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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Interview with Subhuti: Ambedkar, Buddhism, and the world today

Insight Young Voices is an on-line Dalit Youth Magazine currently featuring an interview with Subhuti, a long-standing member of the Western Buddhist Order and leading light in TBMSG’s Dhamma work in India.

Anoop Kumar, the interviewer, explores with Subhuti the specific difficulties - and opportunities - faced by Buddhism in the world today - in fact in the ‘three worlds’ of the old Buddhist world, the new Buddhist world of the West, and the revived Buddhist world of India.

The interview can be found online at

To quote two of their exchanges -

Buddhism being reduced just to a new caste is indeed a great danger and we clearly witness this happening around us. How do we overcome this?

Subhuti: "We must overcome this danger of the marginalisation of Buddhism, referring back to Dr Ambedkar’s thoughts on conversion: Why did he choose Buddha Dhamma? According to him, liberty, equality and fraternity can only be attained when there is a completely different set of ethical attitudes in Indian society. In a caste-based society one does not see another person in terms of duties towards him or her as a human being, but as a member of a particular caste that stands in a particular relation to one’s own caste. Babasaheb says that this is not really ethics at all. Dr Ambedkar’s great insight was that society has to be based on some genuine ethical principles, not the pseudo-ethics of caste duty".

Buddhism is one of the world’s major religious traditions and therefore building linkages with wider Buddhist world was one of the main concerns of Babasaheb Ambedkar. As a practising Buddhist who is deeply involved with Buddhism as defined by Babasaheb, what are your observations on the wider Buddhist world?

Subhuti: "Buddhism generally covers three worlds today: the old Buddhist world, the new Buddhist world of the West, and the revived Buddhist world of India.

"The old Buddhist world of the East is not in good shape. There are signs of revival here and there, but it is severely battered by modernity and is often not impressive today as an example of a living faith, related to the modern situation. There are impressive people and impressive movements, but Buddhism overall is not that impressive in its old heartlands. The example before us at present is, of course, Sri Lankan Buddhism, a significant and leading proportion of whose followers are, frankly speaking, racists and have used Buddhism as a weapon of cultural dominance.

"Then, you have got the new Buddhist world of the West that has emerged from what has been called the ‘Me generation’, which I myself in fact came from – spoilt children of the post-colonial west who have lived with silver spoons in their mouths and face quite different sets of problems from their brothers and sisters elsewhere in the world, problems more of personal meaning and happiness. There is a strong tendency to individualism among western Buddhists and the Dhamma is often interpreted in quite narrow personal terms.

"Then you have got Buddhist India, which I think is a very interesting intersection of the other two. For me, India is the key to the revival of Buddhism worldwide, because here the Buddhist movement is uncompromisingly modern and has a social conscience, as well.

"This happened because Babasaheb, at least from one side, was the child of the European enlightenment, with its critical intellectual tradition, and at the same time he was also the child of the best of Indian culture: of the whole non-brahmanical shramanic traditions, of the Sant traditions represented by such as Kabir and so on, and above all of the Buddha.

"So the movement initiated by him has the intellectually critical approach - if you like, the scientific approach - that is a principal feature of the modern world. Indian Buddhism is modern in this sense; on the other hand it is functioning in a traditional society with intact family structures, which we have lost to a considerable extent in much of the west, and it has a very strong commitment to social transformation.

"In some ways, our Western Buddhist world shares more in common with India than the old Buddhist world of the East, because in our case we also started from a critical perspective. We in the west feel ourselves very much Buddhist, very much part of the Buddhist tradition, but we are not going to accept all aspects of it uncritically, and that is the position you take in India, following Babasaheb.

"However, although there are similarities between Indian Buddhism today and western Buddhism, there are also discontinuities and some of these we should be careful to maintain. I don’t want to see western individualistic attitudes imported into India – although that is already happening, of course".

There's other introductions to Ambedkar and Buddhism in India in the writing of Vishvapani and Lokamitra

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Ambedkar in Hungary - a report from India

Pardeep Jade, a journalist and blogger from TBMSG in India, writes with news of his recent fact-finding mission to the new Ambedkarite Buddhists of the Roma community in Hungary. His article has been published in The Hindu, one of India’s largest English-medium newspapers, plus Countercurrents, a major on-line alternative media site.

