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At the beginning of March this year I handed on my responsibilities as chair of Buddhistisches Tor Berlin, our Triratna centre in the capital of Germany, to the very capable and delightful Aryabandhu. Having oriented my life around the needs of the centre during my thirteen years as chair, I was pleasantly surprised by the ease with which I was able to ‘let go’ of my centre responsibilities. No doubt this process was made easier by a number of absences from the city in the weeks after stepping down.
The first of these was to attend my first full College meeting at Adhisthana. I had attended the first couple of days of the previous meeting in November, when I introduced myself and presented a summary of my life, but in March I was still very aware of stepping into a new role and entering a new phase of my life. I have always had great respect and admiration for members of the College, their willingness to carry the weighty responsibilities which being a public preceptor entails, and to serve the Order and the Movement, and now I was having to absorb what it means to have joined the College myself. I already knew most of the other public preceptors present to some extent, and had lived with several of them at Padmaloka in the 90’s, but it felt like a very great privilege to be joining them.
After the College meeting I attended the weekend celebrations in Essen to mark the 50th anniversary of Triratna, which was well attended by people from several central European countries. Soon afterwards I travelled to Guhyaloka for two weeks, along with several other preceptors, to perform a number of ordinations. At the end of the first week I privately ordained Bodhijina from Berlin. It was my first visit to the retreat centre since my own ordination, and as I entered the stupa shortly before the ceremony I was transported back twenty years to the time of my own ordination by Ashvajit. On the last day of our stay Surata, Maitreyabandhu and I performed the public ordination ceremony for the sixteen new Dharmacaris. In the ceremony I publicly ordained three German men. As far as I know, it was the first time the ceremony had been carried out in German, so the event had a significance even beyond that which it normally possesses. For me, I felt honoured to be performing the ceremony, and surprisingly calm and relaxed.
I had a couple of short holidays over the summer, as well as a twentieth anniversary reunion in a chateau in France with Ashvajit and several of the men I was ordained with. This all contributed to helping me begin reorienting my life in line with my new responsibilities. In August it was a delight to attend the International Gathering at Adhisthana, which truly had an international character, with so many people of different nationalities.
As the only public preceptor resident in mainland Europe, it was clear to me that I would rejoin the Area Council in this capacity. For two years from the Council’s inception in 2011 I had represented the Movement strand, and now I am part of the College strand, replacing Mahamati. In December last year the Area Council met for a day in Vimaladhatu immediately following the Central European Order Forum, and at the start of June this year we met in Berlin, where the Mainland European Young Buddhists Convention was taking place on the same weekend. Among other matters we looked at possible topics for discussion at the next meeting of the International Council.
Next month I will be leading a retreat in Vimaladhatu for men who have asked for ordination, and I am looking forward to the coming College meeting in November. Next year I will be joining the Order retreat in Bodh Gaya at the end of January as well as the Order convention and then going to Bhaja for the International Council meeting.
I am very grateful for the financial help I receive from the Future Dharma Fund and the continued support from Buddhistisches Tor, in return for which I continue to support activities and have some administrative functions. This means that I do not have to work so many hours each week in my capacity as an English teacher. These sources of financial support are initially limited to two years, so I will be exploring ideas for ensuring my future financial support. I am also grateful to supporters of the Preceptors’ College as they enable me to attend College meetings as well as the Order covention at Bodh Gaya next year.
I am content with the first six months since changing the focus of my life from chairing the centre. I am still in a phase of reorientation: there is no blueprint for being a public preceptor, and no ready-made job description for being the only public preceptor in mainland Europe. To help me in this I will be consulting Order Members around the mainland European area and asking for suggestions how I might best serve the Movement in our area. I feel extremely privileged to be able to serve Bhante’s vision and the Movement in my capacity as a public preceptor, and I am grateful to all who have contributed in any way to making it possible.
Recently I celebrated the seventeenth anniversary of my arrival in Berlin. I have no intention of moving back to the UK, so it seems appropriate to have joined the many other ex-pats here applying to become a German citizen, given the uncertainty surrounding what might happen after Brexit. Germany is renowned for its bureaucracy, and the process is certainly challenging, but I hope soon to have gathered the necessary documentation together, and in a week’s time I sit a citizenship test. Wish me luck!