Sangharakshita Has Died

Sangharakshita, founder of Triratna Buddhism, died this Tuesday morning. He was 93 years old.

Born Dennis Philip Edward Lingwood in Britain in 1925, Sangharakshita was one of the first Western practitioners to be ordained as a Theravada monk in the period following the Second World War. Sangharakshita was the author of more than 60 books and has been described as “one of the most prolific and influential Buddhists of our era,” (Smith and Novak 2004) and as “the founding father of Western Buddhism.” (Berkwitz 2006)

He spent more than 20 years in Asia, where he had a number of Tibetan Buddhist teachers and was actively involved in the Dalit Buddhist conversion movement founded by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar in India in 1956.

A sometimes controversial teacher, Sangharakshita founded the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order in England in April 1967. In 2010, the FWBO became known as Triratna Buddhist Order. Sangharakshita formally retired in 1995 and stepped back from the movement’s leadership in 2000.

The Triratna Buddhist Order published a statement to share the news of Sangharakshita’s passing:

With great sadness we inform you of the passing away of Urgyen Sangharakshita, today, 30th October 2018, at approximately 10 am in Hereford Hospital. He had been diagnosed with pneumonia and this morning the consultant said that he also had sepsis, from which recovery was not possible.

Please join with us as we direct our Metta towards Bhante, recollecting his wonderful qualities and remembering with gratitude all that he has given to so many of us. Local Centres around the world may be holding daily meditations and pujas and you may wish to arrange additional activities in your communities and homes. 

Bhante asked that the following mantras be chanted at the time of his death: Shakyamuni, Green Tara, Manjushri, Amitabha and Padmasambhava. 

After a few days, Bhante’s body will be laid out at Adhisthana where the funeral and burial will also take place.

 

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Gagging Orders and Compassion

I received a link to a video from Sylvia, a Buddhist friend, and have decided to post it here. Given the nature of the piece, it seems timely to reiterate our editorial policy.

“It is Not the purpose of this website to campaign on political issues, however as a Buddhist site we will continue to promote peace and the welfare of all beings by any appropriate non-violent means”.

The story is particularly poignant given the current Lord Hain and Sir Philip Green controversy and the human misery being inflicted by the roll-out of Universal Credit.

The lady in the video below is Ellie Waugh, chief executive of the charity Humanity Torbay, which aims to help the vulnerable secure homes, jobs and training. At its heart, this is about compassion.

Part of that mission has involved working with the government – but this has come with strings attached, including a demand not to criticise Tory policies such as Universal Credit on pain of losing grant aid.

Passion mixed with great compassion……..

Something Understood

Last Sunday one of our Sangha members recommended this week’s offering on the BBC Radio 4 program, “Something Understood”. The piece is “Cultivating Kindness”, by Suryagupta Dharmacharini, Chair of the London Buddhist Centre. In this episode, Suryagupta explores the Metta Bhavana meditation practice – the technique for the cultivation of kindness created by the Buddha.

Unfortunately, this program is not available as a podcast so here is the link to it on the iPlayer, but hurry, it is only available until the end of the month.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/play/b0blgj7k

There are some great tracks featured; Hurt by Johnny Cash, No Love Dying by Gregory Porter, Stand By Me by Tracy Chapman, A Love Supreme, Pt. I – Acknowledgement by John Coltrane and also readings from works by Achaan Chah, Dostoyevsky, Ryokan, Rumi, The Buddha and others.

A Four Day Retreat at Gaia House

The following is an email interview with Simon, one of our Sangha members, who recently attended a retreat at Gaia House, a meditation retreat centre near Newton Abbott in Devon, offering silent meditation retreats in the Buddhist tradition.

When did you decide to go and why?

Had my eye on the retreat (‘Breath by Breath’ with Jenny Wilks and Jaya Karen Rudgard) from November last year and was keen to explore Anapanasati (Mindfulness with Breathing) in a retreat setting. 

