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Launch of the New Mitrata

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by Sangharakshita

... you know, describe for their benefit the scene here this evening. Sometimes people in you know out-posts of the FWBO they are really fascinated by little details of this sort. So perhaps I should say that well here I am. Standing at my lectern, in this medium sized room faced by I think it*s 50 or even 60 people. And on my right there is the shrine as usual beautifully decorated. Beyond the shrine there is Abhaya smiling at me. And in front of course all the people some of them of course wearing their white kesa*s which means that they are Order Members. There*s quite a lot of Order Members here this evening. We*ve got Rartnaprabha, and Alaya and Vajragitta and we*ve got Prasannasiddhi and we*ve got Mangala who was in India not so very long ago. And we*ve got, oh I*d better not starting to name the Mitras otherwise there*ll be oh there*s Vajrakumara too... I*d better not.. .oh and there*s Srimala. I was just saying I*d better not. .oh and there*s Subhadra. He*s not wearing his kesa so I missed him. So I*d better not start on naming Mitras otherwise there*ll be almost no end.

So, having made that clear perhaps I should go on and make it even clearer that we*re all gathered here together this evening at the Norwich Meditation Centre to help launch, to help truly launch our new/old Mitrata. And I can that people are in fact quite excited. I*m sure Abhaya is excited. I can see that and lots of you too. I must admit, I must confess that I feel quite excited myself. Especially when I pronounce or when I hear vthis word launch. That we are launching this new Mitrata I feel almost as though I was launching a battle-ship. But even that, even though of course there isn*t any bottle of champane handy for the purpose. There may be, maybe I should say it*s not so much a launching of Mitrata as a sending of Mitrata on yet another voyage after a more or less complete refitting. One might even extend the metaphor a little further and say that the good ship Mitrata is about to go this evening on its 40th voyage. And it will be visiting places all over the world and it*s laden down with a goodly cargo. A cargo called Perfect Vision, the first step of the Buddha*s Noble 8fold Path.

And the good ship Mitrata will be making this voyage every two months for an indefinite period. But perhaps I*d better go back a bit and tell you how the whole thing started. Perhaps I*d better go back a bit and tell you how the good ship Mitrata was build. It was build as long ago January 1975. And it was build under the direction of Padmaraja. And it was build while I was away on my first visit to New Zealand. And it was build by Padmaraja or under Padmaraja*s direction for Mitras, for the use of Mitras. At that time the Mitra system, or the Kalyana Mitra system as we called it then had just started and the idea was that Mitrata should be a sort of training manual for Mitras. And the material consisted at that time mainly of edited transcripts of lectures given by me and seminars which I had led. And the first 11 issues were edited by Padmaraja. Issues 12 to 16 - I*ve dug up all these details out of the archives - issues 12 to 16 were edited by Vessantara and issues 17 to 39 were edited by Nagabodhi. This Nagabodhi edited a total of 23 issues of Mitrata, which if I may say was a really magnificent achievement. Now during Padmaraja*s and Vessantara* s regime, Mitrata stuck strictly to its original program. And the issues edited by them dealt with Sila, that is to say Morality, with Samadhi or Concentration and Meditation and Prajna, Wisdom. The Three Great Stages of the Buddha*s Path. The Three Great Stages of the Path to Enlightenment or Nirvana. And the first 14 issues were subsequently all collected together and re-issued in one volume as the Mitrata Omnibus which has proved very very useful indeed in study groups and in Tuscany and so on.

Now, under Nagabodhi*s editorship the scope of Mitrata was considerably widened. The benefits of Mitrata were extended to a wider audience. It was made in a way more popular.

