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Spiritual Lineage

Chairs Homily July 2024

This week I have been away from Ipswich on the European Chairs Assembly (ECA) at the Adhisthana Centre in Herefordshire. One of the joys this time of being at Adhisthana was on arrival being greeted by Jodie, one of our own members of the Ipswich Sangha. She has been at Adhisthana for four months on the Dharma life course. Much had happened in her life since being there and it was great to catchup with all that she had done and all that she planed to do. The Dharma Life course is a great chance for young people to be able to study and practice together in a Buddhist community. There are two courses held annually, one for women and one for men, and each last 4 months. So it is quite a commitment, but has proved invaluable to those attending in giving them the tools to be able to lead a fully Dharmic, a fully Buddhist life.

Adhisthana is a lovely collection of architecturally designed buildings all set in a beautiful garden. As well as being a hive of activity it is also a very quiet and contemplative place. It seems to be able to hold these seemingly opposite qualities, with ease. Whilst there, I mused about the effects that buildings can have. A building is really just a pile of bricks, a door and maybe some windows, but some times around that pile of bricks magic can happen. This coalescing of the six elements, this specific pile of bricks, can seem to hold and transmit the Dharma, maybe even turning our usual thinking on its head, and providing a refuge for all Three Jewels to flourish and shine forth. Adhisthana is now ten years old, and during that time the sixth element, consciousness has played a big part. It has been the collected consciousnesses of all those that have worked there, all those that have visited and been on retreat there. All that spiritual vitality coming together to make it the Dharmic power house that it is today.

Adhisthana is a very important institution within Triratna. It is the last resting place of Ugyen Sangharakshita, who lived there at the end of his life and is buried there. It has become a place of pilgrimage with many Buddhists from around the world journeying to Adhisthana to honour him and his work. Itis also the home of the Preceptors College and forms the nucleus of much that happens within the Triratna Buddhist Community. The name Adhisthana was chosen by Sangharakshita for the building. It is a Sanskrit word that means Spiritual lineage or tradition of teachings and practices. It also means the blessings that are received from one’s teacher and one’s tradition. You can find out more about this here Adhisthana 

Whilst at Adhisthana I was in many meetings, discussions and presentations, a full programme, involving hearing about what is going on within Triratna in Europe and beyond. But it was not all talk, as there was time given over to a double sit in the morning, just like we had on last months Sangha weekend retreat, and also some space for practice with a full morning of meditation.

One of the presentations that particularly struck me, was that about the Triratna Groups and Pioneers work. This is a project that offers support and resources to help people set up small Triratna groups. They hold regular Zoom sessions which give confidence and shared enthusiasm for the worthwhile task of spreading the Dharma to the people around them. As an example, I talked to Akshobin, an Order Member in his 70’s who has recently moved to Malta to start a Triratna group. He chose Malta because he admits to being poor at learning languages and they widely speak English as well as their own native Maltese.  There are about 50 small Triratna groups in Europe, mostly in the UK, and all those involved are working hard to help people in their locality by giving them the gift of the Dharma, a gift that has been gratefully received and put to good use, by many people all around the world. These founders of groups have realised that spreading the Dharma is the only way to really help people. The long-term solution to all the world’s ills is the Dharma. It is not the latest fad in world politics, or even in the world of human psychology, but the Dharma is a two and a half thousand year project with a deep understanding of the difficulties we put ourselves through and how to stop that cycle of negative thoughts and actions. The recent talk I gave on our sangha retreat, titled “Love in action in a time of war” explored how our individual Buddhist practise of Metta has far reaching effects for the good of all humanity.

Listening to the Groups and Pioneers presentation, I fondly remembered the early days of the Ipswich Buddhist Centre. We have had a Centre, a permanent home, in Ipswich for over 20 years now but it wasn’t always that way. Ipswich too started out as a small group of friends meeting together in someone’s front room. Many of those friends have become Order Members, myself included. It was Saddharaja’s front room in which the Ipswich Buddhist Group first met to talk Dharma, meditate and in that simple way the Ipswich Sangha was formed. 

Saddharaja now lives in a Buddhist Community in Cambridge, but he hasn’t lost that need to spread the Dharma. He is involved in a project to start a Triratna group in Calcutta, India. 

‘From small acorns mighty oak trees grow’ as the saying goes. In Ipswich the small acorn of a group has grown into the Centre that you enjoy today. But growth, especially when it involves the Dharma,  is a funny thing, in that it doesn’t really stop. The Ipswich Sangha, like many around the country is growing, the interest in the Dharma and what Triratna has to offer people is still strong. When we first moved into the present Centre it seemed large and spacious. When we opened, we had 60 people in the Centre for the inaugural event. Many of them were joining our celebrations from other Centres and groups. Even the founder of Triratna, Urgyen Sangharakshita came along to cut the ribbon. Now, over ten years later, we regularly have 60 people in the building for festivals and other large events. For Mitra ceremonies we are having to limit the numbers that can attend so that we don’t compromise our fire regulations.

In Ipswich, we are now in the fortunate position of having to consider moving to a larger building. For this next phase of the Ipswich Buddhist Centre to happen we need a number of things to arise. We need to find a suitable property. Unfortunately, as you might expect, there are no empty Buddhist Centres advertising on RightMove, but there are properties that occasionally appear that may, with some work, be turned into a beautiful new Buddhist Centre.

The other part of the equation, is of course money. The Buddhist Centre is firmly built on your generosity. The donations the Ipswich sangha has made over the years have made it possible to get to the current position of owning our own place.

 We don’t have a particular property to buy just yet, but we do need to prepare for that day. One way we can help is by signing up to a regular monthly contribution to the Centre, if your finances allow. If the Centre has regular donations which we can rely upon, then that will enable us to take out a mortgage when we find a suitable property. And also don’t forget to make a donation when you come along to a class, tap the machine by the front door or even put cash in the Dana bowl. It all helps however big or small the donation. A direct consequence, and as we know, actions do have consequences,  of you donating something to the Centre is that we can then continue to offer classes without a fixed charge, and in this way you help those who really need the Dharma but could not afford to pay a fee.  And in time, hopefully a short time, a new Buddhist Centre, a beacon of the Dharma,  will arise from a pile of bricks in our town, in Ipswich.

This month two large characters, our newest Order Members, will return to Ipswich to fill our Centre. The two men who left us in April; Jamie and Nick, will return as Kamalasiha and Vishvabandhu.  They have spent 10 weeks in Spain on their ordination course. We will have a welcoming event at the Centre later his month, more details to follow.

In the mean time we have Dharma Day on Sunday 21st July and many other events at the Centre. I look forward to seeing you there.


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