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Friday, October 30, 2009

Coming up: World Vegan Day - and a suggestion for all our readers

Jane Easton from the FWBO’s Bristol Sangha has contacted FWBO News with a suggestion for all readers - and indeed for all FWBO Centres across the world. She says -

“It's World Vegan Day on Sunday 1st November, and I’d like to invite all FWBO Centres and Sanghas to consider taking part in GoVegan350.

“The idea is simply to go vegan for 350 hours - 15 days - with the support of a vegan buddy, starting whenever you choose. It's a perfect, do-able project that’s also a perfect opportunity to work on the first and second Buddhist precepts - and for vegans in our Sangha to support and encourage non-vegans!

“In Bristol we’re launching it today at Bristol's Free Vegan Food Fair, working in partnership with Climate 350, Bristol Animal Rights Collective and Bristol Vegan Buddies.

“Taking part is simple - all you have to do is find a buddy, choose your starting date, and when you’re ready, adopt a vegan diet, which means no meat, fish, dairy or egg to be eaten. Also take a look at your lifestyle, what cosmetics you use, bath and shower gels, toothpaste, the shoes and clothes that you buy, even the food and drinks you consume on a night out.

“You could even use it as a fundraising opportunity – pick your favourite FWBO charity, find them on, make yourself a page – and tell your friends to sponsor you! FWBO Dhammaloka ( is raising money for Dhamma work in India and would be delighted to receive your donations...

“Why do this? The answer’s simple really, especially for Buddhists: the meat and dairy industry inflict terrible suffering on the animals in their care. And the two industries contribute to approximately 18% of the greenhouse gas emissions that will (unless checked) lead to a drastic change in our climate. A small action such as changing your diet will make a dramatic difference, as well as being kinder to animals and better for your health. This is increasingly being recognized - on Monday Lord Stern (author of the Stern Report) used an interview in the Times to call on the world to “give up meat to save the planet”!

“To help you through these 15 days there’s recipes, information, and links available on our website And of course your vegan buddy.  Sadly, it seems there's still a lot of hostility about veganism - some people go into kneejerk mode when their comfort zones are nudged, but a lot of folk are at least getting interested and asking questions - and hopefully Buddhists (and others) can use their spiritual practice to examine such hindrances and give it a go... Onwards and upwards!"

With metta

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Second helpings at Bristol's 'Compassion in the Kitchen' project

Jane Easton from the FWBO’s Bristol Buddhist Centre writes to say -

“We just had our 2nd "Compassion in the Kitchen" ethical eating retreat, led by Achintya and myself, and thought readers of FWBO News would be interested.

"Last year saw our first vegan cooking retreat ‘seasoned with Buddhist meditation and study’, and the second in the series was equally successful. Run by Jane and Achintya in a way that challenged preconceptions but didn’t moralise, we had huge fun. Everyone left with new skills and recipes as well as information about the issues.

"We hope to take the idea forward next year, so watch this space and keep an eye on our website".

Jane Easton is a mitra at the Bristol Buddhist Centre and South Bristol Meditation Group, who works as Food and Cookery Consultant for Viva! and the Vegetarian Foundation. She has a wide experience of cooking and writing about vegan food.

Achintya has been a Buddhist since 1980 and was ordained into the Western Buddhist Order in 2000. He teaches at the South Bristol Meditation group. He is also a practicing Counsellor. Achintya has studied Mindfulness with Bangor University and is involved in Non-Violent Communication (NVC) training events across the UK.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

An ordination - and a death in the Order

On Saturday 25 July, in a Public Ordination ceremony at the Bristol Buddhist Centre Kathryn Harriss became Vimalavajri, meaning 'she who possesses a stainless vajra / diamond / thunderbolt'.

She was privately ordained by Paramachitta during a small dedicated ordination retreat the previous week, and Ratnadharini conducted the public ceremony.


And, sadly, we also have to report that on August 3rd Vimalashil, an Indian Order Member, died of heart failure. Vimalashil was ordained in the year 2000. He was one of a small team of Order Members who lived and worked in Modinagar, in Uttar Pradesh in north India.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New teaching resources for schools

For the last couple of years the Bristol Buddhist Centre has been building up its school visits program, and as part of that, its library of teaching resources for schools.

