In Triratna, our system of practice is a dynamic mandala of five principles. We progressively integrate mind and body, samatha and vipassana, and discover the power of skilful and positive mental states. Then, directly penetrating and dispelling our delusions, we open ever-more to the wonder of what is. Thus, at last, we can wake up to and be who and what we truly are.
On this retreat Tejananda will lead us into a somatic approach to the five principles, that is, one based in the living energy of our body and being. Through being open to the energy of the body, and by becoming attuned to it’s actual nature we’ll discover ways to “integrate” all five principles experientially into a single, embodied ’non-practice’ of Simply Being. Although this material is open to all, please note it is intended for those with a regular meditation practice.
Day One: Integration As this was our first day please skip forward by 10 minutes as we resolve technical issues. After a general introduction Tejananda led us through a short exercise to explore the distinction between mind and body, or the difference between mental projection onto experience, and actual experience. He then ran through the aspects of the Triratna System of Practice from the perspective of the ‘dynamic mandala’ – an approach which focuses on somatic (or bodily/energetic) experience. After a led meditation to help us ‘arrive’, he outlined an intuitive, ‘awareness and energy’ approach to working with the five hindrances. We conclude with a short meditation and further questions.
Day Two: Positive Emotion.
This morning there were 50-60 of the Bristol Sangha online again to hear the second part of Tejanada’s teaching on the ‘Dynamic Mandala’, a somatic exploration of the Triratna System of Practice. ‘Somatic’ is the term used to highlight the alive/vibrational aspect of awareness. Today’s focus is on positive emotion. Tejananda encouraged us each to find where ‘a sense of ease’ may be located in our bodies, as a starting point for this practice. It may not be the heart- area. We need to discover what our actual experience is through our practice, and thus come to an embodied understanding of principles of the System of Practice. Tejananda led a short first meditation which he described as ‘the becoming embodied procedure that we’re doing’. This is also sometimes described as helping us to arrive into ’embodied presence.’ We explored the awareness of our actual experience of bodily sensations using the metaphor of becoming aware of the various bodily sensations as a cloud.. We went on to explore the heart in the way that the hara had been explored on day one, moving from an awareness of the whole ‘soma’ into the heart-speace. This included an exploration of the experience of the space ‘behind the heart’. This was followed by sharing the experience of the practice and what we do to contact metta. The morning concluded with an exploration of ‘uncontrived’ loving kindness and a short meditation in which we explored opening up to unconditional love. Again, we shared our experiences at the end of this practice.
the ‘Dynamic Mandala’ with Tejananda – Day 3: Spiritual Death.
Day three of our Virtual Rains Retreat in Bristol with Tejananda saw about 50 of us exploring the aspect of Spiritual Death, through the ‘Dynamic Mandala’. Tejananda re-emphasised the fact that we can’t meditate unless we are able to know this sense of being embodied. He talked more about the value of engaging with our actual bodily sensations through which we may discover that soma or the ‘cloud’ of sensations of the body are less fixed than we may have thought. Soma is vibrational – to put it simply, tingling. He suggested by bringing awareness to an area of the soma, it tends to open up and reveal more. The somatic approach to the system of practice means everything becomes experiential and exploratory and in some way simpler.
This approach also puts the mind back into it’s proper place. It remains as one of the six senses but without crowding out the other senses with mental proliferation.
We began with a 15 minute meditation to settle and touch into the areas of integration and positive emotion as explored in the last two days then Tejananda explained the term ‘spiritual death’ which is Sangharakshita’s chosen term for wisdom/insight practices that facilitate seeing through that which we are delusively holding onto. This process leads to the cessation of dukkha. He then talked about the emptiness teachings point to the fact that our actual experiences are empty of what we are delusively holding onto. Emptiness is often misunderstood in nihilistic way, but it actually points to the fact that really we are undivided from everyone and everything. We are not a separate entity, we are part of a whole. The practice today explores this somatically, so that hopefully we’ll fail to find boundaries between our own bodies and what’s outside.
The Dynamic Mandala with Tejananda – Day Four: Spiritual Rebirth.
We were exploring the aspect of Spiritual Rebirth in the ‘Dynamic Mandala’. Tejananda began with some reflections on the benefits of the ‘principial’ nature of the system of practice – especially the flexibility of application which it offers. After a brief recap on the preceding stages we had a 20-minute meditation to help us become present for the teachings to come. In introducing today’s theme, Spiritual Rebirth, Tejananda mentioned the difficulties which some people encounter with the language used in the system of practice. He offered a one word equivalent of Spiritual Rebirth as an alternative: realisation. He described the way in which, when we realise something, it brings a sense of clarity, openness, relief. For most people insight develops by increments, by very brief experiences. He explored two dangers around this – doubting the experience and grasping on to the memory/idea/concept of the experience long after it had passed. Insight is only every here and how. Sangaharakshita uses the image of insight arising in flashes and the metaphor that our practice is like building a lightning conductor to increase the likelihood that this lightening can strike.
Tejananda went on to explore the ‘aftermath’ of insight experiences as an aspect of Spiritual Rebirth. The ‘laundry’ after the ‘ecstasy’. The ego-mind is still functioning, the samskaras (habit patterns) still operational, so we need to work with the kleshas (defliements) The kleshas need to be ‘loved to (spiritual) death’! We then did a practice called ‘bringing the kleshas onto the path’, in which we deliberately brought to mind an irritation or a craving and then allowed prapanca a free rein before switching strongly into awareness of our bodily sensations do as to experience and come into relationship with the klesha somatically. The morning concluded with a short practice of sitting without moving at all – ‘Sitting with our own s**t’, as Reggie Ray called it.
