- In less than three weeks it will be time for the Buddhafield Festival 2016 – and I like to think I will be prepared! I am already thinking outfits, wellies and extra pairs of socks… and hats, I need hats!
I first attended this magical festival in 2012 and since then it has definitely been one of the highlights of my year – and as a bonus, it is a child-friendly event and my son absolutely loves it. However, right now as I am looking out of my window here in Glastonbury it is pouring with rain, heavy rain. My first year at Buddhafield was a wonderfully magical experience because it was such a muddy one – and because, regardless of the relentless mud, everyone remained positive and fixed on enjoying themselves.
So what is Buddhafield? It is an organisation which has been created by members of the Triratna Buddhist Order, who as Buddhists enjoy spending time in the great outdoors. So in a literal sense, it is Buddhists who enjoy being in fields! They organise sangha (community) retreats and all kinds of events throughout the year, all of which takes place in nature – woods, fields, meadows, ancient sacred places etc.
“The Buddhafield Sangha are drawn to nature as the primary context for life and practice, not unlike the original followers of the Buddha. The natural world offers us an experience of living interconnectedness, beauty, contact with Britain’s ancient landscapes, and a context to develop profound, direct wisdom. We are inspired to live simply and lightly on the land, using appropriate technology for our own and others’ benefit, exemplifying best practice in all that we do.
Living in connection and community with each other, we aspire to include all of ourselves, integrating work, play, Dharma practice, and our economic needs. We endeavour to be receptive to our own and others’ experience, to communicate in truth and harmony, building a Buddha-land for the benefit all beings. The Buddhafield charity is supported by funds raised from a number of Right Livelihood projects, including a programme of camping retreats, an annual festival, and a travelling Café. We are also stewards of land on which we hold retreats, and are working towards Permaculture ideals.
Buddhafield is unusual for a Buddhist group. In fact, my experience of Buddhafield has in many ways been closer to what I have often felt Pagan organisations should organise. Buddhafield has impressive connections from across alternative Britain, created through relationships built during the more than 25 years they have been going. They operate a ‘dana economy’; that is an economy which relies on mutual generosity rather than purely monetary exchange at events. This year they are celebrating their 20th Buddhafield Festival. The festival attracts around 3000 people and takes place in the Blackdown Hills, near Taunton (Somerset, UK). Around 1000 of those attending will be attending for free in exchange for helping out in a number of ways. That is really impressive.
People who come to Buddhafield are happy people. They are interesting and positive people who are keen to learn, contribute and make the world a better place. They enjoy themselves. Yet, Buddhafield has a no-drinks-no-drugs policy, which makes them nearly unique among Britain’s alternative festivals. It is also a vegetarian event, with all food stalls and café’s serving only vegetarian and vegan food.
Whilst the name Buddhafield denotes that it is a Buddhist event, there is no pressure for anyone to sign up and become a Buddhist. In fact, the workshops, stalls and cafes are run by people from a wide range of spiritual persuasions – you can attend meditation classes in the morning, go to a yoga class, followed by trance dancing and yarn spinning workshops, with a good soaking in an open-air hot tub, and the evening pujas must be among the most energetic and ecstatic community ceremonies I have ever attended in the UK. There is a Buddhist study area, tucked into one quiet corner of the festival, where there are continuous talks, workshops and meditation sessions throughout the festival – with some experienced Buddhafielders usually to be found around the Dharma Parlour fire, usually a good place to hang out if you do want to talk Buddhism.
The book Buddhafield Dharma has recently been published to mark the occasion of the 20th festival and contains a number of Dharma talks given over the years, and all kinds of interesting insights into the festival and its culture. “This book sets out to document the many facets of the Buddhafield project, and to explore something of its unique approach to Dharma practice – centred as it is on a love of the elements and community, with a deep appreciation of inter-connectedness and the need for a comprehensive approach to environmental and ecological ethics.” – (more info…)
If you are attending this year, make sure to come and find me! I will be helping out in the “Buddhafield Emporium” which is an onsite charity shop, selling used dressing-up clothes and other interesting and useful things donated by festival goers, with funds going towards the Buddhafield Land Appeal. I will probably be wearing a colourful hat and muddy feet!
Find out more at http://buddhafield.com/”