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Idealism - strong, radical, humane - doesn't belong to the past. It keeps being reborn, and it is blossoming online. Free Buddhist Audio is there as participant and documentarian in an energized, inspired community working across generations to cultivate change.
You'll likely know Free Buddhist Audio as a webspace for Triratna centres and projects around the world to share their working out of the Buddha's teachings. Free Buddhist Audio is the modern equivalent of the foundational oral tradition - a lively, user-friendly webspace where our community can share our inspirations, our understanding of the Dharma, and our Dharma work, in creative and evolving ways.
In October, the Young Persons Group in Cambridge, England organized a Padmsambhava Day celebration for the sangha and wider community. A series of Dharma talks were given on the theme of Taming the Demons of the Modern World, which have been uploaded to Cambridge Buddhist Centre's page on Free Buddhist Audio's Community Places. Viriyalila, promotions and fundraising team member of Free Buddhist Audio, was inspired to conduct an interview with one of the organizers of the event, Arthasiddhi, who works at Windhorse Evolution, a long standing Triratna (FWBO) Right Livelihood business.
Arthasiddhi explained that a team of five volunteers had organized the event, along with a series of outdoor talks and public meditations. The group's vision was to try "to get out there in our local community and meet people who had aspirations towards making the world a better place." In the spirit of Padmasambhava's legacy, they themed the day Taming the Demons of the Modern World and had planned to give a series of talks on Jesus Green near the city centre, but the weather was slightly uncooperative for that, so this was moved to the Cambridge Buddhist Centre. The Young People's team envisioned connecting with the wider community and had the slightly mad idea to create a papier-mache globe, four-feet in diameter, which they rolled through the streets, asking people to write on the globe what they thought they could do to Change the World. The team and participants were really energized by this, bringing a creative and playful expression of their Dharma practice into the world around them.
One of the talks given at this event, The Demon of Choice, by Aryadhara, has been released as a podcast through iTunes. If you are not already a subscriber, consider joining the Free Buddhist Audio podcast.
What follows is the interview that Viriyalila conducted with Arthasiddhi, exploring why he is active in organizing Young People's events in the sangha. The Free Buddhist Audio team is hard at work actively creating webspaces to support this sort of cross-cultural, cross-generational, cross-continent sharing of our lives, our practices, our aspirations, and our Dharma work. Please consider a donation to Dharmachakra/Free Buddhist Audio today so that we may continue to develop interactive and supportive webspaces, as well as provide free access to Dharma talks for people all over the world.
Young People and the Dharma... An Interview with Arthasiddhi from Windhorse Evolution
Viriyalila: Why is it important to you to have a specific Dharma voice, as it were, for Young People in the sangha?
Arthasiddhi: Initially, as of just a few years ago, I was a bit cold to the idea of talking about Young People's Sangha activities - but over the last year or so I've come to realize that retreats specifically for people under 30 have been instrumental for creating a context that I, and others, have found deeply inspiring. These, initated by Lokabhandhu in Birmingham and then Sheffield, have absolutely sold me and others on the the idea of Young People's Sangha activities.
My personal inspiration revolves around idealism - I want to hear the Dharma being communicated in an uncompromising and authentic way, and I think this is what young people want to hear as well - an uncompromising, idealistic, energetic and inspired exposition of the Dharma. We want to see and hear people who are passionate about what they are doing.
Young people are in a different phase of life. Teenagers are just starting to experience a sense of individuation and are taking in the world around them and coming to their own assessment of what life is about. It is easy to look around us and experience so much disappointment at the lack of awareness, the lack of empathy, the lack of kindness, lack of meaning - coming into contact with an idealistic community can have a big impact on individuals in this phase of life. To meet people engaging with their ideals in a very real way through talks and by example is very encouraging for youthful idealists.
Viriyalila: What do you think inspires younger people to commit more deeply to the spiritual life?
Arthasiddhi: It's really important not to squash people's idealism, the question is how to respond to it. Folks in their 40s and 50s have gained a lot of life experience, partly through making mistakes, and perhaps can see the naivety that young people may have inherent in their strong response to idealistic principles. Understandably they may fear watching someone make the same mistakes as they did, or perhaps new ones. Does one respond to the seed of idealism or the weeds around it? Will it help idealism mature to say I wouldn't do that? I guess there are not simple answers here but people obviously need to make some of their own mistakes and they can do this in relation with others who are more mature.
Viriyalila: What do you think young people relate to most in the Dharma or the Three Jewels?
Arthasiddhi: The idea of the New Society, as described by Sangharakshita. It is noticeable that this has not been talked about much until just a couple of years ago and this was the theme that was very alive on the Young People's Retreat. This really struck me on a very deep level. It is understandable that this sort of idealism - Let's change the world! - would appeal to young people. And secondly, the sangha, the importance of friendship - people that can share their idealism and work together on projects. As someone under 30 you can sometimes feel like a lost soul, when you meet other people that share your ideals it can be a real boon and you start to experience some of your own individuality. You can feel a bit like the only person that cares about certain things. There is a real hunger to meet people who share your concerns and your values. It can really encourage young people to put more of themselves on those values through friendship with others.
It is important to have a context where young people can express their energy and inspiration and where they can find ways to connect. It is also important that this is in connection with people who are wiser - and there is plenty of opportunity in the Order to be with The Wise. The way that happens and evolves is important, and looking for ways to connect and share is of great value.
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