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Thursday, February 11, 2010

A flood in Paris

Vassika sends us this report from the small FWBO Centre in Paris - it seems they're inundated and in need of assistance...  Any French speakers out there...?  She says -

"Sadly, since last September the Paris FWBO Centre is having to turn away many people wanting to attend meditation and Buddhism classes. At the first beginners’ evening in September about 70 people turned up, far more than the Centre can accommodate, and every day since then, the Centre has received at least one request to attend classes.

"Why this sudden surge? We have no definite answer – though some ideas come to mind, and the answer is probably a mix of them.

• Buddhism is better understood and becoming better accepted in France. When the Centre was established 13 years ago there was still ignorance and even suspicion in the general population with regard to Buddhism. Many people had little idea what it was, those who came to the Centre would often not talk about it with their families and colleagues and people often feared that we might be a cult. Nowadays, hardly a week goes by without something about Buddhism in the media, Buddhas are appearing everywhere, in shop windows and interior decoration shops, propping up beauty products, spectacle, CDs, lamps, taking a bizarrely prominent place in the world of consumerism, and the word “zen” is in vogue, meaning cool, laid back, relaxed, unflustered… even though most of this may not be the kind of development we Buddhists might hope for…

• People are increasingly using the internet as a means of looking for information, and our web site is extremely visible – always one of the first ones when one looks for “Bouddha”, “bouddhisme” or “méditation” in Google, and even more so if one adds “Paris” as a search criterion; this is mainly the result of the dedicated work of Suvannavira when he created our web site.

• In addition, our feeling is that people are attracted by the clear presentation on our web site of how they can start and progress with us and how they can learn meditation and the Dharma and put them into practice in their daily lives.

And why do we say “sadly”?
"The reality is that the Centre is fairly small, 25 being the maximum number of people that the shrine room can reasonably accommodate. Even if the Centre were bigger, there is currently only one Order Member, Vassika, who is already doing as much as she can to teach beginners, friends and mitras as well as overseeing all the Centre’s activities and administration.

"So even though we are delighted that interest in meditation and Buddhism is growing, even though Vassika has gathered a team of mitras to support her, and even though we’re fortunate that some Order Members are giving her a hand here and there (Padmaketu and Dhridamati recently came over from Cambridge to lead a 3-day retreat, and Jayamuni runs a small group via Skype from China), until we have some more Order Members we will have to keep turning people away.

"We are hopeful, even confident, that help will eventually come. This year, Barbara-Laure Desplats will become our first fully home grown Order Member, though she lives some three hours south of Paris in Chambéry.

"In the meantime, turning away so many interested people will continue to be a source of frustration and sadness to us. If you feel moved to help in any way, do not hesitate to contact us!

"We don’t have a photo of floods of people at the Paris Buddhist Centre, so at the top of this report is one of the flood in Paris nearly exactly 100 years ago, and at the bottom, one of the queue we saw outside the Moulin Rouge as we cycled home from a night dealing with the queue at the Buddhist Centre!"

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