Each month a letter from the College Chair will be published here to regularly communicate their work to the Order and Movement, as well as a link to the latest College Newsletter and the blog page on The Buddhist Centre Online.
Ordinations within the Triratna Order take place throughout the year and world: the UK, Spain, India, Australia, New Zealand and the US, all have ordinations taking place regularly. This section also lists who’s been ordained recently, where they’ve been ordained, and what their new name means.
The College consists of 44 members, with retirements and new appointments on an annual basis. When a new member joins the College, we’ll introduce them here.
Lastly, there is a section for remembrance of College members who have passed away.
LETTERS FROM THE CHAIR – MARCH 2021
These letters are published here each month, as well as on The Buddhist Centre Online, and in Shabda, the Order newsletter, as a means to communicate the ongoing work of the College Chair and updates on current discussions and decisions. Responses are welcomed. Click to follow the Preceptors’ College on The Buddhist Centre online and view March’s ‘Features from the College’ .
Dear Order members and friends,
The main international College meeting is in November and this year we are also meeting for a weekend in March and July, as well as parallel gatherings in our individual College Kulas. (The Kula system is intentionally flexible, to allow for the different number of people training for ordination in different parts of the world, as well as the geographic spread of Public Preceptors in each Kula.)
Apart from the option of attending the regular Order Bodhicitta practice, our weekend meeting this month consisted of a ‘business meeting’; study on Vasubandhu’s Four Factors Giving Rise to Bodhicitta; and personal reminiscences from a few Public Preceptors on the theme of ‘Sangharakshita and the Gestalt’. We again ran each session twice, to allow for different combinations of people from different time zones.
The Order Bodhicitta practice sessions that Sunday were led by Vijayamala and Sugarbha, and I was delighted to introduce Sugarbha and rejoice in the fact that it was his email at the beginning of Covid lockdown in Barcelona, expressing a wish for the Order to come together in this way, that prompted a year of doing this practice together.
During the ‘business’ session of our meeting (and confirmed by those unable to be present) we agreed Yashodeva’s appointment as a Public Preceptor. As well as being an experienced Kalyanamitra and Private Preceptor, Yashodeva has been engaged in training for ordination in Spanish-speaking Triratna, and has spent time supporting the sangha in Venezuela; he is a welcome addition to the College. We also discussed several other potential new Public Preceptors, and hope to be able to move forward with these when we next meet in July.
I updated the College on responses received to the amended Eight Guidelines for Ordination Training, and would like to take the opportunity to stress that these are very much ‘guidelines’, and not definitive or obligatory, but likely to be a useful framework for reflection that corresponds to ordination training retreats.
We heard back from the College members liaising with the BIPOC strategy group on initiatives to encourage diversity within ordination training. The College Kula representatives now meet regularly between meetings, and are planning to pilot a workshop among themselves, inviting someone to lead an exploration of their experience of race.
The need for greater awareness of the ethics of private internet use is becoming more apparent, and this will be on the agenda of our November meeting. Saddhaloka filled us in on continuing discussions exploring the principles of Safeguarding / Order Ethics and also considerations of the implications of the ordination of former offenders.
One of the topics we’ve explored in the College in the past, is whether it is possible for us to be of ‘one mind’ or to have ‘one voice’ and to what extent – or whether – the Chair can speak for all Public Preceptors. Briefly, I would say that we aspire to carry out our responsibilities from a basis of harmony and shared ideals, as well as each being true to our understanding of principles. Practicing together, especially studying Dharma and sharing life experience, helps build the basis from which decisions are made. Feedback from the meeting was that people especially valued study led by Dhammarati, based on a section of the Bodhicittotpādasūtra’Sāstra; also the more personal sessions choreographed by Maitreyabandhu as a ‘ceremony of stories’, illuminating significant moments in people’s lives.
This month I’ve appreciated being invited to drop in on a US/Canada Order Day, and to join one of the monthly meetings of Bristol women training for ordination and Order members (using the framework of the Eight Guidelines to introduce myself and my practice).
