Dayabhadra writes to say: “The Triratna Choir goes on tour in May! The first concert is on Saturday 18th May at the London Buddhist Arts Centre, with a performance of ‘Touching the Earth’ . Performed by the Triratna Choir and Bodhivajra on piano, this is an exciting new piece, written by Bodhivajra, which dramatically re-tells the story of the Buddha’s Enlightenment.
The choir will also be performing the winning compositions from the last two Triratna composer’s competitions, by Graham Patterson and Vipulakirti. Additionally, the concert will feature performances from Stephen Svanholm, baritone, accompanied by Akashadeva on piano and Bodhilila on viola, accompanied by Vishvantara on piano.
Other tour dates include:
Anteros Arts Foundation, Norwich Sunday 19th May 3.30pm
Birmingham Buddhist Centre, Saturday 25th May 3pm
Sheffield Buddhist Centre, Sunday 26th May 2pm (to celebrate Buddha Day, full moon May 2013)
Lama’s Pyjamas is the London Buddhist Centre’s ‘Right Livelihood’ charity shop in the East End of London. They’ve just celebrated a record year, and Claudine, one of its founders, writes with the good news. She says - “Headline: This year Lama’s Pyjamas made £117,166 gross profit and a net profit of £44,500. This along with gift aid in the region of £12,000 means that our dana to the LBC this year is £56,000. She continues -
“This year has seen Santavajri leave our team to go to join the wonderful women at Tiratanaloka. This was particularly bittersweet for me as she is my private preceptor and as well as working together, we lived together in the same Buddhist community. Sad for me that she left Lama’s and London but good because our loss is very much Tiratanaloka’s gain and she has so much to offer women in the ordination process. While Santavajri worked for us she set up our gift aid system which this year alone has meant an extra £12,000 in dana. The bright silver lining to the cloud of Santavajri’s leaving is that left an opening for Sraddhagita to join us. Sraddhagita has strong Team Based Right Livelihood experience having spent many years working in the Wild Cherry Café and is a competent and delightful addition to our team.
“We are all on support (as opposed to wages) and are advocates of the support system. Our experience is that it fosters a spirit of generosity and for us that feels abundant and rich. We use our work as an opportunity to practice embodying our spiritual ideals. We have a weekly study session with Subhadramati, at the moment we are looking at Subhuti’s paper on the Suprapersonal Force. In addition to our weekly study, this year as a team we decided to put our focus on Maitreyabandhu’s ‘Life with Full Attention’ book, spending a month on each section of the book and reporting in to each other each week as to how we are getting along.
“We have experienced enormous generosity from the local community in terms of donations, from the women’s sangha in terms of volunteers and from people like Taravandana and Vajraghanta who have given us their time and expertise by providing training for us on our Team Days.
“As a team we would very much like to encourage any centres thinking of opening a charity shop to do so. The work is simple and suited to practicing mindfulness, patience, kindness etc, it is an opportunity for the general public to experience Buddhism in action and last but not least it could be a way of raising dana for your centre.
“Yours in the Dharma, the Lama’s Pyjamas Team (Padmalila, Sraddhagita, Claudine)
For more information how Lama’s pyjamas do it, listen to this talk by Claudine to the Triratna New Ventures group in Autumn 2013.
Ratnachuda writes from Triratna’s small but buzzing centre in Brixton Buddhist Centre, South London, where they’ve been celebrating their first Mitra Ceremonies into the wider Triratna Buddhist Community. He says - “Last month saw us here in Brixton celebrating four new mitras, Elena Blanco, Gitta Baum, Jill Thompson and Mirel Stambuk, all publicly making their commitment to the Triratna Sangha - plus a traditional ‘reaffirmation ceremony’ by Steve Hughes.
The evening was beautifully led by Amarapuspa, women’s mitra convenor for Triratna’s Brixton and Croydon centres. Three of the mitras had backgrounds in other countries - Croatia, Germany and Spain - which brought up resonances of how the Buddha Dharma transcends nationality. An added dimension to the ceremonies was the presence of Order Members, mitras and others who had been part of Utpala, the old ‘FWBO South London’ Buddhist Centre, from which our current sangha in Brixton has arisen. Amarapuspa commented there were five people present who had been present at her mitra ceremony in the mid 90’s and that Sthiracita had been one of her first teachers.