He tells the story of how he came into contact with two Roma leaders, Derdák Tibor and Orsós János, as they were discovering Buddhism and the inspiring example of Dr. Ambedkar, India’s great Buddhist leader - and how this led to his own visit to Hungary this Autumn. And how he discovered during his visit the deep parallels between the prejudice experienced over centuries by the Dalits, or Untouchables, of India, and the Roma, or Gypsies, of Europe.

He writes - “Jai Bhim, Namo Buddhay!  “Please read my article on "Ambedkar in Hungary" in The Hindu newspaper at

We quote an excerpt -

“After discovering Ambedkar, Tibor and János visited Maharashtra in 2005 and 2007. They felt a deep connection with the Dalits of India and with Dr. Ambedkar's emancipatory agenda. After returning to Hungary, in 2007, they founded the Jai Bhim Network, embraced Buddhism and opened three high schools named after Dr. Ambedkar in Sajókaza, Ózd and Hegymeg for Roma children. One of the activities of the Network is to invite young Dalit activists to Hungary and provide them with opportunities to interact with the Roma community. Recently, I was part of one such three-member delegation and lived with the Roma community in the village Sajókaza for almost a month…

Read more on The Hindu newspaper website or in Countercurrents.

You can contact Pardeep on

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Karuna Trust promotes 'Ambedkar Day' on 14 October

Two weeks today, on October 14th, is the anniversary of the mass conversions in India when in 1956 Dr. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism along with over 400,000 of his followers - perhaps the greatest mass conversion the world has ever seen. Every year on this day in Nagpur up to a million people gather: it’s a remarkable occasion as the photograph opposite amply demonstrates.

The FWBO has had strong links with the Ambedkarite movement in India since it was formed. Firstly, Dr Ambedkar consulted with Sangharakshita prior to his conversion, and when Dr Ambedkar died only 6 weeks afterwards Bhante stepped into the breach by consoling Ambedkar's bereft followers in the newly formed movement.

In celebration of this we’ll be exploring its significance through a number of articles on FWBO News, starting with two resource packs recently produced by the FWBO’s fundraising charity the Karuna Trust .

The first gives a general overview of who Dr. Ambedkar was and his significance both in India and the West. It includes advice on organising an Ambedkar Day event and (on the last page) a list of resources for further study – including a link to download the English-language version of the movie ‘Ambedkar’, which is a brilliant account of his life and struggles.  It's downloadable here.

The second is a visual introduction to some of Karuna's work in India and is downloadable here.

Karuna was formed nearly 30 years ago in response to the suffering of the Dalit (ex-untouchable) community, and today sends well over £1 million per year to a wide variety of projects in South Asia.

The majority of fundraising is generated by volunteer fundraisers who sign up individual supporters during 6-week door-to-door fundraising appeals: as a result, it has over 7,000 regular supporters!

Karuna have asked us to draw readers’ attention to a list of ways people can contribute to their work –

• Join a 6-week Karuna door-to-door Appeal in 2010 - Signing up new supporters on the doors raising funds to support projects in South Asia
• Participate in a Phone Campaign – Phoning existing supporters to communicate the benefits of Karuna’s work in South Asia with a view to them increasing their regular donation
• Join the Karuna Fundraising Community House - live, eat and breath fundraising with others in community for a whole year!

If you’re feeling inspired or curious to find out more about how you can help Karuna’s work in South Asia, call Jo, Pete or Khemajala on 0207 697 3026; or email them at appeals[at] - or check out the website

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Lokamitra on India: two articles and a photographic archive

We conclude this week's series of stories on India with some photographs from the early days of TBMSG, as the FWBO is known in India. For the curious, TBMSG stands for 'Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha Sahayaka Gana", the "Friends of the Great Buddhist Sangha of the Triple World".

These are part of Lokamitra's archive and have been added to the FWBO Photos collection on Flickr, which now hosts over 3,800 photographs from all over the FWBO and TBMSG.

