Online’s virtual meditation classes.
May we continue to gather in large numbers - both in person and online - so that our community continues to prosper as the world changes!
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Read all our 5th birthday reviews of the best of The Buddhist Centre Online