Saturday, 29 November 2008

Imagine a Sangha

This is the text of a talk I gave at the London Buddhist Centre on Sangha day 2008, which was part of the LBC's 30th anniversary celebrations.

It is a privilege to be invited to speak on this occasion of the 30th anniversary of the opening of the Centre. Thirty years ago, (3rd December 1978) the shrine room here was dedicated to Dharma practice and the following day Bhante gave a talk here. In that talk, he spoke about the vision of what he called Sukhavati. The LBC was seen as part of a bigger project called Sukhavati. Sukhavati, traditionally is a Pure Land, it is the pure land of Amitabha, Buddha of infinite light and Buddha of the West -- that is why there is a rupa of Amitabha here. A Pure Land is a place where the Dharma is being constantly expounded and practiced. There are no obstacles whatsoever to Dharma practice in the Pure Land -- everything assists Dharma practice, everything is conducive to attaining higher states of consciousness.

This project called Sukhavati of which the LBC was part, was envisaged as an attempt to create an environment where everything assisted spiritual practice, everything conduced to positive mental states. As Bhante put it at the time: "Sukhavati is that society and environment, that social and spiritual context, that context of fellowship with one another, which makes it easier for us to evolve, so that instead of frittering away our energies in resisting the effects Society has upon us we can put them into the process of our development as human beings. At present so much of our energy is spent just trying to keep society at bay! So much of it is spent trying to resist society’s ever present, coercive, crushing influence and preserve ourselves a little bit of space within which we can grow and develop! So much of our energy is spent trying to resist the counter - evolutionary forces! In an ideal environment, like that represented by Sukhavati, we will not have to resist all the time, or be on the defensive all the time, and the greater part of our energy will be available for our own individual development in free association with other, like minded people."

These like-minded people are the Sangha -- the spiritual community. The vision for Sukhavati was that these like-minded people would form communities to live together, create businesses or other work situations where they would work together and come together at the Buddhist centre to study, meditate, discuss, teach and relax.

The principle behind all this was that in order for Buddhism to flourish it needed to be practised intensively and for that to happen there was a need to transform conditions not helpful to spiritual development into conditions which are helpful. To put it another way -conditions are important for practice and the work of the Sangha and of each individual Buddhist is to create the best possible conditions for Dharma practice.

What has happened to the vision that Bhante outlined 30 years ago -- which, of course, was not just a vision for here, but for the whole F. W. B. O. Many people have lived together in communities over the years and many people have benefited from working together in teams and the Centre itself has been a place of study, meditation, discussion, relaxation and teaching. So in many ways, what Bhante outlined then did happen. However, in more recent years, it seems that there is less interest in residential communities, and it seems that less people are interested in working together in teams. The centre itself is fully used in many ways and has the additional facility of a retreat centre and will soon have even more facilities downstairs.

Has the vision of Sukhavati been a success? Well, the name didn't stick -- nobody thinks of Sukhavati as an umbrella project of which the centre is a part. As for the rest: well I think it is probably too soon to tell.

A vision of a new Buddhist movement and Sangha is an historic vision. It is a vision on a very large scale, and it takes much longer than 30 years to achieve fruition. This kind of vision cannot by its nature account for every practicality. It needs to be based on a broad principle -- that can find new forms, new manifestations, as the generations roll on. Each generation needs to envision afresh, each generation needs to articulate its own dream, its own vision -- based on the fundamental principles -- but taking account of contemporary conditions and issues.

For a Sangha to come into being -- we need like-minded individuals -- we need individuals who have an intuition and a conviction that the purpose of life is to evolve spiritually -- to evolve higher states of consciousness -- characterised by compassion, wisdom and energy. This intuition and conviction leads to a commitment -- it leads us to dedicate our lives to what Bhante calls the Higher Evolution of Consciousness. In more traditional Buddhist terms, it leads us to go for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Sangha is the fellowship, co-operation and activity of those who dedicate their lives to going for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Sangha requires imagination. Going for refuge requires imagination. Spiritual life requires imagination -- perhaps all life requires imagination. Sangha happens, where there is imagination and the courage, ability and determination to act from the imagined. Sangha is a vision of an Ideal Human Community -- imagined as interactions and relationships between people based in love, imagined in terms of institutions, art, architecture, music, interaction with the natural environment and so on.