Click here to play a slideshow of the images.

To complement the slides we have posted two articles by Lokamitra, one describing his first experiences of India and one looking back after 30 years of work helping to create TBMSG.

Click here to read The Day that Changed my Life

And here for 30 Years in India.

Both are moving testimonies of the situation in India and the amount that has been achieved through people working together, inspired by a common vision.
For further reading, we recommend 'Jai Bhim', Nagabodhi's book-length account of the revival of Buddhism in India and the part Sangharakshita, Lokamitra, and many others played in it. It's now available on-line on Sangharakshita's website at

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Monday, April 27, 2009

social activism in Hungary: the Jai Bhim

This is an unusual article for the FWBO News.

Regular readers will know of the close connections between the FWBO/TBMSG in the West and India - they are two names for the same Sangha. Less well known are their connections with the Roma gypsies of rural Hungary - where there is a growing Buddhist sangha within the gypsy community there. This came about by chance when, a little over five years ago, a group from that community made contact with Subhuti and others from the FWBO.You can read previous FWBO News stories here. The photograph shows Tibor Derdk: a mitra, Buddhist and local gypsy activist.

They had heard about the work of Dr. Ambedkar in India and had been deeply impressed by what they had read of his work and the suffering of his people, the Dalits, or ‘untouchables’ of India. They had in fact come to feel a deep connection with the Dalits of India, even, to see themselves as the Dalits of Europe and Dr Ambedkar’s message of social transformation as being deeply relevant for them. In many ways the prejudice they face in Hungary is indeed comparable to the prejudice faced by the Dalits in India - see for example an article in today's New York Times exploring the current "wave of violence" against gypsy families.

Recently Saul Deason, a mitra from the FWBOs North London Buddhist Centre, visited the Jai Bhim Network ( in remote rural Hungary - a social and educational project they'd created, and named in honour of Dr. Ambedkar. This is run by mitras from the local Gypsy community, who had become Buddhists some years previously after being inspired by the example of Dr. Ambedkar and making contact with the FWBO.

When he arrived he found the gypsy community in turmoil. Not speaking Hungarian he did not understand what was happening until, at their request, he collaborated on an article for the Western press, part of an attempt by the local community to draw attention to their plight. You can read it on FWBO News' Features page or on the Jai Bhim website (click through to the English version).

It gives an insight into the problems of the Gypsies in Hungary and the challenging work of the Buddhists trying to achieve social justice for the downtrodden Gypsy minority.

At the time of writing this, the core of the Jai Bhim sangha is in UK, on retreat with Subhuti, who is himself recently back from Hungary.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Jai Bhim International reports...

Jai Bhim International is an innovative FWBO project based in San Francisco.  “Caste Free Generation” is their slogan: Ann Dennehy, Jai Bhim’s Director, describes their mission as “providing Indian Buddhist youth with the spiritual, educational, and emotional tools to create personal and social change, for a culture freed of caste prejudice and discrimination”.

They’ve had a busy few months, as Ann reports -

“jai bhim friends and family, near and far. i hope this message finds you all well. thanks to all of you for your support, creative support, financial support, moral support, as we launched our non-profit last year. things are going really well.
India trip
i returned from my third india trip in january, and am planning projects for this year in my new homebase, the bamboo garden here in san francisco.  lots of support building here in sf for our work. hosting a monthly happy hour the last friday of every month. and facebook has been great..

“in india i spent time with our board members kumarjeev, kamalshree and nagarjuna, and re-connected with many of the youth leaders i'd met at the nnby conference last year. i spent time again in central india, in nagpur, where i piloted our teacher training workshops for indian english teachers. i also went north to delhi and to some smaller villages in rajasthan.
community english project

“in the year ahead i will be brainstorming with our indian board members and with indian youth leaders, as well as our american board members and english advisory board, about a community english project, which will be our main focus for 2009. our vision so far is to bring a buddhist-based esl curriculum to smaller dalit communities, and to work intensively with local indian english teachers to lead interactive, communicative student-centered english sessions that will empower language learning in their communities.

