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Unity and Diversity - Third Order Convention 1976

by Sangharakshita

The Third Order Convention (1976): “Unity and Diversity in the Spiritual Life” - Page 1 of 217
The Third Order Convention, 1976:

“Unity and Diversity in the Spiritual Life”
Those Present: The Venerable Sangharakshita, Lokamitra, Khema, Vangisa, Subhuti, Sagaramati, Ananda, Siddhiratna, Uttara, Chintamani,
Vessantara, Nagabodhi, Ratnapani, Dharmapala, Padmapani, Devamitra, Kulananda, Mangala, Abhaya, Anoma, Marichi, Dhammadinna, Gotami,
Aloka, Devaraja, Jinamata, Mahavira [and probably others as names were not announced at the start of the Convention].
[Tape One]
quite interesting statistics. He reported that, as far as he had been able to ascertain, at
the end of 1971, the total number of active Order members, that is not including those
Sangharakshita: It seem that everybody is present who is supposed to be present as
far as we know. So we'll start the proceedings forthwith. And according to the printed
Convention programme there should now be an address by me. But I hope no one is
expecting a sort of formal address. What I really should have written was simply
who have virtually dropped out, at the end of 1971, the total of active Order Members
'opening remarks'. That probably would have been more appropriate.
was eleven. It seems a long time ago. At the end of 1972, the total number of active
Order members was nineteen. By the end of 1973 - that is only just before the first
So just a few opening remarks before we go on to deal with the main items of this first
annual Convention - it was twenty-nine. And at that time also, that is to say at the end
plenary session. And first of all a welcome to everybody. I am very glad to see so
of '73, Suvratta indulged in an estimate, an estimate of what the total number of Order
many people present. I can't say from all over the world unfortunately, but certainly
members would be, active Order members would be, by the end of 1975. In fact he
from all over the UK. I had a rough head count quickly, and it does seem that well
gave two estimates! One he called a 'cautious' estimate, and the other he called a 'wild'
over half the Order is actually present which is quite good. Those so many are able to
estimate. His cautious estimate for the total number of Order Members by the end of
be present, quite a few are unable to be present, and we certainly do think of all of
1975, and in case anyone is not aware of the fact, we are now in 1976 [Laughter], his
them. I am sure many of them are thinking of us at this time, especially I believe in
cautious estimates of the total number of Order members at the end of 1975, was forty.
New Zealand, those thoughts are very much with us. They have a sort of virtually mini
Well there is more than forty people present now. His wild estimate was eighty. So
Convention of their own in the course of their second national annual retreat. And we
actually we have very nearly fulfilled his wild estimate - very, very nearly. There are
must have read the report of that which appeared in an issue of ‘Shabda’ not so long
now in the world, so far as I have been able to ascertain [Laughter], 75 active Order
ago. So we are thinking of them and they are thinking of us. And especially we think
members, 75 active members of the Western Buddhist Order. And of these, 59 are
of the one or two who, I believe, are unable to be present due to illness or ill health.
citizens of the UK, 10 are New Zealanders - so you see the New Zealanders come a
I am thinking in particular of Sanghamitta and people like that also who we think of
quite respectable second. Three are Finns; there's one Malaysian/Chinese; one Order
very much and send them our thoughts of metta, that they may soon be well.
member is American, and one is Dutch. So you can see there is the beginnings of an
international Order. There are 58 Upasakas and there are 17 Upasikas. I don't know
Now this is our third annual Convention; it is only the third one that we have had, even
what the average age now is. I was hoping that the Registrar would be able to tell us
though the Order was started as long ago as eight years. And since our first
about that in his report. We will see what happens when that report is called for.
Convention which was in January 1974, not very much more than two years ago, the
Order has grown considerably. You may recollect or you may not recollect, that three
Further, in the January 1975 issue of 'Shabda', Suvratta gave some more interesting
months before that first Convention at the beginning of 1974, Suvratta gave us some
statistical details. He informed us that the Order was doubling in size every 17 months.
The Third Order Convention (1976): “Unity and Diversity in the Spiritual Life” - Page 2 of 217
It had achieved what he informed us was called ‘exponential growth’. Some of us
and the same Enlightenment experience. One and the same ineffable Buddhahood.
weren’t quite clear of what that meant, but I gather it meant a rather dramatic
And this Enlightenment experience is the common aim of all individual Order
expansion. And Suvratta also predicted, at that time, that if this trend continued, that
is to say this trend of doubling in size every 17 months, by the end of 1980, there
would be one thousand, two hundred Order members. Personally, I think this trend has
So inasmuch as we have this common spiritual aim, we form a brotherhood, we form
not continued for two definite reasons. It's been, as it were, deliberately slowed down.
a spiritual fellowship and we are linked to one another. It is very symbolical, by the
But we shall perhaps go into that a bit later on in the course of the Convention. At the
way, that we are sitting in a circle. Maybe one day there will be too many of us, and
same time in the course of this little statistical report - number two - Suvrata warned
the circle maybe will stretch all the way to Archway. So we obviously couldn't
us of the danger that sheer numbers would outstrip spiritual vitality. This is one of the
conduct our Conventions in that fashion, but for the time being we can. And this very
topics, one of the points, that I will be examining in Plenary session seven on day four.
meaningful - we're a circle because we are linked; we are interlinked, linked by the
bond of metta - friendliness.
So from this very brief account, from these very few facts, we can see that the Order
is clearly not only a going, but also the growing, concern. So perhaps it is not
So at this same session tomorrow afternoon, we are going to consider the Order Metta
surprising that all the questions which we shall be discussing in the course of this
Bhavana. And lastly tomorrow afternoon we are going to consider the dedication of
Convention, our Third Annual Convention, are very much connected with the question
‘Sukhavati’, especially the dedication of the image that will be at ‘Sukhavati’, because
of growth, the growth of the Order, and indirectly of course, the growth of the
this is something that concerns, as you will find, not just that particular Centre but the
movement, both horizontal growth, as we may call it, lateral expansion, and also
whole Order. It will be something in which the whole Order should and will
vertical growth, in other words, true development, especially of the individual.
participate. Exactly how, we shall see when the time comes tomorrow.
Now this Convention, as I expect everybody has realised, is only half the length of the
Now the Order grows as more and more people enter it, obviously, as more and more
previous one - four days instead of eight. And we are therefore dealing only with
people commit themselves to the Three Jewels. And clearly it is of the utmost
really essential topics. In other words topics which are of particular importance to the
importance that the commitment should be genuine, should be authentic. So on the
Order and to individual Order members, that means, at this stage of the Order's
Thursday, the Plenary session five, we are going to consider qualifications for
Upasaka/Upasika Ordination. But even before you get to ordination, before you get
even to considering it, there's a preliminary step, and that is Mitraship or Mitrahood.
Tomorrow morning, in Plenary session three, we will be looking at the Unity of the
And we know, I am sure, the better the Mitra, the more qualified the Mitra, the better
Order, with special reference to class and nationality. We have seen that the Order is
the Upasaka or Upasika, the more qualified the Upasaka or Upasika. So we are also
in fact growing, and growing in a sense quite rapidly. And as the Order grows, it will
going to consider in this connection the qualifications for becoming a Mitra - we have
come to include people of more and more different class and national backgrounds.
to clarify those still more - and also naturally for becoming a Kalyana Mitra. In the
And this fact may possibly give rise to a certain amount of tension. So we should
afternoon - still the day after tomorrow, at Plenary session six we shall give the reports
consider the matter now while it isn't any real problem. And in the afternoon
of the Convenor of Mitras ...

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