On Wednesday 26th August, Adhisthana will be celebrating the anniversary of Bhante Sangharakshita’s birthday, as will be happening throughout Triratna. I find it hard to believe that only two years ago Bhante was still alive and would have been enjoying the celebrations at Adhisthana – probably with a vegan coffee and walnut cake that he would share with all those around him.
It is also the day when the Triratna centres continue with the 108 Year Puja that happens every year. I remember how this puja was the creation of Danavira, the visionary chair in Cambridge, who wanted our centres to be places of ritual and myth, as well as centres of study and training. This idea was then pursued by Mokshapriya who gathered together the special boxes, cloths, candles and photos – signed and blessed by Bhante himself. I remember leading this puja one year during an International Council meeting, and seeing the shrine room full of representatives from all over the world I asked them to ‘put up your hand if your local Buddhist Centre will be doing a 108 year puja this evening.’ Almost everyone raised their hand, it was a beautiful moment.
So every year we have this collective ritual and it is a ritual that not only celebrates Bhante’s birthday but also marks the continual changes going on within our Sangha. It is a timeless ritual marking the passing of time, recording those changes through photographs, film, and the signatures in the anniversary log-book: a log-book of a community over 108 years. And this year, I’m aware that we’ll all be functioning within the limitations of the coronavirus, so the puja will also be a recording of what we are facing not just as Buddhists but as a global nation.
I’ll end with some words from Bhante that I’ve been recently reflecting on, words that seem particular pertinent at the moment:
‘To give up the untrustworthy protection offered by self-interest, to awaken to absolute insecurity, to accept that your unskilful actions of the past will have unforeseen consequences, these are the hard tasks of the spiritual life. But at some point one has to put these boots on.’
Watch the Puja live from https://www.facebook.com/adhisthana.triratna/live
2pm UK / 3pm CET / 6.30pm India / 8am Mexico / 11pm Syd&Melb / 1am NZ