“we will be drawing on dr. ambedkar's vision, and on the vision of his mentor at columbia university, john dewey, as well as the revolutionary brazilian educator paolo freire. in addition to creating a curriculum, we are developing a manifesto for the project, so that everyone involved is clear on the project's goals. all this will  be posted as updates on our website.
local events

"locally we have been hosting events to bring people together. we are having a monthly happy hour, the last friday of every month. and this summer our board member maw, our artist friends and i will coordinate a bigger local arts event. in january i was asked to make a presentation about my trip to my department at the city college downtown campus. i received a very friendly reception and was asked to present further at other campuses, which we are now coordinating. and connecticut college, my alma mater, has asked me to write an article for the alumni magazine, a beautiful glossy publication that has won several awards.
"also i wanted to tell you about our big project for the fall - jai bhim international is going to declare october as AMBEDKAR MONTH!  the two goals of the project are #1 to bring people from the san francisco area into the jai bhim community through fun, and #2 to educate folks here about dr. ambedkar and the dalit buddhist movement. we are coordinating with the san francisco center, and reaching out to other buddhist centers in other traditions, as a way of spreading the word about our movement in india.

“we are scheduling a bunch of events that could lead up to a puja/kirtan on october 14th, which is a wednesday - as you know well, october 14th is the anniversary of the great mass conversion- the official start of the dalit buddhist movement.

“before then, in august and september,  we're going to make as many presentations as possible all over the city/bay area, at libraries, bookstores, university and high school classes, other buddhist centers, with the theme of "who is dr. ambedkar?" i imagine plastering the city with simple posters with an image of dr. ambedkar and that line ("who is dr. ambedkar?"), and a link to the jai bhim website. a guerilla campaign! i am coordinating with friends of the public library, my colleagues at city college, and others.

“more prosaically, lots of paperwork to keep up on as we get the non-profit established. board member sarah brown has been helping me do our books and we ended 2008 with a surplus of $278.15! now we are getting ready to file additional paperwork with the i.r.s. in order for them to approve our 501c3 status.  We’re still busy fundraising – please visit our page
“in closing i'd like to again express my gratitude for sharing the vision for our work. thank you for all your gestures of encouragement and support. jai bhim. love, ann”

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Offering hope to India’s Farmers

October 14th is the anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism 52 years ago. Although much has changed in India since then, many things have not – among them the economic struggles faced daily by many of India’s ‘low-caste’ and ‘ex-untouchable’ people.

Dr Samantha Bhaware, a Dhammamitra from the FWBO’s Llangollen Sangha, has spent the last 9 months out in India. During this time, she has come face-to-face with a difficult national crisis – vast numbers of farmer suicides due to problems with Genetically Modified crops and chemical agriculture.

She reports –

“These are creating debt, crop failures and environmental damage in an already harsh farming environment. Between 2001 and 2005, it was estimated that over 32,000 farmers committed suicide in India for these reasons and it continues every day.

“When faced with such a difficult situation, it could have been easy to turn away and think it simply “isn’t my problem”. Seeing these suicides happening, with government aid not reaching these desperate farmers, I couldn’t ignore such suffering, so I decided to help them in whatever way that I could.

“So, my husband, Manidhamma, and I visited Mohadi, his ancestral village in rural Vidarbha, an area of Maharashtra worst hit by the suicides. We spoke to his childhood friends who have very little farmland – mostly no more than 10 acres – to support their whole family. They spoke of fear and confusion following pressure by foreign multinational companies to buy seeds and chemicals to grow crops that are failing. They can see that these methods are killing the land, but feel they have little option but to farm in this way.

“I offered to come and talk about my interests – Permaculture (a sustainable agriculture design method), natural farming (inspired by Masanobu Fukuoka’s work) and organic farming – to help them find an alternative to methods that are clearly not working. Masanobu Fukuoka was a Japanese Zen Buddhist and his methods closely follow Buddhist ethics, especially of non-harm. I am therefore very inspired by his work.

