It is so good to see and be part of, the many recent celebrations that have occurred at the Ipswich Buddhist Centre. We started September with two cracking Mitra ceremonies. Seven Friends became Mitra’s and took that big step of becoming a Triratna Buddhist. It was so good to rejoice in these new Mitras and have a truly meaningful ritual in our modern secular society. Much of our society’s rituals have lost any real significance and just seem to be occasions for spending money or drinking alcohol.
Our society is often described or called ‘capitalist’ or ‘materialist’, so I suppose it is to be expected that many people’s main driver in life seems to be tied up with money and trying to hide from the truths of reality. So a ritual that heralds the beginning of a spiritual journey twith the potential to lead all the way to enlightenment, that great fulfillment of human potential, is a rare event, and one to be savoured.
Also this month we held another Mitra related ritual, which was the handing on of the role of Men’s Mitra convenor. Swadipa has been diligently attending to the needs of the men Mitras in Ipswich for the past ten years and now is handing on to Viryamati. On Friends Night we held a lovely ceremony to mark this occasio. It had a great sense of the continuation of a spiritual lineage. People joined in-person and on Zoom to witness this handing-on and rejoice in the efforts of both men. Many Order members attended including Carumani, our wonderful Woman’s Mitra Convenor.
The role of a Mitra Convenor is to make sure that their Mitra’s Dharmic needs are adequately met. However, they do not bear this responsibility alone as it is shared by all Order members. Nonetheless, they carry a greater degree of that responsibility by serving as a focus, both for the Mitras and their fellow Order members, for the running or convening of the Mitra events and for supporting Mitras. The Mitra Convenors actively seek and encourage the cooperation of their fellow Order members in generating the spirit of Kalyana Mitrata (Spiritual Friendship) that keeps the Mitra Sangha vibrant and alive. They also attend Mitra Convenors meetings, where they gain a wider perspective on the responsibility they share with those from other Centres. These meetings are particularly important for they play a part in creating the harmony and sense of common purpose which bind us all together into one Buddhist movement. So I hope you can see that our Mitra Convenors, Carumani and Viryamati are important figures both within the Ipswich Centre and the wider world of Triratna.
Locally our Mitra convenors are an important support for our Mitras offering a friendly ear and sage advice when required. The Buddhist life has many pitfalls and such support as the Convenors can offer has been so crucial to many when life gets difficult and dukkha becomes more than we alone may be able to deal with. If you are interested in becoming a Mitra or just finding more about what it means to be a Mitra, then do contact Carumani or Viryamati, who will be more than pleased to talk on the phone, online or especially in-person, maybe over a tea/coffee in town.
Another major event last month was our weekend sangha retreat at Vajrasana. When over 50 retreatants gathered to celebrate Padmasambhava and learn how to start a revolution, the theme of the retreat. It has been nearly two years since we have been able to hold an in-person retreat. We have been able to hold some very successful online retreats, but being together, in-person, sharing the same ritual space, meditating together in the large shrine room all makes for a magical weekend. Such retreats are a great opportunity to stretch ourselves and take our Buddhist practice further, to live as a Buddhist community, if only for a few days.
Thinking about Buddhist communities I would just like to rejoice in Andy Madel who has taken up a temporary opportunity to live and work in a Buddhist Community, supporting the Padmaloka retreat Centre just outside Norwich. He will be there until the end of the year and doubtless will return to Ipswich with many interesting stories about community life.
So looking forward to October, we will see the Centre getting back to normal operations with more study groups, classes and events being run at the Centre. Although not legally required we do still have Covid precautions in place to reduce the risk of virus transmission. For some, it will still be hard to re-adjust to leaving their homes and coming along to events at the Centre. For some, that fear will be too much, but hopefully, as Ipswich, both Centre and Town, return to normal they will find their way back.