Dayamudra, an American Order Member with strong links to India, writes from Kerala, where she’s recently completed her third tour and retreat in south India with the growing Triratna team there, where they are known as ‘Jai Bhim Kerala’. She says -
“Dear Friends- Our team has just concluded our 6-day Communicative English and Basic Buddhism Retreat in Kollam, Kerala, in southwest India. It was our 3rd annual collaboration with the Jai Bhim Kerala team and we all felt it was our best effort yet. We left feeling inspired, energized and satisfied.
Our core team consisted of Dhammamitras Rejimon, Arun and myself. We offered a training based in the Dhamma, with meditation and puja at the beginning and end of each day, skillfully led by Rejimon. In the morning sessions there were ‘Communicative English’ sessions, drawing on interactive student-centered activities which developed students’ confidence in the areas of speaking, listening, reading and writing. Basic yoga stretches were a part of this session as were some team-building games which the students really enjoyed. This was followed by sessions where we explored the qualities of a Master Student - these included goal-setting and time management. In the early afternoon session we studied The 8 Worldly Winds (theme of Triratna’s recent worldwide ‘Urban Retreat’), as well as Stress Management and Mindfulness Development. All this culminated in individuals producing a “Self-Care Action Plan”. In the late afternoon Arun led some very thought-provoking presentations and debates on the history of the caste system, Indian Buddhism and Ambedkarism.
One of the surprises of this retreat were the younger brothers and sisters of our participants who came for our inauguration ceremony and then insisted on staying! We hadn’t anticipated having students as young as 8 years old, but we created a “Juniors” group for them, and they engaged in all the study with curiosity and diligence, and they charmed us all with their helpfulness; gathering teacups and washing them, straightening the shoes outside the shrine room, performing dramas every evening, rising before everyone else and getting themselves ready for the day’s program. We are inspired to create a special children’s program for them in the next few months.
Another joy was the participation of many Nagaloka graduates. The maturity and leadership of these youth were exemplary, and several students expressed an interest in attending the Nagaloka course themselves. It was clear how life-changing the NTI program is for the Indian Buddhist community, and we feel very fortunate to have this connection with the NTI team.
We were also very lucky to have the support of the local Kollam community, thanks to the preparation done by our friend Babu-ji, who attended our retreat last year and took the lead arranging all the details of this year’s program. He set us up with an all-star support team so we were well-fed and well-supported in all areas for 6 straight days.
I rejoice in the harmony of our entire team, and in the hard work and progress of our students. In their reporting-out they told us of how their self-confidence had increased, how their vision for their own lives had expanded, and how supported they felt thanks to the new friendships they had made.
We all shed a few tears as we departed. It was a wonderful experience and I feel very grateful for the way we created a sangha community and lived together for 6 days, inspired by the Buddha and by the vision of Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar.