spreading the dharma keeping sangha connected
Looking to the Dharma to Deal with Challenges in our Community Facing Our Shadows of the Past by Mary Schaefer page 04 Working Together to Create Beauty from Chaos by Singhashri page 07 Ethical Behavior â€“ Mine, Yours, Ours by Vidhuma page 10 Using A Restorative Approach to Promote Peace by Jnanasiddhi page 12
also: Sangha Connections page 20 Art, Meditation and Mindfulness page 28
vajrabell VAJRA BELL KULA EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Mary Schaefer email@example.com ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Betsy Cadbury firstname.lastname@example.org ASSOCIATE EDITOR: David Watt email@example.com ARTS EDITOR: Deb Howard firstname.lastname@example.org WRITER: Bettye Pruitt email@example.com SANGHA NOTES EDITOR: Lisa Lassner firstname.lastname@example.org DESIGNER: Callista Johnson email@example.com
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© 2017 Aryaloka Buddhist Center
table of contents fall/winter 2017–18
From the Editor: Facing our 04 Shadows of the Past by Mary Schaefer Looking to the Dharma to 05 Deal with Challenges in the World and our Community Dealing with Triratna’s 07 Past: Working Together to Create Beauty from our Collective Chaos by Singhashri
Ethicial Behavior – Mine, Yours, Ours by Vidhuma
Restorative Approach: 12 A ‘Practice’ to Address Issues of the Past and the Future by Jnanasiddhi
14 Arts at Aryaloka 15 Poetry Corner 16 20
Sangha Notes, by Sangha Notes Contributors
Sangha Connections: 20 Interview with Vajramati by Bettye Pruitt Aryaloka Hosts Order Convention 23 for US and Canada by Samayasri
Children’s Sangha: Developing 25 Mindfulness and Gratitude by Alisha Roberts From the Editor: 26 Dr. Ambedkar’s Children Bending Toward Justice by David Watt Art, Meditation and Mindfulness – 28 Connecting us to our Lives by Deb Howard COVER IMAGE: Soosen Dunholter aryaloka.org
from the editor:
Facing our Shadows of the Past by Mary Schaefer Editor-in-Chief, Vajra Bell
learn more about and connect with Triratna’s history and roots. Part of understanding Triratna’s history more deeply involved getting to know As part of the Sangharakshita, the very root of ordination training Triratna. process to join the Sanghadevi, a U.K. order member Triratna Buddhist Order said once in a talk she gave at (TBO), I have been encouraged to go on retreat with the Aryaloka: Given the pioneering nature Triratna Buddhist Community (TBC) in of Triratna, it’s important to know the U.K. This fall, I did a 10-day retreat Sangharakshita, not just for our own sake but for the sake of others. She at Adhisthana, central home for the TBO and the home of Sangharakshita, described his writings as “doorways” Triratna’s founder, and spent another through which we get to know him and what it means to be a Buddhist 10 days visiting centers and order members in Cambridge and London. practicing the Dharma here in the modern world. One reason we are asked to visit That resonated with me along with the U.K. is to gain a more global view the idea that one should know the of Triratna beyond our Aryaloka history of where one lives and where Buddhist Center in New Hampshire. one practices. I already appreciated how I was part While on retreat at Adhisthana, I of something bigger that spanned the had the privilege and opportunity world – thanks to my trip to India in to meet with Sangharakshita. In 2012, a retreat in Mexico that same our nearly hour-long conversation, year with 50-plus North American we covered a wide range of topics women mitras and order members, and, of course, my work with the Vajra including his time in India, Dr. Bhimrao Amdedkar’s work, Buddhism Bell that has connected me with TBO in America, generosity, the violence in and TBC members worldwide. Myanmar and even the controversy My main motivation for the around Sogyal Rinpoche. retreat and my U.K. visit was to
Photo by Alokavira page 4
I also had several in-depth conversations with order members, some of who have known and worked with Sangharakshita for decades. These conversations deepened my understanding and appreciation of Sangharakshita and all he has done to bring Buddhism to the West. At the same time and for months prior to my visit, I had been exploring with order members and fellow mitras about how and if to address in the Vajra Bell the unskillful and problematic behavior of Sangharakshita and other order members in the 1970s and 1980s. The Adhisthana retreat was on Triratna’s Six Guidelines that explore questions such as: What does it mean to go for refuge sincerely or to have an effective practice? The guidelines also talk about the importance of stepping up and speaking up, a point of deep reflection for me on this retreat. I, like many, am struggling with difficulties in our community and the world. In our crazy political environment with the comparisons of - Shadows continued on page 6
The shrine room at Adhisthana with rupas from Triratna centers worldwide
Looking to the Dharma to Deal with Challenges in the World and our Community
The Vajra Bell asked three order members to offer their perspectives on how we, as members of the Triratna Buddhist Community and Order, practice in our community and the world in difficult times and face our shadows of the past, collectively and individually.
- Shadows continued from page 4
for our readers. And I did not want to foster polarization or get into position President Trump to Hitler, I wonder taking that said, “This was right” or if I have the courage to speak up “That was wrong.” when I see wrong being done. And As the Buddhist teacher Pema in situations I have been in, did I put Chodron said years ago, “Can’t say people in harm’s way when I joined yes, can’t say no. Can’t say right, can’t with others in “we can’t say anything” say wrong. . . groundlessness is the when someone I knew was engaged name of the game, it’s not about in harmful behavior? attachment.” She also said, “As far The conspiracy of silence and the as I’m concerned, if you’re going to fear that surrounds unskillful and make things right and wrong you can unethical behavior are powerful. never even talk about fulfilling your Should the Vajra Bell, as an Aryaloka Bodhisattva vows.” and Triratna publication, speak up The Dharma does offer guidance about these issues? In pondering for how to respond with patience, these questions, one fellow mitra told compassion, kindness and generosity me, “You can’t not address this.” and for seeing through self and fixed Also, when I asked Sangharakshita views. I wanted to explore how we in our meeting if I, as editor of the are dealing with this now. How are Vajra Bell, had a voice, he said, “With we, as members of the TBC or TBO, a name like the Vajra Bell,” strongly practicing in these difficult times emphasizing the word Bell, “you have and facing our shadows of the past, a voice whether you like it or not.” collectively and individually? How do And so I speak up. However, I did we practice in the context of human not and do not feel qualified even to interactions that are just that – summarize what this controversy is human? As Subhuti wrote in his “Remorse and Confession in the Spiritual Community,” how can we help each other “analyze the conditions that lead to any serious or recurring ethical failing, to work out a strategy for avoiding its repetition, and subsequently to review the outcome of that strategy?” I invited three order members to offer for this issue their perspectives on these questions and as a way to create conditions for connection and openness. First, Singhashri, who came across Triratna in the early 2000s in San Francisco and who Photo by Akasajoti page 6
now works and lives in London, writes of us working together to create beauty from our collective chaos. Looking at these shadows and trusting that something transformative can come out of it, she writes, “is the alchemical promise of the Dharma, turning our crude material into a precious gem.” Second, Vidhuma, an order member in New Hampshire, writes on how practicing the five basic precepts is an individual and a collective practice. We, as individuals and as a community, need to remind each other of the ethical guidelines we embrace, and question behaviors when they may be inconsistent with those ethical principles. Finally, Jnanasiddhi, an order member in the U.K., writes of how Triratna can use the restorative approach – a peacebuilding tool – to resolve conflict, promote reconciliation and change the system when it contributes to the harm. “I do think our greatest challenge is not what happened in the 1970s and 1980s,” she writes, “but how we all respond to it today, how we relate to each other now and in the future.” Working with these order members, talking with Sangharakshita and visiting the U.K brought home to me, as Sangharaskshita said in our meeting, “You are part of something bigger, and something bigger is part of you.” That something bigger includes all the challenges of being human and working together to create a supportive spiritual community. I offer these voices as a way to collectively and individually, as Vidhuma writes, to keep the moral life-blood of our community and order active and strong.
Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash
Dealing with Triratnaâ€™s Past: Working Together to Create Beauty from our Collective Chaos by Singhashri It is a testament to the culture of the San Francisco Buddhist Center (SFBC) that I did not walk out the door in 2003. That was the year ex-Yashomitra resigned, detailing experiences of abuse in the 1980s: sexual misconduct by Sangharakshita; what I understood as rape or sexual assault by a senior order member who also has since resigned; and harassment and bullying by other order members. I had been involved at SFBC for three years by then and had asked for ordination. I was deeply inspired and ready to give my life to the movement. The order memberâ€™s resignation letter confused and angered me, but the pull of the Dharma and the trust I had in my SFBC friends were strong. So I chose to continue to practice with Triratna. After many years, I have come to terms with my own relationship to Sangharakshita. For me, he is the
founder of the Triratna Buddhist movement. No more, no less. I did not have to say he was my teacher to get ordained. Yet, he is our teacher. He is there among the lineage of teachers and Arya Sangha in our Refuge Tree. I can prostrate myself before him and not feel any sense of incongruence, because I know he is human. He is not on the same level as the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Rather, he is simply holding the whole picture up for me so I can have access to it. I am deeply grateful to him for that, for the role he has played. I love him for it. This was critically important for me to learn: That I can love someone without liking him. Ordination emphasizes effectively going for refuge and readiness to enter the order. My friends at SFBC and I were all effectively going for refuge and sincerely practicing together. It was not always easy, but it was real. I felt witnessed by my peers and teachers, and I witnessed them. At one point, my friends decided
that the Dharma was sufficiently at the center of my life and invited me to join the order â€“ that simple and straightforward. Sangharakshita was one condition in a big, complex web of conditions that led me to find the Dharma, my teacher Viveka, and the Sangha at SFBC. Honor the time and process needed to heal Between the ages of 11 and 16, I watched my mother slowly die of cancer while my father became a vacant shell of himself. I watched two people, who, as far as I could tell, had loved each other and enjoyed life, become deeply depressed and emotionally unavailable. After my mother died, my father, a hard-working and successful surgeon, struggled to support his four children emotionally. I watched him desperately turn to and quickly marry his closest colleague and friend, after promising he would wait until we were all ready for such a massive change - Past continued on page 8 aryaloka.org
- Past continued from page 7
I live the Dharma life to honor my mother’s deepest heart wish for more (which I wasn’t). peace and love in this world. When Our relationship deteriorated rapshe died, I considered her legacy, idly, and I spent a decade recovering her four children. That is what she from the loss while coming out of the left, so I vowed to make the most of closet as a lesbian. I tried to make my life, to use my energy in the best sense of the pain while also struggling way I could. I have found that way by to live a life true to myself. Only after practicing and teaching the Dharma. years of reflection and deep work did I am grateful to have found a context I realize that I had not been afforded in which to do that, one in which I do the space and time to feel the impact not have to give up anything about of those losses, instead being asked who I am and what I value. I am not to “get over it” for the sake of the giving up on this context. family who accused me of being too In the Foundations of Tibetan sensitive. Mysticism, Lama Govinda writes, “That That all feels familiar now in by which you fall is that by which Triratna as collectively we come to you will rise again.” He is referring to terms with and heal the wounds the skillful means through which a of the past. Some people suggest guru takes on a student with impure that we should be able simply to intentions, knowing that through acknowledge the past and move sincere practice those intentions on. For some of us, especially those will be purified. With the guru’s help, with a history of abuse, this is harder the student transforms her greatest than for others. My deep aspiration weakness into her greatest strength. for our community is that we honor This is the alchemical promise of the the time and process needed for Dharma, turning our crude material this, especially acknowledging into a precious gem. our diversity. We are all practicing with these issues in the context of Allow the Dharma to work our unique conditioning. It will be Another aspiration I hold for our different for each of us, and each community is that we turn toward our of our experiences is valid and own weaknesses and sit with the pain appropriate. that burns there. Allow the Dharma to work on us. Allow the energy currently Living my mother’s wish for peace bound up there to become a means and love for liberation. Turn our greatest weak-
ness – the shame, anger, confusion, arrogance or fear – into our greatest strength, a source of pride (in the good sense!). One day, then, we can look back and say, “We did it; we faced our fears, our demons, our shadows and brought them into the fold, turning them into a means for awakening.” At age 41, I have (hopefully) many years ahead to have a positive effect on this movement’s direction. What does a middle way look like in this current situation, a choice beyond apathy or anger? This choice calls me to sit with how painful this is, listen deeply to myself and others, not assume I have any answers, and trust that something transformative will come without knowing what that will be. I want to become genuinely interested in the resistance that arises in me when I hear or read a view different from mine. I want to consider other people, what their conditioning might be, how they are being themselves in this moment and doing the best they can. I want to appreciate each of us for who we are, create spaces where we can pay attention to what calls and express what needs expressing without judgment or criticism. I want to move into spaces where we collectively can explore these issues, this crudeness that is yet to be integrated and transformed, and work together to create beauty from
This choice calls me to sit with how painful this is, listen deeply to myself and others, not assume I have any answers, and trust that something transformative will come without knowing what that will be.
our collective chaos. I want those hurt by our movement’s past, and how it manifests through our behavior in the present, to feel safe and able to raise challenging questions without being dismissed as oppositional or disloyal.
to fix anything, but because that is what the situation asks of us. We are in a collective cremation ground, where, as Sangharakshita has said, we either grow or die. I want us to grow. We have no choice. Many times I have thought to myself, Trust in our capacity to practice “I wish Bhante had never done what in this he did. I just want to get on with I want to trust our capacity to practicing the Dharma. Why do we practice in this experience, even when have to deal with this?” that means we speak or act unskillfulBut then I remember, there is noly while we fumble our way through. where else to “get on” with practicing This is part of our process, to mess up the Dharma. This is the practice. and then learn from that. We cannot expect that we will always act with awareness, kindness and compassion, or be coming from our best selves. If we understand this, we can meet each other as fellow practitioners, help one another bring more awareness and love into the situation, not
Singhashri came across the Triratna Buddhist movement while living in San Francisco in the early 2000s. She was ordained in 2010 and since 2012 has been working for Breathworks, a secular mindfulness organization based in the United Kingdom (U.K.) and run by a team of Triratna order members and mitras. She lives and works in London as Breathworks program director. Singhashri is a lover of meditation and delights in sharing her practice with others through her teaching. She teaches at the West and North London Buddhist Centres and on residential retreats across the U.K.
Ethical Behavior: Mine – Yours – Ours by Viduma My life is defined by my actions. Yours is, too. My thoughts, emotions, perceptions and beliefs all ultimately express themselves in how I act. The same for you. Our actions shape how we think, what we feel, how we perceive the world and what we believe. The Buddha based his teachings on this foundational truth. A spiritual life must rest on a bedrock of behavior that reflects ethical clarity and consistency. Without clearly defined moral values and behavior in harmony with those values, spiritual development is not possible. To live at peace with yourself and with other beings who share our planet would be unimaginable without unambiguous values to guide our behavior. Inner and outer troubles would plague us daily. The Buddha repeatedly and emphatically taught to all his audiences – monks, nuns, laywomen and laymen – five basic ethical precepts or training principles for living a spiritually satisfying life. These five were expanded and elaborated on in detail for nuns and monks who took full ordination in his Sangha. Over the centuries, as Buddhist teachings spread and evolved, hundreds of precepts developed for the monks and nuns of various Buddhist traditions and schools. However, the original five ethical guidelines as taught by the Buddha have remained the sine qua non – an essential condition – of living a Buddhist spiritual life. No matter what tradition or school, page 10
all sincere Buddhist followers today commit themselves to the basic five that were set down 2,500 years ago. Here are the five basic precepts, paraphrased in my own words. These precepts are both values and paths of action. They are expressed in the negative (what to avoid doing) and in the positive (what affirmatively to do): 1. Do the least harm that you possibly can to all life. Treat everything and everyone (yourself included) with kindness and respect. Develop a reverence for all life. 2. Take nothing that is not given to you. Give generously of yourself and your possessions to everyone. 3. Do not be impulsive and thoughtless in your sexual relationships. Be thoughtful and caring in your sexual relationships. 4. Do not be dishonest with others or with yourself. Do not pretend to know something you do not know or to be someone you are not. Speak the truth as you experience it, to yourself and to others. It is the only way to know and trust yourself, and the only way for others to know and trust you. 5. Do not do anything to abuse, intoxicate or mistreat your mind, and do not do anything that constricts or hardens your heart. Keep your mind as clear and untroubled as possible, and keep your heart as open and pure as possible. Pay careful attention to what you are doing before you do it and while you are doing it.
