Sunday, February 7, 2010

Kalyana Mitra Launch

Yesterday was the official launch of the Kalyana Mitra - otherwise known as the Buddhist Chaplaincy Support Group (BCSG), at a beautiful and many-layered, day-long, ceremony hosted by London Buddhist Vihara. The Chiswick vihara is itself a vibrant, inimate and homely place, very much a family place, with children scampering about, smiling Sinhalese monks in their robes, many members of the local Sinhalese lay community in attendance on guests and participants, and a delicious smell of cooking from the kitchens.

Kalyana Mitra has been a long time in gestation, and enjoys the support and generous sponsorship of the Buddhist Society; chair of the BCSG is Frederick Hyde-Chambers OBE, who presided over the event. Mr Hyde-Chambers is a former Secretaruy of the Buddhist Society, and currently Secretary-General of the International Association of Business and Parliament.

Kalyana Mitra supports all forms of Buddhist chaplaincy, in hospitals, hospices and emergency healthcare services, in the armed services, with the police and the Courts, in prison, with immigrants and asylum-seekers, in education (from early years to Higher Education), indeed in all areas of public life where spiritual care in the community is of value, and can meet a need.

You can find more information, a host of resources, and an opportunity to get involved (without having to volunteer your services) at which has been launched to coincide with the project launch.

I attended with several Trust supporters, including Netta Wills, one of our trustees, and widow of Ray Wills, co-founder of the Buddhist Hospice Trust. I was particularly glad that Netta was able to be present. She said at the end of the proceedings that it would have been a great joy to Ray to see this development, as he had dedicated himself and his energies for much of his life to a fully collaborative engagement of Buddhists 'from all traditions and from none' - people working together to bring spiritual friendship to people fettered by suffering, caught up in serious illness, dying, death and bereavement.

Monks and ordinands of most traditions offered prayers and chanted offerings of dedication, and representatives of religious sangha and secular Buddhist organisations joined to make offerings of light. The Buddhist Hospice Trust was privileged to be called (unexpectedly) to participate in this, and to offer words of affirmation at the end.

Especially touching were an entrancing puja dance performed by four young women of Sinhalese origin, a short dharma-drama by the same young women and the young children of Chris Blomley and his wife; Chris was master of ceremonies for the day and is one of the principal architects of the BCSG.

Principal speaker was Dr Sarah Shaw, a Buddhist translator, author and scholar. Sarah's talk was a jewel-like exemplar of simplicity, authenticity and wisdom. She spoke a little to the value of the 'Four Immeasurables' in guiding spiritual friendship. Most notable (for me) was the distinction she suggested between loving kindness to myself, and loving kindness to others. It is of immeasurable help to others, she suggested, to know that what might give ease and contentment to us may not be what would give ease and contentment to another. We should take care not to 'prescribe' for the gladness of others, or wish our own happiness on them, however sincerely; better that we should fully intend that, without any reservation on our part, whatever happiness they found should be the happiness that they most sought for themselves.

Other speakers included Dr Sunil Kariyakanawara (Director/BCSG), Mr Robin Field-Smith MBE, Vice-President of the Association of Police Chaplains who sang the Collect from Choral Evensong (Book of Common Prayer), Ven Sochu of Shoboan Zen Centre, Matthew Jee who devised and demonstrated the new Kalyana Mitra web-forum, and Mr Keith Munnings who also led the finishing meditation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very valuable piece