And this led to the production of some very interesting, some very inspiring and useful material mainly written or written up by Order Members. But eventually however it was felt that Mitrata, or the content of Mitrata, rather had perhaps become a little deluded so it was decided to revert to the original program. And Nagabodhi also probably at that very time wanted a change. So we have now a new series of Mitratas collectively by a four men editorial board. And this new series begins with Mitrata 40 which is the one we are launching here this evening. But once Mitrata is primarily a training manual for Mitras though of course others can buy it and make use of it and are in fact encouraged to do so if they wish. The next 15 issues or so will be devoted to the Noble Bfold Path about which I*m sure all of you have heard. One issue will contain the edited transscript of a lecture, that is to say a lecture by me on one or an other step or anga of the 8fold Path as well as extracts from various seminars baring on that particular subject that is to say baring upon that particular subject that particular topic. For instance the first of the Mitrata is on Perfect Vision. Perfect Vision is the first step so to speak on the Noble Bfold Path. So in this first Mitrata you*ve got in section one a parallely edited and if I may say so revised transscript of the lecture I originally gave on Right Understanding or Perfect Vision. And then that is followed by various extracts, also edited by me of material taken from seminars which I have given, having baring on this particular subject, this particular subject of Right understanding, Perfect Vision. So there will be one issue of this type, that is to say lecture plus various study-groups and seminars. Then the next issue after that will contain only seminar extracts. Only extracts from seminars and study- groups all still baring on the subject matter of the previous issue. So that the next Mitrata that comes out after this one that we*re welcoming this evening will still be on perfect Vision but it will consist entirely of material taken from study-retreats and study-groups which have been of course led by me. So, this is the format so to speak as / content of the new or new/old Mitrata. Now I*ve said that Mitrata is primarily a training manual for Mitras. So the question that arises in the minds of at least some of you perhaps is: well what exactly is a Mitra? Perhaps one shouldn*t taker anything for granted. Perhaps one should explain that Mitrata is for Mitras. But what is a Mitra? Some of you may be wondering. Some of you may be sitting quite in the dark about this, all these Sanskrit words flying around. But let me explain. Mitra literary means friend. A Mitra is just a friend. Sometimes we say a Friend with a capital F.

And Mitrata is a Sanskrit word which means simply friendship. Especially it means friendship in the sense Kalyana Mitrata as it*s called or Spiritual Friendship, which can also be translated as Beautiful Friendship but usually we translate it as Spiritual Friendship. In the FWBO we distinguish between Friend with a capital F in English and Mitra with a capital M in Sanskrit.

This is a bit confusing perhaps at first but one gradually gets used it. A Friend with a capital F within the FWBO is someone who just comes along to a centre or comes on retreats just occasionally. Sometimes you see them, sometimes you don*t see them. They don*t exactly belong. You*re just one of the groups that they call in upon. Maybe they are sort of shopping around. Maybe they were you know, born as a Christian. Maybe they are not especially or especially satisfied with Christianity. Maybe they were born as an atheist and they are not particularly satisfied with that. But anyway for one reason or another they are shopping around. They are taking a look at the Suf is. They*re taking a look at science, they*re taking a look at Theosophy, they*re taking a look at all sorts of things. Taking a look at black magic but they are also taking a look at Buddhism. They*re taking a look at the FWBO. And of course they*re perfectly welcome as welcome as anybody else, but they*re just shopping around. Perhaps they*re not even just shopping around. Perhaps they*re just vaguely interested in the spiritual life. They don*t perhaps know exactly why they come along. But they like to come along just from time to time. They just turn up. So they are what we call a Friend. They have just that quite limited contact with us, either as a shopper-around or someone who*s just vaguely interested in the spiritual life or someone who*s just a friend in a purely personal way.

He comes along because he likes us and he*s not particular bothered that we are Buddhists. He just likes us so he comes along.

Now a Mitra, using the Sanskrit word with a capital M, is something more then that. A Mitra in this sense is something more then a Friend. A Mitra is someone who*s not still shopping around. Might have been shopping around, but isn*t so any longer. A Mitra one might even say is someone who within the context of the FWBO fulfils so to speak 4 conditions. First of all a Mitra is someone who is not any longer shopping around. They might have done a lot of shopping around in the past but they*re not shopping around any longer. They*ve definitely decided that Buddhism is for them, that the Dharma is for them. Or rather the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are for them. And they*ve not just decided that Buddhism is for them, they*ve decided that the FWBO is for them. So they*re no longer shopping around. They*ve come to rest as it were. Maybe rest isn*t quite the word but you know what I mean. They*ve come home so to speak to the FWBO and they*re no longer shopping around. They*ve given up shopping around. Now it is important to understand that we don*t ask anybody to do this.

We don*t ...

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