We have just held another very successful Sangha retreat at Vajrasana. We had a good cross-section of the Ipswich Sangha, from those who had never attended one of our events before to those that have been along too many times to mention.
There was also a great range of ages and varied life experiences. Again, this retreat operated occasionally as two retreats in one, with sub-30 and over-30 components. Each of these had a variation in the program at certain points to provide appropriate events and practices that they would find particularly helpful. But for most of the retreat the Sangha was united in practice and meaningful conversation.
Whatever our experience we all came together to form a Buddhist community and enjoy each other’s friendship and company. The program was full, so there was something to engage everyone from merit making morning meditations to ashen toasted crumpets prepared on the roaring fire in the late evening.
I had many conversations over the weekend, and it was great to hear people’s stories as to what had led them to come along to the retreat and also the positive effect that the retreat was already having on them. These little conversational moments, moments of Mudita (sympathetic joy) really lifted my heart and made me realise why I, and many others, put so much effort into taking the dharma to the people of Ipswich and even further afield.
Covid has taught us that the Centre can have a global reach well outside of the town, to all those that are open to the Buddha’s teachings and Sangharakshita’s interpretation of them.
Taking delight in others’ success, in other’s happiness is one of the great universal emotions that Buddhism promotes. A practical extension of Metta, when our Metta meets another being and we truly just wish them well without projecting our needs, our wants and desires upon them, a simple delight in others. Mudita is an emotion of pure joy, unadulterated by self-interest. This is a Bodhisattva quality that we can cultivate within our own behaviour. The reason we come out to the Centre on a dark evening, not for what is on, which we might be interested in, but because of the help and support we can give to others.
It is also only on such occasions as our retreats, that one can get a fuller sense of the Ipswich Buddhist Centre. Often we meet in smaller groups for study or practice and only occasionally attend a large event such as the retreat or a festival day. We can often get just caught up in our own progression and our needs. We often fail to see that attending a larger event, such as a festival, is a true Dharmic or spiritual act. So we are not doing it for our sake, but for those others that could benefit from our friendship or even just our presence.
It is good to reflect that one of the precious jewels of the Buddhist path is Community or Sangha, and Sangha is only a shared experience. An experience of going beyond our personal likes and dislikes and Sangha, at its ultimate, is no different from Enlightenment.
This month sees the start of several new things. The Foundation year-long study course begins again, with Swadipa at the helm for the first Module. We will also start a new study group for Mitras, especially those that have completed the 4-year Mitra study course, but it is open to all Mitras and Order Members. In that study, Carumani and I will be looking at the Songs of Milarepa, and you are welcome to join our discussions.
The first of our major Buddhist festivals, Parinirvana Day, is held this month. This is an important event celebrated throughout the Buddhist world. It is the first of the five main festival days we celebrate each year. The death of the Buddha’s human body signifies the end of his cycle of death and rebirth and the Buddha entering into Parinirvana or the ‘final Nirvana’. We celebrate the Buddha’s death, and the impermanence that is an integral part of all our lives. This year one of our Men’s Ordination training groups is striding forth and organising the day, so please do come along to the Centre and support them.
As well as our Centre reaching out to others, others in the world of Triratna are offering us opportunities. This month the Nature of Mind project, based at Adhisthana, kicks off 6 months of mainly online events. This project pairs nicely with our new weekly Milarepa study, as Milarepa’s songs are often used to explore how our mind works and a greater understanding of consciousness.
So, enjoy the month, and more importantly, help others to enjoy it.
Chair of Ipswich Buddhist Centre