|- about us|
Tallowwood Sangha started in 1999 when Sexton Bourke was encouraged by his teacher Subhana Barzaghi to form a meditation group in Bellingen. Many times in the early days Sexton would sit alone, but gradually word spread and those drawn to meditation practice met with Sexton on a weekly basis.
the 1960’s and 70’s many westerners travelled to Asia to
explore eastern philosophies - especially the teachings of
the Buddha. One such traveller was Christopher Titmuss who
had travelled overland from England. Christopher ordained
as a Theravada monk and studied under
the guidance of Ajahn Dhammadaro and Ajahn Buddhadasa in
the Thai Forest Tradition.
When he disrobed, Christopher returned to the West and began to share the teachings and practices that he had discovered. Christopher was one of many western teachers such as Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, and Sharon Salzberg who began to influence the growth and evolution of a distinctly Western Insight practice.
Christopher travelled regularly to Australia to lead retreats and over the years several Australian teachers emerged from this contact. These include Will James, Subhana Barzaghi, Radha Nicholson and Ellen Davison, who teach regularly at Tallowwood Sangha Events.
The modern Insight form of practice, although emerging directly out of the Buddhist Theravada tradition, has undergone immense change over the years. In the movement to the West, much of the ritual, eastern cultural practices and beliefs have fallen away, while still having the core teachings of the Buddha at the very heart of the practice.
Tallowwood Sangha became Incorporated on 12th May 2008 and is a not-for-profit association managed by a voluntary Committee of Management. The Annual General Meeting is held every September and Association members are always welcome to attend.
The objective of the association is to provide opportunities for people to gather in sangha, engage in dharma practice and further their understanding of the dharma teachings.
Sexton was a man of practice and all those who knew him admired his dedication to Dharma inquiry and daily meditation sitting. It was this practice that supported him through his years of living with cancer and dealing with numerous operations and treatments.
Sexton found that when he was having chemotherapy treatment his energy levels would drop during the day. As he found it impossible to come to meditation at the usuevening time, for the last 18 months of his life he led a morning sitting group. Each morning without fail, 7 days a week, Sexton would be sitting at the local Yoga Studio and he welcomed the local Sangha to sit with him. This routine continued until it became physically impossible for him to do so.
Sexton had his own unique way of teaching the Dharma, a way that came out of his own direct experience. This teaching emanated from the way he lived his life, a life of integrity, generosity and respect. His teaching embodied a deep trust in body sensations and the innate intelligence of the body. When asked if he was afraid of death his simple response was that at this moment death was not present, that death was just an idea.
His life and death were an inspiration to all those who knew and loved him. He was an example of the benefit that Dharma practice can bring in overcoming suffering and the way he faced his death was a demonstration of his deep understanding and wisdom. Those who were fortunate enough to spend time with him during his final days were all touched by the way he welcomed each visitor with boundless love and joy.
Sexton was a dear friend and great support to many in the Sangha. He never failed to remind those who looked on him as their teacher of the emptiness of the role.
We miss his quirky humour and the depth of love that shone through those deep blue eyes. In the many years that I had the privilege of knowing Sexton he was always present in each meeting, always attentive and interested in whatever topic I was contemplating or whatever I was doing.
There is nothing greater than or as rewarding as the friendship and love. In Dharma language it is Kalyana-mitta, usually translated as spiritual friendship.
This is the potential we have as Human Beings to form intimate connections with each other: connections characterised by love, appreciation and respect. This relationship between teacher and student or between Dharma brothers and sisters reflects the depth of our understanding.
For those of us who were fortunate enough to have known Sexton, we will never forget his open heart and his great capacity to love.
It was indeed a sad day for the Tallowwood Sangha to lose such a unique Dharma friend and teacher, may his deep compassion and love continue to inspire and support us all.