Richard Ollier, head of training at Amida Shu, writes:



Dharmavidya and a group of other interested people from the Global Sangha and the Amida Order have been discussing the training of aspirants and mitras as Pureland Buddhism moves into a new, exciting and more global phase in its development. In particular, we have been reviewing the part the ‘Vow 22’ online Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Course (which has been running for a number of years now) might play in meeting the training needs of aspirants and others in the future, and how it might sit within the broader training.

These conversations are still at a relatively early stage. Generally, we feel that ‘Vow 22’ offers a rich and unique learning resource, covering, as it does, such themes as sutra study, Buddhist Theology, Pureland Buddhist History, concepts of pastoral care, and the nature of ministry and chaplaincy – to name but a few! As those of you who have engaged with the course over the years will be aware, many of these modules and lessons are built around precious sound recordings of lectures given by Dharmavidya to ‘Vow 22’ students during the early years of the Amida Order.


‘Vow 22’ has always adopted an inclusive and egalitarian learning ethos: we welcome students of all backgrounds and have a flexible assessment regime in which students can choose to answer assignments in ways which meet their own individual needs and interests.

There are always ways in which things can be improved, and we are starting to identify some of these in relation to ‘Vow 22’. In particular, we could and should build on and supplement the global emphasis which is already there in the course materials – for example, there is some relevant Indian and Japanese history in the course, but there should probably be a little more. The Order and the Global Sangha have members from parts of the world which have rich but largely unrecognized Pureland heritages (for example Hawaii), and we could usefully make more explicit reference to these in the course materials. This is just one example of how local themes can feed into and inform a global vision. Further suggestions welcome!


We also certainly need to improve the presentation of some of the course materials and find an effective learning platform on which the course can be delivered. Priti has reminded us that we should be actively moving towards translating ‘Vow 22’ materials into a range of languages, and not just assume that everyone is comfortable studying in English. Most excitingly, in the age of ‘Zoom’ we are keen to eventually offer some ‘live’ teaching online to groups of ‘Vow 22’ students, and offer an online environment where students can learn collectively and discuss their work with each other – we feel that this could really contribute towards ‘sangha-building’ by giving people a sense of being in the presence of others who are practicing on the same path.

There is, potentially, a huge amount to do, and it will take a long time to bring to fruition!

However, we have decided on a modest first step!


So, a date for your diary:

On Saturday, 13 March 2021 (11.00 am Rome time; repeated 7.30 pm Rome time) Richard Ollier (Vow 22 Learning Mentor) will teach a ‘Vow 22’ lesson on Honen’s Ichimai Kishomon (‘One -Sheet Document’), the short text which inspired Dharmavidya’s Summary of Faith and Practice. Everyone welcome, including present and past ‘Vow 22’ students AND THOSE WHO MAY BE INTERESTED IN TAKING THE ‘VOW 22’ COURSE IN THE FUTURE – FIND OUT WHAT IT IS LIKE!

This lesson will last 1 ½ hours maximum and will comprise a lecture, discussion and evaluation of the session by the participants: we will feed comments from the evaluation back into our future ‘Vow 22’ planning. Honen’s text and the Zoom link will be made available nearer the time. Looking forward to seeing you on one or other of the time slots on March 13 if you are interested!


For future reference – it is anticipated that both Dharmavidya and Susthama will also be teaching a ‘live’ sample ‘Vow 22’ lesson over coming weeks. Details to follow!

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