Take full responsibility for what you have done after you have done it. These are difficult principles to live by, but it is no excuse for refusing to make an effort. Life, especially a spiritual life, is not easy. Not taking ethical principles seriously inevitably leads to moral confusion and self-doubt, guilt and self-effacement. These ethical guidelines are training principles, not commandments. We will not be perfect at living by them; instead we aim to keep learning how to use them more and more effectively. Our self-respect and confidence grow as our actions become more guided by these moral principles. Conforming our lives as tightly as possible to these values is our only chance to have peace. They are as necessary to us as breathing. A collective, not just an individual, practice Living according to these precepts is not just a personal, individual practice. They also must be a community effort. We depend on our spiritual community – in whatever form that takes – to sustain us. One’s spiritual life thrives and dies by our engagement with others. Living in harmony with others is the beating heart of a life of peace and happiness. Our wellbeing and that of others are not separate. How do we apply the five ethical principles to our community? One of our spiritual community’s strongest supports is knowing that others we respect live by basic values similar to ours. Embracing a common ethical framework reinforces the importance
Our self-respect and confidence grow as our actions become more guided by these moral principles. Conforming our lives as tightly as possible to these values is our only chance to have peace. They are as necessary to us as breathing.
of the precepts. We appreciate each other’s efforts and say so out loud. We hear each other’s confusions about what to do. We help each other in our actions and accept the consequences of our actions. We support each other when we must make painful choices. We admonish each other when we make dangerous or foolish choices. This last aspect can be particularly difficult. However, living in an honest, respectful and caring spiritual community may require us to steer each other away from harmful actions. Conversely, failing to steer each other away from harmful actions can bring anguish to our community and its members. Thus, we have a responsibility to speak out against actions that are not in harmony with the five basic precepts. From its earliest days, the Aryaloka community has based the principles for its moral behaviors on the five Buddhist precepts, and continually has sharpened its ethical principles for more than 30 years. Sometimes this has grown out challenges among community members as to what
may be harmful and how, leading to unwelcome or unpopular conversations. These issues and conversations about them have helped clarify how to address moral dilemmas that arise in living by these five precepts. For example, more than a decade ago, the Aryaloka board established formal ethical guidelines for teachers that describe and forbid inappropriate behavior with students. This was a deliberate effort to make clear our community’s ethical values with respect to the first and third precepts. Although it is an independent center, Aryaloka is part of the worldwide Triratna Buddhist Community (TBC). When the controversies about TBC’s history of sexual and other ethical misconduct were published recently, Aryaloka’s Spiritual Vitality Council (SVC) engaged in a process to clarify further the community’s moral principles and conduct. The SVC encourages this continuing process to keep the moral life-blood of the community active and strong. This process is a part of making clear that spiritual community members must remind each other of the
ethical guidelines they embrace, and question behaviors when they may be inconsistent with those ethical principles. We do not tell each other how we should or should not act, but we must talk openly about our actions and how they may cause harm and affect the community as a whole. The whole community is raised up by the noble actions of its members, as is the community injured by its members’ harmful actions. We become heirs to the behaviors of our brothers and sisters. With that truth comes the heavy responsibility to look at our actions and the consequences of a lapse in moral clarity. Honest questioning and dialogue are a benefit, a gift, to the community, and keep our moral principles alive and well. Our five ethical precepts are beautiful. They sparkle and shine in a world that can seem dark and confusing. Their beauty depends upon their continually being polished. Our moral values must be kept alive and breathing. They are not dry objects, but are vascular. If we cut them, they bleed. If we support, nurture, embrace them, we are supported, nourished and embraced in return. Each of us, as well as our community, becomes vital and bright.
Vidhuma has been dedicated to learning Buddhism and living his life accordingly for nearly 30 years. He was ordained in 1997 in the Triratna Buddhist Order, and is actively engaged in teaching and other activities at Aryaloka Buddhist Center.
A ‘Practice’ to Address Issues of the Past and the Future by Jnanasiddhi
Learn from conflict resolution and transformation I work for a small Looking at how people are reacting charity in the United to and debating issues around the Kingdom (U.K.) that controversial aspects of Triratna’s promotes peace through past, I see we can learn much from peace education. Our the world of conflict resolution organization recently and transformation. From what I consulted with a group that was know of Triratna – 25 years in the exploring issues we need to tackle movement and 17 years as an order in our communities and how peace member – I believe we have a solid education could help. ground of metta, strong connections, The top issue, that all the individuals commitments to the speech precepts and organizations we spoke to and experience of Sangha to build identified, was polarization. Yet upon, as well as the wisdom of the six years ago, when I did a similar gentle Buddhas to inspire us. exercise, polarization was not We teach about conflict styles in our mentioned at all. In the U.K. today, we work. Are you a shark, standing your see sharp polarization over Brexit. In ground, meeting conflict head on, or a the United States, we hear it around turtle retreating to your shell, avoiding the 45th President. We have it in the conflict altogether? Are you a Triratna, too. teddy bear wanting to make it all right As someone who works for a as quickly as possible, perhaps giving peace education charity, I find these in to make that happen? Or are you are interesting times indeed! The a fox who makes quick compromises practices I promote and train in and brokers deals? feel relevant particularly now in my We aspire to be collaborative, spiritual community. working together to hear different How do we in Triratna use perspectives and to meet as many the ideals, the practices and the needs as we can, including our own. connections we have with each other We have to accept though, that in to work with our polarizations, our times of stress, we may have a less different views and perspectives, than healthy reaction. without papering over them or Academic research on peace allowing them to fracture us? How studies, particularly from Wolfgang do we deal with conflict? Ignoring it is Dietrich, an Austrian peace researcher one way humans deal with it. How do and political scientist, tells us that we respond to people who have been not only do people engage in conflict harmed or caused harm? How do we differently, they also do peace dialogue around differences? What differently. Some people look for does resolution or peace look like to harmony, others for justice, some for us? What do we bring? How can we safety and security, and still others work for our resolution, and yet be approach it from a multiplicity of with others who may see the whole truths. situation differently? Action is important, but what may seem simple and obvious to us may page 12
not appear that way to others. We, who identify as Triratna in some way, need to resolve some issues from the past. We also have to build a Sangha, a community that can deal with future conflicts that we will face inevitably. I proposed to the Triratna College of Public Preceptors, the body responsible for the ordination of everyone who enters the Triratna Buddhist Order, that the Triratna Buddhist Community (TBC) use a peacebuilding tool. Specifically, I suggested Triratna offer a restorative approach to those who have been hurt by Sangharakshita’s sexual activity. This can be a way to address the conflicts and hurts that have arisen as a result. The college is now offering a restorative process, facilitated by someone independent of Triratna, to some individuals as a starting point. I also suggested that a restorative approach is a good model for conflict resolution within Triratna in general. Drawing on my knowledge and that of others, we are looking at training for different interest groups within Triratna. So what is a restorative approach? Why does it fit? Restorative justice (RJ) has been around for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, in all but name. First Nations people who identify themselves by the nation to which they belong in Canada and the United States and the Maori, the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand, have had the most impact on the restorative justice movement. RJ has a different basis from the traditional approaches of the more familiar top down retributive justice.
Photo by Sabine Schulte on Unsplash
This, too, is a practice: to work wholeheartedly towards a goal that may not be achievable. The efforts may take us somewhere new or teach us something we needed to know to take the next step.
The retributive approach to handling wrongdoing revolves around three questions: What rules were broken? Who did it? What do they deserve? A restorative approach centers around these questions: Who has been hurt? What are their needs? Whose responsibility is it to put it right? RJ usually refers to work in the criminal justice system with a wider application for schools, communities and other organization. RJ is concerned fundamentally with restoring relationships, and involves the harmer, the harmed and the community in a search for solutions that promote repair, reconciliation
and reassurance. The key goals of the restorative approach, taken from the work of Howard Zehr, an American criminologist, are: • To understand the harm done and develop empathy for both the harmed and the harmer • To listen and respond to the needs of the harmed and the person who harmed • To reintegrate the harmer and harmed into the community • To create caring climates to support healthy communities • To change the system when it contributes to the harm
For me, this reflects the areas we need to look at as a spiritual community: 1. Listen to the accounts of those hurt and ask them about any current needs 2. Look at how we live in community together going forward, building and repairing the relationships that have been fractured and damaged 3. Ensure that our systems and cultures are healthy now, that we have learned what we need to, and that we can continue to learn as we inevitably have more conflicts, make more mistakes. - Restorative continued on page 24 aryaloka.org
arts at aryaloka Aryaloka Exhibit: Simplicity and Complexity
Upcoming Exhibits at Aryaloka Aryaloka has a deep commitment to the contemplative arts, supporting creativity and artistic expression as tools for communicating spiritual insights, and, in the process of creation, dropping the “self.” To realize this aspiration, Aryaloka has featured more than 16 exhibits over the past nine years, and, in 2018, will feature three more artists sharing their Buddhist sensibilities. “The Water Element” will highlight the vibrant New England spring with a group of 13 paintings by artist John Sirois. Like meditation, painting is a daily practice for John. His exploration of color, texture, atmosphere and energy are informed by his love of the moving water in rivers, lakes and streams. The large-format photography of Lawrence Elbroch of Maine will be featured this summer, and will include portraits and landscapes that explore Buddhist Asia. The photographer’s goal is to capture the spirit of a place or person with available light. “The Rakusu Project” will come to Aryaloka next fall. Ann Cooper of New Mexico has produced a personal exploration of the Zen Buddhist Rakusu, a cloth garment not unlike the Triratna kesa, created for a Zen student to be worn at a jukai (lay ordination) ceremony. The exhibit will feature 21 hand-sewn paper Rakusu, each inspired by a haiku poem of Santaka Taneda. — Kiranada
“Shibui Ink, Paper and Stones” exhibit at Aryaloka this fall delighted visitors who remarked on its uniquely harmonious and tranquil quality. The show combined the calligraphy of Belmont, MA, artist Rona Conti with the sensitive cairn rock prints of Peterborough, NH, artist Soosen Dunholter. The two exemplified the meaning of Shibui, a Japanese word that speaks of simplicity and complexity, elegance and roughness, spontaneity and constraint. Artist Soosen Dunholter’s work focuses on shape and color in harmonious images of cairns.
