European Chairs Assembly Summer Gathering - a report
On Wed, 19 September, 2012 - 05:31
Lokabandhu writes with a report from the recent Triratna European Chairs Assembly, saying “From late July to early August around 50 Triratna Chairmen and women gathered at Vajrasana, the London Buddhist Centre’s Suffolk retreat centre, for the twice-yearly meeting of the Triratna Buddhist Community’s European Chairs Assembly. Here’s a short report on what transpired…
The Assembly (colloquially known as the ECA) plays an important part in Triratna’s overall organisation, thanks mostly to its twenty-year history, the Triratna Development Fund which it administers, and the four-person Triratna Development Team who work under its guidance. Open to all fulltime chairs of Triratna’s Buddhist Centres across Europe, additional visitors are often invited to contribute to specific sessions. Chairmen being busy people, and often in need of a break, the meeting has to be part retreat, part holiday, and part business meeting - over the years its developed an effective ‘formula’ for meeting all these needs.
As usual therefore we started with a series of small ‘reporting-in’ groups, allowing those present to meet and tune in with one another more personally, plus an induction for new Chairs. There were also two ‘retreat’ days , one with Ratnadevi exploring Ritual, and one with Vessantara, recently returned from a three-year retreat, who led a much-appreciated day on ‘Spiritual Receptivity’ - this being a new way of describing ‘Just Sitting’ or ‘Formless Meditation’ and of course an important part of Triratna’s overall ‘System of Practice’. There were presentations from Buddhist Centres around Europe - the new and very inspired team in Barcelona, the expanding Colchester centre, and the long-established and very multi-facetted Bristol and Brighton Buddhist Centres. There was an update on the long property search being undertaken by the Sangharakshita Land Project (tantalisingly close to finding somewhere!) and much interest expressed in Triratna’s new website, thebuddhistcentre.com - most of the Chairs present taking advantage of the 1-1 sessions on offer to create individual ‘project spaces’ for their Centres.
These were followed by presentations on how Triratna might find ways to open more Buddhist Centres in the UK and beyond (by Vajragupta), on ways to organise our Dharma teaching and teachers (by Jnanavaca), and the regular meetings of retreat centres and continental European Chairs - who had the pleasant task of allocating £5,000 from the newly-established Triratna Translations Fund to a variety of translation and publishing projects around Europe. A selection of self-organised ‘focus groups’ on live and topical issues continued, among other topics, an exploration of the principles guiding sexual ethics policies at Triratna centres, our meditation teaching, and the sensitive subject of preparing for Bhante’s funeral. A “graffiti board” collected suggestions for ways to introduce the various stages of Triratna’s ‘System of Practice’ to people at various levels of practice.
An unexpected addition towards the end of the gathering was a video Skype call with Sangharakshita, answering questions put to him by the Chairs from his home in Birmingham. This was organised at short notice after we’d heard of a similar link-up he’d made with Aryaloka, a Triratna Centre on America’s East Coast - Bhante seemed to find it an easy and effective way of staying in touch so we decided to join in! We also had a fleeting visit from Berlin’s new Buddha - a handsome bronze rupa created by Chintamani; it was sent on its way with enthusiastic blessings from the Chairs, as you can hear from the ‘Berlin Buddha’ Audioboo, one of a series of Boos made during the meeting by Lokabandhu and Candradasa.
Evenings were all left free for meditation and puja, or, for the talked-out, quiet walks in the dusk. All told, it was another rich and full meeting, generously facilitated by a succession of volunteers from the LBC, heroically organised by Vidyadaka and Abhayavajra. Thank you!