Running Tide 30, the Amida Magazine
November 7th, 2013
The magazine has a new editor, Adrian Thompson, who has just taken over editorship from his brother, Kaspalita.
The latest edition is now available. Do read the excerpts from some of
the articles, which you will find below, and follow the links to the
complete articles, which are included as blog posts on :: Friends of the Amida Order
SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT ORGANISATION
Dharmavidya David Brazier
I was struggling to express in as few words as possible the fact that
the Amida Sangha now operates through a number of bodies like Amida
Trust, Amida India, IZT, IZTI and so on. This is similar to the
principle of organisation in Alcoholics Anonymous, that the Sangha as
such does not do worldly things, but its members do set up bodies to do
valuable things in the world. On the one hand, we need vehicles to do
such work. On the other hand, the Sangha in and of itself needs to be
independent of any such commitment because of the compromises that it
If we think about organisation, then we are thinking about
co‑operation and the means that enable co‑operation to be more extensive
and effective. Organisation is a plurality of people working on a
common task. The Sangha should therefore be concerned about
organisation, but we should be careful that the logic of organisation
should not take priority over the spiritual purpose.
I would, therefore, like to distinguish firstly between Sangha and
organisation. Of course, we can say that the Sangha is a kind of
organisation, but here I want to differentiate the two. The essence of
Sangha is spiritual leadership. The point of organisation is to get
things done. Clearly there is an important relationship between these
two and it is primarily the relationship between Sangha and organisation
that I want to explore here.
Sangha works on a gratuitous principle. A Sangha worker does not work
for the sake of an extrinsic reward, nor even really in order to achieve
a task. He or she works for the good of good itself. Virtue is its own
reward. The good of one soul is the good of all souls. The merit
accumulated enables innumerable beings to enter the Pure Land. In
practice, this means from each according to his ability and to each
according to need. Need, in this case, is often what is needful in order
to do the work, and, in particular, to do the work in such a way that
the distinction between work and spiritual practice dissolves.
This is the ideal which we attempt. It means that all work is part of
spiritual training. Insofar as we fall short of the ideal, we know that
there is some lack of faith and so some cause for reflection. This,
however, should not be taken harshly since it is normal. None of us has
perfect faith and we should not expect it of one another. We each do
what we can with the human material that we have in ourselves and in one
another and this is, of course, karmic material and so is inevitably
limited, fallible, vulnerable and foolish in many ways. This bombu
reality also implies that there are many types of people and this is
both a strength and a weakness, but it is certainly something to be
taken into account. The application of rational principles to all in a
uniform fashion may, in some situations, be the least bad option, but it
is not an ideal.
When it comes to getting things done it will commonly be found that
there are a small number of people who have a will for the task and a
larger number who, while broadly sympathetic, actually have other
priorities. There will be others again who think the whole idea
misguided and a further section who are neutral or uninterested. One
principle in organisation, therefore, should be to put the people who
have a will for the task in a position to get on with it and it will be
well if the second group, while making occasional suggestions, largely
confine themselves to applause and support in kind. Of course, as a
venture evolves, if it prospers, it is likely that others will become
inspired by it and the group of those with a will may grow. Such growth
is to be welcomed, but it also brings its own problems.
Also, as the third and fourth groups have some potential to disrupt the whole process it is best if a way can be found for them to be otherwise employed on something different that does indeed catch their imagination. As a general rule it will be preferable to have two groups doing incompatible things than to have general conflict and nothing constructive going on. Sometimes one does have to meet conflict head on, but often this is neither necessary nor wise. All sides have some wisdom and it is better that each find a constructive outlet than that the whole community become mired in indecision. In the most severe case, schism may be preferable to paralysis, but all means to restore harmony, or at least tolerance, should be exhausted before this ultimate recourse is implemented.
Again, to get things done one generally needs resources and expertise. These are not uniformly distributed. Some people have got them and others have not. A second essential principle of organisation will be, therefore, to bring the people who have a will for the task into close co‑operation with the people who have the necessary resources and expertise. There should be honour in the organisation for both.
:: continue reading here
Acharya Modgala Duguid
Boxing day 2004: our first Christmas in Delhi. I had been accompanied by two volunteers Joy, who has since ordained as Sahishnu, and Cathy, to see what we could offer to the Chakma monks and the Dalit (members of the untouchable caste) groups in Delhi. Teaching English as a foreign language had been suggested and we were trying out English classes for young people. On Boxing Day our first ever student arrived at the Delhi project to take me to meet some young women he was coaching. He was trembling and his poor English was almost incoherent; however I made out the words “Big wave”.