Artist Rona Conti demonstrated a traditional calligraphy technique at the opening of the exhibit at Aryaloka.
poetry corner Portions of Dhardo Rinpoche’s relics, the ashes from his cremation, have been installed in several stupas in the West including the one at Aryaloka and this one at Padmaloka Buddhist Retreat Centre near Norwich, England. Photo courtesty of Padmaloka Buddhist Retreat Centre
Rest area, Route 25, East Limington, Maine by Gunopeta Men, each endowed with the Great American Belly wade awkwardly, knee-deep in current, with their dogs;
Padmaloka Retreat by Ed Rogers
Meditators who walk briskly in a clockwise rotation around the stupa of Dhardo Rinpoche, crowding into the small courtyard with the sweet smell of incense; never collide. On the edge of the courtyard, a tiny blue flower, blooms from a crack between the paviours, yet is never crushed. Like śraddhā it survives.
women, whose two-piece suits speak, unfortunately, volumes, dangle, like their children, their feet in the shallows. The broad smooth rocks smile in summer sun. No one else seems to notice the way the water flashes its slim nakedness over and over as it runs past forever or those three heavy power lines sagging high overhead or the pulse of traffic on the bridge upstream. No one else notices, either, it seems, the way the river widens suddenly just below here, and darkens out of sight from happiness into choppy grief.
sangha notes ARYALOKA SANGHA (NEWMARKET, NH)
Special events at Aryaloka Khemmavassika and Satyada led this year’s Dharma Day celebration which, in addition to meditation, featured Dharma readings from order members, pot luck lunch and puja. Ashokashri, an order member from the U.K., led an order weekend on “Sadhana as Insight Practice.” fully ordained member of the Triratna The October “Meditation Tune-Up: Buddhist Order. Kamalasiri means Moving into the Dhyanas” was led by Lilasiddhi who inspired participants to “she who has the beauty of a lotus.” find their calm presence and joy. Nagabodhi visit Nagabodhi, an order member from the U.K. and president of Aryaloka, spent a few weeks at Aryaloka this summer and led several events. He, Satyada and Dhammarati, another U.K. order member, led a three-day retreat, “To Realize the Unrealized: An Exploration of the Anapanasati Sutta.” He and Sunada lead a halfday workshop on getting started with mindfulness, and he hosted an order/ Newly ordained Kamalasiri mitra day called “Living the Buddhist Life.” Friends’ Night, practice continues — Pete Ingraham Aryaloka’s Friends’ Night continues on Tuesdays: the winter session Three ordinations at Aryaloka wrapped up the teachings on “Who Members of the Aryaloka and is the Buddha?” and the spring outlying sanghas came together in sessions will explore the three jewels. August to witness the ordination of Bodhana offers Tuesday, Wednesday Rochelle Gatlin of San Francisco, CA, and Thursday morning open and Steve Wade of Boston, MA. The event included many order members meditation sessions, and Satyada who gathered at Aryaloka for the start leads meditation and puja on Friday evenings practice. of the order convention for U.S. and — Lisa Lassner and Pete Ingraham Canada. Ashokashri and Nagabodhi, the public preceptors led the ceremony, and Karunadevi and Suddhayu, the private preceptors, shared their stories of Medhashri (Rochelle) and Chittavan (Steve) and their new names. In September, mitra Elizabeth Hellard left for Spain with her private preceptor Dayalocana and returned several weeks later as Kamalasiri, a page 16
Aryaloka’s pledge drive We are grateful to the Sangha members who pledged $46,000 in support to Aryaloka. More than 50 percent of our pledging members increased their pledges over last year. Thank you, too, to the pledge drive volunteers Satyada, Lilasiddhi, Barry Timmerman, Elizabeth Hellard and
Chittavan (Steve Wade) (top left) was ordained by his private preceptor Suddhayu (next to him). Karunadevi (bottom left) ordained Medhashri (Rochelle Gatlin) at Aryaloka in August. Preceptors leading the public ordinations were Ashokashri (second from right) and Nagabodhi. Alisha Roberts for reaching out to the sangha. You can still make a pledge to Aryaloka at http://www.aryaloka.org/ get-involved/pledge-drive/ — Tom Gaillard Aryaloka projects and fundraising Akashaloka, our building at Aryaloka, is getting new steps thanks to the work of Narottama, Paul Dupre and the generosity of donors who contributed to our “Step-Up for Aryaloka” funding initiative. Following this project, the next effort will be new stairs to the Aryaloka shrine room. Amalavajra, the chief fund raiser for Triratna worldwide and former JP Morgan Banker, offered a workshop this fall on developing a Dana economy and cultivating a culture of generosity. — Barry Timmerman Spiritual Vitality Council The Spiritual Vitality Council (SVC) hosted this summer’s Mandala Evening, a quarterly event at Aryaloka that is an opportunity for all in the Sangha to come together. The theme was “The Jewel in the Heartwood.” The SVC has defined Aryaloka’s guiding principles, values and commitments in the document, “Principles of the Heartwood.” These principles guide Aryaloka’s programming and activity decisions. Council members presented various aspects of these principles at the event for discussion. - Aryaloka continued on page 22
sangha notes PORTSMOUTH BUDDHIST CENTER (PORTSMOUTH, NH)
NAGALOKA SANGHA (PORTLAND, ME)
New Mitras and Changes at Nagaloka Two new mitras – Mandy Johnson and Stacey Guth – were celebrated at Nagaloka this fall. Dharmasuri led the ceremony with Louise Tuski and Janet Miles rejoicing in the merits of our newest mitras. Nagaloka Buddhist Center now has 16 mitras. Dharmasuri, who founded and has led Nagaloka for 15 years, has stepped down as chair to enable her to travel more and deepen her practice. The center now is being run by a management team of five Photo by Laura Horwood-Benton Sangha members and Dharmasuri, and we are learning as we go. We Since the Portsmouth Buddhist welcome order members to visit Center has moved several times, its Nagaloka and spread their wisdom shrine has no permanent home, and understanding. depicted here in a scene representing —Louise Tuski its wandering nature. Mitra study Dharmasuri and the mitras kicked The Peripatetic Sangha off a new study program at Nagaloka. As 2017 draws to a close, we look Dharmasuri will be with them as back on a year of a strong, shared much as possible when she is not experience of impermanence. A fire in traveling, but they will continue to April ended our time at our two-year meet regularly. Nagaloka invites other downtown Portsmouth location. We mitras in the region to attend the found a temporary space at V-MAT, Sunday study program. If interested, a local nonprofit that provides free contact the center for more details. martial arts training to veterans. Since —Dharmasuri then, however, our Sangha gatherings Nagaloka at the Cumberland have continued to be something of a County Jail “moveable feast.” Nagaloka has been running a The core of this experience meditation group at the Cumberland was our Sunday in the Park series County jail on Friday afternoons from this summer. From June through 3:30 to 4:30. September, we held our regular The group includes men with Sangha gatherings in a nearby city some, little or no experience with park. We started with a one-time meditation. The session begins with a meditation, picnic and brunch, but the setting was so strong and positive, Dharma talk. We almost always review the Four Noble Truths and what the we kept coming back. We set up our Triratna Sangha is all about. Then semi-circle of mats and chairs in front of two stone benches flanking a we talk about the purpose of dogwood tree and invoked the forest meditation. Early on, participants are reluctant to share much, but settings of the Buddha’s Sangha. We - Portsmouth continued on page 22
KHANTE OUTREACH (NH and MA)
The Khante Outreach continues to work with incarcerated men in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Another effort is forming around supporting men once they are released. Sangharakshita recommends this form of other-oriented practice: “On a more practical level, another method is simply helping other people. You might devote yourself to visiting the sick, the destitute, the mentally disturbed, or visiting people in prison. You might do these things very willingly and cheerfully, disregarding your own comfort and convenience – might do them without any personal, selfish motive.” — from The Essential Sangharakshita. Our volunteers support both meditation and study sessions weekly at the NH State Prison for Men in Concord. Quarterly retreats are offered, and the October retreat focused on meditation. In Berlin, NH, there is a practice and study group where we have a new mitra, Mike Dixon. At the Federal Medical Center in Devens, MA, there are groups within the main facility and in the “camp,” a low security facility outside the wires. If you would like to volunteer, the impact you have is hard to underestimate. Working directly inside is one option, but you also can correspond with the inmates, or support men as they return to life once released. Please feel free to reach out to Satyada or Khemavassika for more information. —Satyada
- Nagaloka continued on page 22 aryaloka.org
sangha notes SAN FRANCISCO SANGHA
ROCKY MOUNTAIN SANGHA
(SAN FRANCISCO, CA)
Retreat centers spared major damage Fires have been raging across California, but so far the San Francisco Buddhist Center’s (SFBC) retreat land two hours north the city is unaffected. There was water system damage at one of the places we rent for retreats in the Santa Cruz mountains, but they expect it to be available for our winter retreat as planned. We are thankful to the fire fighters who worked hard to stop the fires, and also have a renewed appreciation for the ability to breathe clean air since the city’s air quality was poor during the fires. Sangha activities The core Sangha of mitras and order members gathered in May to review council and teaching kula updates. The second half of the gathering was a send-off for Rochelle Gatlin who became Medhahshri on retreat at Aryaloka in August. This fall, Ethan Davidson, a mitra in the ordination process, received a long-anticipated call that there was
a liver available for him. The Sangha, his family and friends sprang into action. Many people, or perhaps a multi-armed being, got him to the hospital within the four-hour window after receiving the call, called and visited him daily to learn how to care for him post-transplant, hosted him in spare rooms, and provided 24-hour care and meals. All was possible with Sangha. Gratitude is in full bloom, most boundlessly for the liver donor. In October, SFBC hosted a reading as part of Lit Crawl, a literary event that takes place in the Mission district one night a year as part of Lit Quake, a larger festival. Our topic was “Transgressions,” and we featured readers from within and beyond the SFBC Sangha. We also offered a Saturday writing retreat in the middle of a multi-week focus on creativity. There are many creative people in the local Sangha, including visual artist Amy Rathbone who recently donated two paintings to SFBC. — Mary Salome
At the Rocky Mountain Sangha night, we are working on the foundation year of Triratna study, and will finish up the first part in January. Our Tuesday book study group has read Life with Full Attention by Maitreyabandhu and Living as a River: Finding Fearlessness in the Face of Change by Bodhipaksa. We will round the year out with Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind Can Heal the Heart by Tara Bennett-Goleman. Saramati with support from Varasuri will be doing a 10-week class on “The Bodhisattva Challenge – Reconciling Wisdom and Compassion” starting in January. We are fortunate to have these order members, well-seasoned in the Dharma, close at hand. Karunakara and Samatara will travel to India for the Triratna International Order Convention, marking the 50th anniversary of the Triratna Order.
