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Dear Order members
Thinking back over my first year as chair of the College: I took on the responsibility in November 2019 as we marked the first anniversary of Bhante’s funeral, and in spite of having been a fairly active Deputy prior to that, it’s still taken some growing into. I wanted more channels of communication with the Order generally, and in January 2020 I began writing these monthly letters.
In March our Area Kulas’ meeting at Adhisthana fizzled out as some public preceptors needed to get home before pandemic lockdowns began. In May, George Floyd was murdered and the lid came off the issue of racial discrimination. The Adhisthana Kula report was finally completed in August, and was presented to the International Council meeting that – along with the Conventions – took place for the first time online.
This November’s College meeting benefitted from our growing experience of online meetings and went remarkably well. Zoom is a great leveller with everyone on their own screen; nearly everyone was able to attend and no long haul flights were involved. Folk were considerate and cooperative, and there were even suggestions that we repeat the experience. We do still need to make more effort to support input from public preceptors whose first language is not English, and to start planning ahead for a future in which not all College members speak English.
I’d like to give you a bit of detail of the meeting itself, so you have an idea of what we get up to, and Akasajoti will be sharing a more detailed meeting summary in the next weeks.
The meeting opened with the Tharpe Delam Guru Yoga led by Padmavajra, and closed with the Kalyana Mitra Yoga led by Sanghadevi. For me that was an expression of locating the responsibility of the public preceptors in relation to our lineage of inspiration. For some of us it meant being up to meditate at 6am, for others it meant staying up to meditate at midnight, and different people have different preferences.
Halfway through the gathering we devoted two days to study, when Subhuti – on excellent form – led us into the Bardo Thodol and through reflections based on the text.
We had to build the meeting around seven time zones, which meant every discussion taking place twice. Generally I chaired one session and Ratnavyuha – conveniently in the other hemisphere – the other; then we shared notes in the form of a short video-call between us recorded for the rest of the College. Individual Kulas worked out their own schedules in between.
We began by hearing from each Area/Kula, as well as from the International Order Convenors. Topics were grouped around the themes of: the responsibility of the College; overlap with other institutions; diversity; ethical matters; and thinking ahead; and included the following:
The meeting had to be very tightly choreographed, but random small group check-ins and informal tea breaks lightened the communication. Akasajoti’s help was invaluable; she made sure everything ran smoothly and aesthetically, and was always ready and willing to respond – even at extreme times of the day/night.
At the beginning of the pandemic I had started meeting weekly with my College Deputies: Amrutdeep, Ratnavyuha, Punyamala and Jnanavaca, and we’ve become much more of a team; I very much appreciate their perspective and support, and have a plan to get them to introduce themselves through this medium…