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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Aryamati and 800 Years of Women’s Letters

Aryamati, an Order Member from Manchester, is pleased to share the reprinting of one of her eight books on women’s writing.  The book is titled '800 Years of Women’s Letters', and was first published 19 years ago, which - she says - means it can be classed a classic!

 She was among the first to research the rich source of information contained in women’s private letters, commenting "When not suspected of innovative ideas by their menfolk, they discussed a bold range of themes, from improving education and diplomacy to dealing with illness - and poverty".

She goes on to say -

"I was particularly interested in women's spirituality, which is why l begin 800 years ago, with Hildegard of Bingen. Mystic, composer, herbalist, renowned preacher, she also wrote prescient advice to men in power. And Santa Teresa de Avila shows her ability as administrator, reformer and poet - spiritual women seldom mentioned by male hierarchy till recently. Though l include letters from Queens, l was also keen to find letters from working class women; easier once primary education was introduced. But l was pleased to find a petition from some women weavers at the time of the French revolution. l end with a letter l translated from La Pasionaria, the communist firebrand who made famous speeches to support the Republic against the uprising of Franco".

Aryamati has been invited to speak for an hour on her book as part of International Women’s Week at Manchester Central Library.  She'll be speaking on Wednesday 10 Mar from 6-7pm.  The event is  FREE and refreshments will be  provided. Friends will read a range of lively extracts.

You'll find more about the book, including some reviews, on Amazon.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

News from Visible Mantra - and an appeal

Visible Mantra is a website dedicated to the calligraphy of Buddhist mantras and seed-syllables. It’s become very popular, with nearly half a million page views last year - and yet Jayarava, its creator has even bigger plans for it. He writes -

“Visible Mantra is part of a bigger plan to create resources for Buddhists who use mantra as part of their practice. My aim is that Visible Mantra will also become a publishing house and will attract manuscripts from authors from a range of traditions on the subject of Buddhist mantra. I also regularly help individuals who want inscriptions transcribed and identified, or calligraphy of mantras (though I seldom do tattoos).

“I hope to bring out the book of the website in 2010 - with high definition images of all the mantras on the site and a few more - and to eventually bring the website up to the same standard: e.g. to have all mantras and bījas in four scripts: Siddham, Devanāgarī, Tibetan (dbu-can) and Lantsa.

“I also have planned a Siddhaṃ primer and have made a start on a history of mantra in Buddhism".

What he needs now is a bit of money to enable him to put in the necessary hours. He says -

“This year I'm asking each person who visits the site for a one off donation of 50p (about US$0.80) to the website. This would provide me with enough income to work on the Visible Mantra project full-time.

“Over the years I've made a trickle of money from Amazon ads (about £50 a year). I'm still waiting to hit the threshold for a Google ads payout. But I've continued to put in as many hours as I could to create this resource and write my blog - sometimes to the detriment of my health”.

Click on the button to donate 50p to Visible Mantra

Jayarava has also made some videos of his work - see for instance him writing the Avalokitesvara Mantra on YouTube - 


Monday, February 01, 2010

Charlie Chaplain teaches Metta Bhavana in India

Varaprabha is an Indian Order Member who has for some years now been training as a mime artist, with his chosen character being the late great Charlie Chaplain.

He has been active in using his new-found skills to communicate with a wide range of Indians on topics such as debt, alcoholism, craving, and domestic violence. He also conducts workshops teaching mime to children living in TBMSG’s hostels and elsewhere.

Recently FWBO News came across this report of one of his recent workshops in the Indian Express, a major Indian newspaper, under the heading of ‘Charlie regales orphan kids’; and we’re pleased to share it with you. They say -

“The Mukta-Avishkar cultural unit, which works under the auspices of Trailokya Baudhya Maha Sangha (TBMSG), conducted a programme at its orphanage at Pimple Gurav, in Pune, recently. ‘The Change of Mind of Thief Charlie & Arley,’ a mime in which the role of Charlie Chaplin was played by Dhammachari Varaprabha regaled the children.

“The orphanage which has 64 children, is run by a group including Dr. Dinesh Metallu, Prakash Pagnis, and Arun Ovhal. ‘The effort was to create awareness among these children about the vices corrupting the society and how to stay away from them,’ said Dr Metallu.

"‘We teach them Buddha’s way of loving-kindness meditation, maitri bhavana, which means friendship in three stages — self- friendship, friendship towards unknown and friendship towards enemy, and finally on the lines of universal brotherhood, friendship towards the whole world’".

Sadhu Varaprabha!

He is fundraising to continue with his training; if you would like to make a donation please visit his fundraising site - where you can also see a video of one of his performances at TBMSG's Bor Dharan retreat centre.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

‘Poetry East’ at the London Buddhist Centre

Maitreyabandhu writes from the LBC with news of a new Buddhist poetry venue in East London. He says -

“I'm creating a new poetry venue at the London Buddhist Centre. It’s called Poetry East. I plan to invite very good contemporary poets every 6 weeks or so - so far I have Mimi Khalvati (founder of The Poetry School) on 30th January and Fiona Sampson (editor of Poetry Review) on 24th April... also I've asked Bhante to do one and he seems willing!

“I say this about it in the publicity:

“Each poet will be asked to provide two or three poems from the canon that have influenced their poetry; these poems will be read at the beginning of the evening. There will be a short interview with the poet, asking them about their creative life and work with emphasis on their influences, and poets they admire. This will be followed by a poetry reading and questions and answers from the floor. The evening will be preceded by a short led meditation in order to provide the best listening conditions externally and internally. We’ll meet in one of the LBC’s shrinerooms.

“It has a website - please do have a look.

“Love Maitreyabandhu

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Soulful Spirit - new CD from Mahasukha

Mahasukha writes from Brighton, UK, with news of his new double CD, ‘Soulful Spirit’. He says -

“I've recently completed a CD, 'Soulful Spirit'. It's of largely African songs (my workshop repertoire) and includes 2 mantras and part of the Karaniya Metta Sutta, and has a couple of recordings from my Buddhafield Festival workshops.

“It consists of 24 tracks of uplifting, African, sacred, soulful songs and mantras imbued with a spirit of devotion. After nearly 10 years of leading singing workshops it’s my 1st CD. I recorded Soulful Spirit in my flat on my computer using one microphone and multi-tracking. All the songs are recorded using only voice and percussion. It took me 6 months to complete (working 24/7!)