It is a vision of an ideal human community imagined as a fellowship of individuals who are altruistically motivated and who will work together co-operatively to help each other and all those they come into contact with to awaken spiritually -- to awaken to the true meaning and purpose of life.

Sangha is a vision of an ideal human community where everybody is dedicated to awakening from ignorance, awakening into enlightenment -- into wisdom -- and this provides the primary orientation for people's lives.

Sangha is a vision of an ideal human community, imagined as a fellowship of individuals who want to expand beyond any narrow sense of self in as many ways as possible.

Sangha is a vision of an ideal human community, and Sangha is the practice of joining together with like-minded others to bring that ideal human community into being. Sangha is about creating Sangha. The ideal human community creates itself and to do that it needs dedicated and imaginative people.

As Jacob Bronowski said, speaking of imagination: "of all the distinctions between man and animal, the characteristic gift, which makes us human is the power to work with symbolic images: the gift of imagination. The power man has over nature and himself lies in his command of imaginal experience. Almost everything we do, that is worth doing is done first in the mind's eye. The richness of human life is that we have many lives. We live the events that do not happen (and some that cannot) as vividly as those that do. If thereby we die a thousand deaths, that is the price we pay for living a thousand lives. To imagine is the characteristic act not of the poet's mind, or the painters or the scientists, but the mind of man. Imagination is a specifically human gift."

Aloka in his talk, The Life and Death of Imagination, speaks about imagination as follows: "by definition the imagination is a liberating faculty, it liberates you from the moment. Without it we would be stuck with whatever our present experience was in this particular moment, we would be stuck with that, we would have no way of projecting into the future and no way of really assimilating the past."

Just as we need imagination to create sangha, the ideal human community -- we need imagination for all the different elements that are involved in the creation of Sangha. These elements are broadly speaking, commitment, interaction, and altruism.

Commitment or going for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is very succinctly defined by Bhante in his book, What Is the Sangha:

" going for refuge to the Buddha means accepting the Buddha and no other as one's ultimate spiritual guide and exemplar. Going for refuge to the Dharma means doing one's utmost to understand, practise, and realise the fundamental import of the Buddha's teaching. And going for refuge to the Sangha means looking for inspiration and guidance to those followers of the Buddha, both past and present, who are spiritually more advanced than oneself."

We don't know what enlightenment is, we have had no personal contact with the Buddha -- so, to make the Buddha and all that he represents central to our lives, requires imagination -- we find ourselves responding very strongly to the Buddha's teaching, and his life and the lives and teachings of his followers down the ages -- we find ourselves responding, being attracted and imagination and intuition enables us to envisage a future in which we too can attain to great wisdom and compassion. That response and that intuition are sufficient to motivate us to dedicate our lives to spiritual awakening.

When we encounter a spiritual ideal and spiritual practices that attract us so strongly and from so deep a level of our being -- we embark on a process of integration -- gradually more and more of our energy, more and more of our thoughts, emotions and activities, begin to focus and orientate in the same direction. Gradually our psychology becomes more integrated -- we experience less conflict between different aspects of our personality. We begin to become more whole as a person, more aware of who we are and what life is about. As this happens, we become more able to make a commitment to the spiritual path. We become more able to place the ideal of evolving to higher states of consciousness at the centre of our lives.

When we are able to make this kind of commitment, when we are able to allow the principles embodied in the Buddha, Dharma & Sangha to be central in our lives, then we will begin to organise our lives around them. The more committed we are to spiritual growth -- the more it will be the primary consideration in every decision we make about our lives --. We will be always asking ourselves is this going to help me to evolve spiritually or will it hinder me. We will be asking this kind of question when we make decisions about where to live, what work to do, how many children to have, what to spend money on, what to do with our leisure time, even how to decorate the house or flat.

Ideally, when we are spiritually committed all our actions and decisions will be supportive of that commitment. Because we are often weak and unintegrated, we inevitably fall short of this and do things that undermine our attempts to live the spiritual life and make decisions that take us off the spiritual path. But of course, if the vision is still there, if the deep response to the spiritual ideal is there, then we may be lost for a while, but all is not lost.

Paradoxically, one of the things that will enable us to stay on the path is if we are honest and realistic enough to acknowledge to ourselves and others when we make choices or do things that hinder our spiritual growth, or take us in the wrong direction. If we rationalise our behaviour and insist that it is really for spiritual reasons, when it obviously isn't -- then we are indeed on a difficult journey.