What preparations did you make, what did you need to take (or were, or were not allowed to take)?

I prepared by reading Larry Rosenberg’s ‘Breath by Breath’ on which the retreat was based. I needed to take a tent (I could only get a camping place) and half the contents of my flat, 90% of which was completely unnecessary. ‘A bag with a toothbrush and a comb in’ would have sufficed. And a change of clothes. . . .sun cream, bug spray etc etc [probably needed some earplugs as well]. We were supposed to leave our mobile phones in our cars or I think they had a safe if you didn’t trust yourself. That was a blessing: a four day tech fast.

How was your journey to get there (and back)?

The journeys, both there and back, were fraught with dukkha. I made a whistle-stop tour along the way to visit friends from the mainland, a coffee here, a lunch there, a quick visit to the dentist and hygienist and a six mile run around Dursley golf course for good measure (I stayed overnight at a friend’s). Driving across Dartmoor on the morning of the retreat was nice. I’d forgotten how beautiful it was, not having been for a good 10 years. Journeying home was hard work. Often after retreats as soon as you hit the main roads you want to go and hide under a hedge because, well, those lorries are big and noisy and vaguely terrifying. On this occasion, I was momentarily possessed of dhammic superpowers (concentration, clarity, equanimity) and found everyone to be wading through treacle whilst I waltzed through the Devon Expressway Esso like a veritable master of flow. Two hours of hollering to rock music (to try and stay awake) along A roads and a full (read: full-bladdered) 60 minutes in Southampton’s rush hour traffic soon brought me back down to migraine humanity on Planet Dukkha, where I belong of course, by way of a midnight ferry after curry with friends and a Leonard Cohen drive home to Insomnia Bay. 

What type of course did you undertake and why?

The course was based on the Anapanasati Sutta and we went through one of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness on each of the days we were there: mindfulness of the body, of feelings, of the mind and of dhammas. I’d been studying the Satipatthana Sutta and there is a clear relationship between the two suttas. They pretty much cover the same ground and I wanted to put into practice what I’d been reading about in a formal setting.

What was the environment like and how did it affect you?

The environment was very pleasant and peaceful and conducive to practice. The weather was pretty much perfect. The animals (the birds and the rabbits) seemed to sense that we humans were not a threat and would beak/snout about among us as we did our walking meditation on the lawn. Relaxation and equanimity were more or less an inevitability. 

How did you get on with the other attendees and did that change and if so why?

Vibrations were good between most people as far as I could tell. It was a silent retreat so it was all just smiles and bows and emanations of what I assume was mostly warmth. Everyone seemed calm and content. Although there was one chap who was seemingly doing all he could to control his long stertorous (was it Ujjayi?) breathing as if he was rehearsing for the part of Darth Vader in the next Star Wars movie. He was also, on the third day, taking rather noisy, possibly frustrated or even angry, swigs from his water bottle before banging it down on the floor. I think some notes of complaint were made and he simmered down a bit by the evening so those of us in his vicinity were able to return to our own breathing. 

What did you get out of your time there; What changed?

A heady blast of piti and sukha and an all-too-brief glimpse of not-self. A sighting of The Ox methinks, though not seen since so no change there. The retreat was a timely reminder of the value of intensive practice. I came away incredibly relaxed, possibly even too relaxed. High as a kite in fact. Found myself wandering in retro headphones around Tennyson Monument at 5am the following misty morning singing ‘Wish You Were Here’ at the top of my Milarepa lungs.

What was your highlight and/or fondest memory?

Sitting next to a Danish supermodel. 

What was the worst of it?

Sitting next to a Danish supermodel. 

Marks out of 10 (multiple categories if you like).

8 out of 10. Minus 1 for the bloke in the next tent who woke me up several times in the middle of the night, apparently talking to himself, though I reckon he was on the phone. And minus another 1 for the Parliament of Crow’s cacophonous dawn chorus which was, to put it mildly, ‘not pleasant’.