At his house in the slums a small black and white TV flickered and I saw the first scenes of the devastation the Tsunami had caused in southern Asia. India was not spared. The southernmost state of Tamil Nadu had borne the brunt and tens of thousands were dead or missing. In the next day’s the pictures were graphic and our older students were full of, “How can we help?” and, “Whatever the government collects only 10% will reach the people who need it”.
I had been booked to do a teaching tour in Tamil Nadu. The Sakya group, formed to help the Buddhist Dalits in the far South of India, were keen to have a female Buddhist teacher to give talks to people hungry to learn more about Buddhism. Many families had converted in the 1950s following the guidance of Dr Ambedkar who had written India’s constitution and then seeing that Buddhism taught true equality converted to Buddhism carrying several million Dalits with him. But there were few Buddhist teachers in India and in Tamil Nadu no female teachers. Their hope was that my example would inspire women to be more involved.
In the wake of the Tsunami, I expected the tour to be cancelled, but instead they wanted to extend it and show me the destruction the Tsunami had wrought. This comforted our students as they knew the little they collected could go directly to people in need.
:: continue reading this article here
THE CHAKMAS IN MIZORAM
The Chakmas are the indigenous people of north‑east India and south‑east Bangladesh. They are adherents of Theravadan Buddhism. While I was in India in January of this year, I was invited by Ven. Dhammalankar, a Chakma monk, to visit Mizoram: a northern state of India with a large Chakma population. Some weeks later, I arranged to meet Dhammalankar at a temple in Megalaya and we travelled to Mizoram with Dhammalankar’s teacher, Ven. Buddhajyoti.
The land is mountainous and the narrow roads that wind their way around the various peaks and mountain ranges are of a low standard, sections often ‘unmade’, just rough track or, where they are concrete, surfaces pitted with potholes. In short they are perilous. The main Chakma population in Kamalanagar lies a day’s journey by Jeep across mountain passes from the nearest city, Aizwal.
The climate makes for fertile land but cultivation isn’t easy on the steep slopes. The region is known for its ‘jhum’ cultivation, a process of ‘slash and burn’. Many Chakma people manage a self sustaining lifestyle by means of jhum cultivation, meeting their own family needs alone. Many are uneducated, illiterate and have no occupation or employment.
The living conditions for people in Kalamanagar are basic. Many dwellings do not have running water or more than basic sanitary facilities. There are no Internet services other than via mobile phone networks, which are limited, and electricity is subject to frequent supply failures. There is a hospital and healthcare services but these are limited to primary care for the most part, which means that treatment for more serious conditions is not available.
In this area there are about 80 small Buddhist temples serving the Chakma population, although about a third do not have a resident monk. There is a main temple complex in the centre of Kalamanagar with accommodation for about twenty; though the majority who I met there were visiting rather than permanently in residence. The Buddhist temple monks and the organising committees that support the Sangha in this area are prominent and they were significant in terms of helping community to meet the hardships they suffered.
:: continue reading this article here
To read more about Amida's history and involvement in India, do visit the 'Amida in India' website :: here
I'd like to offer thanks to Kaspalita for his editorship of Running Tide in the past, to Satyavani for her input and to Adrian for taking over and producing such an inspiring edition.
A request from Rob: "Please, re-energise 'NING' "
He writes: 'It seems very clear that our online energies have moved powerfully from this site to facebook. I fear very much we are losing something that really matters to the integrity of our Sangha in this.'
:: read more, join in the discussion - there have been some interesting responses.
You'll be able to add comments to the full 'Running Tide' articles above and to join groups such as 'Playing with Precepts', discuss Dharmavidya's hugely influential book 'The Feeling Buddha', listen to readings from his latest book, 'Not Everything is Impermanent', share 'Monday Nembutsu' practice with us, find links to Amida groups and supportive ideas to help you set up a local group where you can share Amida Pureland practice with others.
:: Friends of the Amida Order - please visit more often, even if you just have time to dip in and out.
Eleusis (formerly Amida France) is open to visitors from June onward. :: link to website If you have been to Amida France in the past or are interested in going in the future do follow this link to join :: the Eleusis ning community
The Instituto Terapia Zen Internacional represents some 20 different projects, centres, sanghas or networks. ITZI exists to foster the teaching and practice of Buddhist psychology - to find out more, follow this
AA is an on-line academic platform established by ITZI to deliver distance learning programmes.
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