The Parami Community


Alan Wilkie (New Zealand)

Near the end of the extended New Zealand retreat in 1973, Milton Carmen wrote a proposal for a new Dharma community, signed and approved by Rinpoche. I remember him standing up and reading his notes to the group with some excitement and determination, Rinpoche sitting behind him.

I was inspired to stay in New Zealand and be part of this new community.

Well, hunting through my old stuff yesterday, I found the document and read it again. It contains no less than 11 references to the Bead Game..


A Conceptual Outline for a Dharma Community in New Zealand
Milton Carmen

Many of the beings here in meditation may well be turning their thoughts to the question of what may be the wisest course to follow in their quest to practise the Bodhisattva ethic. Our explorations thus far in therapy and meditation for many of you have just whetted the appetite for continuous, consistent and deeper explorations that will lead you to Path and Enlightenment.

It would appear that the evolvement and establishment of a Sangha of the 21st Century to accomplish this goal would be very much in order at this time. The idea is not a particularly new one in the Western world. There are probably hundreds of spiritual communities of one kind or another operating now across North America. And we in the Dharma Centre have gained a great deal of valuable experience in the community work we have done in the Yukon, Morocco, and here in New Zealand.

Without trying to categorize, analyze and evaluate the emergence and development of this particular "community" phenomenon in the West - it seems abundantly clear that it will gain more momentum as we get closer to the physical, social, economic and political upheavals forecast by the Qabala before the Aquarian Age settles down on this Planet. It would therefore seem expedient to commence the next phase of the transformation of the Tibetan and other Buddhist teachings into a network of communities where they can be integrated by our Western psyches and then transmitted and disseminated to all parts of the Western world.

Thus the initial aims or objectives of our communities would be threefold:

(a) To gather and collect strategic Tibetan and other Teaching resource materials necessary for a complete transformation of The Teaching to the West.

(b) To translate, interpret and integrate this Teaching on a sustained and continuous basis so that it can be used for the training of teachers in our communities. And that this material be made available in the form of publications, tapes, etc., to beings practising Dharma anywhere on this Planet.

(c) To evolve through experimentation and depth explorations, processes for harmonious integration of work, education and spiritual practise in the communities. This documented work could be of enormous value to the thousands of similar communities that will develop all over the world in the coming years.

The Concept

This concept envisions not one - but rather five distinct communities in different parts of New Zealand that are inter-related and interdependent. The communities would be devoted to: 1. The Plastic Arts (Architecture, sculpture, painting and the five major crafts of metal, wood, lapidary, ceramics and textiles; 2. Music, Dance and the Dramatic Arts; 3. Agriculture; 4. Communication / Documentation / Media Arts; 5. Intellectual/Scientific.

Overall Design

The major aim of the communities is to produce Enlightened teachers for the benefit of all sentient beings. It could be said then, that the design of the communities would be to attempt to balance the four functions of thinking, sensing, feeling and intuiting on the inner and outer planes to develop integrated and loving beings. Thus, the choice of disciplines to accomplish this aim - the visual and plastic arts and crafts; the creative and interpretive performing arts; the literary arts; selected scientific and intellectual studies; the communication arts; and agricultural sciences.

In addition, each community would have a centre for the study and practise of Dharma disciplines - meditation, physical yogas, therapies, astral cyclic teaching and other Western Mysteries.

The specific operational design of the communities would be:

1. To produce master and generalist Teachers in the Dharma disciplines. This would mean that all beings in the communities would be required to reach a high level of competency (and hopefully in many cases, mastery) of two or three Dharma disciplines.

2. To provide master and generalist training in arts, intellectual and farming disciplines.

3. To create, produce and fabricate works of art, produce and services to nourish and sustain the communities themselves and society.

To acquire the skill and means to achieve this operational goal will obviously take much study, thought, planning and an enormous amount of hard work by all of us. At this point it is only possible to give a very general sketch of how this plan would operate.