Commitment to the Buddha involves using our imagination to grasp the sublime and un-graspable spiritual ideal and then working that out in our lives. Commitment to the Dharma requires study, reflection and discussion. And of course it means putting into practice what we learn from our discussion, reflection and study. It means actually applying the Dharma to our lives. If we don't make the attempt to practice, to apply the principles of the Dharma to our lives -- then we will be in danger of being in a fantasy world -- rather than the world of imagination. As the Buddha says we will be like a donkey who thinks he is a cow:

"Suppose, monks, an ass follows close behind a herd of cows thinking: I'm a cow too! I'm a cow too! But he is not like cows in colour, voice or hoof. He just follows close behind a herd of cows thinking: I'm a cow too! I'm a cow too! Just in the same way, monks, we have some monk who follows close behind the order of monks thinking: I'm a monk too! I'm a monk too! But he has not the desire to undertake the training in the higher morality which the other monks possess, nor in the higher thought, nor in that higher insight which other monks possess. He just follows close behind thinking: I'm a monk too! I'm a monk too!" Hopefully, we don't have anyone in this state here saying I'm a Buddhist too! I'm a Buddhist too!, but not really practising.

Commitment to the Sangha as one of the three refuges means looking to the Arya Sangha for inspiration and exemplification. The Arya Sangha or noble Sangha is the Sangha of all those who have gained transcendental insight -- it is a Sangha that traverses and transcends space and time and embodies the ideal of spiritual realisation, in actual people in different times, different places and different cultures. They are united by the attainment of insight into the nature of Reality. We can be inspired by the existence of the Arya Sangha, because it shows that it is not just one person, the Buddha, who awakened to the true nature of things, but many people over the last two and a half thousand years have evolved and awakened. And this means that we too can evolve and awaken -- we too can become part of the Arya Sangha -- this is what we are committing ourselves to. In more general terms going for refuge to the Arya Sangha also means recognizing the principle of spiritual hierarchy -- recognizing that some people may be more spiritually evolved than we are and some less spiritually evolved than we are. We can learn from those more spiritually developed and we can help those less spiritually developed. But of course, commitment to the Arya Sangha is put into practice in the actual Sangha that we come into contact with.

The insight which characterises the Arya Sangha is a matter of seeing clearly with a direct vision what it means to be a human being, it means discovering that constantly creative consciousness that is always latently potential in us and from the perspective of that consciousness we then see the world around -- we see what is real. One of the things that is seen at that level of insight is that there is no fixed unchanging self separate from a lot of other fixed unchanging selves. Rather, there is a flowing, intermeshed, constantly changing ocean of selves. Each one of us is a sea of changing thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, perceptions and responses and all together we are an interconnected dynamic matrix of consciousness. As the poet Shelley said:
"nothing in the world is single,
all things by a law Divine
in one another's being mingle...".

To live with constant perception of this mingleing is to live without emphasis on a personal distinct and fixed self. It is to live in fluid creativity with other conscious beings, according them equal value with our own consciousness of self.

When it comes to the practice of Sangha; creating a Sangha of like-minded people, who eventually evolve into an Arya Sangha, a transcendental sangha -- an Ideal Human Community -- then we need to work at trying to accord others equal value with ourselves and for both ourselves and others that should be a very high value. We need to work at seeing the potentially creative consciousness in everybody -- that consciousness, which is awake to Reality. In other words, we try our best to relate to the highest and best in each other. We create a Sangha or we engage in the practice of Sangha by interacting with each other, by relating to each other. What this means in practice is observing the ethical training principles and especially the speech precepts. Truthful, kindly, helpful and harmonising speech is what we are aiming for in the Sangha and it is what helps to create the Sangha.

When we create a Sangha we are endeavouring to create the best possible conditions for spiritual practice. The Ideal Human Community is one where everything is conducive to spiritual practice, everything is helpful. When conditions are helpful, then we have more energy available for practice because we are not always struggling against the tide of difficult conditions in the world around us. There are many conditions which are not helpful to spiritual practice: there are many conditions that are even antithetical to the spiritual life and we use up energy struggling against those things.

For instance, the predominant world view around us is that sufficient wealth and material well-being is the road to happiness and contentment. It is a materialistic view. Buddhism acknowledges the need for material well-being, as a starting point but not something to chase after or be attached to as an end in itself. But we live in this world of rampant consumerism and we inevitably get caught up in it, often in ways we don't even notice. We buy what we want rather than what we need. We replace because a replacement is available rather than because we need to replace. We become addicted to the shops as a quick route to satisfaction and remain dissatisfied.

