Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Punjabi Mitra Ceremony in Birmingham

Ashvajit writes with news of a slightly unusual and very positive mitra ceremony at Triratna’s Birmingham Buddhist Centre.  He says - “Namo Buddhaya and Jai Bhim!  Just over a month ago we held a Mitra Ceremony during which three men joined the world-wide Triratna Mitra Sangha - two Westerners and one of Indian origin, Devinder Chander.  The Centre shrine was beautifully decorated, mainly in white to symbolise the path of purification, and the ceremony was led with skill and confidence by Dharmachari Saraha, the Mitra Convenor for the Birmingham area (shown left).

“Thinking over the event now a month later, and not least because Devinder is a friend well known to me, I would like to say something more about him, and not let the event go unmarked by the wider Sangha. We know, of course, that although a person becomes a Mitra through a particular ‘doorway’ – a particular Buddhist Centre - they are not Mitras of that Centre exclusively, but Mitras of the whole world-wideTriratna Buddhist Community, and will be happily accepted as such wherever they go. In so thinking, however, we can easily lose sight of the uniqueness of the particular individual or individuals involved.

“In Devinder’s case, it is not difficult to see some aspects at least of his uniqueness. First of all, it is unusual, though not I think unprecedented, for an Indian or a man of Indian origin – because Devinder has been living in the UK for many many years – to enter the Mitra Sangha actually in the UK rather than in India itself, where there are already a very large number of Mitras, or Dhamma Mitras as they are called there. 

"Secondly, Devinder is a Punjabi, his ancestral home being the village of Nakodar, which lies some 25 km south of Jalandhar, a large city about 150 km northwest of Chandigarh, state capital of the Punjab. Thirdly, not only is Devinder a Punjabi, he is also a staunch Ambedkarite. And fourthly, he is not only an active member of the Birmingham Ambedkarite community, but one of the leading lights at the Vaishali Buddhist Centre in Handsworth, North Birmingham. 

"It therefore seems to me highly significant that such an active and influential man, a man of Punjabi descent, currently domiciled in the UK, should dedicate himself to deepening his Going for Refuge to Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, and to working for the spread of the Dhamma in the context of the Triratna Buddhist Community. I heartily congratulate him on his decision to do so, and, of course, felicitate the Birmingham Buddhist Centre for accepting him.

“I am sure that Devinder will be an asset to the Birmingham Buddhist Centre – he has already shown himself to be an exceptionally generous man with his donations of food to Centre events, and also by contributions to the work of the Triratna Buddhist Order in the Punjab and to Nagaloka, our big training centre in Maharashtra. He is already a great asset to the Vaishali Buddhist Centre in Handsworth, and I suspect that he will increasingly be an asset to the spread of the Buddha-Dhamma in the Punjab.

“I wish him, his wife Devi, his family members in the UK and in India all the very best, and look forward to him making, under the auspices of the Triratna Buddhist Order, stronger and stronger connections with the Ambedkarite Buddhists of the Punjab, with those Dalits not already Ambedkarites or Buddhists, and thereby spreading the Dhamma more and more effectively there. I am sure he will join the ever-increasing number of people working throughout the world to unite the tremendous diversity and increasing numbers of spiritual aspirants under a single banner – the banner of Buddhism, the Enlightening banner of Sakyamuni the Buddha.

“Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu!"

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