Chairs' Letter – April 2020On Mon, 4 May, 2020 - 11:06
Dear Order members
April was a month that for most of us meant getting used to social distancing or lockdown; concern about the health of ourself or those near and dear to us; and financial anxiety – whether our own or that of the Buddhist Centres and other institutions. Some countries are beginning to consider how and when they might begin to lift restrictions; others are facing worsening conditions of health, finances, and even access to food.
We can only speculate about the future. What will access to international travel look like, how much will it cost, and what effect will that have on Triratna. We’ve been able to fall back on virtual communication; Centres have been able to move their activities online, hundreds of Order members from all over the world have been doing the Bodhicitta practice together weekly, friends have been able to keep in touch, and some of us are spending even more of our lives hunched over our computers. The advantages are so apparent, including the benefit to the environment, at least some of this extra online activity is likely to continue.
Faced with a global recession, countries are likely to be faced with the choice between nationalism and a more altruistic appreciation of interconnectedness. The endless promotion of ‘growth’ may be open to question, and many people will be searching for other sources of meaning and value. This is one of those crucial times of Dhamma receptivity, and this time it is worldwide.
I hope that within Triratna we maintain a strong sense of connection transcending national boundaries and cultural differences, and that we support each other when possible and when needed. Celebrating Buddha Day internationally as well as locally, is significant. You can join in the celebrations at thebuddhistcentre.com/buddha-day.
Triratna Refuge Tree, or Tree of Refuge and Respect
I’d like to take this opportunity to bring everyone’s attention to the fact that we have an updated version of the Triratna Refuge Tree, or Tree of Refuge and Respect. Saddhaloka writes:
After Vajratara had spoken to Bhante about the desirability of a single Refuge Tree for the whole of Triratna, and he had given his backing to the idea, I went to talk it through with him.
The Indian version of the Refuge Tree has for a long time included Dr B K Ambedkar and Anagarika Dharmapala seated on lotuses just below the lotus with Bhante and his eight main teachers, Dr Ambedkar to the left as we look to the tree, and Dharmapala to the right. Bhante was quite clear that they were not there just because they had a special significance for the Order and movement in India. They had both been influential and formative figures in the development of his own understanding of Buddhism, of how it might be practised in the modern world, and how it might be a real force for social as well as individual change. Bhante’s very great appreciation of them was very obvious in his early biographical sketch of Dharmapala, ‘Flame in Darkness‘ and his ’Ambedkar and Buddhism’, and then in his 1995 talk on ‘Great Buddhists of the Twentieth Century.’ He said to me that they belonged to our lineage of inspiration, and deserved a place on the Tree we all used.
For Bhante the Triratna Tree of Refuge and Respect was now complete. We would not in time be adding further figures that represented a doorway of inspiration to folk from other cultures in which Triratna might find a home. However much such figures might be valued, they would not be part of our lineage in the same way.
With Bhante’s blessings I then took the proposal that we have a single Refuge Tree for the whole of Triratna to an international meeting of the College of Public Preceptors, where it was discussed and agreed to. We asked Chintamani to add Dr Ambedkar and Anagarika Dharmapala to the very beautiful Tree he had recently completed, at Adhisthana. Padmaloka also asked Aloka to add the two figures to a painting of the Tree there. This is the version of the Tree now being taught and used in the Going for Refuge and Prostration practice.
Large prints of Chintamani’s painting are available to Ordination teams from admin [at] adhisthana.org (subject: Refuge%20Tree%20Image) (Adhisthana). Prints of Aloka’s painting are available to order online from Padmaloka. The next reprint of ‘Teachers of Enlightenment’ will be updated.
The Order Robe
We now have a beautifully designed and ethically sourced Order Robe, for use on ordination retreats and when individual Order members choose. The plan was to introduced the Robe on the long ordination retreats at Guhyaloka and Akashavana this year, but as these retreats were not able to take place the robes were first used for the ordination of Sthiramanas, at the LBC last month.
My apologies for the lack of communication around the process of introducing the Order Robe, leading to confusion and concern for some Order members; with hindsight it’s clear that we needed to share much more background information earlier. More information, including the reasoning behind its introduction and the circumstances in which it might be used, may be found on the College space on TBCO.
Last year Saddhaloka and I made ourselves available at Adhisthana, for anyone wishing to meet with us. Not many people took us up on the offer, although some interesting and potentially significant discussions did take place. We were asked whether we were willing to extend the invitation to people in other countries, using Skype or Zoom, and always intended to find time to do this.
Given pretty much all of my communication is now taking place online, I’d like to re-instigate being available to people ‘at home’. I really am keen to hear from you, so just email me to arrange a time. You can find my direct email on the Order Address List or contact me via collegeassistant [at] adhisthana.org.