To sevice our high levels of consumption modern life makes many demands on us and is very stressful for many people. Commuting to work each day can be stressful. The work environment itself can be stressful. Family life in our atomised society can be stressful. Bringing up children can be stressful -- with a thousand and one pitfalls and dangers. Even leisure can be stressful, if it involves a lot of TV, Internet both of which tend to sap energy. With all the demands and potential stresses of life, it makes sense to try to create better conditions, if we want to make spiritual progress. This brings us back to imagination.

To create better conditions for ourselves and others we need to be able to analyse and imagine what those better conditions might look like.

One of the conditions we need in order to make spiritual progress his communication with people who share our aspiration and commitment. Communication here means more than the usual exchange of information or chatting about where you've been, what you've seen and who is making up, taking up or breaking up with whom.

In the dedication ceremony, it says "may our communication with one another be Sangha".

This kind of communication goes deeper -- it is a communication of what is most meaningful for us, it is a communication that acknowledges and confesses faults and failings, it is a communication that involves listening, empathising and learning. It is a communication, above all, that leads to greater awareness -- we become more aware of ourselves -- we gain self-knowledge -- and we become more aware of our friends through this friendly, deep, sometimes moving, sometimes playful, sometimes painful, sometimes ordinary, but always worthwhile communication.

So in terms of improving conditions for spiritual life, one of the questions is, what kind of conditions will invite and encourage this kind deeper, more aware communication to happen. This kind of communication requires spending time with someone -- it requires seeing people in lots of different kinds of situations -- seeing them relaxed, seeing them busy, seeing them relating to others, seeing them angry, tired, upset, happy and so on. Meeting in a cafe once a week doesn't really do it.

Now the answer to this that Bhante outlined as he spoke 30 years ago, was for people to live and work together in residential spiritual communities and team-based right livelihood businesses, and to have their social interactions focused around the Buddhist centre. Is that the end of it? I said earlier that we need to imagine more -- we need to dream -- and we need to articulate our dreams. The basic need for conditions that enable and encourage deeper communication can perhaps be fulfilled in other ways. 30 years on, the vision of the project that was then called Sukhavati -- needs to be looked at afresh -- needs to be imagined, dreamed, envisioned afresh. It has gone through changes -- the overall set of conditions around here is sometimes referred to as the Mandala, sometimes as the Buddhist village. Some people like the imagery of building the Buddhaland. Whatever we call it, and names can be important, I believe it will be helpful if we imagine on the grandest scale, dream big dreams and then see whether we can move towards our dreams.

For instance, a number of Buddhists now live in flats around this area. Imagine if they all lived in the same block of flats, perhaps in Sugarloaf walk, imagine they all owned that block of flats and then they could make changes, could make decisions about doing some things communally, to save money, to help the environment and to deepen their communication. Imagine bigger than that. Imagine a whole tower block, like the one just across the road, owned and occupied by Buddhists, with many shared facilities -- shrine room, meeting room, library, laundry room, perhaps even a dining room, cold store and so on. This would have spiritual and environmental benefits.

Imagine bigger than that. Some years back the old town Hall in Patriot Square was for sale and another time it looked like the hospital on the Approach road might be for sale -- imagine a big complex like that -- with residential space for individuals, couples, families, small communities, large communities and space for a natural health Centre, an arts centre, a Buddhist Centre, a home for the elderly, study facilities, a library, studios, small businesses, -- a thriving Buddhist community in the heart of London.

Okay, not many Buddhists may want to live in large single sex communities these days, but we can imagine co-housing situations on a large scale that can include space fo communites and other types of accommodation for singles couples, families etc.

Not many Buddhists may want to work in shops or restaurants these days, but we can imagine other types of enterprise, in the caring professions, perhaps in education, architecture, building, technology. It may even be that initially people from similar professions just get together to share their experience and talk about how to practice spiritually in the workplace -- how to remain ethical, how to avoid the character assassinations and politics of the workplace, how to have a positive influence. It may be that some people want to look at the altruistic side of work and look into how to generate money for Dharma work. There are ways in which a pooling of resources could occur. For instance at windhorse I've been amazed at how much good can be done with relatively small amounts of money like £5000 or £10,000. If a group of people involved with the centre set up a fund and put a little in every month -- the combined value would be greater than any one person could achieve and a substantial donation could be made to the centre each year similar to what businesses have done in the past. There are other ways in which people can have an intensive experience of communication and working together through teams for retreats, classes and other projects. I don't know how many social events happen around the centre these days, but I think social events are a very good sangha activity and the work that goes into organising them can be a very good way of building spiritual community.

