Individuality: Self-contained and Boundless

Am I an individual or just part of the group?

This is a question we need to keep trying to penetrate more deeply whether we are a Mitra or an Order member. It is a question that is central to the development of a saṅgha, a spiritual community, no individuals, no saṅgha. Any consideration of what the saṅgha is must therefore include as full an understanding as possible of the nature of individuality. So – what is an individual? On this retreat we will try to bring more understanding to that question by exploring Sangharakshita’s teachings on the individual, the group, and the spiritual community.

These are teachings not found in any traditional Buddhist texts. In fact, it’s unlikely that you will find them in any other account of Buddhism, apart from those given by his students. They are a ‘restatement’ – as he puts it – of the Buddhist path for the contemporary world. Many Buddhist traditions that have come into being, all of them are adaptations of the Buddha’s original teachings for people who lived in different societies and cultures from those of the Buddha. In fact, we could view the whole 2,500 history of Buddhism as a succession of glorious and creative restatements of the Buddha’s Dharma. Sangharakshita’s teachings on the individual, the group, and the spiritual community are one of his restatements of the Buddha’s teaching, and they seem to be even more pertinent now than they were when he first introduced them, in the 1960s.

Using presentations, reflection, discussion and meditation, we will explore the theme of individuality – a theme of inspiration and challenge, based as it is on our personal and existential concerns and on the penetrating teachings handed down from the Buddha.

Below you will find video recordings of all the content from the retreat. Helpful links are provided for resources and to navigate through the recordings. Note that those who attended this retreat live also participated in an additional session each day (Session 1) which was an unled meditation with the Adhisthana community every morning. This session was not recorded, hence the titles of the YouTube videos from each day do not include Session 1. If there are any errors, please email us.

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Day 1

Morning session

Saddhanadi introduces Adhisthana and the retreat, and then hands over to Ratnaguna, who gives an overview of the individual, the group and the spiritual community.

The talks Saddhanandi mentions that she listened to in preparation for this retreat are:

The Meaning of Spiritual Community – Sangharakshita

Being an Individual Within a Collective Practice – Parami

Character, Personality and Individuality – Subhuti

Watch from the start of Ratnaguna’s talk.

Afternoon session

Saddhanandi introduces Saddhaloka, then Saddhaloka talks about the Buddha as the ultimate example of the true individual, drawing from stories across the Buddha’s life.

Watch from Saddhaloka’s talk.

Evening session

In this evenings session, Ksantikara leads us in an open Metta meditation followed by a threefold Puja.

Day 2

Morning session

Saddhanandi explores the self-contained aspect of individuality, drawing from Bhante’s own words, the scriptures and her personal experiences.

Read the Attadiipaa Sutta.

Afternoon session

Continuing the discussion of self-contained individuality, Ratnaguna gives a personal and poetic talk, examining our inner world of thought and contemplation before leaving us with a reflective exercise.

Evening session

We begin by introducing Polly, who gives a reflective personal talk on their experience of exploring what it means to be an individual. There is then a threefold puja led by Ksantikara.

Day 3

Morning session

Saddhanandi introduces the boundless aspect of individuality, taking inspiration from Bhante’s words and talking on boundarylessness and freedom, particularly in relation to others.

Afternoon session

Saddhanandi and Ratnaguna have a conversation about discipleship, their relationships with Bhante Sangharakshita, and faith. This is followed by Saddhanandi leading the mudita bhavana.

Watch from the start of the meditation.

Evening session

Ksantikara gives a personal talk on his experience of discipleship before leading us in a threefold puja.

Day 4

Morning session

Today the retreat moves from looking at the individual to the spiritual community. Saddhanandi gives a talk introducing this area of collective practice.

Afternoon session

Another conversation between Ratnaguna and Saddhanandi, touching on discord and harmony in the Sangha, and the egoic mind vs. the mind in service. Ratnaguna then recites the Culagosinga Sutta.

Watch from the start of the sutta recitation meditation.

Evening session

Ksantikara introduces An, who gives a personal talk on how she is growing as an individual through living in community. This is followed by a threefold puja.

Day 5

Morning session

After Saddhanandi’s short introduction to the final day, Ratnaguna gives a talk placing individuality in the context of changing society and the world.

Afternoon session

The retreat ends with thankyous and a closing ritual where everyone shares something of their experience before the transference of merit and self surrender.