Bristol Sangha Rains Retreat 2020 – The ‘Dynamic Mandala’ with Tejananda
– Day Five: Spiritual Receptivity.
The fifth, and concluding, day of our Virtual Rains Retreat with
Tejananda saw us exploring the Receptivity or ‘just sitting’ aspect of the
System of Practice, seen as a ‘Dynamic Mandala’. Tejananda introduced this
aspect of practice as a transition from a ‘fabricated’ to an ‘unfabricated’
In a period of meditation practice we had an ‘experiential resume’ of
the material from the previous four days. Questions and observations followed,
including how to work creatively with a ‘frozen heart’ and working with eyes
A second practice explored whether awareness could be in past or the
future, and how even the sense of ‘flow’ is something that the mind creates.
Tejananda went on to explore the question of awareness more fully, in
terms of the formed/unformed or contrived/uncontrived approaches to the
elements of the System of Practice. He shared a reading from
Longchenpa’s Precious Treasury on the Basic Space of Phenomena which
offers a visionary, poetic description of what awareness is. He went on
to explore how, in just sitting, one can open to all the qualities of the
System of Practice simultaneously. Further questions and discussions
included exploring the terror that can arise along with glimpses of insight.
We concluded the morning, and the retreat, with two more short periods
of just sitting with questions and answers to conclude, including the
non-difference of awareness and love.
Joy in the cremation ground: The living practice of Sangha. An online retreat led by Bhadra and team
As the pandemic continues we are having to seek new ways to nurture and deepen our simple human need for connection and community cohesion.
This retreat invited usto share the practice of enlivening the Sangha jewel, allowing its solace and joy to soak into our bones and hearts. We did this through meditation, a daily talk from Bhadra, bodywork, groups and evening rituals.
Here’s the text of the Tiratanavandana which we started each morning meditation with:
And here’s Satyalila’s intro to the mandala of Buddha qualities, the Five Buddha Mandala:
18 August:Taranita on Pilgrimage and the Spiritual Journey. What is the purpose of pilgrimage? A valuable Buddhist practice, or an excuse for exotic tourism? An important means of connecting with our spiritual ideals, or self indulgent virtue signalling? Taranita gives a short talk, followed by a guided meditation of a pilgrimage to a place of the Buddha.
2 June: Ratnavandana on Living Sacredly. Ratnavandana (interviewed by Satyalila) talks about ‘living sacredly’, an aspiration she has put into practice to many years. The video for this talk is on our YouTube channel. There is also an audio of the meditation from that evening and a PDF of Hakuin’s Song of Meditation.
5th March. ‘A Case of Dysentry’. An example of the awakened heart in action from the Life of the Buddha. Bhadra focuses in this talk on the risk of an attitude of utilitatrianism that might undermine Spiritual community.
11th June. The dialectic of Wisdom and Compassion. Simhanada explores the dynamic relation between these apparently separate aspects of the enlightened Mind.
18th June. ‘The Mystery of Bodhicitta’. Bodhicitta as the meeting of the universal and the individual. Bhadra explores this mystery as a path from group, to individual, to the higher third and culminating in the Greater mandala of purposelessness
25 June An introduction to the Heart Sutra. Taranita gives the first talk in our mini-season of six on the Heart Sutra. Listen here
July: Three talks Satyalila gave at our Women’s Mitra Nights in July on responding to our suffering, burning world. Listen here
9 July: Week 3 of the series on the Heart Sutra. Kulajalini continues her exploration of the emptiness of the six sense consciousnesses and the five skandhas.
16 July: Week 4 of the series on the Heart Sutra. Kulajalini completes her exploration of the emptiness of the six sense consciousnesses and the five skandhas.
23 July: Week 5 of the series on the Heart Sutra. Taranita and Prajnaparamita introduce three of the main protagonists from the heart Sutra: Avalokiteśvara, Śariputra and Prajñāpāramitā.
3 Sept: Launching a new term of Sangha nights, Bhadra, Naravira and Satyalila talk about ‘What Sangha means to me’ in three short, personal talks. Encompassing a wide range of themes including authenticity and individuality, the elements and the Bodhicitta the talks are distinctly different yet they resonate significantly with each other.
10 Sept: MItras Cath Dixon, Jay Williams and Tim Mason add their perspectives to the question ‘What Sangha means to me’. Three diverse talks share the wide range of their collective Sangha experience – from first encounters, to deep strong friendships, from Buddhist Centre to Buddhafield and beyond and how one’s relationship with Sangha can evolve and deepen over the years and decades.
1st October: Bhadra talks about “Weaving Sangha through Dana”, looking at the giving of truth, the giving of turning up and the giving of money to weave a dynamic and thriving Sangha. Dana creates the foundations of confidence in the power of the Dharma to transform the world.
22nd October: Bhadra introduces some of the Dharmic principles that are the basis for the “Crucible of communication” weekends and their relation to the deepening of Sangha
26th November: Continuing our theme of Sangha, Merry Clarke, Jen Harvey and Eli Cullum each give a short talk on the topic.
10th December: The second evening on the Brahma Viharas. Taranita gives a short introduction and leads a meditation on the Mudita Bhavana and the Upekkha Bhavana.
3 April: Celebrating Triratna Order 50th Birthday with 50 voices:Talk
Satyalila shared some glimpses into the vision and the (sometimes messy!) unfolding of what began on 7 April 1968 when Triratna Buddhist Order was founded. The talk includes a sneak preview of the ‘Fifty Years, Fifty Voices’ project, she’s been working on since last year and how Sangharakshita’s Complete Works are a vital part of the story.
27 March:Introducing positive emotion and Ratnasambhavawith Prajnamati and KulajaliniHandout / Talk