The first CD is the songs, the second one includes all the main vocal parts which can be used as a learning and teaching resource. If you'd like to order a copy, check my website at"

Mahasukha is one of a growing number of artists and musicians of all sorts  within the FWBO; you'll find many of them and more on the inter-Buddhist 'Dharma Arts Network' site at

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Buddha walks at Nagaloka

Readers of FWBO News will know of the remarkable ‘Big Buddha’ statue recently unveiled at the Nagarjuna Institute, TBMSG’s main training centre in Nagpur, Central India.

Mangesh Dahiwale writes with further news of the unveiling ceremony, an inauguration message from Sangharakshita, and a translation of a beautiful poem by Daya Pawar, the well-known Marathi women's poet.  He says -

"Nagaloka is located in Nagpur, which is the nerve centre of revival of Buddhism in India after the Great Conversion movement that Dr. Ambedkar initiated in 1956. The aim of the Nagarjuna Institute based in Nagaloka is to train people from all over India in Buddhism and social transformation through peaceful means. The training comprises Buddhist teachings, meditation and community life, besides responses to social situation in India which is largely dominated by caste attitudes. So far, Nagarjuna Institute trained over 500 people from 20 states, and they are actively working in all over India. Their work involves teaching the Buddha Dhamma, and some of them do extensive social work in terms of running hostels and schools.

"Nagarjuna Institute is also emerging as an important centre for interaction of Buddhists from all over the world. It hosted the International Network of Engaged Buddhist (INEB) conference in 2005, and International conference on "Buddhism in Modern World" in 2006. Buddhists from various denominations and nationalities have visited Nagarjuna Institute, notable amongst them are teacher and monks from both the east and west, which also includes Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh and Sulak Sivaraksa.

"To add to the serene atmosphere of the Nagaloka, an open shrine was envisioned with an unique image of the Buddha that will inspire people to follow in the footsteps of the Buddha as the teacher of the humanity. This vision was actualised when on 12th and 13th December 2009 a 32 foot high brass statue of the Buddha walking (on a 28 foot mound and base) was inaugurated at Nagaloka. It is estimated that between 40,000 and over 100,000 visited the Nagaloka campus that day.

"For many years we have wanted to have such a statue at the centre of Nagaloka but until recently that wish remained a mere dream; now it has been actualised. Lokamitra says that it has been one of the most difficult project he has been involved with in during the 31 years he has been living in India, but at the same time the most personally inspiring.

"Urgyen Sangharakshita sent the following message for the inauguration.

After his Enlightenment, the Buddha spent the rest of his life walking from town to town and village to village. Wherever he went he taught people the truth he had discovered. He taught them regardless of caste, education, or social position. By his inspiring presence he also encouraged people to live without fear.
Years ago, the revered Dr Ambedkar, the inaugurator of the Dhamma revolution, expressed a wish that there should be a Walking Buddha, instead of the usual image of the seated, meditating Buddha.
I am therefore overjoyed to learn that a 32 foot high statue of the walking Buddha in abhaya [fearlessness] mudra has been erected at Nagaloka and I heartily congratulate all who have been involved in this historic project.
In particular I congratulate Dhammachari Lokamitra, who originated the project, Wen Kwei Chan, the gifted artist who constructed the image, Ven Kuang Shin, the main donor, Ci Xiong Li, the second main donor, and the other generous donors.
The Nagaloka Walking Buddha will, I am sure, draw visitors and pilgrims from all over India, and indeed from all parts of the world. It will serve to remind us not only of the Buddha and his life but also of the fact that his teaching is a practical one, and one that is to be implemented for the benefit of all.

"The vision of Dr. Ambedkar’s was immortalised in the Marathi poem by Daya Pawar:

“I never see you sitting in
Jeta’s garden
sitting with eyes closed
in meditation, in the lotus position,
in the caves of Ajanta and Ellora
with stone lips sewn shut
sleeping the last sleep of your life.

I see you
walking, talking,
softly, healingly,
on the sorrow of the poor, the weak,
going from hut to hut
in the life-destroying darkness,
torch in hand,
giving the sorrow
that drains the blood
like a contagious disease
a new meaning.”


They are still appealing for funds to complete the landscaping works - please visit if you would like to donate.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Maitreyabandhu wins second poetry award

In November we carried news of Maitreyabandhu’s winning of the 2009 Keats-Shelley poetry prize. We're delighted to say he’s done it again! He writes with the news -

“Dear Friends, hope this finds you well.

“Just to let you know that I won the Basil Bunting Poetry Award (it is the first time they had run the award). Which means I won £1,000 and the editor of Bloodaxe (a poetry publisher) will look at my work. I went up to Newcastle to receive the award. I'll probably spend the money on some more poetry mentoring!

“You can look at the results - and find out about Basil Bunting - on their website

“Love, Maitreyabandhu

PS - here is the poem:

The Coat Cupboard

Once you close the door, once you’re in, you’re small
like you’ve shrunk – no window, no view of sycamores,
cattle or an aqueduct – a stand-alone place
big enough for one. The walls and the back of the door
are lined with coats, two or three deep, hanging
on high brass hooks: gabardines, parkas, macks –
the smart black coat your father never liked, the knitted
afternoon jacket that might’ve belonged to your aunt,
and shoes unevenly stacked, so that you almost stumble
and twist your ankle on the heel of a brogue.
You don’t push your way through to discover a landscape
where beavers can talk; you’re not reunited with your lover
coming around the headland in a ship – your face
is pressed against lambswool, which smells of camphor,
ink and dogs. Some of the pockets are torn; you have to
fish inside pearl-coloured linings yellowed with age.
Some of the cuffs are frayed. Your fingers,
which have become unaccountably small and white,
ferret inside the pockets of a waxed raincoat, among coins
and balled-up silver paper, folded receipts and pencil shavings.
And there are shadows between the coats, long scarves
of shadow that disappear when you touch them
like crows flying up from a field. You find a set of keys
without their brightness or warmth of handling –
the leather keyring almost worn through at the hoop,
an aluminium badge with a profile of a swan –
and a lipstick your grandma must have used, the 50’s pink
when you wind it out, still shaped to the curve of her lip.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

New image of the Western Buddhist Order's Refuge Tree

Saraha writes from Birmingham, UK, with news of an exciting project to paint a new version of the WBO’s 44-figure ‘Refuge Tree’.