Sun Lakes Retreat The annual Sun Lakes State Park Retreat (near Coulee City, WA), put on by the Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver and Missoula sanghas, was held in September and led by Lokeshvara, an order member from the U.K. TRIRATNA VANCOUVER Some 55 people participated. After (VANCOUVER, BC) the Sun Lakes Retreat, Dhammarati, also from the U.K., made his annual The Triratna Vancouver Sangha meditation and deepen our helped organize the Sun Lakes understanding of the Dharma. A mitra visit to Missoula as center president. State Park retreat (near Coulee in the ordination training process also He participated in an order member City, WA) in the fall with more than organizes a silent meditation practice evening and council get together and led a Sangha night. Lokeshvara also 50 participants from four Pacific on Saturday mornings, and we lead visited the Sangha, leading a practice Northwest centers – Missoula, Seattle, two mitra study groups. Our Sangha Tacoma and Vancouver, BC, Canada continues to grow, and we welcomed day and another order gathering. —Samatara in the Pacific Northwest. The retreat three new mitras: Brant Karmen, welcomed three order members from Roberta MacDonald and Henrik the U.K.: Dhammarati, Lokeshvara Meyer. and Amalavajra. The visiting order — Paramita Banerjee members visited each center and gave talks to inspire spiritual practice and commitment to a Buddhist way of life. The center holds three Sangha nights per week to practice page 18
NEW YORK SANGHA (NEW YORK CITY, NY)
Continuing to evolve The New York City Sangha continues to evolve. Following a visioning exercise during our retreat at the Won Dharma Center in February, a new council was formed, and we have begun experimenting with and exploring new formats based on Sangha member feedback. After many years of moving to different rental spaces for our weekly Sangha nights and beginner classes, we shifted this summer to a Tuesday Sangha night and Sunday morning drop-in group that floated among the homes of various Sangha members. Starting in November, NYC Sangha
shifted gears again, and is using a “breather space” near Union Square that can be rented on an event-byevent basis. We use that space for Sangha nights one Tuesday night per month. On other Tuesdays, two weekly practice groups come together to meditate and study. “In New York many of us live intensely busy lives, and travelling from one side of the city to another is a big deal,” said Sangha Chair Samayasri. “We need to be sure that when we do have events, the content and group size will be sufficient to satisfy people when they get there. People have told us that they value Sangha, along with in-depth practice, and that they want more
opportunities to communicate with each other.” Supporting Vajramati Earlier this year, the Sangha came together to support Vajramati, who stepped down earlier as NYC Sangha chair, as he dealt with prostate cancer. Sangha members coordinated their efforts for daily support. We provided Vajramati with valuable insight and guidance along with emotional support, accompanied him to doctor appointments, and brought food to his home and took long walks with him during his recovery. It was our way to repay him just a little for his many years of friendship, guidance and leadership. — Gary Baker
We dedicated the center with a five “We want to be open to the Buddha mandala ceremony created community,” Padmadharini added, by Ananta. We wandered through “and are hoping to host local events Two long-time New York Sangha the woods at night making offerings for community residents and regional members – Padmadharini and Elaine at unique shrines set up at the four events bringing together Triratna Smith – wandered into the New Jersey compass points on the property and communities from the greater woods and opened Blue Sky Refuge, the shrine room in the center. Northeast and beyond. Our goal is (www.blueskyrefuge.com), a new “We want supporting the NYC to create a place for healing, where retreat center. Sangha to be our primary function,” people can deepen their practice. Located in Stockton, NJ, the 10said Elaine. “Bhante (Sangharakshita) Finally, we want to be sensitive to the bed center sits on three acres and encourages regular retreats, and it’s environment, and we’re preparing features a modern, open and lightbeen very challenging for NYC Sangha the soil for the planting of an organic filled building. The porch looks out members to have to travel six or garden in the spring.” over a small pond stocked with water seven hours to Aryaloka, or pay to “We’re off to a good start,” Elaine lilies, koi and goldfish along with some rent space at closer retreat centers said. “The place has truly come local frogs. Surrounded by gardens in the Hudson Valley. With Blue Sky together, and people have been very and farmland, the retreat center is Refuge, we can easily organize NYC generous to us, donating artwork, an ideal place to practice, build or Sangha retreats every few months.” furniture, decorating services, and renew friendships and find peace and help with the garden and pond.” respite. Best of all, it is only an hour and a half from Midtown Manhattan and even closer to Philadelphia. Blue Sky Refuge held its inaugural retreat for Triratna NYC Sangha members this fall. The retreat started with Vajramati leading a dedication ceremony of the new shrine. Padmadharini and Ananta helped us consider the lessons of the Madhupindika Sutta, also known as the Honey Ball Sutta. We focused on papancha, the seemingly endless The NY Sangha came together to dedicate the Blue Sky Refuge retreat center in New mental proliferation that can result Jersey. Sangha members attending included (left to right sitting) Padmadharini, when faced with significant life Ananta Jarrod, Elaine Smith and (standing left to right) Vajramati, Christian Brennan, challenges. Liesl Glover, Gary Baker, Zachary Nataf, Zoltan Molnar and Alyssa Fradenburg. New Jersey’s Blue Sky Refuge opens
sangha connections Vajramati: Doing Whatever Needed to be Done to Build Triratna by Bettye Pruitt
Triratna community. He had a good job, and they bought a house. EvenVajramati was in his tually, though, they split up, wanting early 20s when, as Peter different things from life. Minter, he first went to Vajramati then moved into the a Triratna [then Friends Norwich men’s community and quit of the Western Buddhist his job when the community opened Order] Buddhist center a small vegetarian restaurant. “I was to learn meditation. He was married spending my days working in this and starting a career as an electronengineering facility when my friends ics design engineer. Yet he was still were having a good time working searching for what he wanted to do in the restaurant.” His co-workers with his life and resisted his wife’s thought he was crazy, but he was dream of homemaking and children. “I certain he wanted to be part of the didn’t want to just fall into the married vibrant group around the Buddhist suburban life,” Vajramati recalled. center. He had read enough about He still nurtured plans to live Buddhism to be curious. One day abroad, but when the manager of when he and his wife were shopping the restaurant went to London to in Ealing Broadway, West London, he help out at the London Buddhist saw a flyer for a meditation class. They Centre (LBC), Vajramati agreed to started going together to what was take her job. He also was going to the beginning of the West London mitra classes, attending every retreat Buddhist Centre in the local Friends possible and doing whatever needed Meeting House, where Vajramati to be done around the Norwich met his first teacher, Vangisa. Driving Buddhist Centre. home one night, his wife said, “If you weren’t married to me, you’d be living in one of those Buddhist communities, wouldn’t you?” “I can see that was when she started to realize I had found something I wanted to do with my life,” he said.
