After coming to classes and other events at the SFBC for a while you may find you want to take your commitment further, deepening connections with members of the Sangha. One way you can do this is by becoming a Mitra.
WHAT IS A MITRA?
‘Mitra’ is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘friend’. We currently have a core Sangha of about 50 Mitras and Order Members (members of the Triratna Buddhist Order) at the SFBC. A Mitra in this context means a friend who has made a commitment to practice meditation and buddhist principals with the SFBC Sangha. It’s an opportunity offered to anyone who has been practicing here for at least six months and feels ready and able to make the declarations below. In making these declarations, you are making clear to yourself and others where you stand at the present time in relation to your spiritual life.
The Three Declarations:
I am a Buddhist, or I feel a strong resonance with Buddhist teachings and practices:
Buddhist principles make sense to you and you feel supported by the way we practice them at the SFBC. You would like to deepen your personal practice along with other members of this community and you feel ready to make a provisional commitment to a Buddhist way of life through becoming a Mitra.)
I am trying to practice the five precepts:
You are deepening your understanding of the precepts, reflecting on their meaning and application in your life, and feel they are based on an ethical standard that makes sense to you. You want to try to live in this way.
The Five Precepts:
I undertake to abstain from taking life.
I undertake to abstain from taking the not given.
I undertake to abstain from sexual misconduct.
I undertake to abstain from untruthful speech.
I undertake to abstain from taking intoxicants that cloud the mind.
I feel that the San Francisco Buddhist center and the larger Triratna Buddhist Community is the spiritual context within which I want to practice.
You feel comfortable with the people, the practices, the approach to practice, the interpretation of the dharma, etc. You feel the benefit of spiritual friends and you want to practice with them.
WHY BECOME A MITRA?
Most importantly it’s an opportunity to express and mark a certain clarity that you have in relation to your spiritual development. Second, there are activities specifically designed for Mitras, such as Mitra Study classes (Monday evenings) and retreats. The SFBC has an annual Rainy Season Retreat in January, where we usually close to the general public in order to give Mitras and Order Members to deepen their practice together. There are also worldwide events in the larger Triratna Community. Some people who become Mitras decide later that they are interested in training to become an Order Member. This is open to any Mitra, but is by no means expected and there is absolutely no pressure.(Sometimes people ask if there’s a requirement to help out around the SFBC and the answer is no - we’re aware that most people already have many commitments. But if you do have time and energy it’s a good way to deepen connections.)
Becoming a Mitra is not an institutional ritual that is expected of you. Many people practice here for many years without ever choosing to become a Mitra. You will be as welcome and taken as seriously as a Buddhist practitioner, whether you choose to become a Mitra or not. It is up to you. Personal responsibility is central to Buddhism. The Buddha said about his teachings, “Don’t believe what I am saying; come and see for yourself, based on your own experience.” The three declarations are guidelines to assist you in deciding if you want to do this. They are not requirements or criteria that you must prove. You are free to make this choice, to decide where you are personally in relation to the declarations, and to decide if you want to become a Mitra in this community.
Mitra ceremonies are a formal recognition of your personal commitment. They usually take place at the center or sometimes on a retreat, in the context of a puja. It is a very simple ceremony that consists of each person making three offerings to the shrine in silence. The three offerings are: a flower that symbolizes impermanence as well as beauty; a candle that symbolizes clarity and the light of the dharma; and a stick of incense that symbolizes the fragrance and ever-changing nature of the spiritual life. Our 2020 Ceremony during Covid was outside.
Shunyamala and Danadasa are currently Mitra Convenors here at the SFBC, and they will be happy to talk more about becoming a mitra. You should also feel free to check in with any of our order members and mitras about our experience. You can usually find us on Wednesday evenings at Sangha Night, but you can also email us through the SFBC.
Here’s a list of members of the Order/Mitra Sangha (aka Core Sangha) you might meet at Sangha Night or other SFBC events :
Acarasiddhi, Alexi, Amy, Ben, Brad, Chiara, Claudia, Danadasa, Danamaya, Dayamudra, Dhivajri, Ethan, Frank, Helen, Hridayashri, Ilaria, Jayson, Joanneke, Jon S, Jon R, Karla, Karunadakini, Karunadevi, Ken, Mary S, Mary W, Medhahshri, MJ, Michaela, Mokshasi, Nanasiri, Nancy, Padmatara, Pete, Prasadachitta, Riaz, Robert, Shunyamala, Vimalamoksha, Viradhamma, Viveka, Zachi, Zue.