He says -

“Hello from Saraha, I'm raising funds for a new and very special painting of the FWBO's Refuge Tree, to be painted by my friend Chintamani.

“The Refuge Tree of the FWBO was created by Urgyen Sangharakshita and shows the primary sources of inspiration we draw upon in the Western Buddhist Order and FWBO.

“Altogether there are 44 figures on the Tree, in the following arrangement -

Archetypal Buddhas - Vajrasattva
Amitabha, Ratnasambhava, Vairochana, Amoghasiddhi, Akshobhya
Teachers of the Past –
From India: Nagarjuna Asanga, Vasubandhu, Shantideva, Buddhaghosa
From Tibet: Milarepa Atisha, Padmasambhava, Tsong Khapa
From China: Huey Nung, Chih I, Hsuan Tsang
From Japan: Hakuin, Kukai, Dogen, Shinran
The Sutra-Treasure - All the scriptures of all the schools of Buddhism
The Bodhisattvas - Manjusri, Vajrapani, Avalokitesvara, Aryatara, Kshitigarbha
The Buddhas of the Three Times - SHAKYAMUNI, Dipankara, Maitreya
The Disciples of the Buddha - Maudgalyayana, Ananda, Sariputra, Dhammadinna, Kasyapa
Sangharakshita and his Teachers - Dudjom Rimpoche, Jamyang Khyentse Rimpoche, Dilgo Khyentse Rimpoche, Chetul Sangye Dorje, Kachu Rimpoche, Dhardo Rimpoche, Yogi Chen, Urgyen Sangharakshita, Ven. Jagdish Kashyap

“The tree is unusual and even unique in the Buddhist world, in that it places the Buddha at the centre and includes figures from the whole Buddhist tradition.  It’s been painted before, but never on such a large scale.

"The project is going well. With some substantial help from Aloka, Chintamani has been researching all the figures, including discussing finer points of their iconography with Bhante. One intriguing issue has been deciding on the mudras (hand gestures) that would be appropriate for Bhante’s teachers.

“He has done most of the drawings although not yet started painting. Having started on a 6ft by 4ft canvas, he decided it was too small to give the figures the space that they deserved, and so now is working on a canvas measuring 8ft by just under 6ft. This allows room to keep the figures from overlapping, and gives each the space needed for conveying its own unique qualities. I'm really looking forward to seeing the image and prostrating to it.

“It’s clear from my conversations with Chintamani that he’s very keen to paint our refuge tree because of his love for our tradition, our Order and our connections with the wider Buddhist world. This is his motivation. He’s been an artist all his life and painting images for our Movement for 30 years now - his image of Padmasambhava (shown right) is known and loved by many of us.

“However he does need money to live, and our donations to him allow him to focus full time on this project. Currently he is living on a very tight budget, so I hope we can continue to raise money to ease the financial strain. Please click on my fundraising site to see more photos of his work and to make a donation”.


Sunday, November 08, 2009

Guardian interviews Maitreyabandhu on poetry prize win

FWBO News can’t resist passing on this article from the UK’s Guardian newspaper, in which journalist Alison Flood interviews Maitreyabandhu, member of the Western Buddhist Order and winner of this year’s £3,000 Keats-Shelley poetry prize.

 It’s the first year the prestigious prize has gone to an explicitly Buddhist poet.

You’ll find her interview on-line at  To quote one paragraph -

"Maitreyabandhu, who has been ordained into the Western Buddhist Order for 19 years, says his love of poetry began when a friend read him the first five verses of Shelley's Mask of Anarchy. 'It was one of those moments when one discovers a new ecstasy, even a new calling. After that I read and re-read Shelley and Keats obsessively and used their poetry to explore ancient Buddhist themes,' he said. 'WH Auden says, "The primary function of poetry, as of all the arts, is to make us more aware of ourselves and the world around us". The same could be said of Buddhism. I approach poetry, in one sense as a distillation of peak experience, in another as finding meaning in the everyday – as such, poetry has become another strand of my spiritual practice.'"


Saturday, November 07, 2009

Videosangha celebrates 360 videos

Videosangha is a relatively new addition to the FWBO’s stable of websites, it’s been set up to enable people within the FWBO mandala to share what they are doing, what they are inspired by and even just what they look like - through the medium of video.

They’re just celebrating their first 360 videos - allowing you to watch (if you choose) not quite one/day for a year, but close!

Among the most recent uploads are a series of talks by Subhuti, entitled the “Seven Trees of Enlightenment”, referring to the legend that the Buddha, immediately after his Enlightenment, spent seven weeks at Bodh Gaya, a week under each of seven trees.

Fittingly, his talks were given at Bodh Gaya - Subhuti himself, of course, lifts the talks out of the realm of legend and plants them firmly in the realm of our own daily practice. On the theme of India, Amitasuri’s another new addition to the site with an introduction to the plans for the FWBO/TBMSG’s land at Bodh Gaya, filmed at a fundraising evening in Manchester.

The site is divided into subject areas, ranging from Arts to Questions to Sport - under Questions, for instance, you’ll find a thought-provoking series of clips of young Buddhists offering answers to all those difficult questions Buddhists get asked.- vegetarianism, life after death, Enlightenment and more...

Contributing to the site is easy - you’ll find the very simple instructions on their home page

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

'Wrathful Compassion' exhibition in Sydney

The FWBO's Sydney Buddhist Centre is hosting a fundraising exhibition on the theme of 'Wrathful Compassion'- and many if not all the images are available to view on the internet.

 They say "Compassion as a quality, can be quite fierce - in response to the inequities and suffering of our world".

As the two images show, some of the images follow traditional Buddhist iconography; some are much more innovative and 'modern'.

For more details, check the centre's special exhibition page - or go straight to the on-line catalogue.

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Darklings dance at the Brighton Buddhist Centre

Here’s a slightly belated report from the FWBO’s Brighton Buddhist Centre and their recent success in the July Brighton Carnival.

