Tuesday, December 21, 2010

FBA Celebrates their Host of Volunteers

Free Buddhist Audio
Spreading the Dharma
Sharing our Practice
Connecting our Community Worldwide

Like the thousand arms of Avolokitesvara, many hands work together to make Dharma talks available on Free Buddhist Audio. I'm Viriyalila, FBA's promotions and fundraising director, and I'm a great fan of all the people who work together to bring our service into being. I wanted to write something to celebrate our great 'Host of Volunteers' around the world who help the core team here develop the site. So here I am following a thread that began by listening to a talk originally uploaded through our Community Places system as a single long piece of audio. The talk is called Loving What Is by Vajrapriya, and its development is quite an amazing little story in itself that touches several people's lives in a profound way...

I immediately found Vajrapriya's talk to be very heartfelt, one that I resonated with my own approach to metta practice. As I listened a few times, I began to really appreciate being able to touch into another person’s Dharma practice so directly, just by listening to them give a talk. Afterwards, I began thinking about all the people who will listen to this talk, the person who recorded it, the person who made it into tracks for easier listening. Who are these folk who help create the services Free Buddhist Audio has to offer? So I decided to connect with three key volunteers involved with producing Loving What Is and asked them to share a bit about their experience of coming into contact with this bit of Dharma through FBA. Let me introduce you to: Vajrapriya, who gave the talk, Michl Britsch, who indexed the talk, and Mary Salome, who edited the talk into tracks. May their generosity in making this talk available on Free Buddhist Audio be of great benefit to many beings.

Vajrapriya, on Loving What Is…

“This talk called on a lot from me. I was due to support Padmavajra who was leading a Men's Event at Padmaloka. Just ring the bells in meditation I thought. But he became ill at the last moment, so I found myself with a talk to write in a couple of days (as did Jnanavaca who boldly stepped in for the companion talk "River of Fire"). But the hardest part was addressing the theme, which is basically about metta. Unlike Padmavajra, who rarely talks about anything else, I don't really feel very well qualified to talk about metta, as I'm a typical "hate type". I was very glad to be forced into that position, because it made me reflect about how I understand metta, and the way that it manifests differently for different people. In the talk I discussed those different types in terms of the five Jinas. Seeing things this way gave me more confidence in my own expression of metta: I'm not a big love bunny, but it comes out in its own way.”

“I also enjoyed sharing my own nitty gritty practice of dealing with hatred, clearing the way for a more mettaful response. The image of clearing the obstacles to metta, rather than slogging away to generate it, came spontaneously, and I was very grateful for that teaching from myself! People seemed to recognise a lot of the difficulties I described, and appreciated the honesty with which I expressed it. It's such a relief to realise we're not alone with our peculiarities!”

Giving of oneself in the form of a Dharma talk is a very generous act, and recording it to be able to preserve it as part of our oral tradition, sharing it with our worldwide community of practitioners...this is the act of an aspiring Bodhisattva.

Better Access to What we Love

On Free Buddhist Audio we love to have talks broken down into tracks (indexing), which helps our users in a couple of key ways. Having the talks indexed means we can return more accurate and helpful search engine results, as well as provide easy access to small bits of Dharma for use in personal or group study. I use them for playing relevant quotes while giving Dharma talks myself! So on the site we ask for volunteers to do tracking or indexing, which is a job in two parts: listening to and outlining the talk before tracking it, and then re-editing the original recording into its newly tracked form for re-uploading onto the site.

During the summer, Michl Britsch was inspired to get involved with FBA by tracking a talk. The connection was made with Eric, FBA's Community Liaison team member who co-ordinates the generous efforts ofour volunteers to make our service even better. Again, the desire to meet this aspiring Bodhisattva in person arose, so we contacted Michl to express our appreciation and invite him to share volunteer experience...

Volunteering with FBA - Listening Deeply to the Dharma

"I, [Michl Britsch], decided to volunteer this summer when I was surfing FBA and saw the 'get involved' button. That was exactly what I wanted - to get involved in something that makes sense.

At first it was a bit strange to listen to a talk which I hadn't picked out myself. I do not listen to a lot of Dharma talks each year but rather I listen to certain talks many times. They become a friend, a companion, like an album by a favourite band. By listening to a talk over and over again I can sense the layers of meaning sinking in more and manifesting on deeper levels.

Indexing a talk was a bit different, but just as enjoyable. I think for the first time I really was looking up words, checking background information on wikipedia and really (hand-)writing notes. It was amazing to listen with this kind of mindfulness. It was beautiful how with every listen the form and the structure of the talk became just a little more clear, like sculpting.

As a musician I can say indexing a talk can be just as much fun (and work for sure) as writing lyrics to a song or arranging a piece of music. Thanks Free Buddhist Audio for the opportunity to GET INVOLVED!"

The Final Bits - Only Techies Apply!

Mary Salome, an FBA volunteer since 2008, has put her extensive audio skills to work on transferring a number of DAT cassettes to more readily accessible digital formats. She has an interest in working through the archive of talks given by women in the 80s and 90s, which are stored in various places around the world on cassettes. I approached her to do the work of breaking the talk into tracks as part of this article, but the timing for her was of great personal challenge.

Metta and Difficult Realities

"Often when I edit audio, I stop listening to content because I'm focusing on other issues, such as removing microphone noise or coughing, correcting levels, filtering hiss, etc. When I began working on this file, I was grieving the recent loss of a cousin to suicide. While I was editing, a close friend attempted suicide, and I came home to his note. A week after that, one of my aunts died, and about a month after that, another aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer.

To say life interrupted my volunteering would be a serious understatement. When I was able to come back to the file, I found that I heard what was being said in a way I didn't in the beginning. The idea of loving what is resonated with my need to accept, with metta toward myself and others, the difficult reality of the situation. The file was a kind of companion to my process, and working on it was a healthy distraction on an emotional level. You never know how a recording is going to affect people later."

With Much Appreciation

As I finished off this article, I listened again to Loving What Is, and again reflected on all the conditions that go into sharing the Dharma in the ways Free Buddhist Audio does. Towards the end of his talk Vajrapriya shares something someone once said to him, that "Metta is what arises when you realize that being human isn't easy." With each of these stories from our three volunteers comes a bit of who they are, and who they became as a result of coming into contact with this Dharma gem.

On behalf of all of us at Free Buddhist Audio we thank our Host of Volunteers - your time and energy in helping to make FBA a better service is very deeply appreciated, your efforts benefit many beings.

The talk Loving What Is will be our next podcast feature! Free FBA Podcast Subscription

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