“The evening started with a short meditation, with Manjuvajra (Bristol's President) then exploring what it means to be the Chair of a Centre; what it means in this context and how it differs from other forms of leadership. We were then invited to reflect on the Bristol Chair past, present and future. Chittamani provided a brief yet colourful overview of the previous 30 years of the Bristol Buddhist Centre in three locations across Bristol. In particular, he rejoiced in the very different character and styles of the four previous Chairs: Tejananda, Achalavajra, Prajnananda and Amaraketu. I appreciated hearing this from Chittamani, given that he has witnessed much of this history first-hand, as a long-standing practitioner based in Bristol.
“Satyalila, Co-Manager of the Bristol Buddhist Centre team, then provided a lively and animated account of the recent past 'from the basement (!)' i.e. the experience of the Centre team through the period of interregnum. After this, her co-manager, Amaladevi, placed the symbol of the 'vishvavajra' or double vajra on the shrine, ready for Jvalamalini to take up during her simple inauguration ceremony. A vajra is the Buddhist symbol of a 'diamond thunderbolt', cutting through the three 'poisons' of greed, hated and delusion and bringing clarity and wisdom. Each chair of Bristol (or at least the past three, as far as we know!) has 'held' this double vajra during their time as Chair.
“Jvalamalini then shared her thoughts about the future and her vision as incoming Chair. She talked movingly of her practice over the past 17 years, her inspirations, the support of friends, and her struggles. She emphasised the importance for her of sangha - one of the 'three jewels' of Buddhism (Buddha and Dharma being the two other jewels) - and her intention that 'vision' is the overarching theme for the regular's class this year. She was formally inaugurated in the context of a seven fold puja, a traditional form of devotional practice consisting of verses, chanting, readings, and, in this puja, rejoicings in Jvalamalini's merits.
“At the beginning of each stage of the seven fold puja Manjuvajra said a little bit about each of the stages which served as a really useful and timely reminder of what the practise of puja is about. He did this beautifully, adding to the atmosphere of gravitas and celebration. There were rejoicings from Satyalila, Simhanada and myself in the 'rejoicings' section of the puja. It was a delight to witness these rejoicings and to offer my own rejoicings to my friend. During the penultimate stage of the puja Jvalamalini was inaugurated through a simple ceremony of making traditional offerings at the shrine (a flower, candle, and incense) and then taking up the double vajra. She was celebrated with three mighty 'sadhus' as she returned to her seat. The puja concluded with offerings and the night ended with celebrations and an impressive array of cake, in true Bristol Buddhist Centre style.
“I would personally like to thank everyone present for such a memorable and momentous evening. And thanks to all those past and present (right back to the Buddha and beyond) for their part in setting up the conditions for the existence of the Bristol Buddhist Centre and sangha. In addition to the former Chairs, Vessantara, our former President, has been in my mind this week, in particular, his care and support for the Bristol sangha. During Jvalamalini's inauguration I also remembered fondly the late Amrtadevi, the first Dharmacharini to come to Bristol to support women in the ordination process. I feel sure she would have been absolutely thrilled to have seen Jvalamalini take up the vishvavajra! In the present day I appreciate greatly Manjuvajra being our President. I personally don't know him that well, but so far appreciate his presence and awesome and beautifully-crafted Dharma talks. I would particularly like to thank Jvalamalini for her enthusiasm and tenacity in taking up the Chair. I am moved to see my longest-standing friend in the sangha move into this new role. May all blessings be hers and may the sangha thrive”.