Sthiracitta’s introduction of Steve celebrated the close friendship they’d had for over twenty years, built by living together in two communities and working in Hockney’s restaurant; his words evoked a real sense of the beauty of spiritual friendship as taught by Sangharakshita. And Amarapuspa rejoiced how doing Triratna’s ‘Foundation Year study’ with the four new mitras had brought them into much deeper relationship and friendship together.
Windhorse:evolution is a UK-based giftware business aiming to work and trade ethically and make money for Buddhist and social projects around the world.
This is a dynamic manager level role assisting the Retail Director, Aryajaya, and the Retail Hub by providing top level administrative, organisational and commincations support for the smooth running of the Evolution chain. It is as much a communications role as it is organisational support. A driving license is essential. The job is based in the Uddiyana warehouse in Cambridge.
We welcome applications from people who have the following skills:
- Ability to communicate with a wide variety of people with differing needs
- Good planning and organising skills, able to co-ordinate events
- Excellent attention to detail
- Ability to work to deadlines and have good time-management skills
- Flexibility – able to take on a wide range of tasks
- Ability to work as part of a team
- Willingness to travel to shops occasionally to help out
Please note the position has a Genuine Occupational Requirement to be filled by a Buddhist.
Available as Support package or wages. To start in June 2013.
Interested? Please contact Dharmasiddhi at email@example.com or +44 (0)1223 868583.
EcoDharma is a Triratna retreat centre situated in a beautiful and wild part of the Catalan Pyrenees in Spain. Their community and retreats focus on blending the Buddha’s teaching with the emerging ecological paradigms of our time: sustainability, low-impact living, interconnectedness, and an honouring of the inseparability of the transformation of self and world.
Last month they began a major new project - a forest garden, thanks to a grant from a Swiss-based foundation. Guhyapati, EcoDharma’s founder and director, reports - “The idea of a forest garden comes from the world of permaculture, and offers a way of producing food modeled on the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems – applying Buddhist ethics to food production and care of the land-base. They are are an innovative approach to food production which seeks to address many of the key challenges of our times. They simulate natural processes in a way that supports biodiversity, ensures the natural recycling of nutrients, and builds nutrition and water retention properties into the soil. Being low in inputs and largely self-regulating once established, the approach contributes useful solutions towards the problems of climate change, fossil fuel dependency, and food security”.
“A forest garden is not just about agriculture in a narrow sense,” explains Liam, a key member of the project team. “Applying our ethical values to food production is fundamental to exploring how we can live in the world in ways that are less damaging and more respectful of life,” he claims. For many Buddhists vegetarianism and veganism are often seen to exemplify the ethical intention to reduce our harmful impact on the world. Increasingly it is becoming important to apply that sensibility to the wider impacts of food production. “Industrial farming methods continue to destroy wild habitat, erode and deplete top soil, and negatively impact water tables and aquifers. Forest gardens and other permaculture approaches move away from these exploitative approaches and replace them with forms of agriculture that work with, rather than against, natural processes,” Liam points out. “Today we are challenged to apply our ethical values more fully to questions of sustainability and the ecological impact of our actions. At the EcoDharma Centre we want to find practical answers that express our ethical sensibility in concrete and meaningful ways. That is what this forest garden is about.”
Food forests contains multi-storied layers of trees and plants, simulating the various canopies and undergrowth of perennials and climbers found in woodlands. These layers, ground-cover and shade, create a useful microclimate which can help retain humidity and regulate temperatures. Together with swales (ditches on contour to catch surface run off) and ponds, fed by springs and roof water, the system has been designed with help from Caspar Brown, a good friend of EcoDharma, to make the most of available water and reduce the need for irrigation.
The project will help preserve local varieties of fruit trees. “As far as we can tell this project is unique in developing a forest garden under these particular conditions, in terms of climate and altitude,” says Grace, who has done much of the research into the tree varieties. “We have been careful to learn as much as we can from people in the surrounding area, so that we can use tree varieties well adapted to these conditions.” The first phase of the planting includes over one hundred fruit and nut trees, together with varieties selected for their contribution to soil nutrition.
