“Good friends, companions, and associates are the whole of the spiritual life.” ~ The Buddha, Upaddha Sutta

Last week, from Monday 17th April to Friday 21st April, most of the FutureDharma team came together at Adhisthana for the first of their bi-annual residentials.

There are eleven of us within the team who all work remotely and so the opportunity to spend time together is limited. Those ‘water cooler’ moments when you share a work space are highly beneficial, however for us they are few and far between. Through online tools we have to make concerted effort to cultivate a bond, develop friendships, discuss our individual practices, and create collaborative environments so that workflow is optimal.

Nandavajra put together a full, varied, and balanced programme for the nine of us that could attend. Visarada and Sugarbha were missed – although the latter did manage to beam in from Barcelona for a few sessions!

  • Work – There were daily work periods which included workshop exercises and presentations. Being able to discuss projects, strategies, and goals as a group was a delight. It was a great opportunity to learn more about each others roles, how we all interplay, and gave us the chance to brainstorm creatively together. Many of us additionally made the most of our time at Adhisthana by arranging meetings to further develop our relationships – both professionally and relationally. Also – we were very fortunate to benefit from Dhammarati’s photography skills… stay tuned for our new headshots!

  • Practice – As with any TBRL, Practice was a key thread throughout our time together. Ratnagosha generously gave his time for two study periods in which we explored Bhante’s 1979 talk ‘Building the Buddha Land’ based upon the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra. You can learn much about a person from Dharma study, and as this was on the first day it lead us into a deeper and richer context for the rest of the residential. Throughout the week we engaged in ritual, puja, and had the opportunity to meditate with the Adhisthana community each morning.

  • Friendship – The FDF team has seen a lot of change this past year, not least with the death of much loved Moksacitta. For us to work together harmoniously and with commitment, cultivating the element of friendship is vital. Sangharakshita echoed the above quote from the Upadda Sutta with his more succinct version, “Friendship is the whole of the spiritual life”. Without true friendship where is the meaning or the purpose to our work in spreading the Dharma? Spending this time together allowed the new members to feel a part of the group, for old friendships to deepen, and new connections to blossom. We had two periods of distinct ‘play’ – an evening with Pundarika that included a ‘getting to know each other’ game and Satyadarshin on another evening made his famous chai, organised a bonfire and set up a movie.

The overwhelmingly positive effects of this time together is not only echoed in the progress we made with work, our understanding of each others practice, and our growing friendships but through the impact felt when we transferred merits at the end. Standing in a circle in the grand library atrium, spring sunshine streaming in, facing towards each other as well as towards the magnificent Padmasambhava rupa we experienced strong metta, calm, and joy. No one wanted to break the circle or cut through the silence. Content as we were in each others company, each others effort, and us a dedicated team.

A beautiful moment for us all to hold onto and one to share with everyone who is currently working in a TBRL or is exploring Sangharakshita’s vision of moving towards Right Livelihood. We look forward to our next residential at Adhisthana in October. Until then – we hold the FutureDharma vision and our connections with one another in our online world.