Only Two Weeks Until the Picnic!!

It’s hard to believe but this year’s Annual Buddhist Picnic will be our 21st! As is traditional we will be holding the picnic on the first Sunday of September (that’s the 2nd) on the Duver at St. Helens.

For those of you who have not been before, our picnic site is the other side of the road from the National Trust car park. Take the right hand turning by the signs showing the Duver and long stay beach front car parks, carry on a few hundred metres and the National Trust car park is on the left.

In the centre of the photo below, you can see our original meeting place, the small oak tree. As previously reported, the tree has unfortunately died and as such now offers no shade.

However, Angie and Mark have found another oak tree about a hundred meters further on along the track you can see to the right of the photo. So just carry on along the path and look for some Buddhists sitting under another small oak tree! If you’re on foot and coming from the St. Helen’s side you can go to the end of Mill Road and come across on the causeway, the “new” oak tree will be facing you to your right.

Or you could try using What3Words which will take you to the precise spot https://w3w.co/pitch.clearcut.shapes (unlock, select satellite view, zoom out as needed).

 

 

Family, friends, children and dogs welcome. Bring vegetarian food to share (don’t forget the fruit juices).

 

National Memorial to Dr. Ambedkar Inaugurated in New Delhi

On April the 13th, on the eve of the 127th anniversary of the birth of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Dr. Ambedkar National Memorial in New Delhi—at the place where Dr. Ambedkar died on the 6th of December 1956.

The Memorial has been designed to resemble the shape of an open book in reference to the Constitution of India, of which Dr. Ambedkar was the principal architect. The building is completely green, combining modern architecture with Buddhist elements. Modi previously laid the first stone for the memorial’s construction on 21 March 2016.

The new memorial houses a marble statue of the Buddha, a meditation hall, a Bodhi tree, a replica of the Ashoka pillar at Sarnath in Varanasi, musical fountains, façade lighting, and a 3.7-meter bronze statue of Dr. Ambedkar.

Bhim Rao Ambedkar, an ‘untouchable’, or Dalit, who converted to Buddhism was a prominent Indian freedom fighter, and the chief architect of the Indian Constitution, which outlawed discrimination based on caste.

Born into a poor family, Ambedkar spent his whole life fighting against social discrimination in the caste system during and after British colonial rule, which ended in 1947. He is also credited with having sparked the Dalit Buddhist movement.

The Dalit Buddhist movement (also known as the Neo-Buddhist movement) is a socio-political movement by Dalits in India started by Dr. Ambedkar. It radically re-interpreted Buddhism and created a new school of Buddhism called Navayana. The movement has sought to be a socially and politically engaged form of Buddhism.

Triratna Bauddha Mahāsaṅgha (formerly called TBMSG for Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha Sahayaka Gana) is the Indian wing of the UK-based Triratna Buddhist Community founded by Sangharakshita. Its roots lie in the scattered contacts that Sangharakshita had in the 1950s with Ambedkar. Sangharakshita, then still a bhikshu, participated in the conversion movement from 1956 until his departure to the UK in 1963.

When his new ecumenical movement had gained enough ground in the West, Sangharakshita worked with Ambedkarites in India and the UK to develop Indian Buddhism further. After visits in the late 1970s by Dharmachari Lokamitra from the UK, supporters developed a two-pronged approach: social work through the Bahujan Hitaj trust, mainly sponsored from the general public by the British Buddhist-inspired Karuna Trust (UK), and direct Dharma work. Currently the movement has viharas and groups in at least 20 major areas, a couple of retreat centres, and hundreds of Indian Dharmacharis and Dharmacharinis.

A little-known fact is that Roma gypsies trace their origins to the Dalits of India and several have followed the lead of their Indian compatriots and converted to Buddhism, often as a response to discrimination. There is a sizeable Gypsy Buddhist community in Hungary, they take their inspiration from Dr. Ambedka and are officially affiliated to the Triratna Buddhist Community.