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Fifteen Points for New and Old Order Members - Guhyaloka 1988

by Sangharakshita

THE VENERABLE SANGHARAKSHITA

GUHYALOKA ORDINATION COURSE, 1988
CONCLUDING REMARKS
I am not quite sure what everybody is expecting, or not expecting, but at least this isn't going
to be a lecture. It isn't even going to be a talk. Originally, I had entitled these notes:
Concluding Remarks - concluding, that is to say, the whole Ordination Retreat. But, at one
stage in the proceedings - I am not quite sure how, or even when - the Concluding Remarks
became Concluding Exhortation; or even Exhortation. I am not sure whether Exhortation,
even, is quite the right term. Perhaps it should be more of the nature of a reminder, or even, I
should say, reminders, because its very much in the plural and not in the singular. So let me
put forward(?) reminders.
There are some fifteen reminders, and I can assure you they are not exhaustive, by any means;
they are just points that have occurred to me from time to time as I have had contact with the
people on retreat, and also as I have called up memories of past retreats, especially the
conclusions of retreats and perhaps also the ... people who have gone back, so to speak, into
the world.
So these concluding remarks, or exhortations, or reminders, are made mainly for the people
who have recently been ordained; but that is not to say that they are not of value for others,
whether they have been ordained for a comparatively long or a comparatively short time. But
they primarily refer, or are primarily addressed, to the nine relatively new Order Members; so
the others can just consider themselves as listening to them. Even though the remarks may not
be addressed directly to them, they may possibly find them of some personal value too. They
are not necessarily arranged in order of importance. I don't want you to think that No. 1 is the
most important, No. 2 the next in order of importance, and No. 15 the least important of all.
Perhaps you should think of them, rather, as arranged in a circle, like a sort of round robin, so
that you cant say that one is any more important than the others; in fact they all really sort of
hang together, they are all of virtually equal importance, they all more or less reinforce one
another, one might say.
The first point I want to make, the first remark, the first exhortation or the first reminder, is
that I hope that those who have been newly ordained will, in the days to come, in the months
to come and in the years to come, even, keep up contact with me. This might seem very
straightforward and very simple and very obvious, but I can assure you it doesn't really always
happen like that. Sometimes I have had the experience of being on an ordination retreat of
three months with somebody, and he is ordained, and we have all had a very good time
together, studied together and meditated together, maybe he asks if he can go for a walk with
me, so we have walked together; yes, and he is ordained, and he goes back to his Centre - and
I don't see [2] him again! - maybe not for a whole year; maybe he doesn't even write. Maybe,
before the three-month retreat, before he was invited on that retreat, he had been writing to
me every month, even every week; but, after he has been ordained, I don't even get a birthday
card from him or a Wesak greetings card.
So this is something that I would like to emphasize: that people should do their best to keep
up their personal contact with me. I know, of course, that when they go back to their own
Centre, their own Chapter, everybody is going to be very busy; there are going to be lots of
things to do. But please remember that Bhante hasn't forgotten you, and hopes that you
haven't forgotten him; or hopes rather that you will show that you haven't forgotten him by
occasionally appearing - perhaps even wanting to go for a walk with him! - and occasionally
writing a letter. If you cant write a letter, at least send a picture postcard from the nearest
museum or art gallery, just to show that you haven't completely forgotten him! So please keep
up personal contact with me to the extent that you can. Sometimes people quite genuinely
think that Bhante is busy, and of course he is busy ..., and sometimes they therefore think that
Bhante hasn't got time to ... answer, hasn't got time even to read a letter written by me, but
that isn't really the case. I can always make time for Order Members, and especially for those
who have been only recently ordained. Sometimes people think: I've nothing very interesting
or very important to tell, but that seems to be more of the nature of not really valuing oneself
sufficiently, having perhaps even a poor self-image, as the psychologists say.
So, whatever people have been doing, even if they haven't been doing very much, I would
certainly like to know; because, if you haven't been doing very much and should have been
doing more, I would have an opportunity to write and tell you so, exhort you to do a bit more.
So, yes, please do keep up the personal contact in one way or another, in whatever way you
can.
Then, secondly, please do be regular in your attendance at Chapter meetings. I am sure you
have heard about this before. You have heard about this, I am sure, from Vessantara and
perhaps others, that, yes, there are these Chapter meetings, there are these weekly gatherings
of Order Members living and working in the same area, and they are extremely important. We
all know what the Buddha said about his disciples needing to meet together regularly and in
large numbers in order that the unity of the whole Sangha, the whole spiritual ..., should be
preserved. You may ... that those same Order Members meet together on other occasions, for
other purposes, but when you meet on Sunday evenings as a Chapter you meet just because
you are Order Members and because as Order Members you just appreciate being together.
Not just being together in a social sort of way. I have spoken of Chapter meetings as spiritual
workshops. I know they are not always that, but that is definitely what they should aspire to
be. Your being together on the occasion of a Chapter meeting should mean that you have a
quite vivid, a quite lively, a quite spiritual exchange on the basis of your common
commitment to the spiritual life and to the Three Jewels.
I do know that it sometimes happens in some Chapters that Chapter meetings become a bit
dull. I know cases where Order Members have even wondered why on earth they [3] were
meeting together. Well, that should really have been obvious. But, yes, fortunately, especially
fortunately for those of you who are going back as new Order Members, in the last couple of
years things have improved considerably. I do know that many Chapters are real spiritual
workshops in which things happen, in which people get to grips with one another, so to
speak, get to grips with the Dharma, get to grips with their mutual communication, and get to
grips with any problems that may be arising in their midst. So, yes, at least ... be regular in
your attendance at Chapter meetings and really do try to contribute to them as real spiritual
workshops, which would perhaps ... why we are there.
Then, of course, closely connected with the topic of Chapter meetings, there is the question of
Order weekends, which occur much less frequently and which should be a real event for
every Order Member. I am not quite sure what the present arrangements are: I think we are
now having three national Order weekends every year, each one for three days; that is, I think,
a relative innovation. But, howsoever it may be, make sure that you inform yourself properly
when the next national Order weekend is - or the next regional Order weekend, for that matter
- and plan accordingly. Sometimes one asks somebody: Why weren't you at the national
Order weekend? and he says, Oh, I had forgotten about it - which seems really quite
extraordinary. Or he says: Oh, I had arranged to go away that weekend, or I had arranged to
do something else - I had arranged to go sailing, or I had arranged to go away with my girl
friend, or I had arranged to go and visit my parents. So that, in a way, is carelessness, a lack
of organization. As soon as it is known when the national Order weekends are going to be
held, you should just make a note of that in your diary and organize the rest of your
programme around that; go to see your parents some other weekend. Sometimes I have felt a
bit suspicious in the case of a few Order Members, because every time a national Order
weekend came up they seemed to have arranged to do something else; and when that happens
very frequently one cant help wondering whether there is a sort of unconscious wish to avoid
the national Order weekends, though why that should be one cant possibly imagine. So plan
your year, even, well ahead, so that you are able to attend Order weekends.
While we are on that topic, there is another point quite closely connected [with it]: try to
make sure that you arrive fresh; not absolutely whacked, as it were. Try to arrange your work
during the days leading up to the Order weekend so that you don't arrive so tired that you cant
join in things, and try not to arrive late; try to arrive in good time so that you can join in the
opening Puja or the opening meditation, and so on. And don't hurry away, unless it is really
absolutely objectively necessary, before the weekend is over. It is very disheartening,
sometimes, to find people arriving not ...

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