I’ve always really enjoyed what used to be ‘FWBO Day’. I remember drawing closer to a large venue in London or Manchester, and experiencing the rising percentage of Order members in the surrounding population with a thrill of anticipation. This year Triratna Day will be online, hosted by Adhisthana in collaboration with others around the world; maybe we’ll crash the limits of zoom…
The College is delighted to announce that the following ordinations have taken place:
We are very happy to announce the second part of our Public Ordinations today, on April 26th, 2021 of the Joint Online Mainland European Ordination Retreat.
Inge Nilson from Berlin, Germany, becomes Amalagarbha (long final ‘a’) a Sanskrit and Pali name meaning ‘she who has inner purity’
Registered spelling: Amalagarbha
Beate Wilbrand from Essen, Germany, becomes Prasannagita (long final ‘i’ and ‘a’) a Sanskrit name meaning ‘she whose song is one of clarity, brightness and tranquility’
Registered spelling: Prasannagita
Sabine Schwarz from Bad Säckingen, (Freiburg Sangha) Germany, becomes Anandapaksa (first and final ‘a’ long, dot under the ‘s’) a Sanskrit name meaning ‘she who has wings of joy’.
Registered spelling: Anandapaksha
Their Private and Public Preceptor was Kulanandi.
We are very happy to announce the first Public Ordinations on Saturday, 24th April 2021, of the Joint Online Mainland European Ordination Retreat.
Karin van Kesteren from Diemen, The Netherlands, becomes Abhayanetri (long final ‘i’) a Sanskrit name meaning ‘she who leads from fearlessness’.
Registered spelling: Abhayanetri
Anna van den Heuvel from Arnhem, The Netherlands, becomes Hrdayamaitri (dot under the first ‘r’, long final ‘i’) a Sanskrit name meaning ‘she whose friendship is from the heart’.
Registered spelling: Hridayamaitri
Riet Dhuyvetters from Ghent, Belgium, becomes Moksaruci (dot under the ‘s’) a Sanskrit name meaning ‘She who has a zest for liberation’.
Registered spelling: Moksharuchi
Their Private Preceptor was Sobhanandi and their Public Preceptor was Kulanandi.
I am delighted to announce that ex-Paul Klein of Cuernavaca, Mexico was publicly ordained on Saturday, January 16 and given the name Moksharati, he who delights in liberation.
His Public Preceptor is Virasiddhi and his Private Preceptor is Nagapriya.
On November 2, ex-Sandra Lanckman from the Ghent Sangha, Belgium, was publicly ordained at Metta Vihara.
Sandra becomes Maitrivirya (long second and third ‘i’, long final ‘a’) a Sanskrit name meaning ‘she who has the energy of love’
Tarini was the Private Preceptor and Kulanandi the Public Preceptor
We are delighted to announce that three new Dharmacharinis were ordained at Akashavana, Spain, on 16th October 2020.
Monica Tamarit becomes Kavyadhi (long first ‘a’ and long ‘i’) – a Sanskrit name that means ‘She whose wisdom is inspired, creative and poetic’.
Private Preceptor: Saddhakara
Carmina Amaya becomes Bhavati (long first ‘a’) – a Sanskrit name that means ‘She who is full of light’.
Private Preceptor: Saddhakara
Reme Rojo becomes Suriyadassana (long last ‘a’) – a Pali name that means ’She who has sun-like vision or insight’.
Private Preceptor: Vidyasri
The Public Preceptor was Paramachitta.
Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu!
Five new Dharmacharis were ordained at Padmaloka, UK, on 1st October 2020, on the first retreat there since the pandemic began.
Public preceptor: Satyaraja
Alex Stirling becomes Shraddhavadin
(long second and third a)
He who communicates confidence in the Dharma
Private preceptor: Mahashraddha
Clive Fletcher becomes Karunadhara
( long second and third a)
He who is a bearer of compassion
Private preceptor: Danapriya
Mike Whittham becomes Kshantabandhu
He who is a patient friend
Private preceptor: Buddhashanti
Michael Proctor becomes Buddhasamagama
(long third a)
He who is with the Buddhas
Private preceptor: Mahashraddha
Public Preceptor: Padmavajra
Chris Petts becomes Akashahrdaya
(long first and second a)
He whose heart is like open space
Private preceptor: Harshaprabha
Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu!
NEW COLLEGE MEMBERS
The College is delighted to announce that the following have recently become members of the College.
