Saturday, September 08, 2012
Back to school
It's September, and my boys started second and third grade. It's back to school time.
In the Triratna Buddhist Community you can become a mitra, it is self selective, when you realize that you're a Buddhist, you want to follow the 5 precepts, and you want to practice within the Triratna Buddhist Community context. Though shopping around is allowed now, you still you have some kind of allegiance to the TBC, otherwise why ask to be a mitra in this context? The mitra ceremony is a puja with three offerings: a flower, incense and a candle. They all symbolize impermanence, and beauty and the fragrance and light of the dharma.
Then, if the spirit moves you, you can ask for ordination into the order. You become, in the lingo, a GFR mitra. GFR is short for "going for refuge", which of course you can do without the TBC or TBO, but it's just how the tradition has evolved in distinguishing people who have asked for ordination.
I have asked for ordination. Now ordination isn't self selective, the order decides when and if you get ordained. You have to be witness to be effectively going for refuge. You might be effectively going for refuge, but not witnessed to be so. Effective means many things and I'm not going to unpack that now. There is a checklist of things you can do, but being invited is beyond a checklist. The only organization in the TBO, beyond centers, which are run autonomously (though in close relation with friendships in the order), is the preceptors college, who's sole purpose is to say yes or not yet to ordinands.
One thing that being a GFR mitra gets you (and that's a horrible way of looking at it), is that you can go on GFR mitra retreats, or retreats that include such people. And also it includes study.
In the good old USA, we don't have the amount of order members like you do in other places. So the order is stretched thin. So we have some on line Dharma study. And it happens to be on the Vimalakirti Nirdesa. There are great talks on FBA, and many translations of this excellent sutra. So I'm embarking on a deeper study of this sutra, which I've read a few times, and listening again to the talks, and rereading the book based on those talks.
I embark on this journey of study with excitement, and hopefully the right view of looking into the text. Approaching a text is a kind of sacred journey into the heart of the Dharma. What we find there will change each time, maybe, and hopefully I will bring the requisite energy and view to the study. I approach with respect and reverence. If I am receptive the text will beam out at me some of the feel of enlightenment, a glimpse perhaps, a finger pointing at the moon. I'm excited.