Essentially, these communities will be centres for the practical production of conceptual/perceptual ideas; works of art and farm produce. These will be produced by highly skilled and talented artists, intellectuals and farmers, who are masters of their chosen craft or discipline and by competent generalists. Eventually, the communities will evolve other capabilities - perhaps as centres for research and experimentation and higher learning where great leaders and talents of the world would come to "probe and make the unknown known." One would like to think of them as communities where beings like Hesse, Jung, Mondrian, Mahler, and others would have liked to live and work had they been in existence at their time.

In principle, then, the communities would combine the best features of Hesse's Castalia (integrated higher learning); a Tibetan Temple (purification of body, speech and mind); the Bauhaus (creation of new cultural environments through interdisciplinary art forms); and the Israeli Kibbutz (financially remunerative communal living).

These principles could only come to full fruition if the communities were related and dependent on each other for the free-flow and integration of their work and were dedicated to alleviate the suffering of all beings in the outside world. A master Architect Lama, (that's you, Chief), would be necessary to direct this overall evolvement.

A very brief sketch of the specific functions of each community follows:

Dharma Studies Centre

Each of the five communities would have its own Dharma Studies Centre that would be responsible for the continued training and evolvement of beings in the practices of meditation, physical yogas, therapies of all kinds, massage, Western Mysteries and symbology, etc. Every member of each community would be required to continue purification practises as required by the Lama. One of the ways this could be accomplished would be for the community to be so organized that each being could take two or three months each year for intensive training in these studies as we did last year in Morocco and have just completed here in New Zealand. This would require the commencement of immediate training of "master" meditators, yogis, therapists, etc., who would serve as instructors in these disciplines.

These centres would also provide for the healing and purification of beings coming into the communities. And they would serve as a safeguard to the communities, especially in their early stages of development, from having to deal with unwholesome, negative and psychotic elements, which would be disruptive and de-energizing. Thus the centres would also provide a facility for healing and purifying beings coming into the communities to live, as residents for the first time.

The centres could also conduct pioneer research and experimentation into ways and means of combining various yogic and therapy disciplines for more speedy and effective de-conditioning of Western psyches from the heavy negativity of large cities.

Plastic and Visual Arts and Craft Community

The Plastic and Visual Arts and Crafts community would probably be one of the first to be formed because of the fairly large number of Dharma members skilled in these arts. The profit potential in the craft field is considerable especially for original designs in the field of mass replicated objects like children's toys, textiles, fashions, furniture, camping and leisure equipment, etc.

This community would have to establish a very strong Design Centre (since design, or form, is the foundation of all crafts) so that our beings would be trained as designer-craftsmen. It would also be necessary to attract Master craftsmen to head up each section of wood, metal, lapidary, textile and ceramics so that very early in the community's development "Master Game" standards are set for our work and artistic processes. Some form of the master-journeyman-apprentice tradition would probably ensure the quality and integrity of our work.

The market for our arts and crafts from this community would probably have to be world-wide. We would be well-advised, eventually, to handle the marketing of our products and designs and possibly even our own sales outlets for our hand-crafted products. It is interesting to note here that the craft/souvenir market in Canada five years ago was $100 million with only 10 per cent of that total being made in Canada.. the rest, imported.

The role for painters (in all media) and architects in the early development of the communities would be primarily directed in the creation of beautiful environments for our homes, buildings and public spaces. The painters would obviously also bend their talents to the production of thangkhas, mandalas, illustration of Dharma books and literature, and the painting of sets and decor for musical and dramatic productions, Wong Kurs and Bead Games. Needless to say, the integration of their talents and work would lead to many exciting innovations in the creation of unique cultural environments. All of the graphic arts could also be well utilized to meet the burgeoning and profitable market for Dharma materials of all kinds.

Music Dance and Dramatic Arts Community

The primary focus for this community would be on the creative aspects - the creation and performance of new music, plays and dance forms. Composers in the classical and popular fields would be encouraged to come to work in this community as well as highly-skilled musicians to perform their works. We would also be advised to provide recording facilities so that records, tapes and cassettes could be made under our own "Dharma" label and a publishing house established as well.

Certainly the potential for making sizeable profits exists in the music field. If this community were able to attract even one or two of the top rock groups, it would take only a few "hit" LPs to bring a sizeable income to the community. We also have a number of talented composers in the Dharma, who could compose "teaching" songs that have become very popular recently. If any one of these songs clicked, the financial returns could be formidable.