Vajramati stepped down as chair of Triratna New York City Sangha earlier this year.
His quest for meaning included a desire to move somewhere remote and exciting. He and his wife compromised and moved from West London to Norwich in 1976. “It was so sparsely populated I could feel I was getting away more,” he said. And it had a page 20
Ordination experience One day the chair of center, Devamitra, asked Peter Minter why he had not requested ordination. “I knew there were things I still had to work on,” Vajramati said. “Devamitra replied that basically what I was saying was that I wasn’t going to ask for ordination until I was enlightened! I realized then there would always be things to work on. So I asked and was ordained fairly quickly.” He was 27 when Sangharakshita ordained him at Padmaloka in June 1979. His name, Sangharakshita said, signified “mind, intelligence and perception (mati) brought to the cutting energy of the diamond thunderbolt (vajra).” The first change brought by ordination, Vajramati said, was the experience of going back to Norwich and having his mitra friends treat him differently. “I thought why are they treating me differently? Oh right, it’s because I’m ordained now.” Ordination also furthered a larger change he had already embraced: doing whatever needed to be done to
support the growth of Triratna. Just six months after Vajramati’s ordination, Devamitra was called to go elsewhere, so he became chair of the Norwich Buddhist Centre. He remembers that job mostly as a painful struggle due to opposition from an older order member who, Vajramati suspected, thought he should have been chair. From this stressful experience he was able to live for a year at Vajraloka, a men’s mediation retreat center. “This was a really good thing to do, a really strong, good experience,” he said. “In some ways I still draw on it today.” He left reluctantly after a year, because he was committed to help, if help was needed, with fundraising for the Karuna Trust. Once back in London, he migrated to projects connected to the LBC. Windhorse Associates, a group of graphic designers, needed a manager so he took that job and subsequently also managed the Phoenix Housing Association that had offices in the same building as Windhorse. Phoenix managed buildings that were empty and waiting for renovation in order to avoid attracting squatters. It fixed up the properties enough for people to move in, then rented them at very low rates, almost exclusively to people connected with the movement. “It was vital to the LBC, because it had lots of businesses that didn’t make much money,” Vajramati said. “People could work for these businesses, because they were paying such low rent through Phoenix Housing.” After an intense period of on-the-job training and managing two businesses, he moved to Phoenix fulltime. Eventually his workload, including teaching and serving on the LBC council, became unsustainable. When he extricated himself from this overload and began to consider his next move, he made a detailed chart of the possibilities in different countries. He decided to visit Aryaloka and 18 months later, in 1990, he moved to the U.S. to support the men’s community and center there.
Vajramati spent six and a half years at Aryaloka. He struggled early on with how isolated Aryaloka was compared to being surrounded by friends at the LBC. But life remained busy. He taught classes and led retreats in Portland, Maine, and Boston. He also led gatherings and study at Aryaloka. To support Aryaloka and himself, he trained and got a job working with adults with developmental difficulties. From Aryaloka, he moved to the Boston area and launched a center there. He continued to teach around New England and also ran classes New York Sangha members gathered recently to in Rhode Island. After celebrate the merits of Vajramati for his service as five years in Boston, chair of the New York Sangha for the past 16 years. he struck out on his own for New York, Current practice: letting go “the downtown of the Vajramati is realistic about his whole country.” “Part of the deal with the Dharma is accomplishments in New York. His you pass it on,” said Vajramati. “I real- mission to establish Triratna there ized for myself that happiness arises. proved to be more challenging than he anticipated. The Sangha grew You can’t do things to be happy; that slowly and moved often among differdoesn’t work. You just do the most ent rented spaces. The small commueffective thing you can actually do. nity that formed around him includes So I thought, what’s the most effecmany great, committed people, he tive thing I can do for the Dharma? Obviously we should have activities in reflected. Yet, in the same number of years, a huge Sangha with multiNew York City, that’s the main city in ple centers has developed in Mexico the country. We have to have things there, and somebody’s got to do it, so City. Should he have focused all his attention on establishing a center? He I’m going to go and do it!” is uncertain. With luck, bravado and a lot more “The thing has always been to try on-the-job training, he developed a one new thing every year, to try and new career in website and graphic find ways in. I haven’t found them, design that would better support his and I don’t think I know how to, beliving in Manhattan. And, for the next 16 years, he devoted himself to estab- cause obviously if I did, I would have lishing Triratna in New York. - Connections continued on page 22 aryaloka.org
- Connections continued from page 21 done it.” Around the end of 2016, Vajramati decided to step down as chair of Triratna-NYC. “I went through the internal process of letting go on a solitary retreat over Christmas at Guyhaloka,” he said. “So I feel I’ve really let go of being chairman, which was quite something after 16 years.” For the first time in his Triratna life, he is taking a break from constant effort. “It’s interesting for me now, because I’ve handed over the chair,” Vajramati said. “It’s the first time I haven’t been leading or holding something basically since I’ve been ordained. I’m not even doing classes
and courses and that’s weird, because I’ve been doing them for the last 30-plus years.” At the same time, he has had to focus his attention on the after effects of surgery for prostate cancer, which he underwent in April 2017. “My practice now is all about my body. It’s all about awareness. Everything outside my body is falling away, because I can’t help but be present to all these peculiar sensations in my body, the physical thing.” For all this, Vajramati is a joyful veteran of the era when being a Triratna order member was all about throwing oneself into whatever needed to be done to build the movement. “People
- Aryaloka continued from page 16
dedication of Sangharakshita and the order he founded The responsibility to live with and embody our ordination acceptances To be friends with all of humanity — Khemavassika
say, well you gave everything up. You renounced the world, the career, the wife and everything. But it wasn’t like that. I went off to have fun! Materially, of course, it was renunciation. But actually I just had so much fun with all that.” He still feels that way: “I’m having an adventure. That’s what I’m doing with my life.”
- Portsmouth continued from page 17
imagined Lord Buddha himself in the form of the dogwood. We focused on stories about the Buddha from A place of Buddhist study the Pali Canon. When rain forced us and practice back inside at V-MAT one Sunday, • The centrality of the Three Jewels people complained it was harder to in our lives meditate without the background • The Buddha’s teaching of the noise of passing cars, dog walkers and Four Noble Truths and the - Nagaloka continued from page 17 motorcycles. Eight-fold Path V-MAT’s program growth forced us • The imperative to follow the after being asked why they want to to move again this fall. We offered our Buddhist Ethical Precepts to meditate they begin to open up. We introductory classes in the Unitarian the best of our ability and in all talk about how to use meditation Church and Portsmouth Public interactions with humanity so that in their lives. We usually do the all beings may realize the ideal of Mindfulness of Breathing for about 15 Library. We held our Sunday program at a different martial arts/yoga the Bodhisattva minutes. studio before settling into the home Group size can vary from 3 to 20 of another community non-profit, A Community for All men. Some participants will leave Portsmouth Public Media (PPMTV). • The responsibility to teach and in the middle of the session, and We enjoyed taking photos of our share the Dharma with all who some men’s behavior can be disshrine in front of PPMTV’s green are interested tracting. This experience helps my screen. Green screens are used as a • The need to support Mitra study own practice: going with the flow, background on television so that, for and training for those who seek hearing the challenges the men face example, a reporter appears to be more in-depth knowledge and learning how being mindful and standing front of a weather map. • The responsibility to work with present helps them. I usually leave All this moving around has created those who aspire to become inspired. logistical challenges. Yet, it also has members of the Triratna Buddhist Women at the jail are also fostered the growth of a small core interested in a meditation group. If Order (TBO) Sangha in which the relationships you – as a woman – are interested in leading a group, please contact me at feel close and joyous. We agreed that A Center of the Triratna Buddhist email@example.com and let Dharmasuri at wherever our indoor home might end Community Dharmasuri@gmail.com know of your up being, we will head back out to • The responsibility to promote the park by the dogwood when the interest. It takes time to get trained harmony within the Aryaloka weather warms up next year. and cleared to enter a pod on a Sangha, the TBO worldwide and —Bettye Pruitt regular basis, but it is well worth it. all beings —Tom Handel • Taking inspiration from the Principles of the Heartwood
Aryaloka Hosts Order Convention for US and Canada by Samayasri About 35 Triratna Order members, some traveling 2,000 to 3,000 miles, attended the four-day Order Convention held at Aryaloka in August for the U.S. and Canada. Clear themes came out of the convention including gratitude and appreciation, concerns about priorities and resource challenges, the importance of nurturing order practice, especially communication as practice, and questions about the future of Triratna in U.S. and Canada, particularly in regard to diversifying our Sangha. We practiced together and explored these issues. Four members of Triratna’s College of Public Preceptors, the body responsible for the ordinations of everyone who enters the Triratna Buddhist Order – Ashokashri, Dhammarati, Karunadevi and Nagabodhi – also participated in the convention. Here are some of the highlights of the discussions that took place. Exploring our personal myth What is the story or narrative that sustains us in our lives as order members? How are we living out that myth or inspiration? If we are not doing that, why might that be? We were encouraged to write, draw or wield glitter pens to conjure imaginatively or reground ourselves in that core inspiration. Order members offered their creative gifts through chanting, a writing workshop and a fabulous “Hoot” evening with friends sharing their personal experiences through deeply moving readings of poetry and prose along with singing. Examining Triratna issues In dialogue with the college members present, we focused
on four issues people were most interested in: • Conflict and plans for support with conflict resolution • Addressing the consequences of the publication of the article, “Women, Men and Angels” by Subhuti in 1994 • Commonality of core practices within Triratna, based on the teaching and leadership of Sangharakshita. As practices in the order evolve, how do we refine and incorporate newer experiences of the teachings? • Governance and decision making in Triratna as a whole, worldwide These dialogues resulted in deeper discussions and group work.
