spreading the dharma keeping sangha connected
The Middle Way of Uncertain Times Waking Up in Times of Stress by Dh. Viveka page 09 Practicing Loving Kindness as an Humanitarian by Dh. Samayasri page 06
Pilgrimage to India: Walking in the Footsteps of Buddha pages 22 – 30
Sangha Notes page 14 Generosity is an ‘Act of True Freedom’ page 28
vajrabell VAJRA BELL KULA EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Mary Schaefer email@example.com ASSOCIATE EDITOR: David Watt firstname.lastname@example.org ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Susan DiPietro email@example.com ARTS EDITOR: Deb Howard firstname.lastname@example.org WRITER: Bettye Pruitt email@example.com DESIGNER: Callista Cassady firstname.lastname@example.org
SANGHA NOTES CONTRIBUTORS Gary Baker, New York Sangha email@example.com
Aryaloka Buddhist Retreat Center 14 Heartwood Circle Newmarket, NH 03857 603-659-5456 info@Aryaloka.org · www.Aryaloka.org Find us on Facebook: facebook.com/Aryaloka ...or on the Aryaloka Facebook Group: facebook.com/groups/AryalokaSangha Connect at The Buddhist Centre Online: TheBuddhistCentre.com/Aryaloka
ARYALOKA STAFF Dh. Shrijnana, Executive Director Tricia McCarthy, Office Manager Dh. Bodhana, Kitchen Manager Dh. Lilasiddhi, Cleaning Coordinator Dh. Rijupatha, Web Master and Publicity Designer Susan DiPietro, Buddhaworks Manager
Paramita Banerjee, Vancouver Buddhist Centre firstname.lastname@example.org Pete Ingraham, Aryaloka Buddhist Center email@example.com Sabrina Metivier, Nagaloka Buddhist Center firstname.lastname@example.org Dh. Dharmasuri, Nagaloka Buddhist Center email@example.com Mary Salome, San Francisco Buddhist Center firstname.lastname@example.org Dh. Samatara, Rocky Mountain Buddhist Center email@example.com Susan DiPietro, Khante Outreach Bettye Pruitt, Portsmouth Buddhist Center
BOARD OF DIRECTORS Dh. Satyada (Chairperson) Dh. Rijupatha (Vice Chairperson) Tom Gaillard (Treasurer) Barry Timmerman (Secretary) Dh. Amala Jean Corson Elizabeth Hellard Daniel Kenney Alisha Roberts Dh. Singhatara
SPIRITUAL VITALITY COUNCIL Dh. Amala (Chair) Dh. Vidhuma (Vice Chair) Dh. Satyada (Board Representative) Dh. Lilasiddhi Dh. Dayalocana Dh. Khemavassika Dh. Shrijnana Dh. Surakshita
© 2017 Aryaloka Buddhist Center
table of contents spring/summer 2017
The Middle Way of 04 Uncertain Times Practicing Loving Kindness 06 as an Humanitarian by Dh. Samayasri 09
Waking up in Times of Stress by Dh. Viveka
12 Arts at Aryaloka
13 Poetry Corner
Sangha Notes, by Sangha Notes Contributors
Sangha Connections: 18 Interview with Dh. Viriyagita by Bettye Pruitt Triratna Celebrates 50 Years: 21 ‘Working it Out as We Go’ by Dh. Viriyalila
22 Pilgrimage to India
Walking in the Footsteps 24 of the Buddha by Deb Howard Living the Dharma: The 26 Path of Social Engagement by Jean Corson The Nagaloka Centre: The Future is Happening 29 Here by Dh. Lilasiddhi
Channeling Cassandra: Aryaloka Depends on Your 31 Support by Tom Gaillard From the Editor Generosity is an ‘Act of True 32 Freedom’ by Mary Schaefer COVER IMAGE: Deb Howard aryaloka.org
The New York Sangha hosted a retreat in February entitled, “Unconditional love – really? Beyond Acceptance and Rejection: The Dharma of Radical Inclusivity” led by Dh. Viveka. It was a weekend of meditation and contemplative practices designed to support us in practicing during these uncertain, dissonant times. The retreat drew on the rich teachings of the Buddhist tradition in order to “explore a radical and joyful call to love.”
The Middle Way of Uncertain Times We asked two order members — Viveka and Samayasri — to offer their reflections in how they wake up in times of stress and practice for the benefit of others.
Practicing Loving Kindness as an Humanitarian: ‘It is Truly Not About Me’ by Dh. Samayasri Samayasri grew up in the United Kingdom and first met the Triratna Buddhist Community at age 30. She joined the order 13 years ago. Her work in the international not-forprofit sector for the last 10 years has taken her to live in other countries – Switzerland, Denmark and now the United States. After working for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) for seven years she moved to New York two years ago to join International Rescue Committee, a global refugee charity founded by Albert Einstein in 1933, as global senior vice president of partnerships and philanthropy. She is also a trustee of the Karuna Trust, the Triratna charity that serves those marginalized by caste in the Indian sub-continent. – Editor’s note It seems appropriate – although not straightforward – to be writing about the subject of loving kindness in the context of my work. Of course, it is deeply appropriate, because the sector I work for embodies human altruism. Most organizations like mine – the International Rescue Committee – have profound roots in the same human desire to meet the suffering of others or deal with the degradation of the planet with moral conviction, generosity and a determination to change. Enormous progress has been made page 6
on issues such as disease eradication, human rights, hunger alleviation, universal education and safety for refugees thanks to remarkable people who – like many Dharma followers – surrender their adult lives to service, often at the risk of their own lives and by foregoing normal human comforts like a family life or a settled home. It has been my privilege over the years to work with many remarkable people like this, including some who died prematurely as a result of their duties. I often have been struck by a similarity in the demeanor and outlook of charity and humanitarian workers to Dharma practitioners. As with long-term Dharma practice, sustained humanitarian and charity service often seem to give rise to an intelligent humility, deep questioning and also – in some – periods of intense and painful disillusionment. It seems that if we surrender to any ideal or cause bigger than ourselves, we can be certain that at times it will let us down and cause pain. At other times, it seems that we will fail to rise to the ideal. We might think that the high ideals of my sector naturally bring more serene and aligned behavior if our Sangha experience has not already disabused us of that notion. On the contrary, I have seen that the passion of the ideals held in this sector often give rise to heated debate, contentious office politicking or to intense disillusionment when a particular strongly held view or ideal is by-passed in favor of another. We
are so invested in the work, and the stakes are therefore so high that we often bring more of ourselves into dispute. I also have seen the humanitarian community at its very best, providing practical support and kindness at times of conflict or disappointment with enormous tolerance. Just as within the Buddhist Sangha, humanitarians seem intuitively to understand the need to accept and forgive the times when we fail to meet the standards of clarity, courage and resilience that service requires. This is especially true in war zones and in places of extreme danger where colleagues witness appalling daily suffering and experience the toll that can take on mental health and resilience. As a fundraiser, I also have the privilege of encountering the generosity and compassion of donors to our work who cannot serve directly, but who give a great deal to help others, often more than they can easily afford. As a practitioner, I consider myself extremely fortunate. I am exposed every day, as long as I take time to notice, to human kindness, to the desire to connect, to non-separateness. My life and personal conduct at work do not perhaps meet some practitioners’ idea of what a Dharma life looks like. I work long days in intense contexts, I travel a great deal, and I often work with powerful people who are focused on the accomplishment of tasks rather than
I may be bustling to a meeting in New York with Facebook or HBO and it all may seem very modern and cosmopolitan, but the core of the work is making a difference to refugees or people caught up in war or famine, in war zones or camps, or in relative safety but struggling with xenophobia that has strengthened in many parts of the world including the United States. It is truly not about me.
