Adhisthana: Another Turning of the Wheel
The search for a property where Bhante could live out his last years and which would house his library saw many twists and turns, raising of hopes and disappointments. Then a remarkable configuration of events allowed us to purchase Coddington Court, in the Herefordshire countryside. Bhante announced the name at an Order Convention in Bodh Gaya in 2013. It was to be called ‘Adhisthana’.
From the moment of its opening in 2015, Adhisthana has held a special place in the hearts of many Order members and Friends throughout Triratna. Bhante lived his final years at Adhisthana and said to friends that the last year here was one of the happiest years of his life. In 2018 he died and was buried here.
Now two years have passed since Bhante’s death, and we have been reviewing the future of Adhisthana, and its role in Triratna.
The Lineage of Teaching and Practice
Through his writing, talks, lectures and seminars, Bhante laid out an expansive vision of the Dharma. He approached it from various perspectives and in the light of different traditions, and in doing so he gave us something quite remarkable in its breadth, depth, clarity, and accessibility. He was very aware that he was writing and teaching not just for his immediate audience, but also for coming generations and for the future of the Dharma in the world.
This vision that Bhante shared is alive in many of us, but, as Order members quite naturally focus on those teachings and practices they find most helpful, we have to take care that this vision does not get limited or diminished, but is passed on in its fullness to future generations, and can continue to unfold. This could be considered the chief task of Adhisthana.
We’re excited about our new programme of events and retreats, which will be a broader and deeper exploration of Bhante’s direct teaching. Eventually, this will amount to an exploration in depth of the whole body of Bhante’s teaching, as well as engaging with canonical texts in the light of his lectures and seminars.
Our new programme will consist of a number of courses, each of which will explore a particular strand of teaching. In our first year we’ll be looking at the Platform Sutra of Huineng, the Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, the Satipatthana Sutta, a range of Sadhanas and many more.
Each course will consist of one or more modules: a core retreat will look in-depth at the theme, while other supporting modules will explore the work in more breadth and even greater depth. One module might look at the historical context of the text, while other modules will look at its application in personal experience, through meditation, imagination and ritual. Another might look at the wider contemporary relevance of the teaching.
Some of the modules will be residential retreats at Adhisthana, others will be online and, as the programme develops, in other parts of Triratna’s international community. Participants will be able to choose the modules that seem relevant to them.
To give an example, a course on the Bardo Thodol could include a ‘root module’, a one-week retreat at Adhisthana exploring the text in the light of Bhante’s commentary on it in the seminar and elsewhere.
Further modules could explore its history, its language, and its use in contemporary Tibetan practice, allowing us to keep ourselves abreast of recent scholarship whilst retaining the Dharmic insights that Bhante brought to bear.
Another module could explore the teaching of the text through meditation. Bhante introduced the Contemplation of the Root Verses of the Six Bardos as one of five key vipasyana practices. The Contemplation of the Six Elements too is highly relevant to the text, as well as the contemplation of the Mandala of the Five Jinas.
This particular teaching lends itself especially to ritual exploration, since the text itself is a liturgy, and ritual might also be explored through performance and the arts.
Another module could examine modern research on near-death and out of the body experiences, at accounts of death and what happens after it in other religious and non-religious traditions. Another will look at how to help people who are dying and to consider what the perspective of the text brings to life and our own experience now.
Training for Young People
How we and future generations will hand Sangharakshita’s legacy on to further generations, in a way that is vital and relevant, will occupy our creative energies for years to come, and this will be a new emphasis in Adhisthana’s programme. In collaboration with the European Chairs’ Assembly, Ksantikara, the European Young Buddhist Coordinator, has moved here, to spearhead this significant strand of Adhisthana’s work.
A Strong Online Presence
We won’t always have the opportunity to visit Adhisthana itself. The extraordinary circumstances of 2020 made us much more aware of the need for effective online teaching, and the possibilities that it opens up for reaching a much wider and more international audience.
Technology has also made translation and subtitling easier, making it more practical for our events to reach beyond the English speaking Sangha.
We want to develop this online teaching and make it an integral part of Adhisthana’s events, to make the excellent teaching here as accessible as possible for the Order and Movement internationally.
Our online offerings for 2021 will be expanded over the coming months.
The Adhisthana Teaching Community
These events will be taught by some of Triratna’s most experienced Dharma teachers. As well as those who are part of the residential community at Adhisthana, there are many others from every part of the world where Triratna is active, from the Americas to New Zealand.
As well as leading retreats and teaching at Adhisthana, the Teaching Community will meet to study and practise together, deepening and sharing their understanding of the Dharma as communicated through Sangharakshita’s teaching, and helping us unfold the vision of Adhisthana.
This experienced team makes it possible for those who have not studied with Bhante to study and practice closely with those who have, so that the distinctive spirit and character of his teaching is passed on.
The Dharma Team
The Dharma Team is part of the community living at Adhisthana, whose main responsibility is the spirit, direction, and vision of this important aspect of Adhisthana’s work.
The team is currently Saddhanandi, Dhammarati, Saddhaloka, Shubhavyuha and James. Subhuti has been an integral part of the team in developing the vision and direction of the project. Ratnaghosa will join us in the summer of 2021, and we hope others will join us soon.
The team has been receiving invaluable help from the Sikkha Project in this work.