SilagandhaOn Thu, 8 November, 2018 - 21:26
There are so many things I could say, but to pick just one…
Some years ago I conceived an idea that I would like to live in a community. At that time there were no communities for women in Dublin, although there was a vibrant men’s community. I was introduced to it when I started going out with Vajrashura – who has lived there since its inception over sixteen years ago. I was really impressed by how the guys all were with each other – meditating together, cooking for each other, having a laugh (‘good craic’) and there was just an atmosphere of friendliness and warmth whenever I was there. It really made an impression and felt quite radical to me; perhaps particularly as I was then training to be a solicitor in a commercial law firm, a far cry from this realm of ‘brotherhood’. Legend even has it (and all good communities must have a legend surely) that one of their neighbours had seen them all out in the garden one time when they were having a party and suspected that they were Buddhists – because they ‘all looked so happy’.
Anyway, I was sold on community living and thought why not one for women too? I knew there had been a few before I was involved in the Sangha. But at the time there weren’t loads of women keen to actually do it. I asked Prajnagita – who, apart from the fact I had a good feeling about her, had actual experience of living in a community. She was interested but was also thinking of moving to Dhanakosa to live in conditions that would be more supportive for a meditative life.
So I started to think it may not happen.
In a way this is not just my story, but it is impossible sometimes to tell your own story without telling the story of another, or several, or hundreds! Prajnagita, before she fully decided about staying in Dublin or going to Dhanakosa, wrote to Bhante asking him for his perspective. He took about six weeks before replying so in the meantime she proceeded with her plans to leave. Then, lo and behold, an email arrived from Bhante, suggesting strongly that Prajnagita stay and help the women’s Sangha in Dublin. It took Prajnagita a bit of time to process this but I still remember so vividly remember when she rang me to say that she had decided she would stay in Dublin and thus she would be up for living in a community. When we hung up the phone I cried. I was so delighted, grateful, relieved – I hardly know what. And I was especially grateful to Bhante, who I had never met but who, it somehow felt, had made an almost divine intervention on my behalf!
A few months later I, with two other women – one of whom I also lived with for a number of years – visited Bhante in Madhyamaloka. I can’t really remember what we talked about but I remember coming out feeling giddy with delight afterwards. In the course of the conversation I asked if he would give us a name for our new community. He said he would and a few weeks later I received this email:-
I was very glad to see you, Catherine and Sandra when you visited Madhyamaloka recently, and still more glad to know that a women’s community was being set up in Dublin. Since meeting with you I have been trying to think of a name for the community, as requested, and have eventually come up with the name of ‘the Silagandha Community’. ‘Gandha’ means scent or fragrance, so that silagandha means the fragrance of sila, a term with which I am sure you are familiar. In the practice of the spiritual path samadhi is based upon sila, just as prajna is based upon samadhi, so that our practice of the whole path is ultimately dependent on the practise of sila, especially in the form of the five or ten precepts. Thus ‘silagandha community’ suggests that the community is collectively laying a solid foundation for its practice of the Dharma, a practice that will impart the ‘fragrance’ of a positive influence to the community itself and to its surroundings. I hope you and the other community members will like the name. If you do not, please tell me so frankly, and I will think again.
With much metta to you all,
Needless to say we were delighted with the name and ‘Silagandha’ continues to prosper here in Dublin. Living here has been one of the joys of my life – it’s home – and Prajnagita is now one of my dearest friends. Though myself and Prajnagita have been living here since the start of Silagandha over six years ago now, we read this email when anyone new joins our community and recollect our purpose. I hope that we may long continue to be a fragrance of ethics in Dublin for many, many years to come – and, in our own way, honour the vision of Bhante’s New Society.