Dhammadassin writes with news of Triratna’s recent European Chairs’ Assembly: a gathering all the Chairs of Triratna’s many Buddhist centres around Europe. It was a very special gathering, being the first major event held at Adhisthana, Triratna’s beautiful new retreat centre near Malvern, UK.
She says - “The Triratna’s European Chairs’ Assembly met at Adhisthana for this historic gathering - the first ECA meeting at Bhante’s new home. It began with 5 days of retreat for an international group of 120 public preceptors, presidents, chairs, mitra convenors, Order convenors, and centre representatives. A special puja incorporated the ‘Transference of Merits’ in every language represented - there’s English, Dutch, German, Swedish, Welsh, French, Spanish, Polish, Russian, Estonian, and Danish! Subhuti gave a series of talks on ‘Adhisthana’, developing the theme of the ‘suprapersonal force’ which has been inspiring his and Bhante’s recent papers. Around half of the gathering then remained for the Chairs’ Assembly itself, the week-long, biannual gathering and review of how things are going in the Triratna Buddhist Community across Europe.
The meeting formally welcomed Arthavadin, Manigarbha, Suddhaka, Tejasvini, Upekshapriya, and Vaddhaka, new Chairs or representatives of Manchester, Akashavana, Brixton, Cambridge, Clear Vision, and Tallinn Buddhist Centres respectively, and also Dhammadassin, just joining the Development Team. The event began with meetings in small groups for reporting-in, an invaluable opportunity for Chairs to share in some detail how they and their Centres are doing, plus an induction for new chairs by Vajragupta and some of the Executive.
After that, a number of things happened: Ratnarashi updated the meeting about the history and current situation with Buddhafield. Three afternoon slots for Focus Group meetings gave all present the chance to raise and discuss any topic of interest; those tabled this time included further discussion on the draft ethical guidelines for Triratna Centres and teachers, methods to evaluate and integrate new practices and teachings, exploring responses to incoming non-Triratna influences at centres (and their effects), and sharing experience and important information about employment policies in the Movement. Candradasa also held a much appreciated ‘WWWeb surgery’ each afternoon to offer specific help and support on individual centres’ web issues.
Priyananda spent a morning exploring the question ‘What direction can the Triratna community take in new published Dharma?’, informing chairs about the current healthy situation at Windhorse Publications, Triratna’s main publishing house. He outlined its possible new projects, also asking for good ideas for new books. Several meetings looked into and discussed the draft Budget for the Development Fund proposed, as usual, by the Executive. Amalavajra led an interactive and inspiring morning on fundraising – proposing that the ECA takes this on more fully and vigorously, putting the question ‘If money were no object, what movement-wide Dharma projects or initiatives would you like to see the Development Fund support?’. The assembly responded enthusiastically, generating a long list of specific ideas and projects it would like to fund.
Candradasa gave a presentation on how the buddhistcentre.com project (‘The Buddhist Centre Online’) is developing; this ‘big vision’ project is coming into being and the ECA and individual chairs have an important part to play. Candradasa warmly encouraged the chairs (and everyone reading this!) to explore the new website, promote it, generate content for it, and to send feedback and suggestions.
The Mainland European chairs had time for their own meeting, and also spent time with the Executive, raising questions and airing suggestions for ways of helping the meeting reflect and contribute to the experience of the full range of its members beyond the UK. Lokabandhu presented a proposal for the possible creation of an annual ‘Social Change’ festival as a way of making more visible our aspiration to harness the power of the Dharma to transform society and the work of Karuna and the India Dhamma Trust. A proposal for a Buddhist Action Month (BAM!), pioneered by the UK’s NBO, will be explored further, in January. This was followed by a Business Meeting ratifying the various agreements reached during the week, including the Development Fund budget for 2014. Also happening were nightly ‘Exec meetings’, reviewing and discussing the meeting day by day.
The meeting said farewell to Ratnachuda, redoubtable chair of the Brixton centre, and enjoyed centre presentations from both hot and cold climes, in the form of Mexico&Johannesburg, Krakow/Warsaw and Tallinn, Estonia. As always there was much walking and talking, including discovering and selflessly exploring (for the sake of all future visitors to Adhisthana) a few neighbouring tea shops and beautiful country walks! The shrine room activities were ably led by Amogharatna, Satyapada and Suryamati, and the Adhisthana team ensured, through their superlative organisation and consistent attention and efforts, that everything went without a hitch. Sadhu to them!