In 2009 Bhante said: “there is something about the movement, the Order and even about me that is not easily definable. There is a touch of something that cannot be buttoned down, something that cannot in the end be defined. Even the desire to button it down or define it is a mistake … Everyone will need to take care of that rather mysterious, indefinable spirit that gives the movement life and energy.”
I love this and it evokes the spirit of my commitment to Bhante and Triratna. Although there is, of course, a need for clarity and precision about our understanding of Bhante’s teaching and his approach to Going For Refuge to the Three Jewels, there is perhaps an equal need to stay in touch with mystery and that which is beyond words: the mystery of truth and love and community which Bhante pointed to so magnificently in all his teachings, writing and indeed his life.
He also says “everyone will need to take care of that rather mysterious, indefinable spirit” which raises the question of how do we take care of it? I would suggest we need inspiration, community, as well as a sense of shared place to help this. And of course Adhisthana is that location – in time and out of time – that holds the mysterious and indefinable spirit of Triratna.
I have been in the orbit of Adhisthana from the opening event 10 years ago and I continually marvel at how it straddles these different dimensions: practical and welcoming, grounded in the earth, and yet it seems there is a hole in the sky above Adhisthana and the light floods down making it a place of blessings for all of us to experience when we spend time there practising together. The fact that Bhante lived his final years at Adhisthana – years he described as among the happiest of his life – and then of course died and is buried there – only deepens this opening to mystery.
A metaphor that works well for me is that Bhante is a portal and that he opened some astonishing gateway for us between one dimension and another – between the limited, hard-edged world we so commonly over-identify with – and the timeless, vast, loving radiance of the liberated heart and mind. I say Bhante is a portal, using the present tense intentionally. Although he is physically dead, he still feels very present at Adhisthana in all kinds of ways. Every time we remember friendship rather than conflict we can feel his influence; every time we look around and see the beauty and benevolence of the landscape and the creatures that abound there, we can reflect on all the long quiet evenings Bhante spent in his conservatory dwelling in the life flowing through and around him. Maybe we are experiencing something of Bhante’s adhisthana – timeless and beautiful – every time we come together in community and feel something bigger than the sum of the parts.
The Adhisthana Teaching Community has been forming over the past couple of years with bi-annual gatherings of a few days at a time. We come together to discuss how to keep Bhante’s legacy alive in ways that are relevant to a continually changing world. We have intensely creative explorations dancing between diving deeply into Bhante’s words – exploring what he meant with his various and wide-ranging teachings – and ‘resting into the mystery’ of that which is beyond words which he continually evoked and pointed towards. It is a fascinating dance: if we veer too strongly to attaching to the words alone then we risk collapsing into dogma and rigidity. But if we veer too strongly to relating to Bhante purely in terms of ‘the spirit’ of his teaching, we risk drifting into vagueness and fantasy and miss the full meaning of his teachings.
The project feels dynamic, alive and evolving and I suspect and indeed hope that this will remain the case for generations. If we ever became completely clear about what we are doing, that we’ve ‘nailed it’, then it would probably be time to shut up shop. I find it exciting that this project exists for our community and encourage everyone to join us in this exploration and make this a project of continual creativity amongst us all as a community of practitioners.
Bhante has given us the most precious gift we could ever hope for: the gift of the Three Jewels. He opened the portal, the doorway in the sky, and perhaps our overriding task is to keep that portal, that doorway, open for ourselves, but even more importantly for generations to come. This is perhaps what the Adhisthana Teaching Community is most essentially about.
This blog is an excerpt from the Tenth Anniversary book which can be viewed online or bought from Adhisthana.