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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sand Mandalas at Aryaloka

FWBO News is happy to pass on a report from New Hampshire's 'Seacoast online' magazine detailing the recent visit of Tibetan monks to Aryaloka, the FWBO retreat centre in New Hampshire, USA.

"This week, four monks from the Gaden Jangste Monastery in India will spend days hunched over a board creating the intricate and colorful drawing at the FWBO's Aryaloka Buddhist Center in New Hampshire, USA. At the end of the week, after long hours of work, the monks will teach the lesson of the transitory nature of all things by systematically destroying what it took them so long to create.

"This mandala is being dedicated to the deity of compassion (Chenrezig in Tibetan, Avalokiteshva in Sanskrit)," said Nima Neduro, the group's coordinator and translator. "It shows his celestial mansion, and it will take all week to finish."

The process of creating the mandala is intricate and time-consuming. Long metal funnels with tiny holes in the ends are filled with colored sand. The funnels are ribbed, and the monks use metal sticks to rub the funnels, releasing the sand grain by grain.

"We have been criss-crossing the country for the past nine months to show our culture and, at the same time, raise money for our monastery in India," Neduro said.

The Gaden Jangste Monastery, was originally built to house 300 monks who had fled Tibet when the Chinese invaded in 1959. The continuing limits placed on the ability of Tibetans to practice their culture and religion freely has prompted a major migration of Tibetan Buddhists to India, and now the monastery is home to more than 2,600 refugees looking for religious and educational freedom, the coordinator said.

"Tibetans in India right now are free to practice their culture and religion," Neduro said. "The problem is with those still in Tibet.

"While the Chinese have allowed the communities to rebuild the thousands of temples destroyed when the Chinese invaded, Tibetan practices are limited by the government," he said. "Many are still trying to flee."

"Our purpose in inviting the monks here is a gesture of good will and support," said Amala, Aryaloka's director. "We heard that they were looking for venues in which to show their traditions, and we are extending the hand of friendship to other Buddhists", she said.

You can read Seacoast's full report here.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Families Overnight at Aryaloka

Megrette Fletcher has sent us this report from Aryaloka, the FWBO's snow-bound retreat centre in New Hampshire, USA -

"From Saturday evening to Sunday noontime during the recent school vacation, a small group of children aged 5-11 were formally introduced to the Dharma at the Aryaloka Buddhist Retreat Center. Entering the shrine room, these curious youngsters started to explore the purpose of meditation, different sitting positions, making offerings, and sharing Buddhist stories.

"Each parent had a chance to connect with all of the children, sharing with them how the Dharma has opened the parents' thoughts and hearts. Other activities included visiting outside shrines, yoga, coloring Buddhist images, and reading stories. These were woven into more traditional kid play like coloring, sledding, and sharing a snack. The parents also had a chance to talk with each other about how they would like to share the Buddha's teachings with their children. Parents acknowledge that there isn't any one way to introduce the Dharma to youngsters, but whatever way is used - including incorporating curiosity - creativity and fun are important strategies to include.

"The emphasis on spiritual friendship that is central to the FWBO was also considered when planning this mini-retreat. The overall structure was purposely left flexible in order to encourage the growth and development of free play and connections among the children.

"After the event, each youngster was given an opportunity to offer feedback. The older children were interested in more formal instruction in meditation and more chances to work together. Parents thought a walking meditation with chanting might be good for the younger kids. All the children wanted to return to Aryaloka. When asked why, the answer was an enthusiastic: 'It is just really fun to be here!'"

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Carer's Retreat at Aryaloka, USA

Anastra Madden, from the FWBO’s Aryaloka Buddhist Retreat Center in New Hampshire, USA, has sent FWBO News this report of their recent ‘Caregivers’ Retreat’. There are a number of similar FWBO projects in the UK, some details follow after the Aryaloka report. This is clearly an area where Buddhist meditation techniques - and friendliness - can provide great benefit to many people.

“Members of the Aryaloka community, in collaboration with Seacoast Hospice staff and other healing practitioners from New Hampshire, recently provided a weekend retreat for family and professional caregivers. These individuals were in need of respite from their ongoing work of providing care for individuals living with chronic, life-threatening, or life-limiting illness.

“Aryaloka’s comfortable residential setting surrounded by the quiet of 13 wooded acres provided ideal conditions for the caregivers to be cared for by staff and retreat leaders. Nutritious vegetarian meals plus a "High Tea" topped off the educational/experiential activities that were facilitated by the retreat team and ten volunteer massage, reiki, and yoga practitioners. The weekend was threaded with meditation for relaxation; massage and reiki bodywork; restorative body movement; group processing through art, music, and journaling; exploring the importance of humor; and sharing personal stories with other caregivers. Participants were also given personal binders containing "take home" skills and strategies for self-care and stress management.