With the help of 15 volunteers, Lucy Barron and Ady Griffiths designed and created 12 dancing skeletons, or ‘Darklings’ – inspired by images they’d seen of Tibetan Buddhist Skeleton dancers, and based around ‘The Wheel of Life’ which has been the Brighton Buddhist Centre’s Carnival theme since 2007.

The skeletons danced their way around Brighton – amusing, scaring, befriending, playing and performing 8 choreographed dances -which included elements of improvisation and audience participation. The costume creation process encouraged a sense of working together on a creative project in the Sangha which then spread out into the city community - Buddhists being very visible in the community in a positive, fun, participative way!

 And - best of all - they won the Second Best Small Carnival Band award! Over 20,000 people were estimated to have come to the Carnival Village with 800 people parading - 28 different community groups and bands.

Separately, Ady and Tess Howell created a larger ‘Golden Green Carnival Queen ‘ costume which was awarded 1st prize in the ‘Best Individual Costume Award’.

To see more images go to Ady's website or

For more information contact Ady Griffiths at

"As inspiration shines through you
Imagination alights the beauty and truth within you..."

"The secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life and elevating them into art"-Unknown

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

New edition of Urthona explores 'Landscapes of the Mind'

Urthona is a privately-published FWBO magazine dedicated to the arts. The latest issue, Urthona 26, explores the theme of “LANDSCAPES OF THE MIND”. Packed into its 64 pages are features on the work of three visionary artists deeply inspired by notions of landscape and mindscape, previews of complete chapters from two recently published novels, an essay on philosophy in the movies, and an interview with translators of the great Sanskrit poet Ashvaghosha - and plenty more besides!

In their own words, Urthona exists to “present the best of world culture, ancient and modern, from a Western Buddhist perspective. We explore particularly the work of artists and thinkers who are working to bring about cultural renewal by expressing the sacred dimension of the arts in ways which are relevant to the 21st century””. They go on to say -

“The magazine takes its name from Blake's spirit of the Imagination, Urthona, one of the four Zoas. In his temporal form of Los, Urthona is the archetypal blacksmith who labours at his forge to beat out forms which will awaken mankind from spiritual slumber and remind us that this world is 'all one continued vision of Fancy or Imagination.'

To give you a little more of a taste of what Urthona 26 contains, there’s -

* Inner Landscapes, an interview with talented Buddhist painter Vidyalila

* Golden Sunflowers, an essay in which Vishvapani explores how Buddhist ideas have influenced Western culture over the last 200 years, from Wagner to John Cage

* Bleakness and Joy, a review of the unjustly neglected Scottish painter Joan Eardley

* And an exploration by Ratnagarbha, Urthona's editor, of John Burnside, the 'Poet of Absence and Presence', and often held to be the foremost nature poet at work in Scotland today.

More details, and ordering information, at

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Calling Buddhist Artists - and their fans...

Lokabandhu writes to say -

"Calling all Buddhist artists - there's a new community-based website dedicated to featuring the work of Buddhist artists of all schools and working in all media. You are of course invited to join! The site offers simple ways of sharing your work (text/images/videos), searching for others (by location, media, or Sangha), linking to personal websites, and exchanging news and views.

"The initiative for the site came out of the inter-Buddhist 'Buddha Mind Creative Mind' conference at SGI's Taplow Court this summer in the UK, where it became apparent just how many Buddhist artists there are in the UK Buddhist community, working in so many ways.

"You'll find it at Signing up is quick, easy and free.

"Lastly just to say that of course many Buddhist artists are not likely to be very interested in the Internet. So, if you're a FAN of someone special, how about asking them if you can act as their agent, and create a page promoting their work?

"Best wishes, Lokabandhu (not an artist, but an administrator of the website)"

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Two new blogs from FWBO artists

Today, for its Saturday 'personal profile', FWBO News features four Order Members making their living in the world of the arts. There's many many more besides these, of course, working and teaching in many different media - but these are the ones we've become aware of recently!

Vajradaka, an Order Member of 37 years standing, who was for some 20 years chairman of Vajraloka, the FWBO’s meditation centre in north Wales, asks -

“Could you please put something in the news on a new livelihood project called CREATIVE ENTERPRISE? This a new and practical approach to living a creative life and creating a business or livelihood which expresses that. Between now and the end of the year there’s a number of workshops on offer for creative people in all forms of expression, including entrepreneurs.

Also I have started a Blog called CREATIVE EXCHANGE which is an opportunity to contribute and read about the personal joys and difficulties of Creativity. It's at

Best wishes, Vajradaka
(writing from London).

Up in Birmingham, Alokavira, a professional photographer originally from Germany, writes to say -

'I would be very happy if you could add my photoblog to the list on FWBO News.  I started it earlier this year as an addition to my already existing website. I use it to regularly upload and showcase more journalistic photographs often with a social or even political content plus images from different FWBO/WBO events.

The address is:  Many thanks. With Metta, Alokavira'.

On his site at the moment are photographs of residents from Ladywood, one of the many council estates around north-west Birmingham and - presumably for contrast - portraits of some of Alokavira’s companions on a recent retreat at Guhyaloka, the FWBO's retreat centre high in the Spanish mountains.

And finally, from Bristol, there's an open invitation from Ananda and Manjusvara, long-established leaders of the 'Wolf at the Door' Buddhist-inspired writing workshops and retreats. They say -

'Dear Friend,

'We are presently considering our programme for next year, and wonder if you might like to host a 'Wolf at the Door' weekend writing workshop between March and mid-December 2010. Wolf at the Door was created to bring the wildness of imagination into our everyday lives. This synthesis can heal and energise us. It can renew our love of life, transform our communication with others, give us the insight into our lives and relationships that can bring about further renewal.

'Without exception we have had extremely positive responses to our programmes wherever we have been. The factors usually appreciated most are the friendly atmosphere, freedom from judgement, and bringing together creativity with an ethical dimension - people revealing themselves in new ways make very good sangha-building events!

“If you'd like to reply, please e-mail us at Or check our website'.

