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Twelve Points for the Sangha of Practitioners in Israel and elsewhere
I had a Skype meeting on Monday morning with Tamar Adelstein, 41, who is the new managing director for Tovana, Israel’s leading Dharma network.
Tamar has recently taken over from Ron Alon, who had 15 years of experience with the role. As well as teaching, he did a remarkable job supporting Israeli teachers, international teachers and Tovana’s vision.
With Tamar, he has a worthy successor. She has a wealth of international experience, studied law and gives support for those in need. Along with formal Dharma practice, she draws from her experience in Japan, Sri Lanka and Australia, as well as being a wife and mother of three children.
Tamar and I had a lengthy discussion via Skype. She had a variety of important questions knowing that I have 30 years of annual visits to Israel. Tovana’s senior and much loved teacher, Stephen Fulder is also reducing his time as the eldest administrator of Tovana after three decades in his role with the Tovana board. Stephen has a new book out in English FIVE POWERS OF MIND. His transition also forms a feature of the evolution giving more responsibility to others.
After talking with Tamar, I wrote down a few points as loving reminders for Tovana and its extensive network. The points apply to Sanghas (Gatherings of Practitioners) , wherever the Dharma takes root.
Twelve Points for the Sangha of Practitioners in Israel and Elsewhere
1. Centres and practitioners must evolve or end up narrow minded and sectarian.
2. Tovana is in a major period of its evolution. You (Tamar) have joined at the right time, although challenging. There is extra stress for Sanghas/centres worldwide due to impact of Covid-19. We need to be patient with each other.
3. Personal retreats with a resident teacher is part of the evolution as use of the rented centre at Ein dor expands following a successful appeal for funds.
4. Teachers must exercise their authority in terms of length of time of stay of a solitary retreatant with regular inter-views with the teacher.
5. The biggest duality is between retreat and daily life. Teachers, managers and Dharma seniors need to co-operate to show the way to bridge this gap.
6. Retreats, techniques, methods can truly serve the practitioner; the practitioner does not become a canary in the cage of retreats.
7. Tovana has a foundation of ethics/mindfulness/meditation and heart/wisdom teachings for an awakened life. This is a core feature of Tovana and the Dharma.
8. Tovana offers teachings/practices without walls. Practitioners receive support and encouragement if they also explore yoga, psychotherapy, ordination, travel to the East, faith in God, pilgrimage and lifestyle. Non-violent politics support the poor and marginalised. An engaged Sangha in Israel includes listening and responding to the plight of the people In Palestine – Gaza, West Bank and refugee camps in neighbouring countries.
9. Teachings include freedom to use the language of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and freedom not to use the same language of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Know your audience. Know your readers.
10. Dharma/meditation/mindfulness in Asia can find itself a bit lost in Buddhism, temples and religious beliefs. Dharma in the West can find itself equally lost in Secularism, neuroscience, and psychology – at the expense of the spiritual, the sacred and enlightening realisations. This way of life supports non-violence, non-abuse and dwells respectful to people, animals and the environment/resources.
11. Dharma offers a free spirited way of life. This view applies whether a practitioner is single, in a relationship, has a family, ordained as a monk or nun, of any religious faith or none.
12. Liberals and Conservatives are welcome in Tovana. Liberals need to stay receptive to fresh ways of contemporary explorations and wise approaches. Conservatives need to keep a mindful eye on the best of the 2600-year-old Buddhist tradition and draw directly from the 10,000 discourses of the Buddha. One example: Every link in the Noble Eightfold Path matters equally rather than limiting the Dharma to mindfulness and meditation.
Finally, let us never forget, we, the servants of the Dharma, have a wide range of resources, within and outside the tradition, to support our capacity to abide in a fulfilled way of life. We set no limits to the inquiry into life. Liberation reveals the Limitless.