I appreciated a cup of coffee after driving for some two hours, and a pleasant discussion with Susthama, shortly to depart for Hawaii (and with freshly shaven head!). A little later I met Caroline (Prasada) and David Brazier (Dharmavidya). David and Caroline established the Amida Order nearly 10 years ago and, together with Order members, have established an extensive framework of vows and precepts, a constitution, together with an emphasis on social engagement. The various frameworks are all to be found on the Amida website (see below).
David and Caroline have supported the NBO for many years. They are firm believers in the need to network with other Buddhist organisations and are of the opinion that different Buddhist organisations all have something to offer. Individuals tend to pick what they need from the different organisations.
This is perhaps the Buddhist equivalent of shopping at Tescos, where one can choose exotic produce from many different parts of the world. Those living in the UK have the advantage, and perhaps the difficulty, in being able to choose between a rich variety of Buddhist traditions. Although these traditions are from many different parts of the world and have all arisen from a trajectory which traces itself back to the Buddha, they have tended to diverge in various ways, as they evolved to fit within their particular cultural context. Transplanting traditions that adapted to conditions in Tibet or China, or medieval Japan or Burma, to the UK is bound to appear disconcerting to someone who might have obtained a much simpler view of Buddhism from one or two books.
In many cases, if not all, the ‘feel’ of an organisation as exemplified by its members and leaders is what determines a sense of comfort and whether someone stays, rather than particular doctrines. Certainly there is a welcoming and relaxed feeling to the Buddhist House and evidence of many projects underway. David said that it is the availability of volunteers that is the determining factor in what gets done, rather than funds, although covering expenditure is obviously important.
The Pureland tradition that David and Caroline have adopted is challenging to a Buddhist more familiar with ‘mainstream Buddhist’ approaches. Pureland emphasises belief and devotion to Amitabha Buddha as the only way possible to follow Buddhism in this degenerate age. This is an approach based on ‘other power’ rather than the idea that each of us has some control over our spiritual path, which is characterised as ‘self-power’. A full exploration of this is outside the scope of my blog, but I find it interesting to consider other approaches to Buddhism if only to clarify what my own practice is all about.
Fortified with coffee, biscuits and wholesome discussion, I headed northwards to Manchester where I planned a number of meetings.