Manjusvara is author of 'Writing Your Way', endorsed by the award-winning poet Robert Gray with the generous words "Contains more good advice about writing than any other book I have read." It's available from Windhorse Publications, the FWBO's publishing house.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Nagaloka Buddha nears completion - you're invited to be part of it

Lokamitra writes from India with news of the remarkable 'Big Buddha' statue currently being installed on the Nagaloka campus - and with an invitation to be part of it. He says -

"I’m writing from Pune in India, where late monsoon rains are beating down outside. Much of my time for the past weeks has been occupied with wonderful developments at Nagaloka, our training institute in Nagpur. We have received a great donation - a very large and beautiful walking Buddha, which is presently in the final stages of erection on the site. It will be a breath-taking centrepiece for the Nagaloka complex. Already, it is extraordinarily beautiful.

"The statue is made of brass and is 10.3 metres tall, with lotus and steps below, all placed on a 20-foot high base. Around this we are building a platform of 12 metres square, down from which there will be 9 steps, and at the bottom of these, a grassy mound, surrounded by a path, giving the whole mound including the central platform and steps a radius of 38 metres as indicated by the picture. The statue has been an enormous donation, from our old friend Ven Kuang Shin, and Wen Kwei Chan, the most well known sculptor in Taiwan.

"Now we are raising money from local Buddhists to finance the landscaping works. And we’d like to invite Western Dharma practitioners to be part of it too. We are hoping to raise £13,000 in India and would like to request the help of our friends in the West to try and raise the other £13,000 needed to complete the work.

"Specifically, we’re appealing for donations of 150 pounds (or more). Anyone making such a donation will be able to dedicate their donation to anyone they choose, perhaps a loved one who has died, and have their dedication deposited in the statue or its base in perpetuity. It’s an opportunity for you to contribute to a very special project, and - if you choose - to commemorate someone special.

To do this, please visit our webpage at

Meanwhile, the work goes on - a team of four engineers, led by Mr. Tung, came out from Taiwan on 18th August to set it up, and another team of four from Taiwan is at present painting the statue. There were many difficulties and hurdles! - some due to rain, some due to difficulties communicating the long distance between India and Taiwan, others because of the unfamiliarity of the materials and the unique challenge of the task.

The inauguration date is not yet finalised, but is expected to be in early December.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Female Buddhas celebrated at London Buddhist Centre

Maitrivajri writes with news of a cycle of celebration at the FWBO’s London Buddhist Centre: an honouring of the little-known Five Prajnas, the ‘female’ counterparts of the Five Buddhas in the well-known Five-Buddha Mandala.

She says - “This year we are ritually celebrating the female Buddhas, or Prajnas, on the day and time of the year associated with each of them. We began the cycle with the Summer Solstice and female Buddha Mamaki. We are performing outdoor rituals.

“The rituals are open to those who know both our meditation practices and have some experience of Buddhist ritual. It would be great if the Prajnas received more attention! The Mandala of the Five Prajnas is a symbol and image for the wisdom of the Buddhas.”

Next up, on September 20th, the Autumn Equinox, is a ceremony dedicated to Pandaravasini, the female Buddha of the Western direction associated with dusk and the wisdom of uniqueness.

Later in the year it is the turn of Samayatara, the female Buddha of the Northern direction associated with midnight and the wisdom of action (to be held over the weekend of Halloween/Samhain); and Akasadhatesvari, the female Buddha at the centre of the Mandala beyond time and space. She is associated with the ineffable wisdom of the Transcendental. Her ceremony will take place at the time of the Winter Solstice, Sunday Dec 21st.

For more details check the London Buddhist Centre website.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Three new websites: Canada, Germany, and Buddhist Artists

There’s a few proud owners of new FWBO websites out there just now, and we’re pleased to feature a couple of them.

Karuna Deutschland have a very beautiful site at with photos and links to the projects they support in India and Nepal.

Amoghamati says “We are proud to present our new website! Thanks to Dietmar Becker, Karuna Germany now has a colourful and modern website with many features, pictures etc. Check it out! It's in German though, they say “ Karuna Deutschland e.V. ist ein gemeinnütziger Verein, dessen Ziel es ist, die Lebenssituation von Menschen zu verbessern, die zu den benachteiligsten und ärmsten Bevölkerungsgruppen gehören”.

Over in Ontario, Canada, Harshaprabha rejoices in their new website which opens with the intriguing words “Welcome to the website of FWBO Ontario. This is a website of potential.”

It was designed for Harshaprabha by his friend Mike Cheal in Ipswich, and includes a couple of videos of Harshaprabha, one outlining his vision for what could happen in Canada, and one explaining the meaning of the name ‘Harshaprabha’.

Third is not strictly an FWBO website - it’s the new Dharma Arts Network site, which came out of the recent ‘Buddha Mind Creative Mind’ conference at Taplow Court, UK. It aims to to all Buddhist Artists You’ll find it on the NING network at

 Lokabandhu, who co-founded the site along with Guy Malkerson from the Network of Engaged Buddhists, says "All Buddhist artists (or their agents!) are invited to join and contribute profiles, music, videos, etc. There’s 25 members so far and counting, including around 9 from the F/WBO".

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Saturday, September 05, 2009

Keats-Shelley Poetry Competition won by Order Member

MaitreyabandhuA year ago FWBO News celebrated Maiteyabandhu’s second place in the annual Manchester Cathedral poetry competition - and two years, his winning it.

We’re delighted to report he’s done it again; winning the prestigious Keats-Shelley Poetry Competition run by the Keats-Shelley Memorial Foundation. The competition was on the theme of 'Find', and last year’s competition (on the theme of ‘Lost’) attracted 400 entries.

Maitreyabandhu says “I won the amazing sum of £1,000. The money will cover my versification course to improve my iambic pentameter!” (we assume he means it!)

