In November, members of the Adhisthana Teaching Community gathered together over several days to connect and to study together. This Teaching Community is drawn mainly from those Order members who’ve been involved in teaching at Adhisthana over the last few years. Thinking of this group of order members as a ‘community’, we hope, will encourage a deeper engagement with each other, supporting Adhisthana’s project of communicating and developing Bhante’s teaching in a way that is faithful to its essential elements, while supporting a creative evolution of it in response to new needs and circumstances.
Its current members are listed below, though of course it will grow, particularly to include younger order members and more Order members outside the UK, as the programme at Adhisthana develops.
Candraprabha, Dhammarati, Dhivan, Jnanadhara, Jnanavaca, Kalyanaprabha, Khemabandhu, Mahamati, Maitreyabandhu, Maitreyi, Nagabodhi, Nagapriya, Padmavajra, Paramartha, Parami, Prajnaketu, Prakasha, Purna, Ratnadharini, Ratnaghosha, Ratnaguna, Ratnavyuha, Saddhaloka, Saddhanandi, Shubhavyuha, Sona, Subhadramati, Subhuti, Suvajra, Vajrapushpa, Vajrashura, Vajratara, Vessantara, Vidyadevi, Vidyamala, Vijayamala, Vishvapani.
Nagabodhi and Prajnaketu reflect on their experiences.
In late November I met with around twenty other Order members for the first gathering of the Adhisthana Teaching Community. Our brief is to lead the main programme of events at Adhisthana – drawing on core texts, either written or studied by Bhante Urgyen Sangharakshita. But how do we communicate the value in Bhante’s teachings, while also being aware of their limitations, and the many differences between the contexts in which he taught, and those of today and the future? In hoping to begin to answer this question, we spent six days engaged in ‘meta-study’: studying Bhante’s own teachings, his commentaries, and tracts from the Buddhist canon as a way into studying how to study those things. We were encouraged to look ‘backwards’ at Bhante’s own distinctive approach to the Dharma, as well as scholarly approaches to the Buddhist tradition; ‘sideways’ at our own times, our experiences, and trends within the Triratna Buddhist Order; and ‘forwards’ to the kinds of developments that we can see arising as Buddhism takes root in modern societies.
I loved it. I found it so uplifting to hear from wise and warm and intelligent voices on these matters, as well as to witness a remarkable degree of harmony and humour in the face of our sometimes quite complex history substantial disagreement and ‘history’ between many of the people involved. I came away with even greater confidence that Bhante’s teachings have a major role to play in the unfolding of the Dharma into the future. I can also see that Adhisthana is increasingly coming into its own myth – something witnessing the handing-on of the chair of Adhisthana from one remarkable Dharma-farer, Saddhanandi, to another, Khemabandhu, only makes me feel more strongly. Sadhu!
Does the world need Triratna? Sangharakshita thought so and dedicated more than half his life to sharing his discoveries and approach. In books, essays, talks, and study seminars he articulated founding principles, defining characteristics, and emphases.
Throughout those years he was not just a Buddhist teacher, but a collaborator: guiding, advising, and elucidating Dharmic principles as his followers experimented with, say, community living and team-based right-livelihood, or took their first steps as Dharma teachers. Above all, he established an Order, a community open to anyone who resonated with his approach and sought a supportive context for a committed Buddhist life.
He started writing at the age of eight and never stopped. And although you can see in The Unity of Buddhism’ an essay he wrote when he was 18, or A Survey of Buddhism, written when he was 28, manifestos for what was to come, he never wrote down in one place a key text compressing all those doctrinal and practical teachings, principles and emphases into one single, organised volume. Despite the 3,000,000 words snared in 27 volumes of Complete Works, much of his legacy exists as an oral tradition.
A legacy as broad and as ‘multi-purpose’ as the one we’re left with, forged at different times in different circumstances and in response to all kinds of people and situations, is already showing itself open to a dazzling array of opinions and interpretations.
This is what’s behind an emerging core vision for Adhisthana: to ensure there is somewhere in our Triratna universe particularly dedicated to stimulating a creative engagement with Sangharakshita’s uniquely synthetic, ‘triyana’ approach – along with all that has emerged and will emerge out of it.
This is why Subhuti invited some of us, the beginnings of an expanding community of experienced teachers, to spend a few days together here. Working in small groups, our challenge was to revisit some of Sangharakshita’s talks and writings, not just for the fun of it, but to see how close we could get to his ‘interpretive method’, the defining insights and attitudes that underlie all those teachings and reveal them as a distinctive and, crucially, unified contribution to the emergence of Buddhism in the modern world.
It was just a start, but a very enjoyable one. Watch this space.