As well as furthering EcoDharma’s aim of increased food self-reliance, the project contributes an educational dimension. “We have designed in pathways and glades. As the woodland matures people will enjoy spending time amidst the rich biodiversity. We hope that their curiosity into the complexity of evolved natural systems will be stimulated, and that a growing sense of wonder and appreciation can translate into respect and care for the natural environment,” explains Julie, another team member. The project is being run in collaboration with the network Permaculture Barcelona who are developing a partnered forest garden at the Can Masdeu social centre in Barcelona, forging additional links for EcoDharma into the city.
If you want to learn more about permaculture and the ecological application of Buddhist ethics, the EcoDharma Centre is running aPermaculture and Deep Ecology course from July 20th to 27th 2013.
Ratnadharini writes with some news of Triratna’s new retreat centre at Coddington Court, south of Birmingham UK
- future home of Sangharaskhita and formerly known as the Sangharakshita Land Project
. She says - “It’s a big project! For those of you interested in details … major developments have included a natural willow sewerage system (not a reed bed) that will deal naturally with the outflow from the sewage settlement tank without using electricity. Thanks to Ajjavin and Yashodeva, we now have sensible storm and foul drainage, as well as new water and gas supplies. The necessary trenches - which, in the wettest year on record, have been giving rise to comments about the Somme - are nearly all filled in.
Apart from installing essential services, the priority has been Bhante’s new accommodation, where the paint is going on the walls and a new conservatory is arising on the south elevation. Sanghadeva has been mainly working outside, removing the oppressive metal fencing (left over from when the property was a school) and thinning out undergrowth to leave space around the trees and allow light to come through. We’ve been very grateful for the contribution from volunteers, and Suvannamani has been cooking for fluctuating numbers. We’ve also been making contact with the local community - who seem to be looking forward to having the Court back in use, and us as neighbours.
Work on what-will-be-the women’s community is nearly finished; which means the team will now move there and enjoy the luxury of central heating, leaving what-will-be-the men’s community free for work to begin. Then there are four other large buildings to consider - including the special ‘Dome’ which will house the library, exhibition space, and pilgrim accommodation. Mokshapriya, Vajrasadhu and the architect have been preparing building plans and writing planning applications; now the challenge will be to have the project up and running by the end of July - when events begin.Now building work is under way, we really do need your help - especially any Order Members or Mitras / Friends with building experience; it would be fantastic to put together sangha teams for specific projects - so please do get in touch. We will also need to redecorate the entire site - which means a programme of painting from now until the summer; so if you can wield a paintbrush and roller - or would be willing to learn - just let me know.
With metta, Ratnadharini
Ujukarin is a Dutch Order Member regularly visiting and teaching Triratna groups in both India and Sri Lanka. Here he writes with some reflections on his recent India visit, saying - “Here’s a small set of reflections based on a 10-day ‘Dharmaduta tour’ I made recently through southern Maharastra ending in Karnataka (Dharmaduta is a traditional term meaning ‘messenger of the Dharma’) I do these regularly as a ‘small fish’ in the ‘big Indian pond’ of Sangha activities, partly to maintain the cooperation between the Indian and Sri Lankan sanghas and of course my own friendship with Prajnajit, an Indian Order Member who often accompanies me.
The tour itself, purely in facts, was nothing special, with audiences on average 75-100 people (except for our talk at the full-day celebration of Ambedkar’s Conversion Day in the huge Siddhart Buddha Vihar in Gulbarga, Kartanaka; where the audience was at least 1,000 persons!) What was interesting was the theme: with our audiences we explored the topic of ‘how to prevent the Indian sangha falling into too much ethnic Buddhism’; drawing on our observation of the degeneration and frequent emptiness of temples in places like Japan, Korea and Sri Lanka. Here’s some reflections arising from the trip, including also some comparisons to our last Dharmaduta tour made in 2011:
· The sangha, our audience, keeps on developing on par with the whole Indian economy and society. The number of students with mobile Internet, immediately making a Facebook connection, was surprising!