“On 14th September, we held a workshop in Mohadi, which was attended by over 60 locals. Many farmers were sceptical, which we expected, and were worried about losing whatever little income they have. However, by the end of the day, 15 farmers were keen to experiment on a part of their land. We held a follow-up workshop on 28th of September to provide much needed initial support. Many more farmers are now hoping to try these methods too.

“Adopting these methods will help farmers gain independence and self-respect. I am confident that the methods will work and that they will soon reap the benefits of an enriched, living soil and freedom from debt. This view is also held by the Maharashtra Organic Farming Federation, with whom I am working for support and inspiration. I am continuing to work with this village and hope to extend out to other villages. Everywhere we go, farmers want to learn about these techniques; we already have two more villages waiting for workshops. I feel very inspired by this work as it will give these people immediate benefits and is giving them hope in a situation which is worsening by the day”.

Samantha is setting up a Centre for Non-Violent Farming to help facilitate such projects and to carry out research to further help the farmers. Initially, she is creating a travelling library to help farmers educate themselves about sustainable farming alternatives. She is also arranging visits for the farmers to farms that have successfully used these methods. She hopes that people can come to help teach and empower villagers, as well as to help on practical projects, such as tree planting and farm work. If you are interested in this work, she would very much like to hear from you. Samantha can be contacted by email.


Vidarbha Suicides:
Government Report on Suicides:

The Centre for Non-Violent Farming - note that this website is still under construction. Bookmark it now, visit later!

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Ambedkar Day in north London - coming up soon...

An early portrait of Dr. Ambedkar, probably taken in the 1940sThe second annual Ambedkar Day at the FWBO’s North London Buddhist Centre is coming up on Saturday 13th September 2008,.

It’s been created to celebrate the life, work, and legacy of Dr. Ambedkar, who died in 1956 but is still the inspiration to millions upon millions of India’s new Buddhists. More than almost anyone else, he demonstrated the need for Dhamma practice to address both the individual and the world – inspiring Sangharakshita, and though him, the whole FWBO/TBMSG with this vision.

It’s looking to be a rich and full day, running from 10 am – 10 pm, offering a feast of events and information put on by a wide variety of groups, both FWBO and other. There’ll be talks by Vishvapani on ‘Indian Buddhism now’ and Tejadarshan on Ambedkar’s Dhamma Revolution; a display by the Dalit Solidarity Network on their campaign against manual scavenging (still endemic in India) two showings of ‘Recurring Dreams’ (Suryaprabha’s new film on TBMSG and Indian Dhamma. There’ll be a selection of workshops and presentations, including Saul Deason will be reporting on his recent visits to India and to followers of Dr. Ambedkar in Hungary. There’ll be Bollywood Dance by Ramesh; Hindi chanting, and DVDs and books on Caste on sale in the foyer – and even, for those needing a bit of peace and quiet, meditation workshops!

It’s been timed to coincide with the local borough Islington’s InterFaith Peace Week and local councillors are expected to attend.

Saul Deason, the organiser, describes his mission being “to encourage active support for Ambedkarite projects and to broaden the support for them among Buddhists and others”.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Celebrating Dr. Ambedkar in India and UK

October 14th is the anniversary of the conversion to Buddhism of Dr. Ambedkar, and is a major event for all our centres in India. They celebrate his conversion to Buddhism in 1956, together with 400,000 of his followers, and his few short weeks as a Buddhist before his death on December 6th of that year. It is very much a bitter-sweet time for them.

This year they were joined by the North London Buddhist Centre who hosted an 'Ambedkar Festival' which they hope may become an annual event. Entitled 'Celebrating the New Dawn of Indian Buddhism', the day set out to educate, inspire, and celebrate - and succeeded handsomely in all three. Some 200 people attended some or all of the day, and were treated to a programme of talks, a wide selection of workshops including practical information on how to get involved (both in the UK and in India), and to both Indian and Western music which went on into the evening.

Sangharakshita had been due to give the keynote speech but sadly had to cancel at the very last minute due to his poor health. Happily, due to the foresight of Saul Deason, the organiser, Lokabandhu was primed to step in, and among other things offered his reflection that the future of the new Buddhist movement in India was very much up to us, at least up to our generation, since the great leaders of the past were no longer with us - the Buddha, Ambedkar himself, and now Sangharakshita.