Deepening order practice Many expressed the need for encouragement and resources focused on deepening the practice of order members, placing that more at the heart of our efforts. Do we meet together often enough in North America? Do we study together often enough? Is the quality of our communication as practice fostered and supported sufficiently? Do we agree on our goals? Many of us expressed a deep desire to rally more around this ideal of deepening practice.
Resources and responsibility Many attendees carry order or movement responsibilities. We talked about the desire to do more to embrace all opportunities we see. We Triratna in U.S. and Canada talked also about limited financial and We looked at the voice and offerhuman resources that can leave some ings of Triratna in our regions. Could feeling alone or overextended. More we be more vocal or distinctive about training, development and support who we are and speak in a voice for those carrying responsibilities is more attuned to North American needed, too. culture? Is it possible to shape a At one point, we looked to Subhuti’s North American voice with so many quote that says the first responsibility diverse cultures and groups? How can of an order member is to support and we adopt more modern communica- follow his or her own inspiration. We tion tools, as other North American talked of the joy we all have experiBuddhist groups are doing, including enced when we act from that place of using social media and online teachinspiration. Are too many of us doing ing more fully? what we feel we should do rather The college members encouraged than what our hearts call us to do? us to develop our own ways to enWe agreed that an interesting next hance communication to our Sanghas step would be a gentle inquiry on this and to take the lead where circumacross the order in U.S. and Canada. stances make that desirable. One such situation regards the lingering Diversity, particularly racial perceptions from the publication of diversity “Women, Men and Angels” on perDiversity was another issue disceived gender differences in spiritual cussed with a particular focus on development. Some order members racial diversity. This includes the need feel the college still needs to do more to attract more young people and to express a public position on this. In be more welcoming to gender and turn, we were asked to consider how LBGTQI diversity and to those with we in these countries might positivedisabilities. Most of us feel strongly ly and skillfully assert our thoughts about this, indeed many believe the about this issue? - Convention continued on page 26 aryaloka.org
- Restorative continued from page 13
punishment out of the equation and look instead to those areas It is easy to fall either into cynicism restorative work point to? How can I – thinking it won’t work – or naïve value everyone’s unique perspective? hopefulness – that it will solve all our How can I respond as empathically as problems. I doubt either is true. I can? How can we (the community) RJ is used widely in the U.K., collectively meet people’s needs and Australia, New Zealand, Canada put things as right as we can? Then and parts of the U.S. In the U.K., it is I feel freed up to respond more used in all youth offenses, because creatively and compassionately. evidence shows it works. Hospitals, Restorative approach is not the schools and other communities also only tool we can use. There is a are adopting this approach outside range of techniques – mediation, the justice system. peacekeeping circles, deep Of course, it does not always work. democracy – that work with people, I recently was involved in a process not imposing things on them or that led to more understanding closing things down. I would love of different perspectives and the for us as a Triratna Sangha to learn opening up of empathy, but the more about and begin using these participants could not agree on a techniques. I do not think our mutual way forward. greatest challenge is what happened This, too, is a practice: to work in the 1970s and 1980s, but how we wholeheartedly towards a goal that all respond to it today. How will we may not be achievable. The efforts relate to each other now and in the may take us somewhere new or teach future? us something we needed to know to This is a personal matter for each take the next step. one of us. To be honest, we do not always want to try. We get tired of it all, especially when issues reappear, or we feel it is all out of our control. The issues can trigger difficult memories from our own past or, by contrast, can feel irrelevant to our experience. How do we engage in difficult times? Since I started writing this article, my mother has died. From feeling very engaged and committed, I now struggle to engage, to find the issues relevant or important right now. Even before her death, I was aware of differing responses within me. What responsibility do I have, as someone who was not around Triratna in the 1970s or 1980s, when these controversial events unfolded? I struggle to see what it has to do with me sometimes and what part I should play. Alternatively, as a member of the community that did not resolve these issues at a number of points since then, I can swing and feel overly responsible and guilty. Neither response is helpful. What happens if I take blame and page 24
Jnanasiddhi is from the U.K. and first met the Triratna Buddhist Community at age 30 in London in 1991. She was ordained in 2000. After attending university, she lived in Portugal and Spain for three years teaching English before returning to the U.K. She then worked for Amnesty International for 11 years, developing international membership capacity. In 1997, she moved to Birmingham, U.K., to work for Windhorse Publications, Triratna’s publishing arm, as commissioning editor. She now works as director of a small peace education charity that focuses on working with children and young people to equip them with the skills of peace. She is involved, as part of Triratna’s Restorative Coordinating Group, in promoting restorative approaches to conflict within Triratna, as mentioned by the latest Adhisthana Kula report at: thebuddhistcentre.com/ adhisthana-kula
Give for the Benefit of Others The Vajra Bell is published by The Aryaloka Buddhist Center that is supported exclusively by the generosity of our Sangha members and friends. If you like what you see and read here, please give so we can continue to pass this on for the benefit of others around the world. Donate now at http://www. aryaloka.org/get-involved/ donate-or-pledge/
Children’s Sangha: Developing Mindfulness and Gratitude by Alisha Roberts
together when we can no longer hear the sound that was created. I have rediscovered Next on the agenda the joy of blowing bubusually is a book that sets bles and playing with the lesson for the afterballoons. noon. Some favorites When I first began organizing the Children’s have been My Mouth is a Volcano by Julia Cook, Sangha events at Aryaloka two years Last Stop on Market Street ago, I was nervous. I worried if an activity we offered was exciting enough, by Matt de la Pena and if the story I chose was too long or too Peaceful Piggy Meditation by Kerry Lee Maclean. short, and if those who came would want to come back. Another challenge After reading, we move on to a craft or science of this young Sangha was the age experiment. range of the participants – ages 2 up One month, we made to 12. How could we keep everyone a huge mess and loved engaged? every minute of it. Each Over the years, I have read many books about teaching mindfulness to child made his or her own volcano out of children, and I mined their contents homemade clay and for suggestions. I have used ideas water bottles. We carried from books such as Planting Seeds with Music and Songs: Practicing Mind- our creations outside, and using baking soda, fulness with Children by Thich Nhat Photo: Alisha Roberts water, food coloring and Hanh, Sitting Still like a Frog by Eline vinegar, created erupSnel and Mindful Games by Susan During an outing to the beach in Newcastle, NH, tions of different colors Kaiser Greenland. Malkias Sering (left), Tallis Guthrie (center) and and magnitudes. These books have activities that her sister Marlow painted rocks and left them for Over the summer, emphasize fun, cooperation and others to enjoy. we had an outing to lightness. I did not need complicated Great Island Common crafts and long drawn out games. thank, is amazing. in Newcastle, NH. On this summer As Thich Nhat Hanh said in his book, After the snack we usually go to the afternoon, we collected rocks at the “The purpose of the game is to have shrine room for a short meditation. beach and painted them in the sun. fun, develop our skills, and enjoy I have used an app called “Breathe being together.” Such as blowing bub- After blowing bubbles in the wind, Kids” for short, guided meditations, we traipsed out to the jetty and left bles and playing with balloons. usually three to five minutes. After our painted rocks there for others to When the children arrive, looking the meditation, I ask the children for enjoy. a bit nervous, we start a tour of the some ideas for the next meeting. An afternoon ends with a healthy building, finishing in the shrine room. My interactions with the children snack and a short meditation. SomeThe big bell in the room is an instant who participate in this Sangha enrich times we make our snack together, draw. When I hand over the baton to my practice. They teach me how to be such as smoothies or crepes. Before ring the bell, the children’s eyes light more mindful and just to enjoy fun, eating our snack, we discuss eating up with joy. Letting each child have a simple activities such as blowing bubit mindfully. To promote gratitude, turn ringing all the bells in the shrine bles and watching them rise in the sky room and exploring the building puts we discuss how many people it took on a beautiful afternoon. for just one ingredient to make it to them at ease. We then head downAryaloka. Watching these children folstairs to do our welcoming circle. We Alisha Roberts is a mitra and do introductions and take turns ring- low the chain of one ingredient, and serves on the board of directors at then come up with so many people to ing a smaller bell, placing our hands the Aryaloka Buddhist Center. aryaloka.org
- Convention continued from page 23 future of Triratna in the U.S. and Canada depends on our embracing diversity. We agreed to work on diversity from (1) a deep wisdom perspective: what unconscious bias and wrong views obstruct our ability to see ourselves (including our bias) and others as we really are; and (2) from an action perspective: adjusting how we communicate, reach out and teach to make our centers more inclusive. Gratitude and appreciation We rejoiced and recognized the service and friendship of two order members: Vajramati who stepped down as chair of Triratna New York after 16 years, and Shantinayaka who stepped down as U.S./Canada order convener for more than a decade. What a very powerful and unifying practice it is to rejoice in someone. Many of us felt that the quality and depth of our communication was the most meaningful uniting quality of the convention. Laughing together and discussing difficult subjects including the quality of listening, receptivity and authentic skillful speech, such as saying and hearing things that are hard, was deeply moving to many of us. Often, we came back to this quality and practice as being central and essential to equipping us in what we aspire to achieve and exemplify, especially in such troubling times in our world. The convention called forth new optimism and enthusiasm for what the future holds, tempered with some seasoned realism. Samayasri is chair of the New York City Sangha.