These have now been uploaded and are available for others to use. There’s a special Resources Page on their website; this contains both Primary and Secondary School Resources, including -

A simple stilling exercise for younger children A simple to follow stilling exercise for younger children which can be read through or adapted for an older audience. This often has a very stilling effect, so a useful resource in calming excited energy!

Introducing Buddhist Practice This sheet includes information about important symbols in Buddhism (the lotus, three jewels). It also explores the meaning of 'enlightenment', as well as other important teachings: the three fold path, karma, going for refuge to the three jewels and how a 'western' Buddhist practices Buddhism.

Introducing Buddhist Shrines An introduction to Buddhist shrines, including a description, an explanation of the symbols on the shrine, when and where they are used, how to build a shrine and reflections/activities. This sheet could be adapted to be used for different age groups. Probably most relevant for Key Stages 2 and 3 in the UK educational system.

Introduction to Buddhist Festivals This includes information about all the major Buddhist festivals, plus why, how and when we celebrate festivals. It includes activities and reflections. This sheet is a resource for teachers which can be adapted for different age groups.

More will be added to this in the coming months - among other things they are working on an introduction to death in the Buddhist tradition for the local cemetery.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Outreach work at the Bristol Buddhist Centre

Vitarka’ is the Schools and Educational Outreach project based at the Bristol Buddhist Centre. In 2007 they were successful in a grant application to the UK Government’s ‘Faith Community Capacity Building Fund (FCCB); and this year has seen the fruits of their work.

They have recently been featured in a new book ‘Faith Communities Pulling Together - Case studies from the Faith Communities Capacity Building Fund’, published by the UK's Community Development Foundation and available for purchase or free download.

As the report itself states – “The (Vitarka) project focused on creating practical foundations for the Bristol Buddhist Centre’s outreach work with schools, and then increasing its work with schools. The intention was that the work would contribute to greater community cohesion, by enabling children and young people to learn more about faith and increase their understanding about people of different faiths.

Kamalamani, coordinator of the Bristol Buddhist Centre's Vitarka project“A part-time schools and educational coordinator with experience as a teacher was employed. Her first priority was to create the resource pack for schools. The material was based on what teachers had been asking for, including a guide to Buddhist festivals, meditation and ‘stilling’ exercises, a form of sitting meditation.

“She also built up a database of local primary and secondary schools to which she could then send a mail shot explaining what the Centre could offer. This included lessons, assemblies and materials, for example a Buddhist Shrine Kit which was available for schools to borrow. Follow-up material was made available for the teachers, placed on the Centre’s website”.

In addition Kamalamani - the coordinator of the Vitarka project - has conducted her own review, which is available online here.

See also the FWBO's Clear Vision Trust website for award-winning education packs on Buddhism for all key stages.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Bristol Buddhist Centre's new arts season

Bristol Buddhist Centre is delighted to be hosting an arts season, under the title of ‘Awakening through Art’.

It will run from January to June 2008, and springs from the creative inspiration of Dharmachari Ananda. Ananda (Stephen Parr) is best known as a published poet, a leader of writing workshops (with ‘Wolf at the Door’), who also has the distinction of being the longest-standing member of the Western Buddhist Order. He is particularly keen to explore the relevance of Western myths for today’s Dharma practitioners, and there’ll be explorations of Mozart’s Magic Flute and the Western mystery tradition, Orpheus and the Underworld, and Tristan & Isolde.

Other scheduled activities include a play, written by Dharmachari Alobhin exploring the themes of climate change and peak oil, to be performed under the auspices of ‘Transition Bristol’, a shrine photography workshop, an evening of poetry reading, and a workshop on Seeing & Drawing.

In addition to all these, the season’s first week opens with three events:

19-20 Jan A Meeting of Minds - performance by Michael Lunts of his ‘play with music’ based on the life of Rachmaninov

21 Jan The Dharma Significance of an Empty Cosmos – a talk by Brian Johnson, with poetry and astronomical film footage

26 Jan Imagination & Spiritual Life – a talk by Ananda

For more details, see the Awakening through Art page on the Bristol Buddhist Centre website.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Bristol's Vitarka Project

For the past nine months the Bristol Buddhist centre have been running the ‘Vitarka Project’. Kamalamani reports –

In April this year we were successful in being awarded £4,400 from the UK government’s Faith Communities Capacity Building fund. This was to enable us to contribute to the development of a culture of tolerance and mutual respect through outreach work to schools and the wider community

I was appointed as Schools Outreach Development Worker for the Buddhist Centre later in the month and have since been thoroughly enjoying co-ordinating schools work. My main priority has been to make contact with schools, so that they know what’s available to them in terms of visiting the Centre and having visitors to their schools. To give you an idea of what the schools work covers, please read on!