Here is the poem:

The Small Boy and the Mouse

When he closed his eyes and asked the question,
he saw an egg, a boiled egg, lodged
above his heart. The shell had been broken off,
with a teaspoon he supposed, it was pure curd white
and still warm. Inside – he could see inside –
there was a garden with rows of potatoes,
sweet peas in a tangle, and a few tomatoes, red
and green ones, along with that funny sulphur smell
coming from split sacks. There was an enamel bathtub
in the garden, with chipped edges, a brown puddle
staining around itself, and a few wet leaves.
He could see down the plughole, so the sun must have shone,
and he heard his father digging potatoes,
knocking off the soil, and his mother fetching the washing in
because the sky promised a shower. There was a hole
or rather a pipe under the tub, where the water went,
and down at the bottom was a mouse – its ribs were poking out,
its damp fur clung together. The mouse was holding
a black-and-white photograph of a boy
who might have been three or four years old;
the boy was playing with boxes, or were they saucepans
from the kitchen? – he was leaning forward and slightly blurred.
And what was strange about the picture,
apart from being held by a mouse who sat on his haunches
and gripped it in his forepaws, was that the space
around the boy, the paleness around him, expanded,
got very bright and engulfed the mouse, the bathtub, the garden,
and the egg with its shell cracked off.
After that there was nothing, apart from the dark
inside the boy’s head and a kind of quiet
he’d never had before. He opened his eyes. All the furniture
looked strange, as if someone had rearranged it.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Walking Buddha statue arrives in Nagpur

For the past two years a remarkable sculpture has been taking shape in a Taiwanese foundry: a bronze walking Buddha, no less than 10.8m high. Its creator is Wen Kwei, one of Taiwan's leading Buddhist sculptors, who has also been managing the difficult process of transportation and erection of the statue.

It has now completed the long journey to its destination: Nagaloka, the FWBO/TBMSG’s training centre in Nagpur, central India. Here it will occupy the pride of place, facing the existing (but much smaller) statue of Dr. Ambedkar.

Vivekaratna, Nagaloka’s Director, brings us up to date with just a few of the many adventures and difficulties that have been faced and overcome along the way. He told FWBO News -

“Finally the walking Buddha statue arrived in Nagaloka out of generosity of Taiwanese Buddhists.

“They were transported from Mumbai by road in three containers. We had difficulty to get to Nagaloka as the railway bridge is at low height and container height was more. So we unloaded with the help of crane before the bridge and then brought to Nagaloka. Our Buddhist friends at Bombay port helped a lot to get the custom & excise clearance of Buddha statue containers.

“Foundation work is in progress and we expect to be completed before 18th August.

“A team of four Engineers from Taiwan will be arriving at Nagaloka on 18th August to erect the Lotus & Buddha statue (total 12 tons in weight and cast in Brass material) on the foundation made for that purpose. The Lotus is having a diameter of 6.7m and height of 2.1m. The statue itself is 10.8m. Another team of six from Taiwan, with the chief sculptor, are scheduled to arrive in the first week of Sept to do the painting and finishing.

“Their target date to complete the Statue is 28th Sept.: the anniversary day of Dr. Ambedkar’s Conversion to Buddhism.

“We have declared inauguration of the statue on 2nd Nov. 09, which is Sangha Day. All are heartily welcome".

with Metta.

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Friday, July 03, 2009

Report from ‘Buddha Mind - Creative Mind?’ conference

Amitajyoti from the FWBO’s London Buddhist Arts Centre writes with this review of the recent ‘Buddha Mind - Creative Mind?’ event, held over the weekend of 12-14th June. She says -

"‘Buddha Mind - Creative Mind?’ was an intra-Buddhist Arts and Creativity event, held at Taplow Court, a beautiful venue just outside London belonging to Soka Gakkai International (SGI), and organised by the Institute of Oriental Philosophy, supported by the UK’s Network of Buddhist Organisations (NBO).

"The focus of this event was an exploration of the relationship between Buddhist thought/practice and Creativity with specific reference to the arts. Does Buddhist thought and practice help or hinder the creative process? The theme was explored through a series of academic lectures, discussion, exhibition of artworks and workshops. The event brought together around 80 people from a broad spectrum of backgrounds Buddhist and non-Buddhist, artist and non-artists all who share an interest in the theme. The exhibition of visual arts included sculpture, painting and film and represented 40 artists who each share some association with Buddhism.

"The spirit of creativity was evoked during the weekend through the spirit of participation and play that was encouraged by the organisers throughout the event. Contributors included academics, artists, singer-songwriters, curators, and art critics from a range of backgrounds and traditions including singer-songwriter Howard Jones; Robert Beer, artist and author of ‘The Encyclopaedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs’; Sister Zangmo, Buddhist nun, artist and tutor; Samanera Amaranatho from Amaravati; and members of ‘The Bodhisattvas’, an Engaged Buddhist acoustic duo! For a fuller review of the programme see Chris Wards report on TripleGem.

"Dr John Peacock gave the introductory talk on the theme of ‘Life as a Work of Art’, offering us the opportunity of being creative moment by moment through the activity of ‘giving attention’ to one’s experience, which, he stated, is the ‘opening of the creative life’ - a willingness to experience things beyond the familiar. The range of talks given covered historical developments in art from ‘The Rise of Buddhist art in India, Third century BCE to second century CE’ to the influence of Buddhism upon the visual arts in the USA since 1950’s, and poetry in USA and UK, as well as some talks given by contemporary Buddhist artists, writers, singers and musicians in the UK.

"Of the FWBO practitioners who participated in the weekend, Akasaka led a drawing workshop entitled ‘Drawing as meditation’, Ratnagarbha gave a talk on Buddhism in modern poetry, and Lilavati and myself each gave a presentation and facilitated a discussion group on the theme of how Buddhist thought and practice influence the creative process.

"On the Saturday evening we had a vegetarian dinner prepared by volunteers from SGI UK which was held in the main house. The food was delicious and was served with great care and consideration which can only be an influence of Japanese etiquette – reflective of the general care and attentiveness of the organising teams throughout the weekend. The Saturday eve soiree was an opportunity for participants to offer poetry, performance and music. The richness and diversity of this event was a real highlight, with Richard Gombrich singing Wagnerian arias, John Peacock sublimely playing the sitar, followed by poetry readings and songs concluding with ‘The Bodhisattvas’ who offered guitar, drum, singalong vocals - and the odd Sex Pistols song!

"With a healthy combination of analytical enquiry, discussion and play the event offered us an opportunity to really explore the theme and gain deeper understandings of the relationship between the creative processes of the mind and Buddhist thought and practice. Thanks to Jamie Cresswell (Director of the IOP) and Val Stephenson for their broad vision of the arts and creativity and for putting so much energy, enthusiasm and skill into the organisation of this event.

