Working together for a better world...
I have just been writing this article for a news letter but I share it here as it seems like a good starting place for this site. In some senses Tariki Trust feels to have gone public today even though it has existed for six weeks and had its own web site for nearly as long... Still, I offer this as a marker and an explanation.
Tariki: finding new ground
Some things in life we intend to do, others seem to come upon us unexpectedly, and yet, with their arrival, challenge and transform our lives, leading us to develop in exciting new ways which we never thought possible.
In December 2011 a new organisation came into being: Tariki Trust grew out of my former involvement with Amida Trust and the Amida Order, the end point in a long process of change in that group. A rainbow coloured offspring, it immediately become a federation of Buddhists interested in living their Buddhism in practical ways, with a diversity of outlooks but a commonality of heart.
Tariki Trust inherits a number of longstanding features. The Amida Psychotherapy Training Programme in Other-Centred Approach has been established in its present form since 1995 and goes back more than a decade before that. The centre in France has been running continuously since 1993 offering summer retreats, arts events, and, more recently, the Ten Directions training in environmental therapy. The Buddhist House community has changed its character somewhat with the departure of some of its previous members, as the Amida Order moved its headquarters to London, but remains the focus for regular practice, community living and its weekly classes, and the base for chaplaincy work in Leicester hospitals and colleges.
Some areas of activity are expanding. This spring will see a women’s retreat and the first part of an Introduction to Chaplaincy course. We are looking for artists who want to display their work on our walls as part of a rolling exhibition of spiritually inspired art. We hope to offer training events focused on non-violence and ethical living. We are having conversations about new models of offering therapy within the Other-Centred modality and about new structures for delivering it which might involve students and other volunteers. With new contributors to our programmes, we are expanding our range of events to include weeks in France on body work and yoga, and we are running a wider variety of retreat days in Narborough. We are encouraging debate with a new series of Buddhist therapist forums and invited speakers on socially relevant topics.
The most interesting aspect of Tariki, however, is the growing sense of community among those who have become involved, and the ongoing question of how people who want to seriously commit their lives to the Buddhist path can do so whilst still embracing a variety of lifestyles in a spirit of peer support and challenge. We want to find ways to balance outward signs of commitment with inclusiveness and formal practice with informal exploration of the spiritual.
Tariki means other-power and as such the name is both an inspiration and reminder to us. Other-power, with which Pureland Buddhism is most strongly identified, is based on the notions of non-self and refuge. According to the Pureland patriarchs, Honen and Shinran, true salvation came from the measureless quality of Buddha, rather than the finite efforts of ego. We should not rely on our individual effort, but, rather, regard our attempts at self-sufficiency with scepticism. Our karma is always an obscuration, liable to trip us up when we least expect it.
This tariki doctrine points us to the collective. Rather than thinking that our individual efforts to control and shape outcomes will bring solutions, it steers us towards a reliance on the unfolding of an unseen enlightened process which can be intuited and trusted but not defined. In organisational terms, having set our vision in the direction of a better more Buddhistic world, a Pure Land maybe, this means allowing a diversity of interest groups to come together, interact and find surprising synergies. This in itself encourages us to think in terms both of offering particular space to Pureland practitioners and general space to Buddhists of all religions. Not an easy balance to achieve.
The Pureland inheritance also means being inspired by the Pureland masters’ own lives, which were lived amongst ordinary people, eschewing rank and aristocratic patronage in favour of social projects and a mission to the poor and oppressed members of their society. Like the later non-conformist preachers of Europe, they spoke out for those whose voices were silenced, and led reform movements which attracted large numbers, and were exiled as a result of their political stances. They broke the dictates of tradition and created new structures and lifestyles, leaving the monastic ideal, in Shinran’s case, for a mission undertaken from the householder lifestyle.
So Tariki Trust is an enthusiastic seedbed for change. We do not know where the flow of events will take us next. Our interest in relating to the natural world is one strand for many of us. Some discuss possibilities for developing outdoor activities in Wales. Others are looking at horticultural therapies. With Amida France as one of our bases, we continue to develop the use of the outdoors for retreat and spiritual practice. At the same time, the other-centred model gives us both psychological understanding relevant to therapeutic work and a framework for approaching socially engaged programmes. It leads us to critique and re-frame common Western perspectives on therapy and education and innovate in these fields. We are working within the system to bring multi-faith perspectives to areas such as hospital chaplaincy, and outside it to create alternative models of lifestyle and learning. For the future, much will depend on who gets involved. We have scope to expand in many directions and a fresh canvass on which to paint.
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