I have been participating in the Triratna International Urban retreat and enjoying it very much. It is designed for people to participate in online in it’s entirety, which is especially good for people like me who don’t live near a Triratna Buddhist Centre. The International Urban retreat brings together members from the UK, Europe, North America, India and Southeast Asia. Participants are brought together as a sangha through broadcasts of teachings, meditation, chanting, puja, and connecting real time with retreat “buddies.” All retreat programs and materials are available online for free. All you need to do is log in to Triratna’s The Buddhist Centre online. This is what I thought that Nalanadabodhi should be doing (but they’re not and probably never will) and what Buddhist Geeks just started doing (although Triratna has been doing this for several years). So you get what you need when you need it. I really appreciate Triratna’s teaching on the Ratnaguna samcayagatha Sutra, the earliest of the Prajnaparamita texts. The teaching beautifully blends an approach to the Mahayana teachings with a Theravada perspective, and it works very well for me.
More on how you can participate in the Int’l Urban Retreat:
How can we live with a greater sense of appreciation and more of a non-utilitarian attitude to life? How can we let our life be transformed by beauty, nature, friendship, appreciation and love? How can we learn to live a live that is more spacious and happy and engage our energies with what we value most – rather than swinging between a narrow and tense driven-ness and just collapsing on the sofa, blobbing out mindlessly with drink, facebook, or any other distraction, in a vain wish to relax?
Sangharakshita’s teaching of ‘The Greater Mandala’ (from his exploration of ‘Wisdom Beyond Words) is about learning to live from a more expansive, beautiful, appreciative, and non-utilitarian perspective.
He gave this teaching in 1976 at a time when many people who were involved in Triratna (at that time called The Friends of the Western Buddhist Order) were working extremely hard to establish Buddhism in the West. They were literally building Buddhist Centres and residential communities out of dilapidated houses, as well as practicing to apply the Dharma in their lives.
In 2015 life can be just as busy. Our engagements may often be positive and worthwhile, although many of us also have to work harder for our living than 20-30 years ago. There may well be economic uncertainties in our life. Issues like the growing climate crisis can feel overwhelming. And there seem to be more humanitarian disasters on a large-scale every year. So many things call for our attention…
In addition, we live in an age where endless input and possible distraction are everywhere via new forms of technology and the internet. So the questions again presents themselves: how can we keep our perspective? Stay open-hearted? See the beauty in the world and people around us? Engage with our daily tasks with a sense of appreciation, enjoyment, spaciousness, and beauty?
Here are some quotes from the chapter on ‘Living in the Greater Mandala’ by Sangharakshita to whet your appetite:
“The Enlightenment of the Buddha was not a cold detached knowledge. He saw with warmth; he saw with feeling; what is more, he saw everything as pure, or subha ,….. because he saw everything with compassion. When out of metta, you see things as beautiful, you naturally experience joy and delight. And out of that joy and delight flow spontaneity, freedom, creativity and energy. This flow from metta to joy to freedom and energy is the constant experience of the bodhisattva.”
“If you are a bodhisattva you enjoy the world much as you enjoy a work of art”
“We usually think of ‘aesthetic appreciation’ as a little separate part of life within a much larger area that is utilitarian, but really it needs to be the other way around. Our overall attitude, our overall response to life, should be purely aesthetic. We should not seek to use things, but just to enjoy them, appreciate them, feel for them.
“You must learn to waste time”