"If you would like to make contact with other people interested in this field, go to - the site of the Dharma Arts Network (DAN) which was launched at the conference, or the London Buddhist Arts Centre’s website where you can sign up to their database.

For further references to the influence of Buddhism upon Western Art I recommend two American publications entitled ‘Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art’ and ‘Smile of the Buddha’.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Amitabha at Padmaloka: new painting by Aloka

Aryapala, manager of the FWBO's Padmaloka Retreat Centre in Norfolk, UK, has written with news of their new and very beautiful Amitabha painting -

"As Buddhism establishes itself in the west it will develop its own form of iconography - just as happened throughout Buddhist Asia.

Padmaloka has a special relationship with Aloka, a Buddhist artist who used to live in the Padmaloka community. Aloka thinks this development of a western Buddhist art will probably take 200 years or more. He is one of the people who are starting this process, drawing on more than 30 years experience as a Buddhist and an artist to produce images that can inspire, challenge and transform us. We have commissioned Aloka to produce a series of Buddha and Bodhisattva images for our shrine room.

"The most recent painting Aloka has just completed is a wonderfully rich 12ft by 6ft image of the red Buddha, Amitabha, that we have hung on the western wall of the shrine room.

"Thank you to all who helped contribute to the purchasing of this inspiring painting. On a meditation Order practice retreat in November, we will ritually unveil the new painting. The retreat is offered on a dana basis and all donations for this retreat go toward the next painting that we will commission from Aloka".

Note: Click the image above for a larger version.  

All Aloka images Copyright Padmaloka.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

FWBO People: Dhivan the poet

Picking up FWBO News’ occasional Saturday series on ‘FWBO People’, today we feature Dhivan, aka Thomas Jones. Dhivan’s an Order Member, a poet, an author and critic, a lover of the Pali Canon, and a bird-watcher. He lives in Cambridge UK, and has recently updated his website,, where he says -

“What’s writing really about? It’s about trying to take fuller possession of the reality of your life” – Ted Hughes

“For some time I've wanted a way to make a good selection of my writing and other productions easily available, for the sake of sharing, and the web is a great way to make this possible.

“I've arranged some of my work in different categories, which you can explore using the links on the right. New to the site is my review of the best Pali Canon anthologies (published in the Western Buddhist Review 5), a talk on 'The Myth of Tristan and Iseult', and information about my first novel 'Green Eros'.

“So please sample, enjoy, and let me know what you think. Here's a sample poem:”

Situation Report
for Padmakara

The path leads to a vast plain, and then ends,
petering into the expanse of grass.
We are lonely as stars out here. Sometimes
I remember the road through the forest,
its smells and colours and the beating drums,
but I don’t wish for that kind of travel,
with its prophecies and wonders.

You’ll also find Dhivan on FWBO People, where he’s posted a short biography.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

News of Sangharakshita

Sangharakshita, founder of the FWBO, and now well into his 80's, lives in Birmingham UK, in the FWBO's 'Madhyamaloka' community. They've sent FWBO News some highlights of Sangharakshita's diary for the past few months.

Before that though, we bring news of his latest book, just out, and entitled ‘Living Ethically: advice from Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland’. Windhorse, his publishers, say –

“In a world of increasingly confused ethics, Living Ethically looks back over the centuries for guidance from Nagarjuna, one of the greatest teachers of the Mahayana tradition. Drawing on the themes of Nagarjuna’s famous scripture, Precious Garland of Advice for a King, this book explores the relationship between an ethical lifestyle and the development of wisdom. Covering both personal and collective ethics, Sangharakshita considers such enduring themes as pride, power and business, as well as friendship, love and generosity”.

Madhyamaloka pick up the story -

"In January, Bhante was filmed being interviewed by Mahamati in honour of the occasion of the Order Convention at Bodh Gaya, and the film was shown for the first time in India on 24 February. Bhante considers the occasion of the first Convention to be held in India to have been a very significant one for the history of the Order.

"The recording of the interview with Bhante that was shown at the convention in Bodhgaya is available for general viewing on VideoSangha. Copies can be ordered from ClearVision.

"Since then, aside from being kept busy by a steady stream of personal appointments, Bhante has participated in two question-and-answer sessions on events hosted by the Dharmapala College. The last such event was attended by Nityabandhu, who, having left England almost exactly a year ago to set up the FWBO's first Centre in Poland , returned to his old room in Bhante's flat for the duration of his stay.

"Matt, Sangharakshita's secretary, has had the pleasure and privilege of reading to him from David Loy's snappily titled book Money Sex War Karma, which looks at various contemporary issues from a Buddhist perspective. Bhante found it very interesting and stimulating, and recommends the book to Order members. You’ll find it reviewed by Nagapriya on the WBO’s Western Buddhist Review website.

"Bhante's health has generally been stable, though he is easily tired, and in January he was forced to leave Bristol, where he had planned to lead a weekend of study, early, due to having slept badly. In February he had the first of a series of injections into his left eye, which, it is hoped, will slow down the macular degeneration, and maybe even improve his vision slightly. He is due another such injection on 25 March, and another a month later.

Sangharakshita inaugurating a new triptych by Aloka at the Cardiff Buddhist Centre"Today (13 March at the time of writing) Bhante will be travelling to Cardiff, where he will stay for the weekend. He will be inaugurating a new triptych in the Cardiff Buddhist Centre shrine-room on the Saturday, and on Sunday he will take a question-and-answer session with Order members and mitras.

"Other forthcoming events include a trip to Essen, his first international travel of the year, for the Central European FWBO Day celebrations.

"He also has two scheduled launches of The Essential Sangharakshita, one at Birmingham Buddhist Centre on 11 April, and another at Cambridge Buddhist Centre on 23 May".

Sangharakshita's website is at This has recently been updated and now contains no less than 32 of his books for free download.

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Sarvananda on the radio

This month sees two radio plays by Sarvananda, a Scottish Order Member and writer.

Both have been broadcast by the BBC, where he goes by his old name of Alastair Jessiman.

Available on-line now is his third play about Thomas Soutar, a psychic who uses his gifts to help the police. In this latest play he is called in to investigate the disappearance of a gifted and beautiful music student; his investigation uncovers a number of uncomfortable truths – not least for Thomas himself who falls under the missing girl's spell.