By coincidence, FWBO News came to know that at the same time, far away in Bodh Gaya, in the north-eastern Indian state of Bihar, the community living on FWBO/TBMSG's land there were conducting a small programme of their own in honour of Dr. Ambedkar, attended by some 50 local residents including Theravadin monks with whom they have become friendly. The programme took place in the earth-brick huts recently constructed by Nissoka, and was felt by those present to be a small but significant step in establishing ourselves on our land at Bodh Gaya. There are now some 10 mitras in and around Bodh Gaya.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Nagpur celebrates the 51st anniversary of the conversions; Dhammakranti joins in

The Dhammakranti team recently took time out from working on preparations for their big retreat in Bodh Gaya to attend the annual celebrations in Nagpur of Dr. Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism in October 1956. This year was the 51st anniversary of the great conversion ceremony, and they organized the biggest stall ever to be seen at the Dikshabhumi (the ‘ground of conversion’) in Nagpur.

All the major TBMSG projects in Nagpur participated in the event – Dhammakranti itself, the Samata Mahila Society (a women’s project running a hostel for 80 girls as well as thirteen community centres in the Nagpur slums), Triratna Pustakalya (a TBMSG-run bookshop in central Nagpur), TBMSG Nagpur itself (general social and Dhamma work across Nagpur) and the Nagarjuna Training Institute (a major TBMSG teaching centre which runs year-long training courses for new Dhamma teachers from all over India on a beautiful campus on the outskirts of Nagpur).

Dhammakranti’s manager, Nagaketu, told FWBO News “Thousands of people visited the stall and purchased books on Buddhism and social change. We were also able to give information to thousands more on the coming International Dhammakranti retreat in Buddha Gaya and on the next training course on Buddhism and social work, which we are running at Nagaloka. This was the biggest stall organized by anybody ever in the history of the Dikshabhumi!”

Click here for further information on the Nagarjuna Training Institute.

Readers interested in the thought of Dr. Ambedkar are invited to read a selection of his quotations or his classic work, Annihilation of Caste. His Buddhist classic 'The Buddha and his Dhamma', published posthumously, is also available on-line.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Dr Ambedkar and the Jaibhim Community in Hungary

For some two years now there have been growing links between the FWBO and the Romany gypsies in Hungary. This began when they discovered Dr. Ambedkar and became inspired by him and his followers in India. Roma gypsies in Eastern Europe live lives of extreme poverty and discrimination similar to the conditions experienced by Indian Dalits about 75 years ago, indeed, they describe themselves as the ‘untouchables’ of Europe. They realised Dr Ambedkar’s ‘Dhamma Revolution’(in which in 1956 millions of his followers renounced the Hindu social order based on caste discrimination and inequality and became Buddhist) was relevant to them too.

By the time they contacted the FWBO they had already opened the Little Tiger Grammar School in Alsoszentmarton in south Hungary. The name comes indirectly from Dr. Ambedkar, who referred to education as ‘tiger’s milk’. More than that, they realised Buddhist ethical practice helped to develop confidence and self-respect, and that Buddhist conversion opened the door to social, economic, and personal development - thus, that Buddhism could be directly relevant to their problems. In addition to their feeling for Dr. Ambedkar, East European Roma/Gypsies are deeply conscious of their roots in India and many identify strongly with what happens there.

Since the initial contact there have been several exchange visits to Hungary, mostly by students of the Dharmapala College, Birmingham. Mostly recently Manidhamma, an Indian Order Member, visited, together with Ashwin Gunaratna, an Indian mitra from Nagpur. Reports of some of thier previous visits can be found on the Dharmadhuta blog.