I was born in Mombasa, Kenya in 1965 to Indian parents. I have no real memories of Africa as we moved to London when I was two. The sudden death of my father when I was eleven accelerated my questioning about the meaning of life, and in my early teens I decided I was a Buddhist. However I had almost no idea of what Buddhism was apart from what I had gleaned from a few popular books on Zen.
I studied physics at University – looking for answers to the big questions. I also tried to practise with a Zen group while I was a student – mostly trying to be mindful and have a routine in my life. I soon realised that physics wasn’t going to provide me with the answers I was looking for, and my attempts to practice Zen Buddhism left me disheartened and feeling that I lacked the determination and discipline that was needed. After graduating, I decided that my spiritual questioning was going nowhere and that I should get a ‘real’ job. So I ended up working for Marks and Spencer in their I.T. department. I can remember feeling lost and disillusioned and that I’d betrayed my ideals.
It wasn’t until 1994 when I was 28 that I came across the London Buddhist Centre and it was after my first retreat the Christmas of that year (led by Maitreyabandhu and Ratnadharini) that I realised that the Dharma was something I could really practise.
Soon after I moved into one of the LBC communities started by Maitreyabandhu and Paramabandhu (where I have lived ever since). I started working for the LBC in 1998 as a (not very good) fundraiser having finally found the courage to leave my job in the corporate world. I was ordained in 1999 by Subhuti at the Bordharan retreat centre near Nagpur, India. It felt completely right at a mythic level to be ordained in India and to have my public ordination fall on the anniversary of my father’s death twenty-two years previously.
Back at the LBC I took on being the Treasurer and a few years later, the men’s Mitra Convenor. For nine years from 2009 I was the Chair of the LBC which was both demanding and fulfilling – particularly the phase during the building of the new Vajrasana retreat centre. I handed on that role to Suryagupta in 2018 and shortly afterwards went on a 6 month solitary retreat – possibly the happiest period of my life. I am President of the Cambridge Centre and am currently co-writing a book with Maitreyabandhu on ‘Insight in our System of Practice’.
I first came across Triratna (then the FWBO) in Dublin, Ireland, in 1999, at the age of 22. After being convinced by a friend, I learned meditation from Ratnabandhu of the Dublin Meditation Centre and really enjoyed it. A little while later I realised I was a Buddhist, and that without some deeper meaning in my life I would continue to live existentially adrift and feel unfulfilled. I was particularly struck by the clarity of Bhante’s expression of the Dharma. I was finishing my studies in Theoretical Physics in Trinity College Dublin, but decided to leave my Ph.D. unfinished and look for something more meaningful.
In 2002, I had a very significant time participating in a Karuṇā door-knocking appeal in London, and once back in Dublin I became a Mitra and asked for ordination, started working for the Dublin Buddhist Centre as Centre Manager, and moved into a new men’s residential community.
I very much enjoyed the ordination process and was ordained in 2007 in Guhyaloka, my Private Preceptor being Kulananda and my Public Preceptor being Saddhaloka.
In 2009, I became the Men’s Mitra Convenor for Dublin, a role I have loved doing and still do to this day. It’s a very pure experience of being able to help people to connect with and grow in the Dharma, and the friendships that are formed are meaningful indeed. In 2018, I became a Private Preceptor, and I continue to work closely with the ordination team in Padmaloka to help men in Ireland prepare for ordination.
I recently started working for the Sikkha Project on a part-time basis. I still live in a men’s community and enjoy that very much. I am happy to be part of the College so that I can support the continued development and growth of the Triratna Sangha, particularly in Ireland.
I first met Triratna in Leeds, England in 1988. I was studying for a degree in philosophy and was, so it seems now, searching for the meaning of life. I quickly realized that I had found my spiritual home and, after moving to Manchester, I was ordained in 1992. I worked for some years at the Manchester Buddhist Centre and then at Dharmavastu Study Centre.
After a period of academic study and work, I moved to Mexico in 2013 and, somewhat inadvertently, co-founded Centro Budista de Cuernavaca of which I am current and founding Chair. I also ended up as the director of Editorial Dharmamegha, a project dedicated to publishing Sangharakshita´s and other Triratna works in Spanish. I got involved in the men´s ordination process in Latin America shortly after arriving in Mexico and form part of the ordination team.
