Pilgrims Week 2023

by Katharina Kruppa, Essen Sangha

I didn’t come to Adhisthana as a pilgrim. But when I went home I knew I definitely was one. What happened in between?

The concept of a week with a light programme called ‘Pilgrim’s Week’ was a first for Adhisthana. I was happy they did try it and signed up as soon as I saw it on offer on the programme. I am not a pilgrim I thought, but I had always wanted to return to Adhisthana since my first visit. There was a mysterious energy that pulled me back there. I didn’t understand it than, but I came closer to understanding it during this week for pilgrims from all over the world.

We were invited to take part in communal life with the team, but also had the chance to hear thoughtfully curated input from inspiring teachers. I enjoyed most the occasions for interesting discussions, sometimes in the library studying Buddhist literature with Dhivan, but sometimes also over toast and porridge. It was those spontaneous moments that came into being because of how the program was set up for making connections with the place and its people. It was during those fleeting in between moments where I experienced dharmic insights and an even deeper appreciation for the sangha jewel. 

It was the team spirit that came into being that felt very special during this week. It had been ignited by the ambitious project of an 108 hour circumambulation around the burial mound of Sangharakshita. During night and day, rain and sunshine, pilgrims and team honored Bhante walking around his grave. By doing so, they were helping to keep his spirit alive and passing it on to people like me, who came into contact with Triratna after Bhante had passed away.

The first time I visited Adhisthana there was this feeling of being close to something, being close to the core. I didn’t know what it was about at that time. I just knew I had never experienced anything like that before. Standing next to the pond, the sun rising over Malvern hills and the moon still visible over Coddington Church in the dawn, I felt I was in the right place at the right time, somehow in the center of something I didn’t know exited at all. All I knew was that I could feel it.

On the evening of summer solstice, Vidyamala helped me get a glimpse of insight into my very peculiar feelings. During her input she talked about people, places, pilgrims and portals. She believes Adhisthana might be a portal, something like an so called Axis Mundi – a place where the heavens and earth connect, where the realms of existence are thinner and closer together than in other places. A holy place, like ancient cultures have known in their respective traditions.

To me, Adhisthana definitely feels like a special place; the people who live and practice there bring it to life and turn it into something out of the ordinary. Spending a week there and experiencing the passion, perseverance and generosity of everyone involved made me experience the Dharma and Buddhist life in a different way.

I am taking back with me a lot of insight, inspiration and curiosity, as well as connections with people from Canada, Australia and New Zealand, that I feel might last for a long time. When I was standing in the courtyard, ready to leave suitcase in hand, I met Khemabandhu to say goodbye. He said “I have the feeling we might see you again.” I think he might be right.

P.S. I decided to ask for ordination during that week; writing my letter sitting next to the pond. 

English (UK)