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Monday, November 02, 2009

Inspiring Young People in the Dharma

Following last week's posts on the NNBY (Buddhist Youth) retreat in India, it seems appropriate to report on how things are going with young Buddhists in the West. A top priority identified last year by the FWBO’s European Chairs Assembly was the need to attract more young people to the Dharma. In the 40 years since the Order was founded, the average age of its members has risen by some 25 years, a trend which shows no signs of stopping. It seems this is not only an issue for the F/WBO: in 2009 both the Network of Buddhist Organisations in the UK and the European Buddhist Union (in Europe!) have devoted their main annual forums to this theme.

In the UK a variety of initiatives have begun, most recently a weekend for 35 young FWBO Buddhists held in a farm outside Sheffield - attended by young Buddhists from as far away as Germany. Here Lindsay Hannah from Taraloka gives an overview of what’s happened to date - there’s links to some on-line talks for anyone who wants to learn more, and to Facebook if you want to get involved. She says -

In November 2008 the FWBO Development Team ran the first “inspiring young people in the Dharma” weekend which 25 people of all ages attended. In January 2009 I was invited to talk to the FWBO Centre Chairs Assembly meeting about how to inspire more young people to come to our centres and the Chairs voted this as a priority for our centres this year. Over the last year individuals at various centres have run activities for young people and the momentum has started to build amongst young people in the FWBO. There’s a ‘Young FWBO Buddhists’ Facebook group which now has nearly 200 members (they may not all be young though!) Its’ the best place to find out what’s going on.

We recently ran the second young person’s weekend outside Sheffield where 35 people in their late teens, 20s and 30s came together for highly successful weekend where we explored how to inspire more young people in the Dharma. A write-up of the main issues is available by emailing Lokabandhu.

couldn't resist posting this poster image for the movie 'Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging' - how do you find the Dharma in the middle of all that?!There’s loads I could say about my vision for inspiring more young people in the Dharma and I have said loads in the talks I have given in the last year! The talk I gave at the October 09 weekend gives a good overview of the project so far and a vision for the future and is only 15 minutes long! They are available here -
• October 09 Three short talks from the young Buddhists weekend - by Lindsay Hannah, Kate Arrowsmith and Vidyaruci.
• Sept 09 Lindsay’s talk to the European Buddhist Union
• January 09 Lindsay’s talk to the FWBO Chairs Assembly

Key points
• There are dwindling numbers of young people at our centres (and joining the WBO) and we need to put energy in to inspiring more young people to practice the Dharma with us.
• Like attracts like so it is essential to have young Buddhists visible at our centres supporting courses.
• We’d like to encourage 1 or 2 committed young people at each centre to become a “young person’s facilitator” for the centre. They would act as a point of reference for new young people into the centre and would help co-ordinate events for young people at the centre.
• Young people need to be supported and encouraged to run events for young people. It’s good to have a range of events available from intensive formal practice (TBRL, communities, study) to informal activities (walks, films)
• While young people are supported by other young people they are often inspired by older, more experienced practitioners - people who have energy about them and who exemplify the Dharma. So if you are an older experienced practitioner remember your role in inspiring young people!
• Run events on a dana (donations) system where possible and have some “drop in” activities
• Young people are interested in receiving training in teaching the Dharma to others – how this might happen needs further consideration

On the weekend retreat there was a real sense of energy and enthusiasm from those present to go back to their centres and run events for young people. Some individuals were interested in becoming young person’s facilitators at their centres and I hope we can identify a named young person’s facilitator for every FWBO centre or region in the UK in the coming months.

In 2010 there is a weekend retreat for young women at Taraloka (January 29 -31st), we hope to establish activities for young people on the FWBO international sangha gathering in May and there will be another mixed retreat in October (details tbc). I hope events will also be run at individual centres.

We need to inspire young people in the Dharma to ensure we pass the Dharma and the WBO onto the next generation! There’s energy building amongst the young Buddhists in the FWBO to try and inspire more young people to join us – it is important and exciting!

We’re keen to help young mitras get in contact with other young people around the movement - they can contact me on or check out the FWBO young Buddhists facebook group.

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