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March 30, 2005

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mike fitter

Dharmavidya, I agree about the importance of developing a 'core group' of committed people. I'm interested in your comment that "Sometimes the generic values of Buddhism have not helped in this respect".
The Sheffield Amida group currently has a study group on Stephen Batchelor's new book, "Living with the Devil". A question arose for me on in the early part of the book where he discusses Dependent Origination (contingency). Since one of our members was going to a retreat with Stephen at Gaia House, he offered to take a question to him - I don't know if I will get a reply, but I'm interested in what you or others might say. It is:

"Human experience is transient, unreliable, contingent - we are not 'necessary'. "Insight into the emptiness of self is achieved not by eliminating self but by understanding it to be contingent rather than necessary" (p.9). Is it possible to experience existence in this way if we live a life in the world of roles and responsibilities? For example, as a parent or as someone with commitments and responsibilities to others in a job. Although one could say these are simply roles, and we need not get 'attached' to them, they still require a certain solidity and reliability - I agreed to do this, I need to guide this through to completion, I acknowledge I am accountable for that. So is a life as a 'householder', or even as a leader of a Buddhist sangha, compatible with a life that experiences the absoluteness of emptiness?

And how was it for the Buddha? He didn't have any teachings to follow, he created them. Did he lead a sangha as if it were an organisation, or did he simply teach and travel, and people came and went, and these things happened without a sense of being responsible for the continuity of anything?"

Dharmavidya

It is a good question. My sense is that the Buddha did intentionally create an organisation and did have a sense that it would persist into the future for a long time and did take care to create conditions conducive to that intention. I also believe that this sangha organisation that he created was the "end product". I do not think that the sangha existed to help persons live the Dharma individually so much as that the living of the Dharma was intended to create a transformational community that, in turn, would act as a leaven in society at large. I appreciate that I am probably in a minority in thinking that, but refuge is in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha - not in self. Experience may be "transient, unreliable, contingent" but is that supposed to imply that we should be like that? It is hardly a noble prescription. Nobility implies fidelity, persistence, and reliability, in spite of the dependent and contingent situation in which we find ourselves. This debate will no doubt continue. Thank you. See you soon.

Mike Talbot

I am responding to Dharmavidya's original posting regarding the evolution of the Amida Trust. I have two comments.

Firstly, I am wondering about the role of leadership. At their extremes there seems to one school of thought that says that the leader is criticial in the development of an organization, he or she is the person that makes things happen, particularly in small, emerging orgnizations; the other is that the development of the organizations is a product of the process of the group (social constructivist theory).

In hierarchical organizations, I tend myself to the view that the leader is a critical component by virtue of either what s/he does or does not do. This then brings me to ask, to what extent is the evolution of the Trust a reflection of Dharmavidya's personal journey? My own hunch is that there has been in the case of the Amida Trust an interplay between leader and members but that Dharmavidya's own learnings have shaped things at critical junctures.

Second, I would like to elaborate on the phrase "people do want to be acknowledged". I think that there are a number of "needs" that can potentially be fufilled by a meaningful sense of membership in the Amida Trust/Order. These include identity, affiliation, belonging, shared purpose and a sense of personal path or direction. Some of these might be seen as props that one might eventually transcend but I'm not betting on that for myself. Breaking the "needs" of the individual out in this or some other fashion and then looking at the "needs" of the Trust and its work might be one step in constructing the best form for circles of membership.

Kreb Dragonrider

As someone who had resided at the Buddhist House for 5 month in 2002, and who continues to live as a lay buddhist, and have a keen interest in the Amida Trust, I would like to comment.

It seems to me that that the vast majority of organisations, of whatever type, is driven by inspiration and activity from one person, or a core or committee of a few.
Whether this is in the form of leadership, or co-founders, or whatever (even in so-called anarchist groups there are prime movers), the organisation takes on the personality of the founders and core people. People who join later have to fit in with the structure at least for a while, sometimes they are given some form of liberty to contribute to the structure or personality of the organisation.

As it stands, Amida Trust is a small but growing Buddhist organization. It had these characteristics, the combination of which makes it stand apart from other buddhists that I have known and encountered. It is engaged. It teaches western psychology. It is pure land. I rejoice!

One individual member in a small growing buddhist group, makes more impact on its structure, than would be possible in a larger group, especially if the member makes a lot of effort to do things. (If one was in the big three: FWBO, SGI, or NKT one's impact would be minimal) This is a step up, or several steps up, from making donations.

Now when I was there at the Buddhist House, I felt included in the group, despite my deafness. More so than certain other groups, whose names I will not name here. This has made a positive impression on me that still remains with me to this day.

There was, and still is, excellent "regime" at the Buddhist House, such as the four day cycle, with a good balance of meditation, work, study, and retreat.

As for the future, I am concerned about the number of projects that are going on. Will there be enough people to be involved? Will there be enough financial support? Can Amida Trust integrate the projects, retreats, and activities into an organic whole, as perhaps, as a mandala?

As for structure, will those "lower down" in the hierarchy have the wisdom (prajna), and energy (virya), and the compassion (karuna) to bring shape to the order as well as the head, Dharmavidya? Would Dharmavidya allow others to become prime movers within Amida Trust without feeling "threatened by competition" or others becoming "clones" of the head?

Having said that I approve of and rejoice in the good work of Amida Trust and Amida Order. Just keep up the good work!

Dharmavidya

We now seem to be moving toward projecting our future as a cellular structure. As Mike F said the other day, "I oscilate between thinking this is a really good fascinating idea and thinking it will never work". We shall see. The whole thing will come up for discussion at the Order gathering in a couple of weeks time. Watch this space.

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