There is a powerful quotation in the talk given by Bhante at the LBC on Padmasambhava Day in 1979. He says somewhere that our centres, our communities, and our co-ops, are all ways of contacting different aspects of life and transforming them, because this is essentially what our movement is about. “It’s not simply a Buddhist movement in the narrow sense, or even a spiritual movement in the narrow sense. It’s a stream of spiritual energy that deeply transforms and transfigures everything and anyone with whom it comes in contact.” So Bhante, as it were, enabled that stream of spiritual energy that originated with the Buddha’s own enlightenment, he enabled it to “ground” as it were; to find expression.
Bhante formed this Order, this movement, as a means for channelling that energy, and he presented the Dhamma in a way that he found expressed his own understanding and which he believed would be helpful to many of his disciples. Of course, that presentation is not static. It is going to have to adapt and respond, evolve in relation to new circumstances. The world never stands still, and issues have arisen since the Order was founded that did not arise at that time. We each have to try to refresh and renew and communicate Bhante’s presentation. But we have to keep referring back to the original. Otherwise, each of us adapts it in our own way. And you get more and more adaptations, which have less and less in common with each other. If that happens this stream of spiritual energy divides into lots and lots of tiny little rivulets and streams, many of which will of course, just disappear into the soil. Some will go in strange directions and some may develop but the force, the power of the stream is lessened, is diminished.
And to avoid that we need to keep engaging with Bhante’s writing. To keep reading it but reading it with the sense that you are trying to connect with the mind behind it. All reading is communication, but I think, especially when you are reading your teacher’s words, you are entering into a communication which can be as much of an initiation as having water sprinkled on your head. The Dhamma can be transmitted through the written word as effectively as any other way. So I think we need to keep going back to Bhante. Otherwise, when we go forward, we will just spread out and of course, we will lose the extraordinary power and depth of insight that Bhante brings. You know you sometimes get streams coming down to a beach, and they don’t even reach the sea; when the tide is out they just sort of melt into the sands. It will be like that – all these little streams will just disappear. But if there is a powerful current, it will push the sand aside and get to the sea. So we need to keep going back to Bhante, reflecting on Bhante, arguing with Bhante if necessary. Putting in footnotes and codicils and so forth. Commentaries, sub-commentaries, no doubt that tradition will go forward. We need to keep reaching back to Bhante. If we do not, we do not have a future beyond three or four generations as a unified Order, as a unified stream of spiritual energy.
And this is one of the purposes behind the place that is called Adhisthana. Of course, Adhisthana isn’t the only place where you connect with Bhante; there are many other places, many other situations where people do. But this is the pre-eminent one. The most important in Bhante’s own understanding. He wanted it to present the gold standard of his teaching and that is what we intend to do from now on. And we have been forming a team of people who generally teach at Adhisthana who connect with this perspective.
Together we have been exploring what it means to keep on connecting with Bhante’s teaching. What it means to touch base on it, and then move forward from it, in continuity with it. And now we have got to a stage where we are ready to launch our project, which sits within the overall Adhisthana framework.
So all the usual things will go on, Order weekends will go on; the various Sangha retreats will go on; the many and various meetings, will continue to take place here. But added to this we will have a range of events, of activities, that come under the heading of the Sangharakshita Library and Study Centre. After all Bhante’s original idea, way back in the early 2000s, was that we should establish a centre where his library was and where his approach would be studied in depth and in breadth.
Exploring Bhante’s presentation of the Dhamma
First of all we will be having retreats and events that explore Bhante’s presentation of the Dhamma but not necessarily with reference to his direct words. We’ll be looking at a text, we’ll be taking a theme. For example the recent Nature of Mind retreat referred to a number of quotations from Bhante so we will continue with that sort of thing. There may be rather larger retreats, and probably many of them will be online. They will be mainly for Order members and maybe for mitras who have asked for ordination. Retreats like that that will be coming into the programme at Adhisthana before long. We have already got some of those things but we will locate them under the heading of the Sangharakshita Library and Study Centre.
Then secondly, we plan what is really a continuation of the seminars that Bhante used to lead. They will be smallish groups so that we can really engage with each other very deeply. They will be a way for people to connect with Bhante’s particular presentation through that text. Helping people to relate to Bhante’s mind, and to the stream of spiritual energy which manifested through him. So those seminars I think will be very important for the future of the Order.
Advanced study of Bhante
And the third phase, which is still much more in the planning stage, is what we are provisionally calling the Acharya course. This will, again provisionally, be a two-year advanced study of Bhante which will be partly residential, partly online and partly personal projects and study.
So I think this is very important for our future, for what we are trying to do here at Adhisthana. We’re trying to create a situation in which we can go in depth into Bhante’s presentation of the Dhamma so that we can connect with the mind of the man, and with the Adhisthana that flows through him. We can refresh our movement, but also mindfully address changing circumstances. Continuity does not mean stasis. Continuity is dynamic, but it always refers back to the source, and it keeps on refreshing itself with the source, as the whole Buddhist tradition does with the Buddha himself. So that’s what we’ll be doing at Adhisthana, and I think this will really benefit the Order especially, and thereby the movement in the future in the ways that I have already talked about.
This blog is an excerpt from the Tenth Anniversary book which can be viewed online or bought from Adhisthana.