One of the important events during this visit was the formation of the Jaibhim Community. This is an initiative by Janos Orsos and Derdak Tibor, two mitras from the gypsy community (there are now four in total). It will provide the organisational framework for Buddhist activities and the communication of Dr Ambedkar’s vision in Hungary. The Jaibhim Community is linked to the FWBO/TBMSG and has adopted a modified version of Ambedkar’s 22 Vows in its constitution. These are, in essence, a set of vows to practice Buddhism, to spread Dr Ambedkar’s message and to reconstruct society to one based on Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Manidhamma and Janos together collected the registration document from the Charity Commissions’ office in Pecs. The website contains several videos of their activities and Dalit programs in India – even a ‘Jai Bhim’ ringtone!

Manidhamma and Ashwin were able to visit the Little Tiger School and meet students and staff. Manidhamma gave a talk on Dr Ambedkar’s emphasis on self-help and his threefold injunction to his followers to ‘Educate, Agitate, and Organise’. The school is very successful and has been taken as a model by the Hungarian government. A new similar school is being set up in northern Hungary at Tomor in association with the ‘Bhim Rao Association’.

Manidhamma also led a 3-day retreat at Uszo, a beautiful place in North Hungary, which 30 young men and women attended from different parts of Hungary. There were talks about Dr Ambedkar, Buddhism in India, meditation and discussion about the five precepts and vegetarianism. Ashwin and Manidhamma cooked delicious Indian vegetarian food and distributed gifts - Dr Ambedkar’s photos, books, CDs, Indian saris, dhotis and cloths, Buddhist images, ‘Jai Bhim’ head-bands (as seen in the photo), necklaces, lockets, rosaries and vegetarian food-spices and sweets. They travelled visiting Romas/Gypsies in Budapest, Pecs, Komlo, Baksa, Manfa, Hidas, Harkany, Sayokaza and Ozd. The response was warm and welcoming and our connection with them seems set to grow.

We are currently looking for English teachers able to go to Hungary and teach English to the gypsy community for four or five months at a time, if anyone is interested please contact

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  • Thursday, July 12, 2007

    Jambudvipa team visits America

    Jambudvipa is an FWBO/TBMSG project based in Pune, India, which - among other things - aims to internationalise the plight of India's vast ex-untouchable 'Dalit' community, from which come most of India's new Buddhists. Besides this they play a crucial role in disaster relief work with this community (see for example the report on their work after the Tsunami) - at such times India's age-old caste system rears its head with full force.

    Mangesh Dahiwale, Jambudvipa's publicity officer, recently sent us this report on their recent - and ground-breaking - trip to the USA:

    "As a part of Jambudvipa's vision to reach out to the world community and transcend barriers, and to generate international support for peaceful social revolution that Dr. Ambedkar launched, a visit to US was planned.

    "Maitreyanath and Mangesh Dahiwale visited US during April 19-May 28, 2007. In the span of over 35 days, they moved from one city to another to give talks on evils of caste system in India, Dr. Ambedkar, revival of Buddhism in India and work of TBMSG. This visit was aimed at dissemination of information, raise support for the revival of Buddhism in India and develop alliances.

    "During this visit, people from all different background co-operated, which included followers of Dr. Ambedkar living in US, social activists, academicians, black activists and Order Members of FWBO/TBMSG."

    In the short time they were there they managed to meet a remarkable range of individuals and groups - from Tricycle Buddhist magazine and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship to the US State Department and five different universities and colleges, plus of course several FWBO centres, criss-crossing the country beween San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Cincinnati, San Diego, Washington, Indianapolis and elsewhere.

    There are encouraging signs that caste prejudice and discrimination is increasingly being seen internationally not simply as an Indian social issue but a gross violation of human rights - see, for instance, recent references to this both in the UK's House of Commons and House of Lords where the UK Government minister is quoted as saying "My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord and with the Prime Minister of India —[Untouchability] is indeed a blot on humanity. Discrimination on the basis of caste identity constrains the human rights, livelihoods and life chances of millions of men, women and children. It is a systematic injustice and a routine violation of the most basic human rights..."

    We are proud that the FWBO and TBMSG is able to play a part in making this more widely known and indeed in eradicating it.

