Buddhist Order to Ordain Women in Welsh Hills Career Women Find Peace in Welsh Buddhist Haven

Article excerpt

A former conference centre in the desolate hills of South Wales has become the Tiratanoloka Retreat Centre, where women from one of the most successful strands of western Buddhism prepare for ordination.

Since Buddhism is a religion without priests or a personal god, ordination does not mean the acquisition of special powers or titles. It means the women will be accepted as full members of the Western Buddhist Order, which has 600 members, though it boasts thousands of "friends" or sympathisers, and claims Buddhism as one of the fastest-growing religions in Europe. The order runs eight retreat centres in the United Kingdom.

Sara Johns, 37, is a former marketing manager for Sinclair Research in Cambridge, who worked at the computer firm for most of the Eighties. She hopes to be ordained in June at Tiratanoloka, which is near Brecon. "I had always been intellectually interested in Buddhism, from my teens," she explained. "But the more I became promoted and the more money I made, the more I became aware that it actually wasn't fulfilling enough."

In1987 she gave up her job in Cambridge and moved to London, where she discovered the meditation classes run by the Western Buddhist Order.

She moved rapidly into one of the order's trade-mark projects: a co-operative shop selling health foods in Croydon, where she has been ever since.

"I chose Buddhism because the existing religions that were offered by English Western culture felt very stale," she said. "I felt that they had hardened into a system. Although Buddhism is older than Christianity, it appears to me to be much more flexible than the others." On ordination, Ms Johns will be given a more inspiring name; one of the order is called Silaprabha, which means "one who radiates the beauty of living an ethical life". …