The main point I want to make here is that we need to imagine, we need to inspire ourselves with the dream of what could be, what the future could look like. It could be different from any of what I have just mentioned. Perhaps, rather than a big complex, there could be hundreds of small cells of Buddhists around London.

There was a song that said, "the future is not ours to see, que sera sera, whatever will be will be." This is not completely true; the future is not ours to see, that's true enough, although we can imagine it. But it is not a case of "whatever will be will be", it is more a case of whatever we will to be will be. The future is not ours to see, but we can begin to create it, we can begin to set the train of activities in motion that move in the direction of our future vision. The future is not ours to see, the future is ours to make.

The vision needs to be there, the dream, the imagined future and it needs to be articulated. The more we talk about something, the more likely it is to happen. Talking sets up the conditions that begin to attract the right resources. The practicalities can follow. It may take years, generations even, before a vision is realised. And then it may even look quite different from what was originally envisaged, but the important thing is to begin, to dream and talk.

Sometimes the money or the people or other resources are just not available, but you can still make a start. For instance, when we thought of getting a new retreat centre from the LBC over 10 years ago, we didn't have the money, we didn't have the people, we didn't have a place in mind, all we had was the idea, the vision and enthusiasm, determination and courage. Everything else manifested in time and now Vajrasana is there. At the time some of us had a very big vision of what we wanted; for example, there was going to be a shrine room with large murals painted on panels all-round, and there was going to be a library. It has not happened, maybe it will never happen, but a start has been made. The place is there and the potential is there. The will and the vision and the resources to transform it will emerge over time, and what eventually happens will be something we could never have envisaged 10 years ago.

This centre is of course is another vision that began over 30 years ago, with the shell of a burnt out building and a lot of energy and enthusiasm and very little money. It is still emerging, and being created, almost as I speak.

So the point here is about the importance of vision, a vision of an Ideal Human Community, based in the values and ethics of Buddhism and manifesting in the world in buildings, in institutions, in people living together, in people working together -- a Buddhist village, a Buddhist town, a Buddhist Borough, a Buddhist city -- libraries, stupas, shrines, workplaces, temples, streets, shops, all imbued with the spirit of the Dharma. Dreams can be as big as we can imagine, and we should articulate our dreams, talk about them, so that they become seeds of a possible future among all the possible futures. Architects can articulate architectural dreams. Doctors can talk about medical dreams. Teachers can have educational dreams, and so on: funeral directors, street cleaners, train drivers, traffic wardens, whatever your profession, whatever your interests, whatever your talents, dream your dreams and give voice to them.

All the dreams can be woven together and articulated as our Buddhist vision of a truly human community, an ideal human community, a sangha, permeated by the vision, the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha’s great insights into the nature of reality and permeated by Bhante's clarity and the radical immediacy of his vision for Buddhism in the West.

Going for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is essentially an altruistic activity. Our spiritual commitment is essentially a commitment to going beyond egotism and selfishness. This involves an outward expansion of consciousness, outwards to include and integrate all of ourselves, outwards to greater awareness of our self and others, an expansion of consciousness outwards in loving kindness towards our self and others. When all those individuals who are committed to expanding consciousness in this way, come together co-operatively in a Sangha, that Sangha will also be characterised by expansion, expanding outwards to include more people, always open, always encouraging.

A Sangha of individuals like this, all working consciously to expand outwards in awareness and loving kindness and co-operating together for the benefit of all, this sangha is the ground from which the Bodhicitta flowers. The Bodhicitta, the awakening heart of the Bodhisattva, is not a personal possession. By its nature, by it's altruistic transcendent nature, it must be shared and as Subhuti put it "if it is to be conceptualised then you can see it as what arises among a fellowship of friends, working closely together for their ideals". The practices that give expression to the Bodhicitta are the six perfections -- generosity, ethics, forbearance, energy, meditation and wisdom. Of these generosity is the most important and appropriate for most of us.

We could think of generosity as being in essence, an attitude, it is that expansive attitude that moves out towards others in giving and in kindness.

