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Here’s an interview with Dharmakirti, based in Valencia, about the recent Order Day celebration in Spain. He gives us a bit of the history of Triratna in Spain, as well as the challenges and hopes for the future.
When did Triratna Spain first come into being?
Here’s a timeline of Spanish activities over the years:
1986: Guhyaloka land was bought by Subhuti, and the same year Bhante gave his first talk in Valencia.
1988: Moksananda moved to Valencia and started giving meditation classes and talks in Valencia.
1990: Valencia Buddhist Centre opened.
1993: A Publishing company called Fundación Tres Joyas was established by Sudhavajra and Vajranatha. It closed in 2006 and a new project was born called Librobudistas.com, an online website to sell and share Buddhist literature, with a particular focus on Sangharakshita’s, and other Order Members’, books.
1995 (to 2006): Evolution shop opened in Valencia. This involved a mixed team that changed over time - so many Order Members and Mitras were involved and supported and worked for the shop - but two key people Bodhin and Samudra. The shop was very important in Valencia both for the Sangha and as a lab for training in right livelihood. Most of the time there was a team of 6 Mitras and Order Members working full-time. In a way it was more important than the Buddhist Centre itself: it was the easiest place to meet someone from the Sangha at anytime. In contrast the Buddhist Centre only opened from 6pm onward. Sadly the shop closed because of rent increases: the street became very fashionable and so prices went up, and the products we sold were not so attractive and exotic anymore. We all remember it with so much love; it meant a lot for the establishment of the Spanish Sangha.
1994: Stiravajra started meditation classes in Benidorm and then began Villa Joyosa together with Sasatya.
1995: First women’s residential community started in Valencia with Parami, Paramachitta and other Mitras (now Saddhakara, Amoghadevi and Dhivasini).
2005: Ecodharma Retreat Centre in the Catalan Pyrenees was founded by Guhyapati.
2007: Akashavana, the women’s ordination retreat centre, opened in the mountains of Aragon, north of Spain.
2008: Sangharakshita’s A Survey of Buddhism was published in Spanish and Bhante (Sangharakshita) visited Valencia to launch the book.
2009: Bhante visited Valencia again for the opening of the new Valencia Buddhist Centre (the current one).
2013 (to 2015): A group of Dharmacharinis opened a second-hand shop called “Lama’s Pyjamas” in Valencia. It closed in 2015, mainly because there is no culture of second-hand shops in Spain, so it was difficult to keep it open.
2017: Valencia Buddhist Centre bought and created the first Spanish Sangha mixed retreat centre (45 minutes from Valencia) called Suryavana. Opening of the Barcelona Buddhist Centre.
How well has Triratna fitted into Spanish culture?
This is not a simple question to answer. First all there is the barrier of the language: many Order members that move from UK to Spain had learn Spanish and so much of the Order and Movement’s texts and materials are written in English. So to be able to communicate with people and have the main text in Spanish is a massive task. Of course this has been done over the years by the generous work of an uncountable number of people who wanted to see Dharma flowering in Spain. Also, I think, comparing Spain with Mexico (which is another major Triratna Spanish speaking development) there is a bit of a difference in how the two cultures have embraced Triratna. For example, in Mexico 90% of the Order Members there are Mexican. Here probably only 40% of Order are Spanish, and this percentage was even smaller few years back. I think, perhaps, being so close to the UK has meant we always relied on British Order Members to lead us so I think we have not yet fully developed as a Spanish Order. Of course, there is a lot more I could say and I’m sure if you asked another Order Member they would have a different opinion, but this is how I see it now.
However there is now a thriving Mitra sangha: probably around 40 mitras in Valencia and around 10 in Barcelona which is mostly made up of Spanish people as well as a few Mitras from Argentina, Venezuela and other Latin American countries. I think there is a good ground for Triratna to grow in Spain, most of Bhante’s books have been translated, and there are also many important institutions established (Valencia, Barcelona, big retreat centres, etc). There are now more Spanish Order Members and most of the Order Members who have moved here from abroad speak fluent Spanish. So, I feel positive that Triratna will thrive more and more in Spain.
What was the ‘Creating the Story of Triratna in Spain’ workshop – which took place on the recent Order Day in Valencia - about?
When I visited Adhisthana’s 50 years exhibition I noticed that there was a timeline of how the movement and the Order developed in different countries. It made me realise that there was nothing written about Spain. Dhivasini and I are the Order Convenors for Spain, so, when thinking about how to celebrate our recent Order Day, this idea of writing our story came up.
We started the Order Day with meditation and finished with Sadhana and puja. Using a quote from Bhante we explored the coming into being of Triratna Spain.
I cannot but feel that the coming into existence of the Western Buddhist Order was little short of a miracle. Not only did the lotus bloom from the mud; it had to bloom from the mud contained within a small and inadequate pot. Perhaps it had to bloom just then or not at all, and perhaps this particular pot was the only one available – Sangharakshita
We did some group dynamics exercises to break the ice and help Order Members connect with the story of Triratna in Spain. We then used some music, movement and reflections in small groups to share more of our story in Spain, with Order Members individually writing down dates of important events that they recalled including their ordination dates and so on.
We had a wall chart at the ready and at one point we invited everyone in silence to add their memories to it (on little pieces of paper, photos, also they could draw and write on it).
The result was quite remarkable and beautiful. There was a sense of playfulness and nostalgia, also a lovely sense of mudita. We finished by just looking and sharing stories and then we moved on to do the Order sadhana-puja.
This wall chart stayed for two weeks in the main shrine so that many people who came to courses, workshops and events were able to see or even add something else to it. Later we took photos and wrote down a kind of timeline with the milestones or important events (mainly institutional) of the Order and Movement in Spain.
How did the Order day go?
Of the approximately 35 Order Members in Spain about 15 attended the day. Many of them reported how much they enjoyed it and were really grateful.
In Valencia we are going through a complex period at the moment - we are in the middle transition period in terms of the chairmanship of the Buddhist Centre - there are some tensions and uncertainties about the future. We have this beautiful retreat centre but also pressure to pay the mortgage, along with the need for commitment and clear leadership. At the same time we wanted to celebrate the Order, bringing awareness to how much has been achieved so far – and recognising from the quote of Bhante (see above) that even if we don´t always have the right skills or temperament, we are the “only one available”, and we can continue to foster Triratna activities in Spain!
Watch a short film of the Order Day celebrations