from the editor:
Dr. Ambedkar’s Children Bending Toward Justice by David Watt Associate Editor Vajra Bell The Aryaloka Buddhist Center celebrated Ambedkar night with dinner and a program in October. This annual event celebrates the legacy of Dr. Bhimrao Amdedkar, the Indian economist, politician and social reformer who was instrumental in the Buddhist revival in India. Shortly before his death in 1956, Ambedkar led several mass conversions of hundreds of thousands of people to Buddhism, primarily from the Dalit caste. Following Ambedkar’s death, Sangharakshita worked to nurture Ambedkar’s movement for years before returning to London. Harshal and Jaya Dofe, Aryaloka Sangha members who are from India, organized the event and prepared the meal. I talked with Harshal about his experiences as a Buddhist both here and in India. He and Jaya, like other South Asian couples I know,
Harshal and Jaya Dofe, Aryaloka Sangha members, organized the Ambedkar celebration.
are high-achieving professionals who came to America for educational opportunities. Jaya is a Ph.D. student in electrical engineering, and Harshal runs an online personnel services business. However, as members of the Dalit or untouchable caste, their experiences differ greatly, even in the U.S, from members of other castes whom I have known. Harshal, in many ways, is emblematic of the Buddhist movement in India. He was raised as a Buddhist, and his mother is a Triratna order member who encourages him to become a mitra. He tells stories of going on meditation retreats when he was growing up and of visiting the viharas – shrines and Buddhist centers in villages around India. He speaks most passionately, however, about his reverence for Ambedkar and the transformational power of Buddhism for the Dalits. Estimates say there are 300 million Dalits in India, approximately 10 million of whom are Buddhists. The exact number is unclear, in part because of corruption and incompe-
tence in the country’s census surveys. Many Dalit Buddhists do not practice formally due to their extreme poverty; they simply are working too hard to survive. For others, practicing consists of calling oneself a Buddhist, offering prayers and offerings at the viharas. While we may be tempted to minimize these acts, it is important to remember that for Ambedkar, the founder of the Buddhist revival, spiritual growth and human rights go hand in hand. According to Ambedkar, identifying as a Buddhist liberates one from Hinduism and makes it possible to envision a different life. This change in vision is effective. In Harshal’s experience, Dalit Buddhists in India attain higher education levels and are more financially secure than non-Buddhist Dalits. When he talks, Harshal almost always mentions Ambedkar and Buddha in the same breath. Their images appear together in most Buddhist shrines and centers. Whereas Harshall discusses the Buddha in spiritual terms, saying that, “Buddhism helps you heal yourself from the inside,” Harshal admires Ambedkar because of his work on the practical aspects of human rights. Ambedkar advocated for equal rights for women and the abandonment of the dowry system that treats women as property. He wrote books on women’s rights, economics, water conservation, agriculture and the history of the Dalits. He was not an idealist, but rather a practical, determined leader. Ambedkar also was an active, deeply committed politician. He always dressed formally in a suit rather than adopt Gandhi’s habit of dressing in rags, because he wanted to model his aspirations for his fellow Dalits. He authored the Indian constitution and was a powerful advocate against the caste system and the oppression of the Dalits. By comparing the caste system unfavorably with the British occupation of India, Ambedkar made himself “the most unpopular man in India,” Harshal said.
The main speaker at the Ambedkar event at Aryaloka was another member of this community: Suraj Yengde, a Fellow at W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University. A scholar, Suraj studies race and religion and is a Dalit activist. He spoke movingly about Ambedkar’s life and work. What stood out for me about his talk was Ambedkar’s simultaneous embracing of the Buddha’s teaching and critiquing of what he perceived as the complacency and lack of engagement by the Buddhist monks and other religious leaders. For Ambedkar, there was no separation between the spiritual and the political; both were avenues to end the suffering of the Dalits. As Suraj spoke, I thought about the many ways in which we create untouchability in America through distinctions of race and immigration status. During slavery and with Jim Crow laws, the U.S. enforced a system that simultaneously relied on the economic exploitation of a class of people and frustrated their aspirations. Today, millions of undocumented immigrants do low wage work that supports our economy, but they have no legal status. Indeed, they are called “illegal,” a small step away from “not human” – a status forced on Dalits for centuries. Both in the U.S. and India at this time there are resurgent nationalist movements that engender open hostility to less privileged society members. While this causes great consternation in guilty white liberals like myself, it nonetheless inspires me to see courageous, joyful young Buddhists speaking up, challenging thousands of years of unskillful thinking and bringing about change. As Martin Luther King said, “The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.” Ambedkar’s children are the ones doing the bending.
Suraj Yengde is a scholar at Harvard University, studies race and religion and is a Dalit activist.
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.
Art, Meditation and Mindfulness – Connecting us to our Lives by Deb Howard
things. Instead of painting what I think I know, I try to see what is This past summer, in front of me here, now, in the The Stone Church, a gift of this fleeting moment. The local bar and music world is so much more than what venue in Newmarket, we normally perceive in our limitNH, started holding ed habitual way of looking at it. monthly Mindful Through making art, I try to Mondays. Deb Howard, an artist expand my perception, see things and a mitra at the Aryaloka Budanew and recognize the freshdhist Center, spoke at one of these ness in this moment. When I paint events. This is an edited version of on site, I think, “What does it feel her talk.—Editor’s note like to be here in this moment, unwrapping this gift of life?” This I have been meditating regularly is true in mindfulness as well; the for more than three years at the objective is just to be in the moAryaloka Buddhist Center. I was edment with what is here. Instead of ucated and worked as an engineer, judging, I simply look and notice. so I have a penchant for science In The Zen of Seeing, Frederick and data. I also am an artist, engagFrank writes, “I have learned that ing both the creative and logic sides The brain can grow and change in what I have not drawn I have nevof my brain. What the engineer er really seen, and that when I start positive ways – even as we age – and and artist have in common is trying it is under our control! drawing an ordinary thing, I realize to see and understand the world Mindfulness also connects us to our how extraordinary it is, sheer miracle: around us. the branching of a tree, the structure lives. We are in the present moment We all experience moments of of a dandelion’s seed puff.” instead of ruminating about the past mindfulness. It happens when we This is true for me as well. Through or worrying about the future. We are are out in nature, watching a sunset less reactive to life’s challenges, and art, the most familiar things can or gazing into a fire. We think the can be more creative in our response. become a source of wonder. I have enjoyment was due to the gorgeous learned that positive emotions like People ask me about the relasunset or vista, but really, it was joy are not just random. I can access tionship between art and meditabecause we were in the moment joy myself through painting or medition. Creativity often happens when where we let everything just be, tation. we stop thinking. Ideas come to me without wanting something to be This is powerful. I am not depenwhen I am relaxed, in the shower, different. Buddhists call that freedent on arranging things and people watching the waves at the beach or dom. These moments are accessiin a certain way in order to be happy. in nature. Calming down the thought ble at any time. I depend only on myself. I can create tornado in my brain is part of the Scientists who study mindfulness creativity process. I let go of what the the conditions within myself for joy have found an impressive list of outcome is going to be and just follow and happiness to arise. benefits. Studies show that mindful- the process. Sometimes I get into the It is available any time, just by ness enhances mental and physical flow, and the painting almost paints looking. wellbeing and reduces chronic pain. itself. When I start judging, everything In 2011, Harvard researchers found stops. that mindfulness meditation actualFor me, painting, like mindfulness, is ly can change the brain’s structure. about really learning to look and see
The world is so much more than what we normally perceive in our limited habitual way of looking at it.
spreading the dharma
keeping sangha connected
Published on Dec 18, 2017