leisurely human interaction. When dealing with such people, I find a strong and vigorous response on my part is often the most skillful means to a positive conclusion. I have had to learn how to hold authority and leadership with conviction and strength, and make ethically complex decisions, but still with – I hope – love for others at the heart of my motives. I also have no problem using a firm hand if I feel it needs to be wielded for good and without causing harm. I have, for example, had to dismiss a number of people over my career. It’s always a distressing and unhappy situation, but has always been the best skillful means available for the context and often the individual as well. I have been asked many times over the years how I “find time to practice” while doing this work and also have been described as a “part-time order member.” I admit that at times this
has caused me pain. I am enormously conscious of my role as a Triratna order member, and regardless of whether a colleague knows about my Dharma life or not, I am very proud to represent Triratna in this particular world. But the path of practice I walk is less familiar to many in our Sangha, and, therefore, the outward form it takes is less easily recognizable, so I have largely made my peace with that type of question. What does it mean to practice loving kindness in work like mine, and why is this not straightforward as I said earlier? On the obvious level, it is about placing the people I serve at the heart of my consciousness rather than my own benefit or ego security. I may be bustling to a meeting in New York with Facebook or HBO and it all may seem very modern and cosmopolitan, but the core of the work is making a difference to refugees or people
caught up in war or famine, in war zones or camps, or in relative safety but struggling with xenophobia that has strengthened in many parts of the world including the United States. It is truly not about me. While we can all proliferate stories about how an exchange in Starbucks or in our chapter is all about us, it would be solipsistic to position my ego identity as the center point in a task that is focused on victims of war. How best to serve them? This raises ethical challenges for fundraisers that are a constant working ground. Do we put out strong, graphic messages and photographs that will elicit the greatest response, but perhaps at the cost of the victims’ dignity? When President Trump issued his immigration executive order, we had to raise funds to protect our USA resettlement program. We debated hard on what imagery and messaging - Humanitarian continued on page 8 aryaloka.org
- Humanitarian continued from page 7 to use. In the end, we did speak out directly against the President’s actions but avoided imagery and language that would have been vindictive or dehumanizing. It is possible to oppose the man’s words and ideas but still be humane toward him, although not always easy in the heat of the moment. This work requires subtlety in ethical practice – the good weighed against the better – and this is the beauty of practicing in this context. The edge is there, publicly exposed, each day. When we fail in judgment, we have to own up quickly that we have thought better of it, and then put it right. Closer to home, there is loving kindness for myself and my colleagues as we all face this insurmountable sea of suffering. There are now 65 million refugees in the world increasing every year, and we all know whatever we do, there will be no end to the need. But we face into that and still strive to do more. It creates excruciating pressure: how and where do you draw the line between what is possible and what is reasonable? If you work until midnight, and,
as a result, terrible suffering for thousands of people is alleviated, how do you not do that every night? As a manager, how do I balance that against the needs of the people I work alongside, who will usually work harder if I ask them to? I have not always gotten this one right, and it’s still a working ground. In case you might think otherwise, there are plenty of power struggles in the not-for-profit sector, probably at least as many as anywhere else, although perhaps more politely presented. Within every exchange is a mini battle. The higher ideals are present or we would not all be there, but there also is ego, the desire to win, the gender/race/culture divide at work and the idea of separateness. Ironically, I don’t think I started down this road because I was the kindest of people. It is not what I would consider my driving quality, and I would not say that a life of working successfully in this field has changed that. But perhaps what progress I have made has been due to a life of failing to get it right. I have aspired to be my best, and in failing so often and so publicly, at such a high cost to others, I have learned more humility
and commonality with others which must lead to more kindness. Meanwhile, I am deeply fortunate to have my core Triratna life and Sangha that offer support, practice and deeper human intimacy and openness to enable me to stay alert and positive. When we woke up recently to the dreadful Sarin attacks on civilians in Syria, I cried – not something that happens often these days – tapping into profound distress and anger at the horror and cruelty of war. But I also considered myself blessed and deeply grateful to be able to go to work that morning and do something about it.
If you work until midnight, and, as a result, terrible suffering for thousands of people is alleviated, how do you not do that every night? As a manager, how do I balance that against the needs of the people I work alongside, who will usually work harder if I ask them to? I have not always gotten this one right, and it’s still a working ground.
Waking Up in Times of Stress: Find Your Purpose
These reflections are an edited version of a video featuring Dh. Viveka, one of a series of talks published by Tricycle Magazine on Teachings for Uncertain Times. — Editor’s note by Dh. Viveka I remember in 2014 watching my computer screen, tuning into what was happening in Ferguson, Missouri. People were taking to the streets; in the background was a militarized scene of heavy armor in the local police force, and the news reported that Michael Brown, an unarmed black
man, had just been shot and killed by a police officer. Waking up and watching this scene, I felt that something was called for from me and that it was not appropriate to just be a voyeur in these times. I had to challenge myself and ask: Where do I belong? Where should I be in this unfolding scene? Sometimes activists talk about how “woke” they are, and Buddhists talk about waking up. That was a moment
of re-waking up for me. We are not done with this work no matter how long we may have been on this life journey. At that time, I noticed that I needed to update my “wokeness” process and look at what I was ready for now. I had to challenge my own comfort level. Dharma practice had given me the tools to reduce my anxiety at facing - Purpose continued on page 10 aryaloka.org
- Purpose continued from page 9 racism and other forms of oppression: anti-immigrant oppression, the “invisibilizing” of native people, xenophobia and increasing fear of Muslims. To some extent, my practice had given me space to be free from anxiety. I asked myself then: What does that space ask me to step into? A teaching I once was given is that meditation practice is found in completion through meditation in action. Sitting on a cushion is just preparation for what life really calls for from us. In 2014 the Black Lives Matter
movement began from that point in Ferguson. I found myself called to really listen to the anger in me at the anti-blackness in this country and how it’s not just something that happens to other people. All our liberation is tied together. None of us is free until we all are free from hatred. Out of our base need for survival, we human beings create self. From there, fear arises, and from there, we are held apart. Bell hooks, author, feminist and social activist, inspired me. She wrote that “dominator culture has tried to keep us all afraid, to make us choose safety instead of risk, sameness
instead of diversity. Moving through that fear, finding out what connects us, reveling in our differences; this is the process that brings us closer, that gives us a world of shared values, of meaningful community.” We now have a president who has spoken in terms of severe “othering” of communities that are not part of the dominant power structure. He has incited what is all too easy to incite: the process of othering, especially anti-immigrant, anti‑Muslim, xenophobia – fear of what lies behind our nationalistic borders, anti-blackness and the invisibilizing of native people.
None of us is free until we all are free from hatred. Out of our base need for survival, we human beings create self. From there, fear arises, and from there, we are held apart.
In these times that we are under extreme stress, I invite us to have a strong sense of purpose. That is a key point of mindfulness: a sense of purpose and continuity of purpose. For me, that has been a re-grounding in radical love...
In these times that we are under extreme stress, I invite us to have a strong sense of purpose. That is a key point of mindfulness: a sense of purpose and continuity of purpose. For me, that has been a re-grounding in radical love and inclusivity that includes noticing how I internalize racial inferiority in a way that makes it hard for me to show up in my full capacity to do the work that’s needed. Mindfulness of purpose is having a sense of our strengths, asking others to help us name and find those if needed, and then looking to them for support, strength and gifts in these times. Structural racism has a function: to tell us that we are inadequate, and we need consciously to disrupt that teaching. Yes. We need to find our purpose, step into our strengths, and know that in times of stress, a certain activation is needed. We need to respond and find the level of activation that serves us, that moves us past fear and our comfort zones. We need to respond
to the feeling of threat by fight, flight, avoiding, appeasing, disassociating. We need to be awake to that. We also must find practices where our stress activation and vigilance levels can calm down a bit so we can rest and persevere. I call this “emotional liberation practice” so that we step into the preciousness of our lives and are not driven to the point of self-destruction. Mindfulness practices, conscious breathing, awareness of our emotions can help with that. Self-love can connect us to love for all those who have been othered. Practice the radical love of saying to those who have been conditioned by this system and who are in power that we want their transformation and healing as well. Let us create the world we need together. Let us find our sense of purpose in these uncertain times. We must stay on purpose by finding spaces and communities where we can activate ourselves, come out of isolation, find what our strengths are, and join together in them. Radical Sangha,
Ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order in 1997, Viveka teaches Buddhism and meditation globally and at the Triratna San Francisco Buddhist Center. Viveka is engaged in making Buddhist teachings and meditation available to activists and people of color, and collaborating with other Buddhist traditions and social change organizations around the pressing matters of our times, racism and climate change to name a few. She weaves a life of social and racial justice work, community building and family connection, and a contemplative practice deeply rooted in meditative experience. She teaches with an open, playful and compassionate presence. I could say, radical community. In addition, let us also rest using practices that ground and center us. We can love the work of learning how to love ourselves when the world around us may not show us the love and full dignity that every human being deserves.
