In Rigpa, many of us are part of a 'sangha' (Sanskrit word meaning 'community' or 'assembly') which gathers at a local centre or annual retreat or in online communities to study and practice. For me, sangha has been a source of friendship and support and an opportunity to give and receive kindness. We are buddhas-to-be, but we are not yet buddhas. As a result, we could fail to notice, question or act on behaviours of concern that undermine the right for everyone, including someone who is vulnerable for whatever reason, to feel and be safe. The Rigpa Code of Conduct and Shared Values & Guidelines clarifies the behaviour we expect from each other - but the words need to come alive in our sangha experience.
Recently, I attended a training in London on ‘Safeguarding Adults’ organised by Rigpa UK. The training was part of building a safe environment culture where people in positions of trust and responsibility take the lead on embodying and championing our Code of Conduct and Shared Values. The training was provided by Thirty-one:eight, who have worked with other Buddhist groups and are experts in supporting churches and faith organisations in creating safeguarding arrangements. The workshop covered the legal context for safeguarding adults; who is at risk and who are the perpetrators; signs and indicators of abuse and responding well; and, the importance of policies and procedures. The trainer was knowledgeable, warm and engaging with discussions and interactive exercises. It became obvious that complying with UK safeguarding standards can be seen as indivisible from embodying Buddhist values. It is a natural part of how we care for each other as sangha and the members of the public who come to courses and retreats.
People who are vulnerable need extra care and support. What makes people more vulnerable than usual? Bereavement or loss, mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety or depression, addiction, domestic abuse, physical illness or dementia. Vulnerability can be for a shorter or longer period of time. Perhaps it's the very thing that caused them to come to a Rigpa centre or retreat in the first place. As practising Buddhists, we develop our empathy to be able to put ourselves into the position of others and to act in ways that benefit others. Further training like this in Rigpa centres will help towards implementing the pledge to create a safe environment for Rigpa and I’m looking forward to more Thirtyone:eight training in Rigpa centres in 2019.