It is also highly likely that this community could create a commercially feasible musical or dramatic presentation about the teaching. Musicals like Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar have become internationally popular and Hair is said to have grossed something like $50 million from the box-office, records, etc.

In the dramatic field, we could evolve exciting new forms of drama that integrate the talents of the playwright and the ensemble as well as involve the audience in the creation and performance. And since there exists a horrible dearth of good theatre for children all over the world, our dramatic community and its children could bend their efforts in this direction.

It should be noted here that our children should play a paramount role in all phases of creation in all our communities - children's music, drama, making toys, etc. It should be a common practise in all our communities to see whole families working together in creative pursuits.

The role of dance and movement would also be paramount not only in relation to musical and dramatic productions but also in the festivals and Bead Games of our communities. A whole new field of dance and movement should arise as we celebrate the joy of being able to live in the Dharma.

Agricultural Community

This community could concentrate its efforts in three major directions.

1. The growing of a wide variety of wholesome foods for our communities. The fact that we would have an assured supply of our own food would be specially useful in the event of any world-wide calamities.

2. The opening up of sensorial awareness of our beings as they work with the land and explore the dharmas of nourishing the body in harmony with the rest of nature. It would be an especially important element in the education of our children.

3. The production of a wide range of wholesome agricultural products for sale outside of our communities. Sizeable profits could be realized by the community from this source. For instance, if we were to introduce a really good Granola product to New Zealand and Australia and even southeastern Asia, it would bound to be successful as it was in North America. A chain of exciting health food stores in Australia and New Zealand could also be very rewarding. A whole wide range of fruits and vegetables and dairy products could come from our agricultural community to be sold in our own health food stores.

Intellectual/Scientific Community

As the Agricultural Society would provide food for the body in our communities, so would the Intellectual Community provide food for the mind. This would not be a community of scholars and scientists in the ordinary sense, but rather a group of adventurers and explorers who would be able to integrate their disciplines to solve the multi-dimensional problems of our communities. This would mean that engineers, physicists, mathematicians, chemists, doctors would combine with anthropologists, historians, philosophers, architects, psychologists, lawyers, doctors, etc. to deal with real problems of a real society on both the abstract and practical level. This of course, is not an easy task. Most of the chronic problems that we suffer in the world today are caused by the fact that each intellectual specialty regards itself as the sole saviour of the world and thus refuses to have a dialogue with the other disciplines. And in the cases where interdisciplinary dialogue does take place they find great difficulty understanding each other because each discipline has a different language, so to speak.

Where the true integration of the disciplines has occurred, particularly in science, spectacular results have taken place that have speeded up the technological and scientific development of the planet enormously. But the human side has not kept up and this is the area where this intellectual community could be of enormous service to all of mankind. Hopefully, our communities will be able to strike a balance through integration, of a wholesome mix between the human-scientific-technological.

Thus the dialogues, seminars and conferences that these intellectuals hold in our communities with our artists, farmers, and those specialising in Dharma Studies would do much to enrich the intellectual life of all. Hopefully, this community would attract great minds of the world to it as well which in turn would keep our communities "au courant" with all of the latest developments.

Communication/Documentation/Media Arts Community

This community could be thought of as a Tantric Thread that sort of integrates the work of all of the communities. It's the neck, so to speak, of the communities' body.. or the switchboard where the Architect Lama is the operator. Specifically, its functions would be:

1. The vital communication link between the communities themselves and between the communities and the outside world. This would mean that at all times, head office, if you like, would have a complete picture of the total operations of the five communities. It would also be the communication link between our business connections abroad with the communities.

2. The overall coordinating and planning centre for the distribution of funds, equipment and personnel.

3. The business centre where all sales, contracts and other business negotiations would be handled on behalf of the communities. It would therefore have to be equipped with the latest data processing and other electronic business equipment as well as maintain the computer bank of the communities.

4. The centre for collection, packaging and distribution for the wealth of published Dharma materials (books, tankhas, records, tapes etc) we would produce.

5. The design, organization and production centre for the annual Bead Game of the communities as well as the coordinating centre for materials and media required for Wong Kurs.