arts at aryaloka Exhibit: ‘Art from the Order’ Opens July 5 Art is at the heart of the order that Bhante Sangharakshita founded 50 years ago. It is one of the six distinctive emphases of our Triratna Buddhist Community. Many order and community members express a Buddhist sensibility, devotion and aesthetic awareness of beauty through their visual art, music, poetry and movement. We are fortunate to have Bhante’s example of placing art in our Buddhist lives. His well-known struggles with his love of art – he called it the struggle of heart and head – is documented as the story of Sangharakshita I and Sangharakshita II (see The Essential Sangharakshita) during his time in the late 1940s when he was traveling in India. We learn first of the monk Sangharakshita who elevated practical activity, usefulness, the search for truth, reading, writing philosophy, observing the precepts and getting up early to meditate to achieve enlightenment. He even considered fasting and mortifying the flesh. It was a life of purpose strongly connected with intellect and the head. The other Sangharakshita was a poet who experienced joy and appreciation; who celebrated the arts, aesthetics and beauty; who wanted to
share emotion, listen to music, meet with others; and who had a deep awareness of poetry and the arts. He asked: Did this lead to enlightenment or was it only indulgence? He learned to integrate the two personas, Sangharakshita I and II, the monk and the poet. As a result, the Triratna Buddhist Community entwines Dharma study with the emotional positivity of the arts and ritual, recognizing that both are paths to awakening. We realized that eyes and ears open to art in all forms can expand and transform us. Bhante speaks of a profound connection between the impulse to create and an appreciation of the arts and the practice of Buddha’s teachings. Aryaloka is fortunate to have six of our order members exhibiting their art in July and August. The exhibit – “Art From the Order” – leads up to the North American Order Convention that will be held at Aryaloka August 26-31. Amala will be exhibiting photographs and an assemblage. Viriyalila will be showing a devotional image created specially for this exhibition. Ashokashri from the UK and our local Kiranada, both wellknown fiber artists, will use fiber collage and Japanese resist-dye techniques to showcase their artistic vision. Narottama will share some acrylic and canvas pieces and an apple wood carving. Rijupatha will exhibit two mixed media pieces. “Art From the Order” will be an intriguing and engaging summer exhibit. The show runs July 5 –19 and July 26 through August 4. — Dh. Kiranada
‘Herbredies Afternoon,’ fiber art by Dh. Ashokashri page 12
Upcoming exhibit The fall show at Aryaloka will be “Shibui: Ink, Paper, Stone/a Two-Person Exhibition” featuring works by Rona Conti and Soosen Dunholter. The exhibit will run from October 15 through November 30 with an opening reception Sunday, October 15, from 3 to 5 p.m. that will include demonstrations by the artists. Triratna Arts and Culture Catalog The latest edition of the Triratna Arts and Culture Catalog is now available. One copy can be viewed in the Aryaloka lounge. From the catalog’s editor Sangharuchi: “The book documents the effect of Buddhism coming into contact with a globalised modern culture and features work from six continents.” The art is not all explicitly Buddhist. It is simply art “that shows people in Triratna individually and collectively weaving a cultural basket, deep and beautiful enough to hold a greater embodiment of the Dharma in our lives.” There are 80 pages devoted to painters, sculptors, woodworkers, songwriters, craftspeople, musicians and actors. A website featuring every artist will be available this year, and we will publish the website once it becomes available. Take a look at the inspiring art from all over the Triratna world. Triratna Arts Facebook group Did you know that there is a Triratna Arts Facebook group? If you are interested in sharing your art work, discussing inspiration or just looking at what others are doing, you can ask to join this closed group called “Triratna Arts.” Group to study Tantric symbols A group is being formed to study Creative Symbols of Tantric Buddhism - Arts continued on page 20
by Barry Timmerman With purposeful strides towards Anticipated sightings The birder persists in all weather To capture songs and flights He is equipped With hawk’s eyes and dog’s ears With these magnifiers The search for rare species in hidden groves Is undertaken again and again Illuminated by eastern light With encyclopedic recall of all things avian The birder concentrates on a distant flicker Reaching a sheltered thatch He settles in abiding The arrival his heart longs to greet
by Barry Timmerman In the guardhouse of this heart lives a sentry Past betrayals inform the currency of his present He cannot be bribed, he stands, resolute What offerings he is given do not sway him, nor open the gate A man appears with a gentle smile. His words offer nothing of this world He speaks of an ancient tree, of a great battle with earthly desires He speaks of unfathomable freedom, of no more fear He offers a new job for the sentry; dismantle the guardhouse Shed the bindings of this fruitless protection. Throw open the gates of this heart Let in the limitless, empty space. Let out the radiance kept at bay The sentry now labors to keep the gate open, as the winds of Samsara blow The battle to wake up has begun, as the sentry spies the glint of the stream ahead.
Barry Timmerman is a mitra with the Aryaloka Sangha and serves on the board of directors.
Girl Riding Bike
Charlotte, Maine, July 19, 2012 by Gunopeta She swings onto the empty country road and back out of sight. A glimpse of summers past. Passing, I glance right, see the gravel drive, scruffy hedges, her soft lavender blur, blowing hair, the weathered farmhouse she’s riding towards, a sense of fields falling off the edge and sky. Is she happy in this moment’s aloneness? That’s my hope. What is it like to be made of air and warm sunshine? To be flying over the landscape looking down, and not be in or of it? What is it like not to have the earth element dragging one down or the water element pulling one onward towards darkness? We have all known this. Still know it. I remember for a moment, then forget again.
Gunopeta lives “off the grid” in a small house near the shores of Straight Bay in Lubec, ME, where he moved in 1980. He has spent more than 30 years on the front lines of land conservation in Maine, founding a land trust to protect both shoreline and inland acres from development. He was ordained in the Triratna Buddhist Order in 1997. More of his poems and those of his partner, the late Nancy L. Nielsen, can be found at http://saltandstonepoetry.blogspot.com
sangha notes ARYALOKA SANGHA (NEWMARKET, NH)
Special events at Aryaloka Amala led a Buddha Day Celebration in May that kicked off with a potluck lunch. Amala led a guided meditation recollecting the Buddha. The meditation was followed by talks by Amala and Satyada on the Buddha. The celebration closed with a threefold puja. In February, Vidhuma led our annual celebration of impermanence at Parinirvana Day where we shared readings from the Parinirvana Sutra. At our first Mandala Evening, Lilasiddhi, Deb Howard, Sabrina Metivier and Pam Raley presented stories of their November travels to significant Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India where they were joined by Sangha members Jean Corson and Haley Koperski. They described and reflected on their travels and discussed Triratna’s activities there. Mandala evenings will be held quarterly.
Vajradaka, an order member from the UK, led a meditation refresh session on a May Friends’ Night.
Board member Daniel Kenney completed an inventory of our facilities and grounds with recommendations for improvement. He is working with the administrative team and board to develop priorities and a plan to address them. The SanghaCare initiative moves forward. We have six volunteers and will do a volunteer training in May. Our pledge drive is under way in an effort to improve financial stability. Goals include 100 percent participation by mitras and order members and for current pledgers to increase their pledges by 20 percent. As visitors arrive and leave Aryaloka, they will notice signs posted along the driveway, reminding everyone to support Aryaloka. Triratna celebrates 50 years At the May meeting, officers On April 6th, 1967 Sangharakshita Friends’ Night, practice continues were elected and new members founded the Triratna Buddhist Aryaloka’s Friends’ Night continues joined. Officers now are Satyada as Community. Some 50 years later on Tuesdays: the winter session chairperson, Rijupatha as the vice nearly to the day, the Aryaloka, wrapped up the teachings on “Who chair (a new position), Tom Galliard Boston, Portland and Portsmouth is the Buddha?” and the spring as treasurer and Barry Timmerman Buddhist centers joined the rest of sessions will explore the three jewels. as secretary. Board members at large the Triratna community in celebrating Bodhana offers Tuesday, Wednesday are Daniel Kenney, Alisha Roberts, the community’s 50th anniversary. and Thursday morning open Elizabeth Hellard, Jean Corson, Amala Participants were treated to a talk meditation sessions, and Satyada and Singhatara. New ideas and energy given by Dharmasuri, Sunada and leads meditation and puja on Friday abound. Viriyalila on the Six Emphases of evenings practice. As we move forward, the BOD Triratna. — Pete Ingraham will hold a board retreat and meet Several retreats offered monthly, working in collaboration with Aryaloka board meets Lilasiddhi and Bodhana led the the spiritual vitality council to ensure The Aryaloka board of directors Exploring Noble Silence Weekend that Aryaloka remains a vital place (BOD) has been busy with center Retreat in February for practitioners to teach and practice the Dharma. operations and transitions. The BOD new to longer periods of mindful Stay tuned as we strive on mindfulprovided support until a new adminsilence and stillness. Molly Schlangen istrator – Tricia McCarthy – was hired. ly. Please practice generosity so we of Awakening Grace Yoga and Satyada can maintain our beautiful and aging She is a welcome addition, and as a led their Meditation and Yoga retreat facility. mitra, she has a good understanding where participants explored the mind — Barry Timmerman of what Aryaloka is all about. body connection. page 14
In March, Candradasa, Khemavassika, Narottama and Satyada hosted a Seacoast Sangha Retreat at Aryaloka called “Building A Beautiful Community” where participants practiced communal living, friendship and meditation. Vajradaka, an order member from the UK, led a meditation refresh session on a May Friends’ Night. He then led a weekend and week-long retreat – Meditation and the Middle Way. The retreat explored personal transformation guided by the underlying principles of the Middle Way. One of the most experienced meditation teachers in Triratna, Vajradaka has been teaching meditation in the Triratna Buddhist Community for more than 30 years.
sangha notes PORTSMOUTH BUDDHIST CENTER (PORTSMOUTH, NH)
An inter-center retreat We will be living together as a community, looking after each other, exploring meditation and the Buddha’s teachings, touching the vast depths of possibility in the simple, beautiful experience of friendship. There will be plenty of opportunity for good communication, silent reflection, laughter and creative space as we set up a field of kindness and mutual awareness together, and experience how it helps us tread the path of insight.
