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The last weekend in September saw the annual gathering of the European Buddhist Union (EBU), this year hosted by Triratna at Adhisthana. This was followed as always by the annual meeting of the group, Buddhist Teachers in Europe (BTE). Both were enormously successful meetings in terms of the working atmosphere and topics, and people’s enjoyment of each other and their surroundings. (I attend both each year, in my capacity as Triratna’s Liaison officer, looking after Triratna’s co-operation with other Buddhist groups.)
For the EBU meeting, around 30 people from national Buddhist unions and individual Buddhist traditions across Europe spent three days together, concentrating on two topics: 1) Young Buddhists and 2) abuse in Sanghas.
It was a wonderful weekend: the visitors very obviously affected by the atmosphere of Adhisthana in its autumn beauty. Many said how relaxed and well looked after they felt by the Adhisthana communities, with whom many of them meditated in the main shrine room each morning; and the Adhisthana community were delighted to host the visitors.
Saddhanandi, Chair of Adhisthana, welcomed the meeting and introduced Triratna. We were joined by Young Buddhist guests from several traditions and Prajnaketu gave a keynote talk from his perspective as Triratna’s Young Buddhist Co-ordinator. Many said how impressed they were with his talk - as usual without any notes! The young Buddhists worked together on a report and plans for joint activities.
As in the German Buddhist Union and Dutch Buddhist Union, the European Buddhist Union is concerned about abuse in sanghas. I gave a very well received talk as Triratna’s Safeguarding officer, explaining the work we have been doing since 2013, and explaining what Safeguarding is, and how Triratna’s Safeguarding policies complement our Ethical Guidelines. (‘Safeguarding’ as we understand it in Britain is unknown in many countries.) We agreed to work together to create EBU model policies.
Those present signed up to a Statement on sexual abuse in Buddhist communities.
With the guests pretty much queuing up to meet Bhante, he had a steady stream of visitors all weekend. He received a number of presents, including a musical box playing Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ (the European anthem), a present very thoughtfully chosen by the secretary of the Austrian Buddhist Union because Bhante has such limited sight.
The traditional Saturday afternoon excursion was a walk up to British Camp, an Iron Age fort, followed by tea and excellent vegan cakes offered by Adhisthana’s Buddhist neighbours at the Amida Mandala temple in Malvern.
In the closing circle, Egil Lothe, president of the Buddhist Federation of Norway, obviously moved, said he had met Bhante in the 1970s. Meeting this “towering pioneer in Western Buddhism” again that day had been the highlight of his weekend, he said; something he would remember for the rest of his life.
“I really loved to be in Adhisthana. It’s a place where you can feel the Dharma everywhere.” Thank you message from an Italian Buddhist