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…and so the Sangha grows

Yesterday a new blue-robed figure walked into the Buddhist Centre. He had arrived at the packed Centre to introduce himself to the Ipswich Sangha. This was Jayaketu, the latest Ipswich Order Member, who was previously known as Mike. He told the gathered throng, about his adventures and experiences, both good and difficult, on his 3 month Ordination retreat in the mountains of Spain.

What was particularly lovely about the occasion was the fact that sitting in the audience were 3 other men who next year will be going together to Spain for their Ordination course. These men are Ed from Colchester, Jamie and Nick from Ipswich.

One of our regulars on Friends Night, after listening intently to Jayaketu’s story, asked me earnestly whether women were also ever Ordained. Now, if you were at the Centre on the Wednesday Mitra Sangha Evening you would have heard me talking about the current difficulties that women in Europe face in their journey to Ordination. These difficulties mostly are due to the inadequate Ordination retreat facilities available, and the fundraising and search for a new women’s retreat Centre. You can learn more about this very important project at

Whilst I am on that subject, the Ipswich Centre is holding a special fundraising event on 23rd September. With half of the money going to the new retreat Centre and half going to help our own efforts in Ipswich to purchase a larger Centre. So do book a place and help both of these dreams to be realised.

Not only do we welcome new people into our Centre but very occasionally we have to exclude people. A few weeks ago I had the rather unenviable task of having to exclude someone from the Centre for Safeguarding reasons. The first time I have had to do this during my time as Chair of the Centre. This particular person had been coming to the Centre for a little while and although they had a good knowledge of the Dharma they seemed unable to put the Buddhas teaching on ethics, the third and fifth precepts in particular, into practice. So although the Buddha’s teachings, the Dharma can help us change our habits and behaviours, we do still have to personally make the effort and take the wisdom of the Buddha’s words into our own lives and take up the challenge.

We try not to exclude people. We would like to be open to all and also give people a chance to change their behaviour. However, I have to be mindful of the safety of the whole Sangha. It is important that we keep the Buddhist Centre a safe place, a refuge for people who are often coming to the Centre because of some difficulty in their lives so may be in a vulnerable position.

Unfortunately, we had to cancel the Sangha retreat we had planned for August as we could not guarantee that we would have the number of bookings that we require to cover the costs of the retreat. However, all is not lost, as there is still an opportunity for you to have a local retreat in August. Buddhafield East are running their camping retreat from 21st to 27th August in Suffolk. Jnanamitra, Prajnakara and many others from the Ipswich Sangha are involved with this retreat so you could have a chat with them about it or see their website for more details. This retreat is a great way to practice Buddhism in the beautiful Suffolk countryside and enjoy the summer weather. The Buddha always advocated practising outside rather than inside buildings. He achieved Enlightenment at the foot of a tree, fully aware and being a part of the nature that surrounded him.

So even if camping is not your thing there are still many other opportunities to practice at the Centre this August. Every day of the week there is something going on a the Centre, and often there are two events running simultaneously.

At the end of the month we have a special event for all those that volunteer at the Centre. The event is to show our gratitude for all the hard work and efforts they put in to help keep our Centre running. Our Centre has many opportunities for people to volunteer, from cleaning to helping with publicity.

Whatever the task they are all ways to creatively engage with the Centre and the Ipswich Sangha. We organise our volunteers into small teams, which we describe with the Buddhist word ‘Kula’. The term kula denotes the inclusivity and sense of belonging that is often cultivated through Buddhist practice. So we can see a Kula as a subdivision or smaller version of the Sangha, the Spiritual community that practices together and thus creates the third Jewel of Buddhism. The Buddha said that friendship and the Sangha was the whole of the spiritual life. It is our spiritual friends, our Kalyanamitras, that help us to grow, and this is especially so in small groups where we can talk openly and work together with a common goal that achieves something for the greater good. So the kula’s are acting out the play of the Bodhisattvas, they are doing something that will benefit all those that are seeking the Truth. Making our Centre safe, warm and welcoming for those that are seeking the Dharma and are looking for change in the way they are leading their lives. Looking for a new way of operating in this modern world. How to do this hasn’t really changed much in the thousands of years since the Buddha’s time, we only have to listen to his wisdom and be prepared to help others, and put aside our own desires and needs, and in doing so we too will benefit.

If you are interested in volunteering at the Centre then do get in-touch, either to one of the kulas directly or to me. And if you are already a volunteer then do please come along to the Gratitude evening on Wednesday 30th August, food and rejoicing will be provided.

And to round off my thoughts. In this way we can appreciate that becoming an Order Member can be seen as a great act of volunteering. Members of the Triratna Order volunteer to give their time, effort and resources to spread and extol the Buddha’s teaching. The founder of Triratna, Sangharakshita spent his life putting together an accessible and modern interpretation of the Buddha’s Teachings. Now the baton of taking those teaching out to those that will benefit from those teachings has been passed to the Order. The Order is still very small in relation to the world’s population, so it is great to see it grow and thus help humanity to grow and achieve its full potential, both individually and as a global community. Sadhu Jayaketu.

Just a final point, on Friday 25th August we will be celebrating Sangharakshita, with a ‘Founders Day Puja’. On this evening you can hear a little about his work and life, and celebrate this with a Sevenfold Puja.

See you around..

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