NAGALOKA SANGHA (PORTLAND, ME)
Our Wednesday night’s friend’s group in March finished Maitreyabandu’s The Journey and the Guide. Thank you Janet Miles and Louise Tuski for facilitating the study. Vimalamoksha, an order member from the San Francisco Buddhist Center, visited and led meditation and discussion earlier this year. The Wednesday night friends group in April began a new format for study of Subhuti’s Mind in Harmony. Friends’ night is held 6:30-8:30 pm, and we conduct our study/discussion without This is how Candradasa, a designated leader. Participants Khemavassika, Narottama and are asked to make contributions for Satyada stated the premise for a the weekly discussion. We hope this Seacoast regional weekend retreat format will stimulate and encourage – “Experiencing Sangha: Building a a practice of sharing and generosity Beautiful Community” – held in early with the group. March at Aryaloka. This gathering We were honored to host gave members of the Portsmouth Vajradaka, an order member from Sangha an occasion to visit Aryaloka, the UK, on friends’ night in May. mingle with Aryaloka Sangha He led the group in a lesson on how members and experience retreat to identify and create a meditation conditions. Despite the short distance practice that works. Sunday between the two centers, this was the morning meditation and Dharma first visit for many to Aryaloka. Bite and the Monday evening open The retreat program featured the sits continue to be important parts of Brahma Viharas, and included short our Sangha practices. - Portsmouth continued on page 20 — Sabrina Metivier and Dh. Dharmasuri
The shrine set up at Aryaloka for the Seacoast regional retreat.
CONCORD SANGHA (CONCORD, NH)
The Concord Sangha meets every other Thursday and holds quarterly retreats. The spring retreat was held in late April, and was attended by a dedicated group of men and volunteers. The retreat began Friday evening with intentions set for the following day. The retreat theme was Buddhism in everyday life. Discussion centered on how the men handle difficult people and situations in their stressful environment. They shared stories of real-life situations and how they handled them. The Sangha’s strength was evident as members shared stories and supported each other with helpful thoughts and suggestions. Saturday was a full day of meditation and Dharma discussion. Sangha members again presented and shared readings. Topics included impermanence, meditation, attachment and compassion, and how each relates to everyday life. Just before lunch, one of the participants shared a reading by Thich Nhat Hanh about mindful eating. He talked about how we should be aware of what we eat as food to nourish our bodies, and that we should chew each bite with intention and awareness. The group decided to practiced mindful eating during lunch. The retreat concluded with more discussion in the afternoon. The group also holds open meditation Saturday mornings, providing an opportunity for quiet meditation and open discussion for anyone interested in meditation. If you are interested in volunteering, reach out to Satyada or Khemavassika at the Aryaloka Sangha for more information. — Susan DiPietro
sangha notes SAN FRANCISCO SANGHA
ROCKY MOUNTAIN SANGHA
(SAN FRANCISCO, CA)
The council has been sharing the role of chair since late January of this year when Viveka, who had been center chair for 16 years, stepped down. Things are going smoothly. The council includes Padmatara, Danadasa, Dhivajri, Shunyamala, Prasadachitta and Dhammarati who is council president. As part of our Rainy Season retreat in January, the core Sangha had a visioning day that led to additional organizing to keep the center looking good and welcoming. We also had an unwelcome rainy season hole in the roof that has been patched, and we made the wobbly front door a little sturdier. New attention to the shrines has brought additional grace to our gatherings, and we are looking into “greening” the center in various ways, including getting solar power. At our retreat land in Lake County two hours north of San Francisco, Sangha members will be putting down floor tiles in the kitchen
and surrounding area along with doing other improvements. Tree management is top of the list. Over the long term, we would like to revisit our overall vision of holding more retreats at the land and work out how to move toward that vision. For anyone near or headed to northern California, it’s already a great place for weekend breaks, solitary retreats, small groups or camping. Inquire at Info@SFBuddhistCenter.org. In cyberspace, some center management team members are working with UK-based designer and developer Samudradaka on a redesign. We hope to get the new site up and running by the end of the summer. We welcomed new mitras in recent months, and have been offering mitra study on top of the regularly scheduled Sangha nights, morning meditations and weekend day retreats. Please see our web site SFBuddhistCenter.org for the latest. — Mary Salome
TRIRATNA VANCOUVER (VANCOUVER, BC)
Our Triratna Vancouver Sangha has been settling into our new home for just over one year. Community members from a variety of cultures have joined our Sangha nights and experienced Buddhist practice. Our center holds three Sangha nights per week. We are running three mitra study groups focusing on years one, two and three. During April and May, order members presented a loving kindness series called “Practicing the Dharma in Difficult Times” as part of the Thursday Sangha night, for which we were grateful.
This year, we are excited to announce that Ron Chartier has asked for ordination. We continue to build unity with Sangha members in Triratna worldwide. We had several visiting order members as guest speakers including Viradhamma from San Francisco and Dhammarati from England. Both gave inspiring Dharma talks. Green Tara pujas continue to inspire our women Sangha members celebrating the Dharma and deepening Dharma practice. — Paramita Banerjee
The Rocky Mountain Sangha started off 2017 with a well-attended Introduction to Buddhism and Meditation class. Several of the attendees started the foundation year of mitra study in April. We held an order weekend in February with Satyadana. The Sangha is spread out geographically in western Montana so it was wonderful to have 11 order members fill the shrine room. The topic was the 10 Fetters. The Tuesday group started studying The Art of Reflection by Ratnaguna. Our two order chapters and the group for women in the ordination process are studying various topics. Karunakara led a retreat at the end of March, and did an excellent job taking us through the Anapanasati Sutta practice. Two Sangha members will be leaving us soon. Chris Barnes and Kathleen Stachowski have been integral to the Rocky Mountain Sangha for the last few years and will be missed. Chris retired last year, and they have been itching to get back to the Southwest (warm country!). Planning has begun for the annual Sun Lakes Retreat put on by the Seattle, Vancouver and Missoula centers. This year it will be September 28 through October 1 and will be led by Lokesvara. The theme for the retreat should be finalized soon. It is always great to get the Sanghas together. There is not enough time to catch up with each other and do retreats! Summer is a busy time in Montana. Most everyone is trying to get in as much outdoor activity time as they can. It’s a good thing we have those extra hours of daylight! — Dh. Samatara
NEW YORK SANGHA (NEW YORK CITY, NY)
Dh. Samayasri NY chairperson Vajramati stepped down as the chairperson of the Triratna Buddhist Center of New York, and Samayasri was elected as the new chairperson. Vajramati founded Triratna New York City and has served with enormous devotion and commitment as chair for 16 years. Many people found the Dharma and Triratna thanks to Vajramati and his personal conviction and steadfast efforts. — Triratna New York Council Unconditional love retreat The New York Sangha hosted a retreat titled “Unconditional love – really?” at the Won Dharma Center in Hudson, NY, in February, led by Viveka from the San Francisco Buddhist Center. Here are reflections on the retreat from me and two other participants. — Gary Baker Finding peace in sometimes turbulent life I came to the retreat with a troubled mind, knowing I’d be coming home and leaving the next week to visit my newly out transgender daughter, who has been away in treatment in Oregon for most of the past year. I was worried about whether I could handle four days with my beautiful, but often very challenging and challenged 18-year-old. I was trying hard to accept the changes that she’d announced and understand the potential road ahead. I often struggle with how to love all my children with all their problems, shortcomings, anger and self‑involvement. I believe they need my love, whether they say it or not, and despite the layers of anger, frustration, disappointment, guilt and more, I know I’m capable of offering them my open heart and the deep love for them that is often buried under the day to day of the struggle. I can simply listen to them, be with
them and respond with interest, not judgment, even if I don’t believe their choices or opinions are the best. I can offer them my mind with attention and interest and let them teach me about their lives. A deeper dive into metta on this retreat turned out to be exactly what I needed. Three days of meditation and study. A chance to talk privately with Viveka, Padmadharini and others about my life and hopes. Some fantastically sunny and warm hours outside, walking, talking and sitting. Spotting constellations, so invisible in New York City, in the dark Catskills sky. The camaraderie of my amazing Sangha, these long-time fellow travelers who even in silence could show their love and support. I arrived home ready, or ready enough. And the trip to Oregon turned out to be the perfect mix of therapy sessions, honest and loving conversations with my new daughter, a peek into the world of other parents and their children in similar situations, and hiking, brunching and movie-going. Would it have worked out had I not gone on retreat? Probably, given my nearly 10 years on this path, but probably not as well. Thanks to the Buddha, the Dharma and my Sangha for helping me build the patience, strength and compassion to find peace and success in my often turbulent life. — Gary Baker
dormitories to the shrine room. The conditions were still snowy and icy at that time, and I did not bring appropriate footwear. Every time I walked on the path, I felt like I was going to fall and break something. The second morning I was making my way to get coffee before meditation and was getting more frustrated every time I felt my feet slip-sliding under me. My inner dialogue was something like “this is ridiculous! They should do something about this! If I’m having a hard time, what about people with canes and other assistive devices? This path is treacherous!” And then I stopped. Yes. The path is teacherous. Pain, sickness, aging and death are inevitable. Is it possible to navigate this path with equanimity? Isn’t that why we are here? It was a moment of clarity that has stayed with me. Whenever I find myself ranting (externally or internally) about the state of the world, I remind myself that the pain of life is unavoidable, but suffering is optional with much practice. —Liesl Glover
