Every year Glasgow Buddhist Centre closes its doors to the public and the committed community sits down to practice together. Such a ‘rainy season’ retreat was an important annual event in the life of the Buddha’s own community of practitioners 2, 500 years ago. They usually stopped their homeless wandering and stayed in one place to practice during the annual monsoon rains in India.
This year the covid lockdown meant closing only virtual doors. But we are also in the process of selling our premises. So for the foreseeable future we are mainly an online community. Covid regulations and Scottish weather permitting, we may become a 21st century version of those original homeless wanderers also sharing the Buddha’s teaching in the city’s parks.
The Buddha’s own community was diverse in colour, caste, economic power and gender. He was beloved by kings and scheduled castes in India alike. His step mother formed the first community of women full time practitioners. Whether you were formerly of Brahmin (High) or Dalit (known then as the untouchables) castes you were ordained into the same order and had the same status within it. Ordination into the Buddha’s community of monks and nuns had only one criteria; the sincerity of their practice.
And that is the same today. However our commitment to equality is still very much a work in progress.
In June last year our community, and the whole world, turned our eyes and our hearts to events in the United states and the murder of black men and women at the hands of the police. We issued a statement in support of Black Lives Matter and made a commitment to examine our own prejudices as a community. This year we are making good on that commitment.
Coming out of rainy season we have invited our community to ‘do the work’ of making the Triratna Buddhist Community a safer place for people of colour. As a community we are largely white. There are no people of colour who have been ordained in Scotland as order members yet. For us, ‘do the work’ means examining our heritage and our personal conditioning with regard to race, racism and caste discrimination.
The Triratna Buddhist Order does ordain women equally with men. There are now over 2,500 order members world wide. The women’s wing of the Triratna Buddhist Order is growing fast and is highly visible in our centres all over the world.
Our work on gender issues is not complete though. Internationally we are currently exploring how the binary nature of our ordination process impacts on people with different gender identities and expressions. Triratna Buddhist Order has from its beginning actively welcomed LGBT+ people. There are many LGBT+order members in Glasgow Buddhist Centre and at centres all over the world.
During our year of homelessness, we will be dreaming, visioning and planning our next incarnation as a community. We will remain faithful to the Buddha’s own example of equality of ordination and teaching to all people who want to learn about Buddhism. We plan to stick with our revolutionary principles of sharing the Buddha’s teaching ( the Dharma) without charge to people who seek it. Exactly how we will manifest these beliefs and principles next is the big question.
You may spot us in a park under a tree.