6. The production centre for musical comedies, plays, art shows, craft exhibitions created by our communities and to be sent abroad,

7. The documentation centre where the work of our communities is evaluated. All of these responsibilities implies that this community would really have to have, eventually, the facilities of a large television/film studio covering the whole wide range of the mechanical and electronic arts.

The Wongkur and The Bead Game

The spiritual and creative processes of the communities would be tied together principally by two means - the Wong-kur and the Bead Game. It seems fairly obvious at this point in our experience with the wong- kurs, that they are a tremendous depth-moving force to help move us along the spiritual path. The wongs could serve as ritual and festive holidays for all the communities. Imagine the five communities celebrating Shakyamuni, Hevajra or Zambala Day with special music, dances, food and decorations in homes and public places as well as the utilization of special lighting, music and sound effects at the locale of the Wong Kur. These would be days when beings could visit each other at the various communities and share together these extraordinary communions. The Wongs could also be an immeasurable rich teaching and ritual experience for our children.

Bead Game

Once a year all the beings of the five communities would come together for the celebration of the Bead Game, which would be designed somewhat along the lines Hesse outlined in Magister Ludi. Our Lama, who would be the Master of the Bead Game, would set a theme for it then nominate an Architect of the Bead Game who would draw up a design.

The Bead Game theme would then be carried out by each community and coordinated by the Communication Media Community. The duration of the game could be anywhere from a week to two weeks and guests from all over the world and particularly New Zealand and Australia could be invited (it would be a good way of attracting leading artist and intellectuals to our communities with the Bead Game serving as the introduction).

The Game would give an overall direction and inspiration to all of the communities as well as a sense of renewal of our joint energies. Undoubtedly, it would serve also as a tremendous catalyst for the creative energies of the communities. Another major purpose of the Game would be the opportunity for the communities to manifest what they were on about to each other and to society generally. In other words, it would keep them relevant to society.

Operation of Communities

As has been stated earlier, the major aim of each community is to direct its energies to the training of inspired, loving, competent teachers of Dharma. That should also be the active aspiration of each being entering these five Sanghas. (We're pioneers - think of six year system in relation to our children.)

Theoretically, each being will live in a community for six years. At the end of that period they would be required to move to another one of the five communities. The exception to this rule would be in cases where a being has chosen to become a "master" painter, composer, farmer or whatever. In these cases they could remain in the community of their specialization for much longer periods.

Obviously, there would have to be a fair amount of flexibility to this six-year system since there could be many other valid reasons for a being staying in a community for long than the six-year requirement. But the ideal would be to move the majority of the beings into at least three different communities to give them a broad yet integrated thinking, sensing, feeling and intuiting experience.

Thus, every two years, there would be a turnover of approximately one-third of the population of each community and at the end of each six year period, a completely new population, except for the "Master". Each being would then have an 18 year experience living in at least three communities (for example, one of the arts centres, agricultural and communications/media). During this period they might also be required to serve in a managerial capacity in one of the Dharma businesses in New Zealand or overseas.

And so after 18 years of continuous depth training and practise in Dharma Studies (say, meditation, physical yogas and therapy) they should have attained a high level of competency in them and be well qualified to teach these disciplines. Also, their eighteen years of training in the arts, agriculture and communication/media would make them adept at teaching at practically any level of society. At any rate, unless their services were still required in New Zealand, the beings would be expected to go forth and teach on the planet with the full resources, when required, of the five communities behind them.

It should be noted here, that in the event of a being wanted to pursue some specialized training in say medicine, law, engineering, etc. they could then leave the community to receive their training at an university elsewhere. They could then return to the community - possibly to the Intellectual/ Scientific centre and then possibly spend six years at one of the art communities.

The major principle behind this Six Year System, however, would be to give a being a balanced and fulfilling training to aid his evolvement as an integrated, loving teacher. And the system would also allow for a constant flow of new beings into the communities in order to keep them vital and dynamic. It would also prevent the communities from becoming institutionalized and bureaucratic by success since no ossified hierarchies would get a chance to be formed.

-ยป Approved and signed: "K. Tensing Namgyal R."

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