“In the short space between Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, the transformation in each participant was breathtaking. They became animated and vibrant, as if new life were poured into them. The feeling throughout the weekend was one of openness and joy, with multiple expressions of kindness, and laughter - much laughter ! As one participant expressed it , "This weekend has been phenomenal...the only word I can think of is seamless...." Participant evaluations confirmed that our goals for the retreat were fulfilled far beyond our original expectations. Also, an unexpected benefit also emerged : the atmosphere of total, unconditional care created for the participants spread back to the team, and facilitators also became participants!”

Sadhu, Aryaloka!

In the UK, several centres have been running weekends and other events for carers for some years. The Brighton Buddhist Centre runs the ‘Carer’s Breaks’ project; the London Buddhist Centre are converting their basement to house their major ‘Breathing Space’ project; which will host events for carers, plus mediation for depression, addiction, and stress. Manchester is home to the FWBO’s popular and successful pain management programme ‘Breathworks’, and earlier this month the UK’s Guardian newspaper ran an article exploring the LBC’s retreats for carers – click here to read it.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Sangharakshita's poetry inspires tapestry

Betsy Sterling Benjamin, associated with Aryaloka Buddhist Center in Newmarket NH, is showing her silk wax-resist hanging titled: “Blue Lotus of Lumbini”, a piece inspired by Bhante Sangharakshita's “Lumbini” poem. The exhibit is at the Main Gallery of the Paul Creative Arts Center, University of New Hampshire from September 8 to October 17, 2007. For more information call the Gallery (603) 862-3712.

Blue Lotus was last shown in the “Song of the Buddha Heart” exhibition at the Manchester Buddhist Centre, England during February of this year. It was also featured on the cover of Fiberarts Magazine in April-May 2007. and was selected with 90 other objects to be included in the 25 Biennial League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Juried Members Exhibition.

More of Betsy's work can be viewed here or on the FWBO Flickr site here.


I remember a pool of blue lotuses
Blooming at Lumbini near the dusty highroad,
And the miracle of those blue flowers rising
So purely from the black waters, told me
Far more of the birth of the Enlightened One
Than the broken Ashoka column, or ruined shrine.

. Urgyen Sangharakshita, 1949

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ordination at Aryaloka

On June 24 at Aryaloka, in front of a large crowd of friends, family, and Order members, Marilyn Dyer was ordained into the Western Buddhist Order as Viriyagita, "Song of energy in pursuit of the good." Her private preceptor was Sanghadevi and the ceremony was conducted by her public preceptor Parami.

Viriyagita currently lives with her husband Kevin in Cape Neddick, Maine and works as a nurse with intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals. She has a son, Sean, from a previous marriage, who lives in Seattle with his wife and three children. In 1985 Viriyagita started practicing Buddhism with a Tibetan sangha in Vermont. In 1986 she encountered the FWBO and was particularly drawn to Sangharakshita's clear exposition of the Dharma, the emphasis on the primacy of Going for Refuge, and the practice of spiritual friendship.

Viriyagita started out by attending several retreats as well as the regulars' class, which was very small at the time. Very early on in her involvement she made a trip to the UK to have a broader experience of the FWBO. She eventually became a mitra, started the first women's community at Aryaloka, and requested ordination into the WBO. She attended several more retreats in the UK and Scotland, one of which was a month-long Going for Refuge retreat.

In 1995 she was ordained along with Varasuri of Montana and Dayalocana of Aryaloka. A little over one year later she left the Order to pursue another spiritual path (Sufi). Within a short period of time she realized that no matter how much spiritual beauty and similarity of practice existed in this other tradition, she was at heart a Buddhist. She returned to Aryaloka, never really having lost contact with her spiritual friends and her private preceptor, Sanghadevi.

After many years of living with the aspiration to rejoin the Order, she made that request in June of 2005 and on June 24, 2007 she was given back her original Order name of Viriyagita.

The photo shows Viriyagita (right) with Dayalocana, current Chair of Aryaloka, with whom she was originally ordained in 1995.


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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, March 29, 2007

FWBO Aryaloka

Aryaloka mitras off to be ordained into the WBONews from Dayalocana, Chair, Aryaloka Buddhist Retreat Center, Newmarket, NH, USA

At Aryaloka we have the good fortune this spring to send our good wishes with three mitras as they go forth to be ordained into the WBO. Bill Horton (centre) from Maine will be leaving in late March for a four-month ordination retreat in Spain at Guhyaloka, an ordination retreat center for men. Leonie Luterman (left) from Massachusetts follows a few weeks later to attend a three-month retreat, also in Spain, at Akashavana, the ordination retreat center for women. Marilyn Dyer (right) from Maine will be ordained in June right here at Aryaloka where the first ordinations in America were conducted by Sangharakshita in 1993.

Our good wishes go with all of them, and to all those who will join them, as they dedicate their lives to the Three Jewels.

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