· However the deep shortcomings of Indian religious divisions and the caste system still remain. For instance we visited friends in Umarga, including their Hindu relatives who live one level down in the same house. Those relatives only let us in because I’m a Westerner, normally my Indian friends are kept outside that house because still they are considered (Buddhist) Untouchables!
· In the light of these shortcomings, it was even more surprising to see small Hindu shrines reappearing in the houses of some of our new Buddhist followers. Their motivation seemed to be ‘the more deities I worship, even next to Buddha, the more chance for wealth’! We wondered, ‘is that really how Dr. Ambedkar would have wanted it…?’
· But there were other dangers too, appearing from Buddhism’s apparent successful revival in India - for instance we heard the new Delhi Formula 1 race circuit was christened ‘Buddh International Circuit’ by the local province PM at that time, an Ambedkarite. Actually I can understand that fits into the developing of the Dalits on par with the whole Indian society - what surprised me was the fact that most of our Indian students saw associating the Dharma with such an eco-unfriendly activity as F1 racing in a positive light, well…! It took me quite some time to explain that Western Buddhists see this differently, even as a risk for degeneration into ethnic-Buddhism-with-empty-temples…
But this does not deter us from an overall quite positive impression – the Dharma is back for good in its country of birth and can be a light for the world there too!
With folded palms,
Vidyaruchi, Sangharakshita’s secretary, writes with some of his latest news, saying - ” In my last update of Bhante’s activities, written all of two months ago, I reported a return of his arch-nemesis - namely insomnia. Unfortunately the insomnia worsened in December, so that he was tired much of the time, and all but stopped receiving visitors. He managed to make a few exceptions, including for Subhuti and Mokshapriya, the latter in connection with the arrangements for Bhante’s accommodation at Coddington Court.
A particularly disappointing consequence of Bhante’s sleep deprivation was that he was unable to attend the launch of his two latest publications: The Purpose and Practice of Buddhist Meditation, and Beating the Drum, edited by Vidyadevi and Kalyanaprabha respectively. The launch took place at the Birmingham Buddhist Centre on 25 November, and Bhante was due to speak at the event, but sadly had a bad night and did not have the energy on the day. Nonetheless, the launch went well, with talks from both the editors, and quite a few copies of the two books were sold.
The insomnia has generally been less bad in the last few weeks, an improvement which could have been due to a number of factors. As well as a change in medication, Bhante has gone more frequently than usual for acupuncture treatment. Also, Srimala has kindly lent him her light-box while she is in India, which may be helping. The light-box, which Bhante sits in front of for half an hour each day, simulates the sun’s light, a lack of exposure to which can cause certain chemical imbalances in the brain, with insomnia a possible result.
When Bhante has had the energy he has tried to keep up with his usual activities as much as possible. He manages a walk most days, and has often been to Kings Heath Park with Paramartha. He also keeps taking sustenance from the world of books. Paramartha and he polished off Madame Blavatsky: The Woman Behind the Myth by Marion Meade; and they started on The Dead Sea Scrolls: A Biographyby John J. Collins, which is from the ‘Lives of Great Religious Books’ series, and which describes in detail the area in which the eponymous scrolls were found and gives an account of the opinion of different scholars about their significance. Bhante continued his exploration of John Masefield, who was born in Ledbury, the town closest to Coddington Court, by having me read to him An Endless Quiet Valley: a reappraisal of John Masefield by Paul Binding - a literary biography of the poet, which Bhante found extremely interesting. The audio book service has provided The Gospel According to Women, by Karen Armstrong. Bhante described it as a very scholarly work based on much research, dealing with the disastrous effect of Christianity on women and the different ways in which, through the centuries, women have tried to cope with this.
Meanwhile, work continues at Coddington Court, to make ready for Bhante’s relocation. When you hear from me next month, we hope we will be within a few weeks of the move being complete, after which a new phase of Bhante’s life will begin.
We are very happy to announce the release of Sangharakshita’s Living Wisely!
In this companion volume to Living Ethically, Sangharakshita offers further advice from Nagarjuna’s famous text, Precious Garland. He suggests that although the development of wisdom is not an easy task, learning to live wisely is ultimately the most satisfying of all human endeavours.
Living Wisely: Further Advice from Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland is available to purchase at your local Triratna bookshop or on the Windhorse online store, £10.99.