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In order to build on the already vibrant Young Buddhist activities in Australia and New Zealand, Future Dharma are now supporting a Triratna Young Buddhist Coordinator for the entire Area for 2 days per week. Dhammakumāra, currently Triratna’s youngest Order member, moved from the UK to take up this role in August 2018.
Dhammakumāra is currently based in Sydney but travels to other centres in Australia and New Zealand quite often. Here he explains a bit about the role and what he’s been up to so far.
Why did you take on the role of Young Buddhist Coordinator in Australia and New Zealand?
I didn’t really move for the role. I had been wanting to leave the UK and see a bit more of the world. I had found myself in Sydney because an Dharmachari here, Dharmalata, had posted on The Buddhist Centre Online offering any Order members wanting to visit a place to stay in Sydney for 6 weeks, which I had taken him up on. When I came here, I quickly fell in love with this side of the world and decided I wanted to stay a while. So the decision to move across the world came first. There’s been loads of excellent work for Young People’s activities already in the region, and really amazing people at each centre - so it’s not, by any stretch, like someone from outside needed to come in.
After I was ordained (in September 2017) I almost immediately felt like I wanted to do more for our movement - to give back to what had given me so much. The opportunity to work in an international role seemed like a good step in that direction!
And it just so happened that while I was in Sydney was when they were conducting the interviews [for the Young Buddhist Coordinator role], so it seemed too perfect to not apply! Future Dharma Fund has provided funding for the first year, and the hope is that they will be able to extend that to a second year.
Given that it’s a part-time role how do you support yourself?
I’m a software programmer. I do most of my work as a contractor for a company based out in the US, so I work from home and so have the ability to do that anywhere in the world. This is pretty ideal to supplement the part-time role as I have the flexibility to be able to travel around while still being able to look after myself financially.
What kinds of things have you been involved in?
In November I was at a ‘Coming Home to Freedom’ retreat with the Melbourne Young Buddhists. It was a great retreat: we had 15 young people ranging from 17 to 35(ish) years old - 9 men and 6 women - plus myself and Itir (a Mitra who has asked for ordination) who co-led with me. For several of the attendees it was their first retreat. One of the things that really struck me on the retreat was the depth of practice that already existed for the Young People on the retreat, even those quite new.
In early January I was on a long weekend retreat at Sudarshanaloka in New Zealand on the theme ‘Mettā as Insight’. We had 11 attendees, mostly from Auckland - but we also had one person fly up from Wellington, and a Mitra who asked for ordination from Spain who is currently travelling in New Zealand also flew up from the South Island to join us. The retreat was a huge success and I am confident that many of the attendees will be taking their commitment deeper off the back of it.
There is a dramatic difference in scenery between the Australia and the New Zealand landscapes. This was my second visit to Sudarshanaloka, and I am particularly taken by its beauty. (Any Order Member who hasn’t visited should definitely aim to do so - they have especially excellent solitary facilities which are particularly well suited for longer solitary retreats.)
I’ve also been involved in activities with the Adelaide Sangha, co-leading a retreat for young people from the Auckland Sangha and in April I’ll be heading back to Melbourne to lead a men’s retreat.
At the end of April/beginning of May we are having the Australia/New Zealand Region Area Council Meeting, followed by the Order Convention at Vijayaloka. In between these two events, the Area Council is planning to bring together some key people in the region (all the Chairs, the Public Preceptors, etc.) which I will be attending as part of my role. In June I’m planning to have an Australia/New Zealand equivalent of the Big One [a gathering for young Buddhists that takes place annually in the UK].
So they’re keeping me busy!
Has there been anything particular that has struck you in your work so far?
There’s a lot I could say! I think there is much more similarities than differences. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook the unity in our Order, but going to different countries and meeting people practicing in fundamentally the same way oneself… there’s something quite magical about it.
The main difference is of course there are much less Centres (4 Centres plus smaller groups), so there’s much more direct interaction with each one than similar work would entail in the UK. Secondly, they’re very spread out from each other - so one can feel a bit isolated, and the majority of the Order seems very far away. Back in the UK, I would go to Padmaloka for weekends, or go visit friends in the Order in other cities - but here that broader sense of the Order is a bit harder to maintain.