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10 minutes with... Jayaraja

Jayaraja, formerly Tom Mulligan, (BA (Qualified Teacher Status) 1981-85) has been ordained as a Buddhist for nearly twenty years. He’s also a fundraiser, a volunteer counsellor and an author.

When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was very young I thought I was destined to be a footballer. However, when I was 11 years old I was struck by the insight that we all die. This existential realization led me to believe that the most important thing to do with your life was to learn how to love.

Growing up in a Catholic family I made sense of this experience within a Christian framework and subsequently went to seminary to train to be a priest. By 16, though this realization still felt deeply significant, I had lost faith in Christianity and God, and left the seminary. I then thought I’d like to be a fireman.

What was the best careers advice you were given?

I arrived at Warwick following a couple of years training to be an accountant, a most unsuitable career for me. I guess the fact that I had studied maths and economics at ‘A’ level had influenced the careers advisor.

Seeing how much my friends were enjoying university I chose a course that I thought would be the most fun: PE and Drama. Convinced I would become a teacher I never sought out the careers service at Warwick. However I wasn’t a teacher for very long. After two years I left mainstream education to work in the French Alps teaching skiing in the winter and running an adventure centre in the summer. It was a very enjoyable three years but the deeper search for meaning continued.

Trying to make sense of life and career, I have been best served by writers like James Hollis and Thomas Moore. Below is a quote from the former’s website:

“If we fail to engage in some form of cogent dialogue with the questions which emerge from our depths, then we will live an unconscious, unreflective, accidental life.... Having a more interesting life, a life that disturbs complacency, a life that pulls us out of the comfortable and thereby demands a larger spiritual engagement than we planned or that feels comfortable, is what matters most.”

Describe yourself in three words.

I contacted a load of friends and asked them for help with this, which was a delightful thing to do.

Fun, idealistic and tender seemed to be most common responses.

What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

The thing I find most challenging is not taking on too many things. If I believe in something, I want to get involved and make a difference. Currently I manage a team of professional fundraisers, work as a volunteer counsellor at Mind, mentor a young guy who suffered a brain injury following a car accident. I lead workshops on communication and play. I also have three books underway on life skills and educational games.

What have you done that you are most proud of?

This last winter I returned to India after an 8 year absence. It was an inspiration to meet old friends who were implementing social projects in the urban slums and to see these projects and people thriving. I felt enormously proud to have helped provide the funding for these projects.

I was ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Order in 1993 which has been deeply significant to me.

I was chuffed to see a book I have co-written with a good friend in print: The Yellow Book of Games and Energizers: Playful Group Activities for Exploring Identity, Community, Emotions and More!

What drives you?

A desire to have fun, to grow and learn, a desire for community, a desire for a world where there is more justice, respect and everyone matters.

What single thing would most improve the quality of your life?

Living on a quiet street with a garden would improve the quality of my life. Though most importantly, would be how I work with my mind as opposed to changing the conditions I live in.

What are your three most precious things?

  • A beautiful painting of Green Tara (a Buddhist representation of active compassion) which I commissioned about 10 years ago.

  • I love my books,

  • My DVDs of The Wire are also greatly valued but the most precious thing - which I can’t leave out - is friendship.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years’ time?

It is not so much where but how I will be in 10 years that is of interest to me. I would like to be just as idealistic, living with friends, having a playful outlet, probably football, and more able to combine my drive to get things done with relaxing and letting things unfold.

How would you like to be remembered?

As a good friend who was kind, made a difference in the world and inspired others to do the same.

What are your favourite memories of your university years at Warwick?

The moment in an education lecture where my innate love of learning was set ablaze. For the lecturers in the Education department who taught literacy I feel deep gratitude. Jean Bond in psychology of education, was an inspiration turning me on to the many interesting ideas about learning and growth and the importance of looking at quality of life. Dick Hosking in the PE department who through his teaching of canoeing, swimming and other physical subjects inspired my own teaching and training style.

Do you have any advice for new graduates?

Keep learning, be curious and kind, strive to leave the world a better place.

Fact file

  • Age: 50

  • Lives: London
  • Education: Warwick BA Physical Education and Drama
    Middlesex University Diploma in Gestalt Psychotherapy
  • Career: Chaotic, 15 years of involvement in education primarily outdoor education. Since being ordained 18 years of working in social projects such as teaching meditation in prison, youth counselling, head of fundrasing for the Karuna Trust.
  • Interests: meditation, psychotherapy, football, poetry what it means to be a human being, play!

Jayaraja

“Keep learning, be curious and kind and strive to leave the world a better place.”