There is huge potential for Triratna in Latin America and I feel privileged to be able to contribute to this process in some small way. Mexico particularly seems a receptive field for the Dharma and our sangha here is growing rapidly.
My published works include: Exploring Karma and Rebirth (Windhorse, 2003), Visions of Mahayana Buddhism (Windhorse, 2009), and The Buddhist Way (New Holland, 2018).
Remembering former College Members who have died in recent years.
Dharmacharini Anagarika Ratnasuri
1 April 1923 – 13 September 2019
Ratnasuri was born on 1 April 1923, in Norwich, one of triplets. She and one sister survived – after a difficult start; they were so small they had to be fed by their parents with a dropper from a fountain pen. They joined a family that included a brother and another sister. Their father was a tailor. He made the family’s clothes and they were always smartly dressed. Having such a talented father is perhaps where Ratnasuri’s love of art and design started. At thirteen, she went to junior art school and enjoyed drawing, painting, dress design and poster design. At sixteen, she did an apprenticeship as a window dresser in a very smart Norwich department store, but any dreams of progression were abruptly halted by the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. In 1942, at nineteen, she decided to join the war effort. She said later, “I really wanted to defeat Hitler!” Her boss at the department store was furious, but Ratnasuri had bigger concerns.
All who experienced the war witnessed the fragility of life, but perhaps especially those who saw conflict directly. Ratnasuri worked in the anti-aircraft battery guiding the guns and the men firing them. One night in Antwerp, after a frightening overhead air-raid, she set off to meet a boyfriend and found out he had been killed in a direct hit.
Ratnasuri was already looking for some deeper meaning to her life, but like many women she ended up getting married and settling down. Her marriage wasn’t a happy one, but she did have two sons, Kevin and Peter, who she loved and cherished. She found employment doing quality control in a chocolate factory and as a lab technician for the Milk Marketing Board. The years passed and the children grew up.
In her mid-fifties, having left home, Ratnasuri took up yoga with Sona. Through him she started to read books about Buddhism. She also came across the magazine Mitrata, which was produced in Norwich by Srimala. Ratnasuri started attending classes at the Norwich Buddhist Centre. Typically, she threw herself into the sangha with youthful verve, even though, being in her fifties, she was regarded as ‘old’ by younger members. Eventually she was going to every class the centre offered! She worked with Aloka and other Order Members in the wholefood café, Rainbow, latterly Oranges. She had been involved for two years when she became a mitra. It was five years after first coming along to the Norwich Centre when, in 1983, she was ordained, alongside Ratnavandana and Ratnadakini. She was given the name Ratnasuri, which means ‘Heroine of the Three Jewels’. At sixty, most people are thinking about retirement. Ratnasuri was just getting started!
After ordination, she lived and worked around the Croydon Buddhist Centre for a year. Then, in 1983, the women members of the Western Buddhist Order decided to hold a month-long intensive retreat on the Isle of Muck. There were just twenty women Order members at the time and they joked on the journey that if the ferry went down on the way to Muck, that would be it for the women’s wing of the Order! Fortunately, it didn’t. On the retreat Sanghadevi announced that she wanted to set up the FWBO’s first women’s retreat centre and wanted someone to go with her. Guess who put up their hand and volunteered?
So at sixty-two years old, Ratnasuri found herself going down the long, bumpy track to Cornhill Farm, Shropshire, now known as Taraloka. There were four women who were the founder members of the Taraloka community: Sanghadevi and Ratnasuri and the mitras who would become Karunasri and Kulanandi. The fifth member was Ratnasuri’s cat, Tansy. It wasn’t easy; they were pioneers, and pioneers in boiler suits and hard hats as well, having to undertake much of the restoration work on the old farm themselves. Ratnasuri cooked valiantly for everyone on a camping gas stove, frequently with bits of ceiling falling in the food! She also co-led many of the meditation retreats with Sanghadevi.
Not long after moving to Taraloka, Ratnasuri became an ‘anagarika’. This meant following the example of the Buddha by committing oneself to a simple life where one does not pick and choose; and also taking vows of celibacy. At her ceremony she wore the orange robes that symbolically connect with the Buddha and his early followers, a tradition stretching back over 2,500 years.