The setting and all it offered Some things that stood out for me are: The beautiful shrine room with the sweeping 0 on the wall and gorgeous open, panoramic vista of the Catskills in the distance. The freshness of the air and snow formations, including mindful walks to and from the dorms, trying to avoid Pain unavoidable, suffering slipping on the ice. optional The tender way in which Viveka led A gift of the retreat was perspective. the retreat, her soft, open style. Being in wide open natural spaces, The beauty of being with the walking in nature and watching it unSangha in silence and meaningful fold – sunrise, sunset, rain, wind, the communication during exercises (i.e. deer, the cat, the bees – brought life the sense of the NY Sangha being into perspective. The many problems substantial). that seemed overwhelming in my regAnd, of course, the lovely Korean ular city life faded when sitting on the food and the community’s hospitality. stoop, breathing the fresh cold air, — Dh. Ananta gazing at the Catskills in the distance. I also learned to appreciate “the path” – starting with the one from the aryaloka.org
sangha connections: Conversations with Triratna Order Members by Bettye Pruitt
ful, compassionate way – that and all the listening – I found it very unusual, different from what I had experienced Disclosure – Viriyagita is one of my Kalyana Mitras. anywhere else.” An intellectual dimension of When Marilyn Coakley Triratna also was appealing. “I read first walked into Aryaloka a piece in A Survey of Buddhism [by in 1986, she was already Sangharakshita]. I can’t say exactly a Buddhist. She had gone to a retreat when that was, but it was a defining at Karmê Chöling, a Tibetan center in moment. I was trying to express my sense of samsara and nirvana not Vermont. “I wasn’t a Buddhist when really being different. It was more of I first went up there,” she said, “but a non-conceptual sense of it, and I everything just really clicked and resonated, especially the Heart Sutra. could not for the life of me explain It was almost immediately that I said I what I was talking about. Then I read this piece in the Survey and I said have been a Buddhist all my life.” ‘That’s it!’ He just expressed very At the time, she was the single mother of a 10-year-old son, working articulately what I was trying to get at. “It was not so much that as a registered nurse. A friend saw Sangharakshita could translate me a newspaper article about Aryaloka Buddhist Center in Newmarket, NH, a but that I was drawn to his intellectual clarity, which was also very nuanced,” town near where they lived. They deViriyagita said. “I’m very devotional, cided to check it out together. They but there’s a side of me that really had trouble finding the place and wants things to be reasonable.” arrived late for friends’ night. The teaching at Karmê Chöling she “There were a couple of order had found “rather vague and not very members sitting there waiting to see if anyone else would arrive,” Viriyagita clear.” Also, the strong emphasis on the guru there had made her uncomrecalled. “It was just my friend and fortable. The spiritual friendship and I, so we got to find out more about the rigor of Dharma teaching were what was then the FWBO (Friends of the primary forces that drew her to the Western Buddhist Order). They Triratna. were obviously tired from working all Those were the early days when day, but friendly.” Their friendliness the Aryaloka Sangha was composed and commitment drew her in. mostly of men. Viriyagita remembers Working nearby, she visited Aryaloka often to meditate at lunchtime. being told that men advanced spiritually more rapidly than women. To “I really liked the shrine room but that, she responded, “I thought it was planned to continue my involvement the other way around!” She was “not with Tibetan Buddhism. Then I just much deterred by that.” started doing more things.” A high point was when the women, Soon, a week-long winter retreat who numbered about six then, under“really cinched it as far as involving took to have a retreat of their own at myself with Triratna,” she said. “The Aryaloka. Manjuvajra, the then chairoverwhelming thing for me was the man, came over “to check the kitchen” way in which spiritual friendship was expressed, how people lived it. I had a and saw the women carrying drums up to the shrine room for a puja. very painful medical emergency with She laughed: “If memory serves, my eye on the retreat. Just the way he wondered out loud whether we people responded to it in a very skillpage 18
were ‘getting into witchcraft.’” It was a defining moment for her. “All by ourselves we had a retreat and a puja with chants to the beating of a drum.” In that puja and afterward, “There was a lot of energy that came from being empowered as women.” Ordinations 1 and 2: what’s in a name? Viriyagita has been ordained twice into the Triratna Buddhist Order, an unusual position. She shared amusing stories about driving country roads in the UK with Dayalocana on their way to retreat centers for ordination training. Her ceremony took place in 1995 at Tiratnaloka with Sanghadevi as her private and public preceptor. She recalls this ordination as a “mythical” experience, especially the receiving of her Buddhist name, which means song [gita] of energy in pursuit of the good [viriya]. “In my childhood I had never felt much seen or encouraged. This name I felt expressed my highest potential, and I felt truly recognized. It felt really, really good,” she said. Viriyagita decided to leave the order in 1997. “Looking back on it I see that, after ordination, I still felt there was part of me that was not integrated. It had to do with passion and love, with the devotional. I felt something – fire or beauty – was not there. She had discovered Sufism and started to believe she could find this devotional fire on the Sufi path. Relationships with the senior order members based in the UK in those days could be closer and more personal than now, because they visited Aryaloka frequently and occasionally came to dinner at the women’s community where Viriyagita was living. She recalled many conversations about her leaving the order. Subhuti, Naghabodhi, Sangharakshita and, of
course, Sanghadevi, all talked to her about it. “Everybody was very kind, listened and gave me their views. Vessantara caught it the most in terms of the devotion and the myth aspect. He said eventually the myth will run out and you will have to come back, almost intellectually, to the truth aspect of it.” Viriyagita said. “They tried to find ways for me not to have to leave. And they were right. I could have explored all this without leaving, but at the time I didn’t feel like I could.” Resigning from the order was painful. “I really felt that I had joined something that allowed me to participate in the Bodhisattva Ideal in a way that was more than what I could do by myself. Leaving that I felt I was breaking a bond.” When she did leave, however, she found she had not left the relationships. Whenever Sanghadevi came to the area they got together. All the order members who had become friends stayed in touch during the years she was out of the order. She eventually left the Sufi group and started coming back to friends’ night and classes at Aryaloka. By 2005 she was ready to start preparing for ordination again, and in 2007 Sanghadevi ordained her for the second time at Aryaloka. Receiving her name this time was even more powerful. Meditating intensively with Sanghadevi strengthened her sense of spiritual friendship and lineage. “I do feel I relate to her that way,” Viriyagita said. Sanghadevi’s interpretation of her name also had expanded. “She fleshed out the meaning of gita as ‘song that inspires.’” Viriyagita had taken up playing the violin, and Sanghadevi talked about playing a stringed instrument and about enthusiasm and not giving up. “I was very different, too. I felt more like everything of me was right there. There wasn’t any question at all in my mind, I just knew now that I would never leave. I thought I knew
it before, but this was a totally new level of that.” Current practice: going beyond suffering Viriyagita has been living with Parkinson’s disease for the past 15 years with minimal impact on her life. In early 2015 her symptoms became more severe and unpredictable. Surgery last year and a long process of adjusting medications have reduced the most painful effects, but she has had to limit her activities. Last fall, she moved into an assisted living community. She has strong experiences with the Metta Bhavana and Six Element practice but is not Viriyagita was ordained into meditating as much the Triratna Buddhist Order as she once did, in 1995 and again in 2007. she said. Sometimes she finds it difficult. “Because from her life. “I try to live in that mythiof one of the medications, there’s a cal realm,” she said. compulsive aspect, and I have a hard “What’s happening here [in assisttime pulling my mind back to the ed living] feels very strong. Maybe it’s moment.” dealing with the worldly winds or with Recently, though, her meditation self, but I’m trying to just be me withpractice received a “huge boost” on out any kind of trappings. I am who a meditation retreat led by Vajradaka I am in that moment, not bringing in May this year at Aryaloka. “I reanything to it. It’s very strong, because sponded to the techniques he taught I feel like I’m really experiencing the and experienced a breakthrough in communication or the interaction. I a longstanding resistance,” she said. can see myself sometimes wanting to “The next meditation, when I was sit back on something, “Well, I did this about to give up, it happened again, and I was this.’ But when I sit with who and my faith and confidence have I am in the moment, sometimes it’s grown tremendously.” very painful because I’m not able to She often has “ah-ha” experiences be what I want to be. And sometimes when reflecting in the middle of the it’s joyful. night. The reflection then moves over “In getting older, I am running into more into meditation. Her devotionsome of the same emotional things I al practice – her Sadhana – remains ran into when I was younger, but I’m central. She tries to do that more - Connections continued on page 20 during the day so it’s not separate aryaloka.org
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rise to much reflection on death. “It comes up in so many ways,” she said. by Sangharakshita. Profound wisdom a different person. I can cope with “For example, I wonder when will is beyond words and thought, beyond these things without compounding my money run out? Should I just die suffering. I don’t feel suffering in the the everyday mind and personality, then?” same way at all. I have pain and so but it can be evoked with the help of Sitting with a dying friend in her forth, of course. But I have to say symbols. We will meet approximately community recently was deeply that the strongest fruit of all this every other week, starting in the affecting. Viriyagita reflected that Buddhist practice is that I don’t have fall. Contact Kiranada (kiranada@ working with her own suffering is “also myfairpoint.net) if you are interested to suffer, no matter what happens. I about having an effect on the world, have a little bit of a handle on that. I’m in joining. which is very important to me. I’ve — Deb Howard surprised when people sometimes always felt I was going back between say, ‘Aren’t you miserable here?’ Well, those two poles of going off to a cave no. And I think I probably would have and changing the world.” Moving into been miserable. There was a choice assisted living perhaps has made in facing old age, sickness and death. the cave option less appealing and I could whine about suffering or turn opened up opportunities for her to toward the challenge.” practice the Bodhisattva Ideal in new The last few years also have given ways.
