About Us / Triratna Buddhism / What is..?
What is a...
The Sanskrit word 'mitra' simply means 'friend'. Becoming a mitra is a deepening of your friendship with the Triratna Buddhist Community, which can occur when your commitment to its ideals, values and practices has reached a certain level. Mitras are people who have made what we call a 'provisional' commitment to practising the Dharma within our spiritiual community. This involves a commitment to Buddhism, to practising the Buddhist path as taught within our tradition, and to the Triratna Buddhist Community as the main context for your practice.
We call this level of commitment 'provisional' because it is for the foreseeable future, rather than the more once-and-for-all dedication of an Order Member. You are ready to become a mitra when you decide that, as far as you can see at the moment, you want to practise this path, with this spiritual community. You are saying that from where you are now this looks like the path for you, and you are willing to give it a good wholehearted trial.
Becoming a mitra is a significant event in our spiritual lives, so it is marked by a public ceremony, which is a special event at the Buddhist Centre, and to which many people invite their friends and family.
If you'd like to know more about becoming a mitra, pick up the free booklet "A Guide to Becoming a Mitra in the Triratna Buddhist Community" from the Centre bookshop or read the ecopy here.
What is an...
An Order member is a man or woman ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order. Both men and women Order members are of equal status, and Order members lead diverse lifestyles. Some of the members of the Order live reclusively, others have regular jobs in society; some live in communities with other Buddhists, others live alone, others live with partners or families. Most important is the centrality of going for refuge in their lives. Whereas a mitra goes for refuge provisionally, an Order member goes for refuge effectively.
What is a...
A Chairman has overall responsibility for the spiritual health of the Buddhist Centre, as well as the financial responsibility. Each Buddhist Centre of the Triratna Buddhist Community is a separate charity and each Buddhist Centre Council, headed by the Chairman, share in all the decisions made.
The Chairman (he or she) is an Order Member who has been ordained for some years and is well respected by the local sangha. Beyond the local sangha, a Chairman has an overview of the wider movement by attending Chairman Assemblies.
This ensures that there is cohesion between all the various Institutions of the Triratna Buddhist Community - such as ensuring that Centres are all teaching the Buddhadharma in accordance with Sangharakishita's teaching. There are also dana projects that all our Buddhist Centres contribute to, such as supporting Dharma teachers in India. Our current Chairman, Sujana, has been involved with the Buddhist Centre as Treasurer, teacher, builder, handyman and much besides, for many years.
What is a...
The role of the president can be seen as three fold. Firstly, the president can offer an outside perspective, drawing on their experience of practising the dharma in the Triratna Community. The president usually comes from a different Buddhist centre and so can bring a different range of experience to the centre from the local order members. Secondly, the president can provide support and encouragement, especially for key members of the sangha who are involved in running the centre. Thirdly, the president can provide inspiration.
The President is not a paid role - our current President, Paramabandhu, volunteers his time and experience to the Norwich Buddhist Centre. You can read more about him here.
What is a...
Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning "circle." In the Buddhist and Hindu religious traditions, the basic form comprises a square with four gates containing a circle with a centre point. You could say that a mandala is a symbolic and miniature representation of Reality itself, a microcosm of the Universe. In the Buddhist tradition, mandalas are used as aids to meditation and reflection. They are seen as sacred spaces, pure Buddha realms, abodes of fully realised beings. The mandala of the five Buddhas is a particularly well known representation, powerfully revealing the nature of the enlightened mind.
Understanding must pass through the emotions before it can influence the way we lead our lives. So how do we involve our emotions in spiritual endeavor? Buddhist devotional ritual, or puja, is only one of many spiritual practices which address the problem of how to engage our emotions with our spiritual life. The Sevenfold Puja is a devotional ritual in which we collectively evoke various spiritual emotions and refine them. It becomes possible for the vision and insight of our thinking to act through refined, subliminated emotional energies. In this way, our whole life is completely transformed. - Sangharakshita, Ritual & Devotion in Buddhism
What Is the...
Mandala of the Five Buddhas?
Over the centuries, out of deep mediation on th Enlightened qualities which Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha, embodied, thousands of archetypal figues appeared within the Buddhist tradition. Each is rich in symbolic meaning. They express, though colour and form, an experiene that goes far beyond the range of normal human experience.
We can talk about the five Buddhas of the mandala as a set of five separate Buddhas, in a sense there is just one Buddha. The four who surround him emphasize different aspects of the one experience of Enlightenment. They are that total experience seen from four different points of view.
We enter the mandala from the East, in the dawn time, into the realm of Aká¹£obhya. His name means immovable or imperturbable, and he sits on a vast blue lotus throne, supported by four massive elephants. His left hand reaches down to touch the earth in the bhÅ«misparÅ›a or earth-touching mudra. He transmutes the poison of hatred with his mirror-like wisdom, which reflects reality like the still surface of a clear pool of water, Aká¹£obhya's element. The female Buddha LocanÄ is the wisdom aspect of this realm. Her name means "The Clear Visioned One" and she manifests the same qualities of a pure, simple, direct awarness of things as they are.
As we move south round the mandala we come to midday, with the sun at its zenith, where we meet Ratnasambhava, the Jewel-Born One, and MÄmakÄ« in the realm of the golden earth element, full of abundance, generosity and appreciation of the arts. This abundance of energy is symbolised by Ratnasambhava's animal the horse, and Ratnasambhava and MÄmakÄ« see the common humanity and cares for all beings equally; Mamaki's name means "Mine-maker", in the sense that she makes no distinctions. Both take the varadamudra, but with opposite hands, which symbolises generosity and helps transform the poison of pride into the Wisdom of Sameness.
We leave the heat of the day to approach sunset and the red Western realm of AmitÄbha and Paá¹‡á¸ÄravÄsinÄ«. Both associated with the lotus flower and meditation, their qualities are open, receptive, and full of metta. They transform the poison of greed through their Disciminating Awareness, seeing each being and phenomena as beautiful and singular. AmitÄbha's animal is the peacock, which according to myth can swallow poisonous snakes without coming to harm, and instead transmute the poison into the beautiful plumage of its tail.
Watch this space for information on Amoghasiddhi and Green Tara, and Vairocana and Ä€kÄÅ›adhÄtvÄ«Å›varÄ«.
With many thanks to Vessantara for his books The Mandala of the Five Buddhas and Female Deities in Buddhism, as well as to Jayarava and his website Visible Mantra, from which the above information has been gleaned.