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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Introducing NNBY - India's National Network of Buddhist Youth

Dharmashalin, a newly ordained Order Member from the UK, is visiting TBMSG and other projects in India. He’s recently been with the NNBY – a new national network of Indian Buddhist Youth. He sends us this report, very timely in view of their upcoming worldwide fundraising benefit planned for NNBY. See details at the end of this report.

Dharmashalin writes -

“Over the last few years in India a network called NNBY has emerged. It stands for the National Network of Buddhist Youth.

“NNBY is based on the ideals of the Buddha and Dr . Ambedkar and is supported by members of the FWBO/TBMSG – although it’s not controlled by them. Its catch-phrase is 'Of the youth, for the youth, by the youth.' Not surprisingly, NNBY members emphasise the supportive nature of the work they are doing and the intention that the network itself is a self-organising platform for young people (15-35) themselves to develop their skills and confidence.

“Over the past three years it has been working to encourage disadvantaged young people in India to develop themselves. There’s three main aspects to their activity - education, spiritual practice and directly helping others in society. One can see this as growing directly out of what Dr Ambedkar originally wanted for his people, and I’m sure it works better than if adults simply tell them what to do!

“I have spent the last week visiting groups in and around Vidarbha (in Central India) hoping to see for myself how they are organising themselves. One thing that can be said for sure is that I have come away Inspired!

“I was deeply impressed by what I saw on so many different levels, I'd like to tell you just a few of these... Firstly the whole tour was coordinated and organised by the Youths themselves, this included my translator, Arhant, who is only 23 yet did an outstanding job of looking after me, translating and providing more detailed information of how NNBY operates.

“Then in Yavatmal where there is a group which is primarily organised by a 23-year-old girl, many of the other members of that group are in their teens. Not only do they support each other with their studies (there is huge exam pressure in the Indian Education system), there is also inspiration to practise Dharma and also real friendship. I was particularly moved when a young girl from a different caste (inter-caste friendships are still quite unusual in India) spoke about having a death in the family only a week before, saying she’d found support from her friends within NNBY - so they don’t just talk about Bollywood and cricket stars!

“Young people in India are under so much pressure; examinations, family responsibilities, casteism, romance in a traditional society, and the ever-present pressures of money. One of the major challenges facing any Youth-based organisation is how to respond to all this - particularly the need for money, resources and leadership. For NNBY there are encouraging signs - in Wardha we met in an office the local group had found. This is a very positive sign because so often elsewhere in my travels I’ve met passivity and a desire for others to provide everything.

“I'm happy to say that for them I counted as a Youth, despite my lack of hair! A fact which, when referred to, brought much delight to my audiences. What is really impressive is the lead being taken by the young Indians themselves. Their need for material resources remains however.

“If you have found this account inspiring there is a worldwide fundraising meditation event being held on the full-moon night of 13th December. People around the world will be taking part in sponsored night-time meditations to raise funds for them. Please look at and consider taking part or sponsoring someone - you can sponsor me if you like! As well as this ‘special event page’ there’s a great introduction to them on their main fundraising page

They also have their own website at

“So, to finish with. In the last town we visited, there is no local group yet, though a few people had attended previous events and one young lady (another one!) had organised our program. A Headmaster of a local school provided the venue. At one point he became somewhat insistent on the lack of initiative among the young people and doubtful of any possibility of progress. At this point he issued a challenge; 'Who will form such a group here? Alone and without resources...'

“A pause, and then the girl who had organised the program stood up and said 'I will!' and then in short succession the others rose up as well and said 'I too will form a group, for my own benefit and that of others!' I have to say I found it extremely moving. I was reminded of Dr Ambedkar's conviction that true uplift would only come from his own people, others can help, but ultimately we must transform ourselves.

“This is the message of the Dharma and that is what I found inspiring in the youths I visited. Their desire to come together and organise themselves to assist their own education, spiritually develop and help others is an expression of this principle and I feel honoured and inspired to have witnessed their valiant efforts to establish this organisation.

“Do Please look at and consider taking part or sponsoring someone if you would like to support them.

“With Metta


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