Slowly but steadily, Suvannavira, a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order, is establishing a sangha and Dharma classes in Moscow. It’s been quite a journey, still in process, and he sends us this report:
“I was born in Dubna, a small town near Moscow, in 1967, but left what was then the Soviet Union at the age of four, with my mother and her new American husband, to start a new life in England. I paid my last childhood visit to Russia when I was nine. In 1991, I started working for Windhorse Trading, Triratna’s Right Livelihood business in Cambridge, where I was to stay for eleven years. During this time I was ordained.
The return journey East started with a week-long retreat led by Kamalashila, at Oranienbaum, near St Petersburg, in 2000, and continued with my arrival in Paris in 2002 to work and teach for the ‘Centre Bouddhiste Triratna de Paris’. In the summer of 2009, I left Paris and started making longer and longer visits to Moscow. Although I arrived in Moscow for the first time in August 2009, I waited until March 2010 before being ready to start regular Dharma Classes. Activities were held at Открытый Мир, or Open World, a Centre for Spiritual Development, where we hired one of their rooms. A weekly introduction to Meditation and Buddhism a week became twice-weekly, an English language class was added, as was a study group at a friend’s apartment, catering to our new regulars.
Attendance at classes varies between two and seven people, most of whom are still in their twenties, and some who are coming regularly. With some, the practise of the Dharma is starting to change their lives more deeply, and who form the nucleus, here in Moscow, of a new Triratna Sangha. A few are planning (and others are at least thinking about) to explore Triratna beyond Moscow, - either by attending a retreat with the Krakow Sangha in late June, or by visiting Odessa in August, when Saddhaloka will be leading Dharma activities”.
Suvannavira is building on many years of patient preparation by others, and he says - “Order members have been visiting Russia since the days of Glasnost, even before the fall of the Soviet Union. Visitors have included Kamalashila, Nagabodhi, Sarvamitra, Nagadakini and Saddhaloka - who has made visits to St Petersburg for over ten years, and Odessa, in the Ukraine, where we have three Mitras.
Out of contacts made through these visits we have set up a translation project that has seen four books published in Russia, “The Guide to the Buddhist Path“, “Who is the Buddha?”, Kamalashila’s “Meditation” and “The Noble Eightfold Path”. We now also have an excellent Russian language web-site that includes the first year of the Mitra Study Course, Pujas and readings, articles, several of Bhante’s poems, paintings by Aloka and Chintamani, along with all the books that have been translated. “What is the Dharma?” was translated last year and is now available on the website and “What is the Sangha?” is in preparation. You’ll find all these on our website buddhayana.ru.”
He ends with an appeal: “Up until now, I have been almost fully self-financing, but can afford to live in Moscow only by living in a hostel, and sharing a room with up to four other people (and up to six cats!) I’m seeking help to rent a room in an apartment, or small flat, where I can live, which I can use for people to visit for our Dharma activities. I would ideally like to raise £500 per month, or £6,000 per year, to help me get established and move things on to another level. However, any donation, large or small, will be much appreciated. Donations can be made on my ‘Suvannavira 2012’ Just Giving page. Whether or not you are able to help, thank you for reading this. Yours in the Dharma, Suvannavira”.
There’s more on Suvannavira’s personal blog, subtitled “Adventures of a Modern Buddhist in the Country of his Birth”. And for his very latest updates, find him on VKontakte (a Russian social networking site).