Before you can give you need to know what is yours, what belongs to you. And in this context, the primary thing you own, which belongs totally to you, is your mental states. This may seem obvious, but the major stumbling block for many of us on the spiritual path is that we fail to recognize and acknowledge that our mental states are our own, that they belong to us and not to others. What has this got to do with generosity? Well the basic attitude we need to cultivate in the Sangha, the most generous and expansive attitude is the attitude of Metta. So when we discover that our attitude towards a fellow Sangha member is not one of Metta, which often happens, then we need to ask ourselves why not?, why is our attitude, not one of Metta? And in answering this we should not be content with an answer that blames them. We should also not be content with an answer that just blames ourself. We need to go deeper than that, we need to seek a perspective of wisdom. If we acknowledge and recognize that our mental states are our own, our very own responses to people and situations, then we have an opportunity to go deeper, to transform, to gain awareness and even insight and if we do that we become more and more capable of generosity - the movement of expansion in consciousness, ever outwards.

We need to be trying to expand and move outwards from our habitual states as part of our spiritual practice. We need to move from being an habitual critic to being an encourager. We need to move from being an habitual consumer to being a giver. That applies to how we use the Buddhist centre as well. We need to move from a habit of exclusivity and cliqueishness to openness and hospitality. We need to move from a habit of being a commentator to being a participant. We need to move from the habit of being a spectator to being a player. We need to move from a habit of complaining to taking responsibility. There are probably many more. You could come up with your own personal list.

Where there are faults and weaknesses and flaws, there is all the more need for Metta. Metta is realistic, it is not an attitude that is blind to faults and blemishes in oneself or others, but it is an attitude that sees these faults as occasion for kindness, for an expansive, generous attitude. And that expansive, generous attitude manifests in words and actions, in friendliness, in kindness, in hospitality, in harmonising speech and so on.

The attitude of generosity is also an attitude of contentment. It is content with a simple life, not overly focused on accumulating and consuming money or possessions or people or ideas. It is an attitude of being content with less and of finding joy in less. It is an attitude that realises the burdensome nature of possessions, and the tiresomeness of being forever restless, restless for the next meal, the next gadget, the next news bulletin, the next sexual encounter, the next episode of Big Brother and so on.

So the imagination and vision which we apply to the external dimension of Sangha can also be applied to this more internal dimension. We can imagine ourself more developed, more expansive, kinder, more generous and try to get a sense of what that feels like, what does it look like, how would we behave, what does it sound like and so on. Imagination is the first step to realization of the vision of an ideal human community, so also with our self, we can imagine as a first step to realisation and we can articulate to ourselves what we see and experience in imagination. This is why images of archetypal Buddhas and Bodhisattvas can be so spiritually helpful to us.

On December the fourth 1978, when Bhante gave his talk, the day after the centre opened, among other things, he said this: "all of us, surely, at least sometimes, are dissatisfied: we feel dissatisfied with the world as it is and aspire to a higher, better, brighter, more beautiful world than that which we at present experience, or in which we seem to live -- a world where it will be easier for us to grow and develop. Surely, at least sometimes, we aspire in this way."

If we do aspire in this way, then we can imagine all the ways we could possibly create a future Sangha, that is large, harmonious, mutually helpful and an example to the world of how life can be lived both joyfully and meaningfully, an example of an ideal human community. Many others have attempted to create ideal human communities with varying degrees of success, like for example, the Fairfield Moravian Settlement in Manchester or the Whiteway Colony following the teachings of Tolstoy, or communities of the 1960s like the UFA Fabrik in Berlin, and so on. We can create our own dynamic Buddhist community here in Bethnal Green, we can dream big dreams, imagine great institutions, architecture, parks, libraries, paintings, schools and so on. We can act together, generously, in a spirit of metta and encouragement and allow the Bodhicitta to arise in our midst. The Bodhicitta, that Awakened consciousness that cannot be the possession of any one person, but is the flowering of the altruistic, compassionate activity of a large group of people, working together, awakening together in harmony and friendly fellowship.

We can be a Sangha of visions and dreams, a Sangha that dreams and visions itself into being -- here, even here in this corner of this city, at this time in history. This is a great work and it needs individuals who are committed, hard-working, determined, courageous and generous. Some of those individuals are probably sitting here today. If so, I wish you every success in what is a most worthwhile endeavour, the most worthwhile endeavour -- the creation of an ideal human community -- an effective Sangha.