Many of the monks of the OBC recently met together at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey in Northumberland, UK for our biennial gathering. We had agreed it would be good to get together every two years to keep in touch with one another and to discuss issues arising from our common practice, and that every third meeting in the sequence would be set aside to review and revise our rules at a Rules Conclave.
Although much can come out of them, these gatherings are not intended to be times to conduct the more formal business of the Order as we do during conclaves, rather, they give us an opportunity to renew acquaintances and friendships and to generally strengthen our Sangha connections. Besides the main scheduled morning meetings there was plenty of opportunity to meet in smaller groups or one-on-one, or to just enjoy the beautiful Northumberland countryside.
This year we wanted to focus our discussions primarily on the issues around meeting the needs of the monks, temples and monasteries of the Order as we get older. We started with a session reflecting on what it means to be a monastic order and the value of an attitude of caring about and for one another.
Some of the issues talked about were the future staffing of temples, finances, the possibility of building specialized facilities, the legal issues around the end of life, and issues around taking care of our physical health. Moving through our discussions were the questions of how we preserve our own monastic vocations in diverse circumstances, maintain and grow our monastic numbers, and preserve the spiritual purpose of our practice not only for ourselves but for our extended sangha as well.
While we did not come to any major decisions, like many people, we are preparing to address issues around aging in a step-by-step fashion. Rev. Master Haryo nicely gave expression to our immediate purpose by saying that we are human and “there are things that human beings often deny about their existence” so our talking about the realities that we all must face in the later years of life help to counteract that denial.
In addition to talking about the topic of aging, we also had sessions on training with emerging technologies, relating to and supporting lay practice and our common liturgy and how we might wisely tend to its evolution. All in all, it seemed that our time together was a positive, peaceful time that was well spent.