|Forest Sangha Newsletter||October 1988|
Co-operation and a Different "Golden Rule"
Ajahn Santacitto, one of the Sangha co-ordinators for the Global Co-operation Workshop at Amaravati in August, contributed this piece. Fittingly, his own description is interspersed with comments from those who participated in the discussions.
Gotama Buddha: "So long as you will meet in concord, disperse in concord and tend to affairs in concord, so long may you be expected to prosper, not to decline.'
This well describes the co-operative spirit of "A Day of Peace", the inspiring visit to Amaravati from the London Branch of the Brahma Kumaris -a spiritual community whose practice is founded on meditation, celibacy and community service. Even when the coming together is of different religious forms, when one shares a commitment to a life of spiritual practice, there is quite naturally a sense of mutual appreciation and friendship!
A Brahma Kumari commented: "The spiritual atmosphere at Amaravati was such that it allowed both group members and co-ordinators to extend themselves. "
The day also brought together members of many of the Buddhist meditation groups including Bedford, Billericay-Leigh, Brighton, Harlow and Reading-to explore the potential of the Creative Group Workshops as a means for developing the "quality of Sangha".
... create a 'positive' attitude rather than lingering with criticism on the negative aspects and facts of current injustices.
"As we are living in a rather big community, this workshop - concentrating on one's only way of relating to others and to oneself -becomes quite meaningful," wrote one of the nuns.
Representatives of the groups met informally beforehand to explore possible links with each other and the Amaravati Sangha.
Gathering for the workshop, there was a little hesitancy at first.
A monk noted: "Not knowing what it would be like, my participation itself was included as a contribution for a better world:'
The workshop involved over a hundred people dispersing into fourteen groups each guided by one of the Brahma Kumaris in the spirit of positive expression of one's vision, and cooperative effort.
"One man of the Brahma Kumaris introduced us to the theme 'Vision for a Better World', which we were to elaborate on and contribute towards, in small groups of eight to ten people. The Golden Rule in these discussions was to create a 'positive' attitude rather than lingering with criticism on the negative aspects and facts of current injustices."
Though this Golden Rule may have at first appeared to many as being a game, experience proved otherwise.
A nun comments: "It could be a game. It is a game till your mind stops here: just where it hurts: just where it goes wrong. And you know you have to change the whole pattern. This is where the whole situation takes a completely different outlook. And you are alone -in the unknown -free to open up to whatever world, inner and outer you want to live in. This is all up to you. Was that a game"
A Brahma Kumari: "The most satisfying experience I had was one of transformation not only in myself but also of the group. It became an automatic process. As a result of the Golden Rule people disciplined their thoughts words and into thinking and acting positively for myself there was growth in self-respect and self-worth."
One first explored stepping into one's higher aspirations both for oneself, and in relation to others. The groups then considered how practically to better practise towards fulfilling these aspirations.
A Brahma Kumari: "At the beginning of the group session the ideas and visions were often wordy concepts which protected the individual rather than extended them. Members of the group however, co-operated with each other and through mutual support amid respect guided each other towards realising more of what their aim could be."
Upon reconvening after the workshop, a representative from each group shared the experience of the group. This was very inspiring and showed clearly that in all of the groups a high level of exchange had taken place.
An anagarika: "I saw the vast yet timeless gap between how I conceived my present position of relationships in the world, and how I'd like them to be in my highest aspirations ... A 'flip' of attitude - a change of lens and there was no waiting for my highest aspirations, my 'ideal world' to manifest; it was already here. I had just not realised that it was."
A monk: "It meant dropping and breaking through one's problems of thinking and using language. It actually felt a little like a 'breakthrough' because one feels so safe with all the vocabulary one is used to and one doesn't want to change. But the rules of the game allowed for that breakthrough to happen."
The gathering of all the visions and plans of action was then offered as a donation to the "Global Co-operation for a Better World" project, which is being co-ordinated by the Brahma Kumaris on behalf of the U.N. and which Tuhn Ajahn Sumedho supports as a patron.
In the Peace Vigil following tea, the communing in and communicating from silence seemed to conclude a very special day on a perfect note. However to our surprise, before breaking, Ajahn Sumedho requested the Sangha to chant the funeral chants for his father, of whose decease he had just been informed.
For us it was truly a joy to communally direct the power of all the positive energy accumulated on this wonderful day towards the memory and well-being of Mr. Clarence Jackman.
It is hoped that the Buddhist groups -both those participating and those unable to be present -can Use the workshop as a means of developing the "quality of sangha" within and between groups. If there is sufficient interest, the Brahma Kumaris will happily arrange a day to assist group Members III developing the role of co-ordinator. For further information, please contact Barbara Jackson, "Creative Group Workshops", C/O Amaravati Buddhist Centre.