In this episode of Treasure Mountain Podcast, Bhante Akaliko discusses the work of Little Dust to develop communities of practice in outback Australia. The interview also addresses broader questions of how to practice Buddhism as both individuals and as small groups to support one another in the dhamma.
Read an extract of the edited transcript below.
In Australia, we often talk about the tyranny of distance. Australia is a really big country and there’s a lot of kilometres—hundreds of kilometres—between various regional centres; by which I mean towns and cities. And there’s a very small population. So it’s not common to find a lot going on in these towns in terms of spiritual activities.
I recognised that in these regional places, people are not only disadvantaged in terms of things like access to medical care, jobs, cultural activities and all of those kind of social services but they’re also disadvantaged by distance in their spiritual life. There’s a kind of privilege that spiritual people have in cities but there’s a lack of access in regional areas. So for those people, they don’t have what we take for granted both in urban centres in Australia and also definitely in Buddhist countries. They don’t have things like a temple. They don’t have a cultural focus for their spirituality. They don’t have a place to come and meet. They don’t have a feeling that they belong to a community of religious practitioners. They don’t have access to teachings. They don’t have regular meditation events. They are very much spiritually alone.
As someone who lived most of my life in cities, I recognised just how privileged I was to be able to access the Dhamma in urban areas, where there’s lots of Dhamma centres and lots of different events happening all the time. However, when I visited these rural areas, there really wasn’t anything else happening for a very long time. I saw that there is a thirst for Dhamma but a real lack of services.
So the idea of setting up Little Dust was to really prioritize the needs of our Buddhist communities in regional and rural areas and to let them know that someone cared enough to make them a focus. Little Dust goes into these communities to give meditation, dharma events, dharma talks and also cultural activities, which is a really important part of Buddhism across the world. And this is something that at the moment is really difficult to access in those areas.
My aim is to start building strong relationships that would be long term rather than just one-off visits which is what has mostly happened before. I feel really happy that I can provide them with meditation and Dhamma teachings, and provide a focus for their cultural practice of things like Dana and offering requisites to the monks. They’ve been really, really supportive and are keen to have repeat visits. Some of them have even asked me to stay and live there.
This is a sign of the interest in the Dhamma in regional areas. And I contrast that with my experience in urban centres—which is good. I have a good time in cities—but there isn’t the same level of… I don’t want to say desperation, perhaps, interest, or gratitude. Yeah, gratitude is probably the right way to look at it. And I think, again, it comes from that lack of urban privilege. In the cities, people know that next week or even tomorrow, they can always go to another talk or a meditation session, and if they miss one, it doesn’t really matter. Where-as folks in regional communities may not experience the Dhamma again from a teacher for a long time and they may not come together as a community again for a long time.
So, when I go out to these regional places, I recognise that there’s this service that I can do that perhaps isn’t really being done by anyone else. And I’m really happy to do that. And yes, the communities are very grateful for that, too.
Listen to the full audio on the Treasure Mountain Podcast page.