Who are the Wangapeka Elders?
The current Elders are: Matthew Eades, Tarchin Hearn, Mary Jenkins, Bonni Ross, Keith Rowan, Mark Schrader, Shelley Szybowski.
L to R: Mary, Tarchin, Shelley, Mark, Bonni, Matthew, Keith.
A viable community could be compared to a multicelled organism or to an flourishing ecosystem. Elders are just one contributing part of such a complex living system. To illustrate this, imagine a tree. It has roots and mycorrhizal associations in the soil. The community of molecules and cells that comprise its leaves, dance with photons from the sun and shifts in atmospheric temperature and wind. There are many participants in this constantly evolving organism: bark and cambium, phloem and xylem cells, branches twigs, leaves, flowers and fruit. We could go further to include pollinators, lichens, epiphytes, insects, birds and fruit eating bats. Tree-ness exists only as long as this living web of communication and collaboration continues. Without all these parts, it wouldn’t be a tree.
The Wangapeka Educational Trust is a bit like this. We have builders and building designers, land carers, teachers, students, accountants, board members, fund raisers, public relations people and so forth. All of these, functioning together comprise the shape and public form of the Trust. No single component is in control. All components are themselves processes of change and transformation.
In any viable community there will always be elders – ones with more experience. There will always be neophytes or youngsters, and of course, everyone in between. Perhaps we could call them middlers. New inexperienced participants are constantly arriving. Filled with hopes and aspirations they will have a limited appreciation for the wide spread collaborative nature of the Trust. Middlers – the ones that stay longer – will have a broader appreciation that has arisen through their experience of directly participating as student, builder, organiser, teacher and so forth. Elders are simply those that have devoted sufficient years of exploration to many of the facets necessary for the existence of the Trust to give them an easeful, confident overview of where the organism is coming from (its history), where it is going to (its aims and aspirations), and how it fits into the the wider community of the world (keeping its work relevant and true to its principles).
The creation of Wangapeka Educational Trust (W.E.T.) and the Retreat Centre was inspired by vision of dharma exemplified through the life and teachings of Namgyal Rinpoche and carried further by others who benefited from his direct guidance.
The Trust, as such, does not have a spiritual director in the sense of a particular leader or chief who directs the efforts of all its members. Instead, we rely on the daily practice of mindful enquiry and compassionate living on the part of all our contributing members to support creative and evolving efforts to further wisdom and compassion both in themselves and in the wider community. These individual efforts are supported by a body of Wangapeka Trust Elders – widely respected community members whose presence and experience help keep alive and fresh, the grounded, vast, vibrant vision which birthed and continues to nourish the Trust and Centre.
The Wangapeka Board of Trustees are responsible for overseeing and running this Retreat Centre. The Elders might best be regarded as living reminders of the vision of the engaged non-sectarian universal Buddhadharma that has energised the birth of Wangapeka and continues to do so today for the benefit of all.