The Birth of HAF
A year before he died Rob Burbea expressed his wish that a foundation be set up to house and protect the extensive body of work he would be leaving as his Dharma legacy. This felt particularly important to Rob for the soulmaking teachings. The Soulmaking Dharma framework (or logos) was still really in its infancy when he died, and he was acutely aware of its vulnerability to misinterpretation and 'watering down'. So, in September 2019 at his invitation, three of Rob's students founded the Hermes Amāra Foundation, named by Rob after the imprint of his book Seeing That Frees: Meditations on Emptiness and Dependent Arising. ‘Hermes’ after the Greek divinity - mercurial messenger god and bridge between the divine and human realms. And ‘Amāra’ meaning ‘deathless’ or ‘The Deathless’ in Sanskrit and Pali, the ancient languages of the Buddha’s time. Together these resonant names evoke the full breadth and depth of Rob's teachings from emptiness to a Soulmaking Dharma.
HAF's First Incarnation
HAF was originally a co-creation with the participation of sangha members whose wishes were surveyed and distilled into ten ‘shared values and principles’. These became the basis for the nascent organisation. HAF adopted a flat structure with four largely autonomous ‘circles’ whose members would carry out its work, now with four directors holding a holistic view and guiding HAF’s direction. HAF’s original vision and co-creative process were laid out graphically in a beautiful founding document. This formative period was fertile and exciting, with many projects initiated, and HAF remains grateful to everyone who participated at this time. Ultimately though, creating organisational culture with a large number of volunteers working solely online proved difficult, and HAF began the process of reorienting.
The Current Organisation
There was a growing recognition that HAF required a simpler form in order to focus on its primary role, which is custodial. Thus in April 2022 the circles were dissolved and HAF adopted a much leaner organisational model. Custodial projects have continued, carried out by some of the original circle members. Several annual HAF-organised gatherings are now well established, including memorial events for Rob during the week of his death. The first HAF residential retreat took place in November 2022.
The foundation runs as a not-for-profit limited company, legally accountable to Companies House, with a constitution and bank account. Unity Trust Bank is an ethical bank serving small organisations who work for positive change. Three of the original directors remain in role and another of Rob's close students joined the team in 2023. One of the directors takes a part-time salary and carries out the daily work of HAF. Decisions are made by the directors in collaboration with those who are involved with HAF projects, and where appropriate with the advice of the supporting teachers. This minimal structure will serve us well as HAF moves forward. Transition to charitable status with a Board of Trustees will take place when the time is right. In line with Rob's work, we view HAF as a thoroughly empty entity, fabricated, and as such malleable and with 'loose and elastic edges'. The world is changing fast and HAF will evolve responsive to conditions.
We believe that HAF has a role in the protection from harm of individuals, sanghas and the teachings related to HAF. HAF Sangha Protection and Ethical Care (SPEC) was established by a small group of practitioners who are fostering a supportive environment of ethical care and safety for all those involved with the Hermes Amara Foundation. SPEC will eventually be situated within a broader HAF Ethics Council. It will honour Rob’s commitment to an exploration and amplification of the field of ethics, and to ensure that HAF is aligned with an ethics of deep care and integrity wherever it engages.