support our work:meet the team!
Kulanandi has recently been appointed as a public preceptor and joins the College of Public Preceptors. She introduces herself here -
I went on my first FWBO retreat over Xmas/New Year in 1981 in Seaford UK, and celebrated my 31st birthday there. I had been living and working as an English and Music teacher in Germany, so after completing my contract, I pursued an award to do an MA and PhD in Applied Linguistics in the UK and ended up at Lancaster University. In that intervening time, I attended another women’s FWBO retreat and spent a longer time in South East Asia, where I had contact with Theravadin Buddhism. Once back in the UK and at Lancaster, I was eager to contact Manchester Centre and started driving down there from Lancaster every week, and sometimes for weekends and retreats. A highlight in my life. In that time, I also went on longer retreats at Throssel Hole Zen Priory and visited Manjushri Kadampa Centre in Ulverston. I was clear I wanted to pursue the Dharma but unsure where.
In 1982 John Bloss and Gordon Wills (Lalitavyuha) came to Manchester Centre and talked about Aid for India. I was deeply moved. I knew almost immediately that I no longer wanted to continue my PhD. It had no more significance for me. I wanted to live in a women’s community and fundraise for Aid For India. So, I went down to London and ‘knocked doors’ for three months (as it was then) and lived in an upgraded ‘squat’ as a member of the first women’s Aid For India team. It was then that I got to hear about the vision for a women’s Retreat Centre and I knew I wanted to fundraise for that and live there. It was an inspiring vision. I moved into Vajracchedika community in Bethnal Green and the fundraising began earnestly for what became Taraloka. At some point in the two or so years that I was part of that fundraising team in London, I became a Mitra at the LBC and asked for ordination.
In 1985, Sanghadevi, Ratnasuri, Tessa (Karunasri) and Kathryn (Kulanandi) moved up to Cornhill Farm and so began the story of Taraloka. In 1988 I was ordained there by Bhante. In 1991, I moved back to Germany with Jayacitta and joined Gunavati and Jayaprabha to establish women’s activities in Essen and Germany.
I worked for some years as a lecturer at two universities in cities around Essen to earn money, lived in women’s communities and did as much as I could at the Centre in Essen and in Germany as a whole. Eventually the Essen Centre had enough financial stability to support me as Mitra Convenor for Germany.
I had made a firm friendship in my Taraloka days with a GFR Mitra in Stockholm and in 1994, I started to visit the Stockholm Centre in Sweden regularly and offered activities and retreats there. Devamitra asked me to take on the Mitra Convening in Sweden, too (women could not become Mitras if there was no Dharmacarini) which I did for about 6 years, visiting Stockholm 4 times a year.
In 1996, whilst Bhante was visiting a newly renovated Essen Centre, I became an anagarika.
During these years, I was on teams for ordination retreats at Il Convento and on retreats at Taraloka, continuing my contact with the Order in the UK. In Germany I was fully involved in a strong women’s Sangha with engaged Dharmacarinis and the beginnings of an ordination process.
In 2000, I went with three other women in the German Sangha on a pilgrimage to India. India had a huge impact on me and I knew that I had to follow-up this heart connection in some way at some point, soon. In 2004, I was invited on a Non-Violent-Communication Convention in India, which I was very keen to attend and this served as a water-shed juncture for me. I gave up my main responsibilities in Germany and went to India in 2004 to attend the Convention and then stayed to explore what I could do there, beginning with Dharma work alongside Karunamaya. In that year, I also became a private preceptor.
From 2005 – 2017, I spent around 6 months in the year in India, living mainly with Karunamaya and Vajrasuri in Pune, and also together with Santavajri, Nagasuri and Vandanajyoti for briefer periods (the other 6 months I was in Europe and based in an Essen community). I moved from doing exclusively Dharma work in India to becoming a consultant and evaluator for Karuna Trust and then project manager for four women’s social projects funded by Karuna Trust. Some of the most fulfilling and intellectually and emotionally stimulating work I have ever done. In 2017, I gave up the Karuna work and began the process to become a public preceptor.
I have up to this point ordained 15 women from Germany and Sweden. One German woman I will shortly ordain in Akashavana. I am a potential private preceptor to women in Sweden and Germany and one Indian friend living in the UK. I have also been spending substantial amounts of time at Tiratanaloka in the last few years – both as an honorary ‘community member’ and also to lead study on GFR retreats.
Finally, just to say - I live in Essen in a small women’s community. I continue to visit Sweden twice a year and I will also be continuing to visit India to maintain my friendships and connections.