One of my first assignments was hosting a visit from Chew Valley School. This was particularly significant for me, as Chew Valley is the secondary school I attended! We’ve developed a ‘School Visiting Kula’, my hope is that this will build sangha friendships, as well as provide a great capacity for schools – it’s a multi faceted and talented team.

I’ve spent time reviewing existing resources and adding some new resources from Clear Vision (for example, their DVDs entitled'Pilgrimage: An Indian Spiritual Journey' and 'Buddhist Centre in the City: A Tour of the Manchester Buddhist Centre' - both great, interesting film making). I hope to continue this process to build the resources of the kula and to be able to signpost teachers to relevant and interesting resources.

In terms of local networking, I’ve found it very interesting to meet with Bristol City Council’s Social Inclusion Officer, the Interfaith Consultant, local SACRE representatives and members of the Bristol Diocese, to find out what’s already going on in and around Bristol. Bristol schools face significant challenges, with one of the highest rates of exclusion of pupils from schools in the country, and ongoing tensions between some ethnic groups. It seems that the need for interfaith and social inclusion work is greater than ever, to support schools and the wider community.

Earlier in the summer I was a facilitator at the Childrens’ Interfaith conference, run by Bristol City Council. This was a really interesting day and I was particularly struck by hearing children talk so openly about the similarities and differences between their faiths. It was very moving and heartening. I hope this event will become a regular fixture in Bristol’s calendar.

The Future
There is a huge amount of scope for the Buddhist Centre to continue to develop its schools and educational work, and I imagine that this area will blossom and grow over the next few years. It would be great to have ongoing partnerships with a high percentage of schools across the city. Potentially, this work also goes beyond schools work, into broader interfaith work, community cohesion and meditation in schools, to mention but a few.

So I thought I would finish with a few of the questions and comments from some of the children I’ve met and enjoyed working with so far, given that they are by far and away the most important focus of this project…

“When you’ve been enlightened, can you become unenlightened?”
“Are the three jewels to do with each of the elements?”
“Will the Buddhist lady be black?” (question to a teacher before my visit, from a Muslim girl)
“Do you still cry when you’re a Buddhist?”
“Does Buddhism stop crime?”
“Will you be reborn as a Buddhist if you’ve been a Buddhist this lifetime?”
“We’re like flowers miss aren’t we? Cos we die too…”

Click here for our Autumn schools programme.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Karuna women's appeal in local paper

A women's Karuna appeal is in full swing in Bristol, UK - and was recently interviewed for a local Bristol paper. Under the heading 'DEVOTING ALL THEIR TIME TO FIGHTING PREJUDICE', the paper recounted how the women "spend their days praying, meditating and fund-raising" and quoted Amitasuri as saying "If my heart is open, we can meet with one another. Last night I was very moved by people's kindness, with people's honesty with me". It's a little unusual for Karuna's appeals to 'go public' in this way, but the reporter was clearly moved by what she saw.

Karuna's door-knocking appeals raise just over UK 1 million pounds/year for Dhamma and social work in India, and are a unique way to combine spiritual practice with effective and meaningful work for the benefit of others - Buddhist Right Livelihood in the very best sense.

Karuna's appeal dates for 2008 have been released and are on the Karuna Appeals website.

Meanwhile the Karuna Trust itself has a brand-new website, and very handsome it is too!

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

FWBO Projects Receive Community Funding

The UK government recently announced the results of round 2 of the ‘Faith Communities Capacity Building Fund’, which attracted bids from over 1,200 UK faith-based organisations. The funding was given to “groups with practical solutions to build capacity among faith communities to support inter faith work”. The successful applicants were the Brighton, Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, and Croydon FWBO Centres, the Clear Vision Trust, Dharmachakra (now known as Free Buddhist Audio), and the LBC’s Globe Community Project.

A full list of the 343 successful organisations is available online (pdf file). The fund is administered to the Community Development Foundation (CDF). FWBO News will be chasing up the recipients to find out how they will be using the money.

Story by Lokabandhu

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