*** I wrote this on Friday****
On Sunday, something rather momentous is happening to me, in fact I see it as a watershed which is approaching – something from which I cannot turn back from.
I am having my Mitra ceremony at the London Buddhist Centre, which is part of the Triratna Buddhist Community. This is a major commitment for me, I have flitted around various spiritual groups for a long time now, but I feel ready to commit.
I have been involved at the London Buddhist Centre for many years – but only on the outskirts – going to a retreat and then fading away again. Now, after attending the Hornchurch Buddhist Group (part of Triratna) pretty regularly since January, I feel I am ready to take this step. For me the tipping point was reading Not Everything is Impermanent by David Brazier, where he says:
…adopting a totally smorgasbord approach does not provide one with an adequate frame for building community or sharing practice. First we have to make some choice in order to practise at all, but if we make a good choice then what we choose will be inclusive enough to allow us to incorporate wisdom from many sources…
I feel like Triratna fulfils all of these criteria – there is a Sangha in which is practice with and the Dharma to follow too, yet it doesn’t exclude me from believing in a higher power than oneself.
I am also taking the Mitra ceremony as an opportunity to turn vegetarian and to stop drinking as well. Neither of these are new to me, I have been both teetotal and vegetarian for long periods during my life, but now I feel ready to commit to them properly. This will have an impact on people around me, especially not eating meat will mean changes at home, which will affect my husband.
What being a Mitra means
All of the information here is taken from Triratna’s information document ‘becoming a Mitra’.
The Sanskrit word ‘mitra’ simply means ‘friend’. Becoming a mitra is a deepening of your friendship with the Triratna Buddhist Order, which can occur when your commitment to its ideals, values and practices has reached a certain level. Mitras are people who have made what we call a ‘provisional’ commitment to practising the Dharma within our spiritual community.
As part of this you make the three declarations:
- “I feel that I am a Buddhist,”
- “I am trying to practise the five precepts,” and
- “I feel that the Triratna Buddhist Community is the main context in which I want to deepen my practice.”
The five precepts are in two forms – negative and positive:
- Not harming other sentient beings, but actively practising kindness.
- Not taking that which another is unwilling to give, but actively practising generosity
- Not indulging our sexual (or other) cravings in ways that harm others or ourselves, but actively cultivating stillness, simplicity, and contentment.
- Not speaking falsely, but making a definite practice of honesty.
- Not clouding our mind with drink or drugs, but actively cultivating mindfulness and awareness.
I am very pleased that there are training principles –the Buddha didn’t do them and then become enlightened, he became enlightened and was then able to do them. So I don’t have to be perfect at it!.