Seven strangers coming together on a Saturday afternoon: Dantacitta, Prakashaka, Sanghamani, Amitasuri, Jamie, Sally and myself. Only Dantacitta and Prakashika, (both from Australia), knew each other well.
It could have been a recipe for chaos: six of the seven had never lived in a Buddhist community or done a Karuna Appeal before. Add in two days of intensive reporting-in and workshopping, then complicate further with meals to cook, jobs to organise and settling in to do with no spare time at all to do any of those things
But, in fact, writing on this on Tuesday evening it feels like the process has been a delight. Maybe intensity of the first few days has been a catalyst, helped by Bodhiketu’s preparation of both the flat and the appeal and by Amalavajra’s kind and skilful leadership during those first days. No doubt our Buddhist practice was a major factor as well. But whatever it was, our spiritual community began to flower and it was no time at all before we began to experience the kind of interaction that simply couldn’t be planned: we’ve invented meals ‘on the run’, cooked in the spaces between training, done ad-hoc shopping trips and organised basic household routines as we’ve gone along.
Not that it has all been plain sailing - we are seven very different people with different backgrounds, different preferences and different reactions to the pressures. But with goodwill, openness and, most of all, kindness, we have already achieved a harmony which I for one wouldn’t have thought possible a few days ago.
Our frst full day (Sunday) began at 8am with meditation, followed by a detailed check-in about the things that might be holding us back. For me there was the usual first day neurosis that, given my background, I might not fit in with six other women. This felt uncomfortable and scary but, talking openly about my fears to my new friends, I was met with immense kindness and understanding and the problem just seemed to dissolve.
After an afternoon of more introspection, we took time out to join the LBC sangha on the evening for a very special Buddha Day puja, followed by an equally special dedication ceremony of our own for the appeal. By then, little more than 24 hours after arriving, it was beginning to feel like we were already coming together as a community.
On Monday the training grew more intensive with role-playing sessions, something that is well outside my comfort zone. I’m not quite sure which made me feel more uncomfortable, playing the ‘householder’ being approached, or the Karuna door-knocker who was doing the approaching. It’s one thing talking to a potential donor on their doorstep, quite another acting it out in front of an audience. Yet even I have to admit that the process has been invaluable, so much so that, by this morning, I was really beginning to feel that I might just be able to bring this door-knocking thing off.
A good job too because later on yesterday Bodhiketu gave us our territories and, Amalavajra packed us off on the Tube to recce the streets where we were to begin door-knocking this Tuesday evening. My patch is an hour away in Kilburn, a beautiful area of well kept terrace houses in neat streets, close to fancy restaurants and pubs in the south and a mosque and flat-land to the north. Overall, it looks like a great area to ask for regular donations to Karuna’s work. But we shall see. The proof is in the pudding.
The Karuna appeal team is about to be tested.
Have we absorbed the training so far? Are we really going to manage to ask for (and get) regular donations? Will we ever get round to making out a proper shopping list? For the answers to these and other burning questions you’ll have to wait until the next instalment