- Portsmouth continued from page 15 talks and guided meditations given by the four hosting order members along with a lively question-and-answer session on how to work with these practices. There also was silence and ritual, as well as sharing meals and a joyous spiritual friendship. The retreat turned out to be a catalyst in creating an inter-center Sangha, facilitating old and new friends practicing together. A beautiful community indeed! — Perry Blass Fire closes Portsmouth center location Around midnight on April 9, fire broke out in a State Street restaurant in the building adjacent to the Portsmouth Buddhist Center. The fire burned well into the next day and turned out to be the largest fire in recent Portsmouth history. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured, but many people were displaced. The Portsmouth Buddhist Center will not be able to return to the location as the building had water and smoke damage, will be completely renovated and no longer will be available at the below-market rate that page 20
A new shrine is in place at the temporary location – following a fire – for the Portsmouth Buddhist Center at the Veterans Martial Arts Training Studio. made it affordable. The good news is that we had more than adequate insurance coverage. A local non-profit martial arts studio offered to let us share its space at no cost until we find a new center. That location is the Veterans Martial Arts Training, Studio 23, 135 McDonough Street in Portsmouth We only missed one week of programs. We will make use of this
breathing room at least through the summer to build our resources and consider what we want our future center to look like. We are grateful to everyone in the Seacoast community and the Triratna Sangha who have generously provided support of all kinds. Sadhu to friendship! — Bettye Pruitt
Triratna Celebrates 50 Years: ‘Working it Out as We Go’ by Dh. Viriyalila Friends, mitras and order members around the world celebrated the 50-year anniversary of the founding of the Triranta Buddhist Community on April 7, 2017. We are moving into our third generation of communal Dharma practice as set forth by the Buddha and interpreted by our founder, Sangharakshita. Together, we are working it out as we go with guidance and learning opportunities from those who came before us. The Triratna Buddhist Community and Order (which celebrated it’s 49th year on the same weekend) were founded on the basis of our shared Going for Refuge to the Three Jewels – the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. Our expression of that Going for Refuge may vary from person to person and community to community, but our common practices unite us and create a sense of familiarity and unity across continents and cultures around the world. How and where did our Buddhist community begin? The owner of a Japanese gift shop in London’s West End in 1967 offered the basement as a place for a budding group of Buddhist practitioners to meet for meditation. Sangharakshita, self-described as not the best person to start a Buddhist community, nonetheless felt that it was time for a new Buddhist movement in Britain given the conditions prevalent at the time. In that April, a space to come together presented itself. The shop owner, in describing that first gathering, wrote about this Buddhist Dedication Ceremony in London: “An event which may turn out to be a landmark in the further development of the Buddha Dharma in Great Britain took place on the evening of the 7th April. This was the dedication ceremony of the new
A painting of Avalokitshvara by Amala and Viriyalila, originally created in 2010 for Aryaloka‘s 25th anniversary, was displayed in the shrine room at Aryaloka for Triratna’s 50th anniversary celebration.
Triratna (then FWBO – Friends of the Western Buddhist Order) Meditation and Shrine Room.” Through much experimentation we have sought to manifest and sustain supportive conditions to not only practice meditation and deepen our understanding of the Dharma, but also through spiritual friendship, to break through our dualistic frameworks and limited self-views. What are these favorable conditions worth celebrating? The ability to learn from history, both over 2,500 years of Buddhists meditating and discussing Dharma, and over the past 50 years of our own community working it out as we go. We have engaged in a brilliant kaleidoscope of activity throughout time and space with public centers, businesses, communities, large and small retreats, solitary retreats, pilgrimages, study groups, meditation courses, the chanting of the precepts, the harmonies of mantras, the engagement in puja and various rituals, and much more in places all over the world. We have had fun together, sharing our insights and struggles, collectively and individually. We have committed to living in accordance with the precepts. We are willing to be vulnerable with one another when working out our own psychological conditioning. We listen. We speak out. Kindness. Forgiveness. Honesty. Transparency. Understanding our preferences, recognizing our expectations, placing our experiences under the light of the Dharma, letting it shine brightly in us, through us and from us.
The website – TheBuddhistCentre. com – is dedicated to unfolding our 50th anniversary celebrations over the next year. Check out #Triratna50 online for interviews, podcasts, talks from the celebrations, images of beautiful shrines, music, poetry and more. India Dhamma Trust, one of our international charities fundraising for social justice and educational programs in India, stated it well, saying that our celebration of 50 years is “evidence that the spirit of Enlightenment has the power to unite and harmonize diverse cultures.” From A Survey of Buddhism by Sangharakshita, published 60 years ago this year, “The quality of enlightenment is inherent in the universe, or more correctly, latent in every sphere of consciousness, and therefore must come to maturity, according to universal law, whenever the conditions are favorable.” May conditions be in our favor now and well into the future!
Pilgrimage to India Several Aryaloka and Nagaloka Sangha members, joined by a UK order member and his daughter, traveled to India last fall to follow in the footsteps of the Buddha. Here are photos and reflections from three of these travelers.
Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha by Deb Howard Last November, Lilasiddhi, Jean Corson, Pam Raley, Haley Koperski and I from the United States along with Kusala, an order member from England, and his daughter, Maeve Redmond, traveled to India together. We spent three weeks walking in the steps of the Buddha as well as meeting our Triratna brothers and sisters in Nagpur. The tour was organized and led by Manidhamma of Nagpur whose company DharmaJiva works to promote the Buddhist revival in India. The Buddha himself exhorted his followers to visit what are now known as the four great places of pilgrimage: Lumbini, where the Buddha was born; Bodh Gaya, where he became enlightened; Sarnath, where he gave the first Dharma teaching; and Kushinagar, where he passed into the state of Nirvana. We were fortunate to visit all four places along with several others on our pilgrimage. Lumbini: Where the Buddha was born Lumbini, where the Buddha was born, is located just inside the border of Nepal. Recent excavations by archeologists uncovered a tree shrine on the location dated to 6th century BCE. Some 300 years after the Buddha died, Emperor Ashoka visited and erected a pillar to honor the spot. Today, prayer flags and a Bodhi tree planted from a sapling of the original Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha became enlightened commemorate the location.
Photo: Deb Howard (Above) The Buddha was born in Lumbini. (Below) The pilgrims stopped in Bodh Gaya. The travelers included (left to right in blue robes) Dh.Â Kusula, Maeve Redmond, Haley Koperski, PamÂ Raley, Deb Howard, Jean Corson and Dh. Lilasiddhi.