But Ratnasuri’s heroism didn’t stop there. In 1987, while on retreat at Taraloka, Ratnasuri received a phone call from Srimala. She told her that Sangharakshita’s mother was ill so he couldn’t go to India to conduct ordinations as planned. Now he wanted to ask if Ratnasuri would go with her, Srimala, to India to conduct the first ordinations of Indian women along with Padmasuri, who was living there. Ratnasuri was startled, but she couldn’t mention it to anyone. A retreatant commented to her, “Something happened to you on that retreat!” and she thought, “If only you knew!” Having never been to India before she was scared by the prospect and wondered how she would cope with speaking in front of so many people. But she told herself, “I get nervous speaking in front of five people, what difference does it make if there’s five hundred?” So, aged sixty-four, she went to India to conduct the public ordinations of Jnanasuri and Vimalasuri. As an anagarika, she wore her orange robes for the ceremony, which would have been a powerful visual symbol about women’s spiritual potential for the Indian community.
The ordinations of the women in India were conducted ‘on behalf of’ Sangharakshita. Two years later he asked three senior women Order members to perform ordinations acting now ‘on their own responsibility’ – a very significant development for the Order. Srimala, Sanghadevi and Ratnasuri were the first women private preceptors acting in this way. But it was Ratnasuri who was asked to perform the public ordinations. In summer 1989, on a retreat at Taraloka, she received into the Order Cittaprabha from Sydney. A few weeks later, on 11 September, another six women received their ordinations. These were historic events, not only for the Western Buddhist Order, but for the whole Buddhist world where full ordination of women – a lineage started by the Buddha himself – had long since largely died out. Because Sangharakshita was able to entrust her with this responsibility, and she was willing to take it on, Ratnasuri opened the door for a new ordination lineage of women ordaining women to come into being. She went on to ordain many more women into the Triratna Buddhist Order. As a preceptor she privately and publicly ordained 45 women in total, as well as being a kalyana mitra or friend to countless others.
Ratnasuri was a lover of meditation and as well as living in the community at Taraloka, she took part in many retreats held there. She was frequently the oldest in community situations, but her joie-de-vivre and youthful spirits belied that. During all this time, she maintained her love and inspiration for the arts. She was a poet and a photographer. She loved relaxing to classical music in her reclining chair. And she was a print-maker, making prints from her own woodcuts.As well as her passion for creativity, meditation and friendship, she was a lover of technology and could be seen at the Genius Bar of an Apple Store whenever she got a chance!
At the end of 2005, Ratnasuri had a huge shock. She was celebrating a birthday in the Taraloka community when she had a phone call to say that her son, Peter, had died. His death was a great loss to Ratnasuri. Previously, she had been suffering with anaemia and later confided that had she still been anaemic, the shock might have killed her. Characteristically she responded to old age and anaemia by taking up the Vajrayogini meditation practice because “I needed more blood” and to “let go more”. She could be seen frequently at Order events manifesting the dakini energy on her pedal scooter!
In 2014, she made the decision to leave Taraloka, her home of nearly thirty years, and move into sheltered accommodation in nearby Wrexham. A retreat centre is a busy place to live and, aged ninety-one, she was ready for a quieter, more reflective life. She also relished the idea of shopping and cooking for herself, going about town, having adventures. Unfortunately, her eyesight was deteriorating quite rapidly due to macular degeneration, so she couldn’t be as independent as she would have liked. One of the hardest things about sight loss, she said, was not being able to see the faces of her friends.
In 2019, it became clear that independent living was no longer viable for Ratnasuri, even though her friends, carers and the Taraloka community had helped considerably. With their help, she moved into a residential home in Wrexham with her beloved budgies, who gave her so much joy.
‘Ratna’ means jewel and Ratnasuri was a kind, generous, creative and multi-faceted person. ‘Suri,’ means heroine: she broke down barriers of what it means to be a woman Buddhist in the west and what it means to practise the Dharma in mid to old age.
She leaves behind an Order with a flourishing women’s wing, and a lineage of women’s ordinations that she helped inaugurate. She leaves behind many devoted friends and admirers, and her son Kevin. She will be sadly missed.
Dharmacharini Kamalagita, 17/09/19