‘The Sensitive: A possession’ is the Afternoon Play on BBC Radio4, and can be heard here:

Coming up later in March is "Boxer and Doberman", also by Sarvananda and this time a 4-part comedy series broadcast on DAB and BBC Digital Radio 7. Each episode will be broadcast three times according to the following schedule;

• Episode one: Headless in Glasgow
» Monday 23rd March 2009: 9am - 9.30am, 8pm - 8.30pm; Tue 24th March: 1 - 1.30pm.
• Episode two - the Killings in Kirkibrae
» Tue 24th March: 9am - 9.30am, 8pm - 8.30pm; Wed 25th March 1 - 1.30pm.
• Episode three - the Big Cheese
» Wed 25th March: 9am - 9.30am, 8pm - 8.30pm; Thu 26th March 1 - 1.30pm.
• Episode four - the Seat of Evil
» Thu 26th March: 9am - 9.30am, 8pm - 8.30pm; Fri 27th March 1 - 1.30pm.


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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Arts events across the FWBO

A dancer practices at the FWBO's London Buddhist Arts Centre in East LondonA few days ago FWBO News reported on the upcoming ‘Buddhism and Creativity’ conference in which FWBO artists will be taking part.

Arts have always been an integral part of the FWBO, being highlighted by Sangharakshita as one of the six ‘distinctive emphases’ of the FWBO.  His talk exploring this is on FreeBuddhistAudio.

A recent survey conducted on the FWBO’s European Chairs Assembly illustrated the variety of arts events being held across the movement.  We reproduce it here for readers’ interest. 

Berlin Buddhist Centre choir
Weekend workshop on the arts including a gallery visit.
Two 2-day workshops including public talks, on ‘Aesthetic appreciation and the spiritual life’, including visits to art exhibitions
Film nights including talk on the evening’s film
Weekend retreat and Friends’ Night on ‘Art and the Spiritual Life’
Policy of using FWBO artists’ work on their book covers.
London Buddhist Centre
Major commissions of painting by Aloka, also sculpture
Art shows at Wild Cherry
Poetry used in Dharma teaching
Film showings
The much-loved Buddhafield Festival is full of arts events – music, film, dance, drama, large-scale rituals…
Buddhafield has a long tradition of musical accompaniments to mantras
And many opportunities for musicians etc to perform.
Major commission of new FWBO Refuge Tree painting by Chintamani
Visits to CBSO concerts
Arts soirees
Five-day thanka painting workshop
Amsterdam Buddhist Centre Choir (meets fortnightly)
Plans for monthly film night
Creative writing weekend workshop
Dharmapala College
Seminars on Shakespeare’s ‘Tempest’; Mahler’s Third Symphony, and Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’.
Two arts exhibitions by sangha members
Poetry and music evenings
Regular poetry group
Theatre group (including visits to local productions/concerts)
Music-making and mantra-developing workshops
Seeking funding for arts project (audio-visual equipment and picture-hanging system)
Purchase of painting by Aloka
Donation of Tara painting by Sangha member
Film nights showing ‘Art-house’ movies, including Indian movies
Creative writing events
Exhibitions of work by local artists and Buddhist artists
Sangha visits to local exhibitions, concerts, poetry – and publicity for local arts events at the Centre
Lots of talk in the Centre about the arts!
Centre ‘open-mike’ nights encouraging sangha musicians to ‘do a turn’.
North London
Annual ‘Wolf at the Door’ creative writing weekend
Sangha writers group.
‘Making Art’ day focussing on the Dakini
Sangha ‘Cabaret’ evenings with music, poetry, open mike
Idea for local film club
Idea for ‘Arts Sangha’ evenings
Lights in the Sky movies shown
Cultural soiree evenings with music, dance, photos, poetry…
A program of ‘Awakening Through Art’ events
Film club at Buddhist Centre
Participation in Brighton Festival with, eg stand-up comics, music (Jazz and Chopin), and arts exhibition
Also participation in Brighton Carnival and Winter Solstice event
Major commission of painting by Aloka
Monthly ‘Dharma Eye into the World’ events – including singing/debate/film/astronomy
Occasional music events
Sangha creative writing group
Brighton Centre choir
Art exhibition planned for Centre in 2009
The Windhorse pantomime!  Check last year’s on YouTube.
Art exhibitions in Centre foyer
Japanese monks visiting and chanting
Sangha Poetry group
Sangha Writers’ group
Sangha Singing group
Sangha Music group
Wolf at the Door creative writing weekends
Five or six weeks worth of retreats on arts themes each year – including the ground-breaking ‘Clowning and Insight’.
Print media
The long-running Urthona arts magazine is at
Videosangha has a special section for FWBO Arts movie clips
Visible Mantra, at  is an extraordinary resource for those interested in the art of mantra
On FWBO Photos there’s collections of some FWBO artists’ work – and of some of the stupas that have been created around the FWBO. 
There’s an FWBO Arts community page on the Free Buddhist Audio site.
The new website will be building in slots for FWBO artists’ work.
And finally – there’s a variety of personal sites by FWBO artists, teachers, and performers –
Wolf at the Door have for many years run creative writing weekends.
Achalabodhi  is a well-known woodcarver and teacher -
Aloka is perhaps the Order’s most prolific artist, and his large paintings of the Buddha grace at least five FWBO Centre shrines.  A proper website for him is long overdue but you can see some of his work at
Amitajyoti, painter, is at
Jayacitta and Red Noses Unlimited (Clowning)
Jayarava, prolific writer, calligrapher, painter, sculptor, musician and essayist. See  for his art, for his music.
Lilavati runs a Painting School at
Padmavijaya is a well-established painter based in Sweden
Padmayogini, painter and photographer, is at
Vajradaka, meditation teacher offers mentoring in creativity.
Visuddhimati runs ‘Buddhist Pictures’, a personal site showcasing her work.

And Alokavira (aka Timm Sonnenschein)is a Professional Photographer, with wide ranging reportage and commissioned work. On his website you can see fine art pinhole photography from Guhyaloka as well as recent photographs of Bhante Sangharakshita.

And last but by no means least, Sangharakshita himself is a poet, and his Collected Works are now available for free download on-line on his personal website -

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