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    Thursday, June 07, 2007

    Dalai Lama invites TBMSG, workshop held introducing Tibetan community to needs of new Buddhists in India

    Following on from our report on TBMSG's Delhi seminar, Lokamitra sends us this account of a potentially very significant meeting with senior Tibetan Buddhists in Dharamsala, North India.

    This year is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism. In recent years the momentum of conversions to Buddhism from the Scheduled Caste communities (as well as other communities) has been increasing, and this year is doing so even faster. Millions of people throughout India have become Buddhist but very few have access to effective teaching. If they do not get guidance in Buddhism they will either develop very strange forms of Buddhism or they will return to Hinduism and their place at the bottom of the Hindu social order. Whatever the case, the conversion to Buddhism will have resulted in no individual or social change. TBMSG has been working in this situation for 29 years. We are doing what we can through training and through lecture tours and retreats throughout India, but the more we do the more we realise immensity of the task. We cannot do it all ourselves. We have to encourage other Buddhists to help. We can offer them our experience.

    In 2005 the Dalai Lama visited Nagaloka and expressed his desire to help with our work. Encouraged by this Subhuti and I visited Dharamsala in October 2006 along with a good friend, Naresh Mathur, who is a member of the Dalai Lama’s trust. We had extremely satisfactory meetings with Ven Lhakdor (head of the Library and Archives), Samdhong Rimpoche (the Kalon Tripa or Prime Minister of the Tibetan government in exile) and Tenzin Geche (the Dalai Lama’s secretary), all of whom encouraged us to run workshops for Tibetan monks to educate them about Dr. Ambedkar and his Buddhist followers in India.

    From 19th until 21st May in Dharamsala we did exactly that. We were assisted by Suvajra, Vivekaratna, Ojogeeta, Yashosagar and Kumarajiv. There were about 35 monks, nuns and lay people, mainly if not all from the Gelugpa tradition, some extremely well studied. In his introduction Samdhong Rimpoche emphasised that the Dalai Lama had himself asked that this workshop to take place.

    The workshop consisted of a combination of presentations, question and answer sessions and group work. All went very well, but the group work seemed particularly effective. Thinking that most participants would be monks we only took one Dharmacharini with us. This was a great mistake. Almost half the participants were nuns, and Ojogeeta was much in demand.

    The workshop gave the participants a broad understanding of the social and cultural situation (particularly caste and untouchability), Dr Ambedkar's life and achievement, and his understanding of Buddhism, and especially its social significance. It helped them understand the Dharmic needs of the new Buddhists, and the possible difficulties, notable among which was the question of karma. There was a great deal of interest in the FWBO/TBMSG. I am sure that the workshop will bear fruit in several ways, most importantly in bringing about more interest in and support for the Buddhist followers of Dr. Ambedkar in India.

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    Thursday, December 07, 2006

    50th anniversary of Dr. Ambedkars death - a million gather in Mumbai

    Yesterday December 6th saw the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Ambedkar. Estimates vary, but up to 1.5 million people are reported to have gathered at his stupa in Mumbai. This is always a sad date for his followers, coming as it does a tragically short six weeks after his conversion. In Mumbai the anniversary passed off very peacefully despite considerable anxiety – in recent months Maharastra has been rocked by Dalit riots sparked off by inter-caste atrocities and especially the lack of response to them by the authorities. These are a testament to the struggles still facing his people, 50 years on. For an indian analysis of the situation, see the recent article in ‘The Hindu’ – ‘Why are Maharashtra’s Dalits so angry?’.

    The 50th anniversary coincided with the publication of a new book commemorating Ambedkar, privately published by Ashvajit in Birmingham – ‘The legacy of Ambedkar – seen from the West’. Fittingly, it was printed by TBMSG members in India, and despite some delays (caused in part by the riots already mentioned) first copies have been reported arriving at FWBO centres around the world.

    Meanwhile, the Dhammakranti project continues its country-wide three-month tour , aiming to reach out to as many people as humanly possible during the anniversary period. At present they are on the first-ever Dhamma tour of South India (Tamil Nadu and Kerala), they will end with a ‘Buddhist Youth Conference’ at Bor Dharan, our retreat near Nagpur.

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