Photo courtesy of Kusala
Bodh Gaya: Place of the Buddha’s enlightenment In Bodh Gaya, Siddhartha sat crosslegged on a cushion of kusa grass beneath the Bodhi Tree and vowed to get up only when he attained supreme knowledge. Mara assaulted him with his weapons and tempted him with his daughters but all in vain. Siddhartha entered deeper states of meditation, and his quest finally ended at dawn. The seeker had become the Buddha. The Mahabodhi Temple, next to the Bodhi Tree, attracts Buddhists from around the world where they practice many types of worship including making offerings, prostrating and chanting. We did a three-fold puja on the temple grounds and meditated under the Bodhi Tree.
Sarnath: Site of the Buddha’s first teaching After attaining Enlightenment, the Buddha traveled to Sarnath and found his five former companions. In the Deer Park there, he first taught them the Dharma and as a result they also became enlightened. At that time the Sangha, the community of the enlightened ones, was founded.
Kushinagar: Where the Buddha reached Parinirvana Kushinagar is where the Buddha reached Parinirvana, leaving his human body behind after more than 40 years of teaching the Dharma. His last words to his followers are said to have been, “Now Bikkhus, I declare to you: all conditioned things are of a nature to decay. With mindfulness, strive on.” Deb Howard is a mitra who has asked for ordination at the Aryaloka Sangha.
(Below) In Sarnath, Jean Corson and Dh. Lilasiddhi sit near the stupa in Deer Park, site of Buddha's first teaching. (Right) Pilgrims meditate in Kushinagar where the Buddha reached Parinirvana.
Photo courtesy of Deb Howard
Photo: Deb Howard
Living the Dharma: The Path of Social Engagement by Jean Corson
The 36-foot Walking Buddha towers over the horizon on the outskirts of Napur on the Nagaloka Campus, representing the Buddha as someone actively engaged in serving others.
Photo: Deb Howard
The young women enter the shrine room in silence, their brilliant saris fluttering in the breeze. The early morning chill still hangs over the Nagaloka campus in Nagpur, India. This 15-acre Buddhist training and conference center supports a residential training program for young Buddhist activists and hosts a variety of classes, meetings and international conferences. Nagaloka also is a pilgrimage site where thousands of people come to see the famous Walking Buddha. Young people, many of them from Dalit families, come from all directions throughout the Indian subcontinent to study the Dharma and activism. After a year, they return to their communities to share and practice what they have learned, committed to spreading the Dharma. For the benefit of all beings Buddhism once thrived in India where more than 2,500 years ago Siddhartha began teaching in the Deer Park in Sarnath. Buddhism was lost through a series of cultural changes and violent suppression. Buddhist followers subsequently migrated to Southeast Asia, the Himalayas and the Far East. Its re-establishment in India began in earnest when Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, an Indian economist, politician and social reformer, led the conversion of 400,000 Dalits to Buddhism in Nagpur more than 50
years ago, beginning a journey for social justice. To those suffering under a repressive system, Buddhism offered personal empowerment and served as the catalyst for social transformation. Although the caste system was outlawed in the country decades ago, the culture still remains entrenched in hierarchical, social, financial, familial and work boundaries. Today, Buddhism has grown to an estimated 10 million practitioners, about 1 percent of the 1.2 billion population. For the Triratna Buddhist Order (TBO) in India, the Buddhist Revival movement has a clear mission to create a different future for millions of Dalits. Buddhism provides a strong foundation for challenging the often‑held negative self-perceptions of Dalits, and establishes a platform for developing practical life and career skills. Members of Indian Triratna sanghas are surrounded by and experience first-hand the injustice that persists for so many Dalits. As engaged Bud-
dhist practitioners, they seek enlightenment and also focus on relieving the suffering around them. As engaged Buddhists, their social activism is integral to their practice and not peripheral. For them, engaged Buddhism is a living, breathing collective effort throughout the subcontinent’s Triratna Buddhist centers to relieve suffering. Their work is impressive and relentless. With the support of their local sanghas and ongoing financial support from Triratna members and other donors around the world, these Buddhists are making a difference. Programs that provide education, Dharma study, job training, personal development, women’s leadership and other community initiatives in Nagpur, Chennai, Kerala and other cities and villages are resulting in measurable social changes. The next generation of engaged Buddhists is being prepared to continue the work of the modern pioneers who changed the trajectory of their lives for the better. Many have
finished job training, have attained college degrees and now have a better chance of gaining meaningful work and realizing a more stable financial future. As Western Buddhists, what is our collective mission? I and my fellow Buddhists from the West visited our brothers and sisters in India in November. We – like other Western Buddhists – support their work and show our worldwide solidarity, reflecting compassion and generosity. I had twice visited Visuddhaloka in Chennai prior to this trip where nearly 40 Dalit children live and attend public school. To a great extent, we Westerners focus primarily on our personal spiritual development and practice in the hope of gaining enlightenment. It is not always clear what our path is – individually or collectively – to serve others. For our Sangha brothers and sisters in India who face significant - Living continued on page 28
To a great extent, we Westerners focus primarily on our personal spiritual development and practice in the hope of gaining enlightenment. It is not always clear what our path is – individually or collectively – to serve others.
- Living continued from page 27 social challenges every day, their mission is always in clear view. While we face many social issues in our world that beg attention to relieve suffering, no single overarching call to action seems apparent for us to rally around. As practitioners here, we acknowledge the importance of engaged Buddhism, but cannot imagine nor relate to the urgency those in India face. After visiting India, I asked myself: As Western Buddhists, how can we fully express compassion as engaged Buddhists? Can we find a uniting focus to reduce suffering? Though individual commitment and action to reduce suffering are commendable and needed, can we collectively have a greater impact? How do we balance seeking our individual enlightenment with supporting the enlightenment of others?
Buddhaworks the aryaloka bookstore
Dharma books, rupas, singing meditation bowls, jewelry and other items are offered for sale at Buddhaworks, Aryaloka’s bookstore. Pottery, artwork, cards and meditation benches crafted by talented local Sangha members also are featured. Pass through the gift shop on your way to and from the shrine room to find something for your devotional practice or a gift for someone special. Leave a note for any ideas you have for other items to include.
Your support brightens Aryaloka’s future. Buddhaworks is located at the Aryaloka Buddhist Center.
While I offer financial and other support for the children at Sakya Hostel in Chennai, I suspect the value of my effort is mostly one of encouragement and as an ambassador to my friends in the East to acknowledge their arduous and important work as Buddhists. What more can I do? I ask myself. Organize for peace, expand our support for those in homeless shelters, do more to stock the shelves of food banks – all are important and deserve my attention and effort. Our Engaged Buddhism Kula at Aryaloka provides guidance and opportunities for our Sangha to act for the benefit of others. Still, the question that we often discuss is how can we provide the greatest value and impact in reducing suffering here at home in New England? Walking with the Buddha From a distance, the magnificent 36-foot gold Buddha towers over the horizon on the outskirts of Napur on the Nagaloka Campus. The Walking Buddha is Dr. Ambedkar’s favorite representation of the Buddha as someone who was actively engaged in the reform of both individuals and society. Standing at the foot of this shrine during my visit in November, I was inspired to live the Bodhisattva Ideal as an engaged Buddhist. I know every day offers opportunities, easy and not so easy, to demonstrate loving kindness and be reminded that there is no separation between myself and others. In the West, can we imagine our collective path as an extension of our individual aspirations for enlightenment? How then, can we have the greatest impact to relieve suffering on our continent? I don’t have a clear answer to that question, but I ask it every day. And I invite my spiritual brothers and sisters on this path to do the same. Together, we can be a force to demonstrate the power of love and action.
Jean Corson, along with other Aryaloka and Nagaloka Sangha members, went on a pilgrimage to India in November. She joined the Aryaloka Sangha as a mitra in 2003. She is an active volunteer and serves on the Aryaloka board of directors.
The Nagaloka Centre: The Future is Happening Here
The travelers to India visited several sites where Buddhists are engaged in helping children and families.
