Today’s story on Triratna News features a long report in from Kerala giving an update on the activities of the small but vigorous group there. Composed of graduates from NTI, Triratna’s social and Dhamma training institute a thousand miles north in Nagpur, they’re busy bringing the Dhamma to south India. Sadhu!
Arun’s sent us this report (lightly edited here):
Over the past ten years there has been tremendous growth in the number of Buddhist followers in Kerala. For seven of these years, fabulous Dhamma activities, organised by the Dhammamitras of Triratna Bauddha Mahasangha, have influenced many people throughout the area. Training they received from the Nagaloka Institute (NTI) really helped them interact with the local Buddhist people and enabled them to run many activities. This one-year special training project enables many people to develop their capacity to conduct and lead the programmes by themselves. I was able to launch our one year course of Dhamma activities on the auspicious occasion of Buddha Purnima (Buddha Day) in May.
Our objectives are to foster a strong desire amongst Ambedkarites and Buddhist people to take part in Buddhist festivals and ceremonies, and to develop Buddhist spiritual friendship among various Dalit communities.
Our Buddha Day programme started beautifully at 6.30 in the evening in the nice shrineroom, with the help of the upasakas there. I lead the puja and the upasakas followed me with faith and devotion. After the puja, a 40 minutes Anapanasati meditation was led, and even though for most of the participants this was the first time they had expereinced meditation they devoted themselves fully to the occasion. After meditation I delivered a speech on the Noble Eightfold Path commemorating Bhagavan Buddha who first delivered this truth to the five parivrajakas (the Buddha’s first five disciples, ed.) in Sarnath. After the offerings, chanting Sabbe Satta Sukhi Hontu (“May All Beings Be Well!”), we launched a series of the Note Books the Bodhi Society has published this year. Our programme ended with the Dhammapalam Gatha. The people co-operated in everything, helped a lot with great metta and enthusiasm. After the programme a meeting was held and the people there were very happy. They decided to conduct at least one programme in every month.
After this, five meetings were held at various places ie Kodungallur, Vypin, Changanacherry, Mavelikkara and Adoor. We have decided to conduct at least one programme every month in these places. The enthusiasm and energy of the Buddhists and their friends everywhere was highly appreciable when I introduced my work plan to them. However, there is a need for tremendous work throughout Kerala for the benefit of the entire Buddhist community. The people are longing for much greater work than we are conducting at present. More literature in Malayalam is very essential.
On Sunday, June the 19th, we held a nice one day retreat at Kodungaloor in Kerala. It was the first one day retreat in Kerala which was fully led by Dhammamitras. This whole retreat was conducted in our mother language Malayalam, so it was very effective. For half the day we taught and practiced our two types of meditation, and for the rest of day there was a study class about Ambedkarism. In the evening time we had an energetic cultural program. Then we finished again with the Dhammapalam Gatha.
This retreat was conducted with the help of Kishore Babu, who is a very energetic man. He has strong faith to Ambedkar and Buddhism. Previously he attended our five day English residential course led by Dayamudra (Ann Dennehy), and through this we have become strong friends. Now he has got more than 20 people together, and he and his friends made all the arrangements. This retreat was held at Kodungaloor. Kerala’s history tells us that Kodungaloor has a strong Buddhist legacy: in the past there were lots of Buddhists living near to Kodungaloor, and lots of Buddhist institutions located in the area. Even nowadays people are still excavating Buddhist statue and symbols there.
It was more than a six hour journey from my village to the retreat place. Rejimon and I reached there on Saturday morning. On Sunday morning at 9.30 am, Dhammamitra Rejimon inaugurated our retreat with a lit candle and by chanting the tri sharan panchasheel Buddha puja. After lunch I gave a speech about Ambedkar called, ‘Why did Ambedkar embrace Buddhism?’ and following that we had a discussion, with lots of question arising. In the evening we had an energetic cultural program, and at 5 o’clock we concluded with the Dhammapalam Gatha.
For this one day meditation retreat we made sixty cushions. We are very happy to report that we now have these as an asset. Once a month we would like to conduct a retreat at Kodungaloor. And likewise throughout Kerala we are going to hold one day retreats.