Akashadaya: Reflections on ordination

What is it like getting ordained? In this post Akashadaya gives a moving account of her ordination experience and the time leading up to it, and reflects on her name.

I am very pleased to say that I am now in the Triratna Buddhist Order. I have become Akashadaya, which means “she whose quality of kindness comes from spaciousness.” It's been a long ride. I asked for ordination in 2000, having begun my path at the doors of Chillingworth Road North London in 1998. I later moved on to live in West Yorkshire and attended the Leeds Buddhist Centre from 2004. It was there that my practice took off and I regularly attended ordination training retreats. In 2014 I went to live and work for Voluntary Service Overseas in Nepal as a teacher trainer for two years before coming here to Taraloka where I am now. I've been at Taraloka as the kitchen manager for five years.

There's been a lot going on these last 3 months. My Mum died in mid-August. I then went straight on to do a solitary retreat and from there to my ordination retreat .These events all feel intrinsically linked to one another and have felt like a roller coaster!

Being with my Mum in her last week of dying and being next to her bedside holding her hand when she took the last breath felt natural and part of my practice. I had never experienced being with anyone while they died, and I just sat there holding her hand staying present to the magnitude of that moment. I felt incredibly privileged to be with her by her side as she made her transition out of this world. It was peaceful when she took her last breath. I didn't panic; I actually felt calm and very much in the moment. It was a time for me to take some deep breaths and just be with her and it was a both a beautiful and sad moment simultaneously. Beautiful because it was where she wanted to be and sad because I lost my dearly beloved Mum. I gave myself plenty of time to absorb the enormity of this event before phoning the district nurses. I spent most of the morning with my Mum's body as I began to accept and adjust to what was happening and for the last half hour I sobbed and sobbed before the undertakers came and carried her away. I was then left in what felt like a void or an empty shell. What was this home without my Mum and actually without both my parents gone now? A week later I went back to be with a family for my mum's funeral. She had a woodland burial and was buried next to my Dad. My sister Carole led an inspiring and emotional service. My Mum had asked her to lead a service for her.

On my solitary retreat I had a real monkey mind with all sorts of things going on in my head. I woke up every morning thinking about my Mum and my dreams consisted of lots of practicalities around her death. I looked after myself and listened to what I needed to do. I experienced a quieter mind too and enjoyed walking and being. I started reading Vajradevi’s book Uncontrived Mindfulness which really helped with my practice. I found reading little bits at a time and then practising the investigations and meditations really useful.

The solitary retreat was a useful transition away from the business of Taraloka into my ordination retreat at Adhisthana. My mind here felt very different and I settled in really quickly. I slept incredibly well and I put this down to a lot of practice in the daytime and the silence as well. I felt at ease with all the women on the retreat.

I spent the days before my private ordination out in the open-air enjoying the sunshine and breeze, walking on the land, lying flat on my back watching the clouds and swinging on the oak tree swing. I got a real sense of freedom in these situations and a reminder of childhood spent outdoors in Zambia, the place of my birth. So when I got my name it seemed so appropriate for the moment. It was really emotional being given my name; both my private preceptor Karunagita and I shed tears. I am really happy with my name and have reflected on its meaning and no doubt will continue to do so as I grow more and more into it. I have thought about how it is kind to give myself space. Spaciousness also implies a slower pace, mindfulness and being in the moment which is all part of my working ground.

Akashadaya with her kesa

The day of the public ordinations, having our names read out aloud and their meanings expressed in front of all of us brought a sense of wholeness. However it was difficult to take all of it in because it was such a momentous moment. It felt unreal to look down and see a Kesa around my neck. 

The night of the public ordination I had a dream. The scene of the dream was on top of a hill with tents. There was a sense of being lost and not belonging. I talked to a few people including people from my past, feeling like I didn’t need to be there with these people anymore. Then I said with confidence ‘my name is Akashadaya’ explaining that I am not the person I was. I move along the top of the hill to other tents and I am holding a small creature to my chest. I'm by the side of a river bank with a group of people, boys from the other side are pelting stones at me. All the while I am protecting this creature. I start leaving the site walking downwards not knowing where I am going. I slide down the hill halfway down I notice that the creature I have been holding and protecting is dead and I let go of it. I look back at where I have been it seems like a long way. I don't know where I am. I want to get home and ask a man the way to the railway station. He says I can either go back where I have come from, which would be quicker, or to a nearby station. He explains that the train will take longer to get there. l opt for the second choice. The dream is telling me there's no going back.