Photo: Deb Howard
by Dh. Lilasiddhi The Nagaloka Centre in Nagpur, India, is a major center in the country of the Buddhist Revival, started in 2002 by members of the Triratna Buddhist Order. Here in Nagpur in 1956, Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, social activist, teacher and major author of the Indian Constitution, led mass conversions of thousands of people formerly known as â€œuntouchablesâ€? from Hinduism to Buddhism. Under the Hindu caste system, started some 2,000 years ago, these people were denied education, housing, medical access and jobs. They could only work collecting trash, clearing animal waste and night soil
or other demeaning tasks and were punished, beaten or even killed for looking at, touching or letting their shadow fall upon members of a higher caste. Fear and violence were part of daily life for the former untouchables, now called Dalits. The effects of such horrific discrimination still shape the mental states and lives of Dalits and members of all castes today in India even though the caste system was outlawed in 1950. Nagaloka supports the peaceful transformation of Indian society by eliminating the effects of the destructive caste system, especially on the Dalit population. Young women and men from across India come to Nagaloka to receive free training in the principles and training of Dr. Ambedkar, Buddhism, the
English language, computer skills and social activism in an eight-month program. Those who wish may continue training in a B.A. program at the University of Nagpur. Nagaloka graduates usually return to their home area to pass on their education, training and social organizing skills with projects serving people in those regions. Regional and national conferences are held annually to support the ongoing efforts of Nagaloka graduates. The Nagaloka experience and training change lives, not just for the direct participants, but also for their families, neighbors and communities. When I and Aryaloka Sangha members visited Nagalokaâ€™s 15-acre campus this past - Nagpur continued on page 30 aryaloka.org
- Nagpur continued from page 29
Photo: Deb Howard The pilgrims in blue robes visited the Aryaloka computer training center for Indian youth. Pictured in the group include Sabrina Metvier (left front row) and Haley Koperski (right front row), Dh. Manidhamma (third from left in top row) who led the trip, Deb Howard (at the very back), Dh. Lilasiddhi (to right of red shirt), and Maeve Redmond, Pam Raley, Dh. Kusula and Jean Corson (upper right corner).
fall, we found a vibrant, enthusiastic, forward looking student body, eager to meet us, reach out to the world and shape a future of change and opportunity for themselves and those around them. I encourage all readers to consider visiting India and the Nagaloka Campus to see the future changing before your eyes. Your presence – as ours was – is extremely encouraging to the students and their families. Transformation is possible and is happening right here at Nagaloka. Such tours are regularly organized by Viradhamma (viradhamma@ sbcglobal.net), an order member based at the San Francisco Buddhist Center. The Nagaloka website – Nagaloka.org – offers more information, photos and stories about this vibrant opportunity. The website includes a link for contributions. You also can send your contribution to Viradhamma: Make your check out to “FWBO Bay Area” and mail to David Creighton, 5724 Van Fleet Avenue, Richmond, CA 94804. Donations to Nagaloka are enthusiastically encouraged. Just $350 can provide a student with room, board and life-changing education for the eight months or a year for the B.A. program. Consider making a donation, and change a life forever. Lilasiddhi was ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order in Spain in 2012. She teaches introductory Buddhism and mitra classes, leads workshops and co-leads Noble Silence retreats at Ayraloka Buddhist Center
A student at Nagaloka with her daughter. Photo: Lilasiddhi page 30
Channeling Cassandra: Aryaloka Depends on Your Support by Tom Gaillard Aryaloka Treasurer I was talking recently with a Sangha friend about Greek mythology, and our conversation turned to Cassandra. Cassandra is often remembered as a mad, disheveled prophetess. What’s often forgotten is that she went mad because no one listened. Apollo had given her the gift of prophecy, but cursed her to a life of being ignored. Cassandra is my unlikely inspiration for the following facts and prophecies about Aryaloka Buddhist Center. Fact: We are aging; our bodies are getting older. Prophecy: In the future, it will be even more expensive to care for our health and welfare.
Fact: Aryaloka is aging. Its body is getting older. So far this year we have spent more than $15,000 on emergency repairs to the heating, plumbing and porch. Prophecy: In the future, it will be even more expensive to care for Aryaloka’s health and welfare. Fact: We have nowhere near enough money to continue to maintain Aryaloka. Fact: Many people pledge generously to Aryaloka. Roughly two-thirds of all active order members and mitras pledge. Prophecy: Nothing short of 100 percent participation by mitras, order members and friends will secure Aryaloka’s future. Many Sangha members enjoy Aryaloka and call it their spiritual home, but seem convinced that “others” will
take care of Aryaloka. We all need to support our Sangha financially. If not us, who? If you are not already pledging, please make a one-time gift or a monthly pledge. Monthly giving may be easier on your budget, and it helps Aryaloka plan with confidence. Please consider an annual pledge of $500. That’s only $1.50 a day! If you already pledge, thank you! Please help us meet our goals and increase your gift (if you can) by 20 percent. A gift or increase in your pledge of any amount is deeply appreciated! Our website makes it easy to pledge, via the online form at Aryaloka.org/get-involved/pledgedrive/ For Cassandra, things ended badly. She was ignored, went mad, and then was murdered. Please don’t make me suffer Cassandra’s fate! Pledge today.
Pledge Your Generosity to Aryaloka Today Dana is the Pali word for generosity. On the Buddhist path, it is considered the first perfection of Bodhisattva training and represents the foundation of all qualities of the spiritual life. Aryaloka came into being and flourishes only through openhearted giving by people like you. Your generosity is essential to nourishing and replenishing our well-loved, wellused (but aging) center.
Please consider the benefit you have received from the teachings and practices provided at Aryaloka. Pledging to Aryaloka provides a wonderful opportunity to express gratitude and support. To make your pledge, please visit Aryaloka.org/getinvolved/pledge-drive/ and pledge online! Every dollar of dana makes a difference. Please join us. We are grateful for your support.
from the editor: Generosity is an ‘Act of True Freedom’ by Mary Schaefer Editor-in-Chief, Vajra Bell I, like many nonprofit leaders, including Aryaloka’s board of directors, am always grasping for the right thing to do and say to prompt people to open their hearts and wallets to support a good cause, including pledging to and supporting Aryaloka. I appeal to you as a Sangha member to be generous to Aryaloka, but more important, I appeal to you as a Buddhist to live and practice generosity. Understanding generosity is key to living the Dharma in your daily life, an alternative to selfishness, greed and possessiveness – a path to liberation. Talking about money is a difficult thing to do. Asking for money is even tougher, especially in a Buddhist Center. Should not the Dharma be given freely (emphasis on free) for all who want to practice? We Buddhists prefer instead to talk about generosity. Recently, I have been getting to know Ratnasambhava, one of the Five Buddhas. When I picked up Vessantara’s book, A Guide to the Buddhas, on a retreat last year at Aryaloka, I opened to the description of Ratnasambhava and was hooked. His generosity is unlimited, and he is sometimes considered the Buddha of giving. Bathed in yellow, golden light, Ratnasambhava is seated in the full lotus position, his right hand
extended in the gesture of supreme generosity. Vessantara describes the Buddha’s Pure Land as supplying all the materials for the artists and writers in his realm, a land rich and fertile with abundance. “Being in his world, you feel an abundance of energy and creativity, an overflowing of happiness.” As I said, I was hooked. In my meditations recently, I sit myself quietly in a vision of this Pure Land, soaking up the love, wisdom, creativity and generosity. Aryaloka is the vessel that holds and supports our Sangha and spiritual practice. Can you imagine our Sangha without that container? Aryaloka is our home, and like all homes, it needs our support to remain vibrant. You and I share the responsibility to steward this treasured resource and leave it as well maintained – or better – than we found it. Yes, I appeal to you to support Aryaloka, and I can give you many reasons why the money is needed. You can probably list them yourself – compensating staff, covering ongoing repairs and upkeep, paying utilities. Aryaloka cares for your spiritual wellbeing. Take good care of it – for your benefit and for the benefit it provides others. One should not give to pay for these expenses or as payment for services rendered, however. That would, as Thanissaro Bhikkhu says, deprive your generosity of its emotional power. There is no obligation to give. This means your
generosity is “an act of true freedom, and thus the perfect place to start the path to total release.” In the realm of Ratnasambhava, harmony and sharing dissolve the boundaries of self and other. Vessantara writes, “When those [boundaries] disappear, all sense of property and ownership vanishes. Then you just share with others – without even any sense of giving, because giving requires a ‘self’ to give and ‘others’ to receive.” I like to think of my pledge to Aryaloka not as giving but as sharing what belongs to everyone. I give because I am inspired and grateful for all Aryaloka represents in my life and practice. Engaging with Ratnasambhava, says Ratnaghosa in a talk I found online, will influence us on a deeper level to act generously. “Our intuition and imagination will provide the foundations for a more thorough and spontaneous life of giving.” I encourage you to join me in engaging with Ratnasambhava. As Ratnaghosa says, “We must fall in love, fall in love with the ideal of generosity. Then we will have the energy, then we will have the interest, the motivation, to embrace with open hearts the open-handed practice of generosity.” Only with mindful awareness and our collective generosity can we create and sustain a community that generates compassion and peace for ourselves, for our families, for our friends and for the world.
‘We must fall in love, fall in love with the ideal of generosity.’ spreading the dharma
keeping sangha connected