Chairs' Letter – May 2020On Sun, 31 May, 2020 - 20:42
Dear Order members
For most of us, May has been another month of lockdown and increased online communication. The worldwide anxiety and fear that began centred around coronavirus, now extends to financial and mental health issues. Even if we are one of the fortunate ones not directly affected and in supportive conditions, we are likely to have friends or family who are not; and we are all going to be indirectly affected by changing worldwide conditions, in ways we can only begin to anticipate.
Leading the Bodhicitta practice for Order members this morning, Subhuti commented that the ‘doing of this practice together is of the essence of the Order… and is itself a manifestation of bodhicitta’. Being able to do the Bodhicitta practice with several hundred Order members from all other countries and in a variety of languages, is a very clear reminder and expression of our fundamental shared aspiration. Even with eyes closed, the sense of the presence of so many Order members engaged in this meditation together is profound; and the cacophony of greetings afterwards is delightful (anyone who finds that a bit much is able to opt out). I would encourage all those who can, to give it a go; we’d love to see you.
Of course generating bodhicitta naturally finds expression in action, and thousands of people are taking the opportunity of engaging with Triratna teaching online. This raises the question of the extent to which that level of online communication may continue beyond these present conditions, how to integrate it with our emphasis on face-to-face communication, and how to fund it.
There are also people in need of essentials such as food; the economies of many countries have been shaken and will take years to recover, and those who are already poor will be hardest hit. Our International Buddha Day appeal raised around £60,000 for the Corona Virus Relief Fund in India, which is already being put to good use. The Buddhist Centre Online will continue to work with the team in India to share news and stories of their work.
It’s been striking this month to receive so many Order Information Service notices of the death of an Order member, although as far as I’m aware only one involved corona virus complications. We’ve said goodbye to Asanganetra, Aryashila, Anantabodhi, Shraddhapushpa, Kshantijit, Vajrasadhu, and Kshantipriya, three of whom I knew personally, and two of those I’d ordained publicly. A reminder of impermanence and the need to keep making the Dhamma accessible to as many people as possible – especially to younger folk. We will need to ensure that training for ordination continues to be effective, even if it’s a while before people can get on retreat, and that ordinations can take place.
I was delighted to be asked to lead a study seminar for young Order members, which would have taken place this month. Instead some 30 young Order members from around the world joined me and Prajnaketu online, for a day of intensive exploration of the Eight Mind Training verses; such a challenging and relevant text.
The Presidents’ meeting that would have taken place over several days at Adhisthana, was distilled down to three mornings on zoom; the turnout was exceptionally high and included presidents from India for the first time.
These past couple of months I’ve been meeting weekly with my College Deputies, which means we are becoming more of a team. I’m delighted that Jnanavaca has recently been appointed a deputy and has just joined Amrutdeep, Ratnavyuha, Punyamala and myself. I also meet weekly with Lokeshvara, Aryajaya, Dhammarati and Saddhaloka, partly as a proto College Chair’s Council, and partly in order to complete a summary of the work of the Adhisthana Kula.
Six months into my responsibility as College Chair, it’s become clear that I need to free myself from as much ongoing work as possible, in order to give more time and consideration to larger issues. It’s with some sadness that I’ve left the Restorative Working Group, as I do value that approach and hope we can continue to explore its relevance to our community. I had intended to leave the Ethics Kula, but will need to give that a bit more thought as our ethical procedures are one of the areas needing review.
We’re going to experiment in the next months with sending these Chairs’ Letters out to all who are opted-in via the Order Address List each month along with any relevant features, and hope you find them a helpful gathering up of some of what the community of public preceptors around the world are engaged in. You can see this month’s here.
Wishing you all well.