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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Amoghavajra returns to China - and the Paralympics

Amoghavajra, chairman of the FWBO’s Ipswich centre, has another string to his bow – he’s a keen Wheelchair Basketball player – and is currently in Beijing grading the competitors in the Paralympics, currently taking place there. He writes –

“Last night we had the opening ceremony in the Birds Nest Stadium, which is a fairly impressive building. I believe around 90,000 were in the crowd. The evening light fades very quickly here so by the time we approached the stadium it was dark and the lights illuminating it were fairly awesome lit up in different colours.

“The ceremony was also marked by a young Asian woman who we think was protesting, running onto the track during the athletes’ entry and making a run for television coverage. She was brought to the ground after about 100 metres and after they subdued her she was led away by security. A sobering reminder that many people feel so strongly about human rights issues in China they are willing to risk their lives by protesting. Many of the athletes here are disabled as a result of the many war zones on our planet - to see this protest whilst also witnessing how many people have overcome war injuries was very poignant indeed. However I suspect most people will instead remember the rather sweet operatic music of the evening – not entirely to my taste!

“The other day I managed to have most of the day off from classifying duties and met Yinhua, a Chinese mitra at Beijing’s famous Lama Temple. Like many of the tourist sites it was free to enter with Paralympic accreditation. It was a real transformation from the sporting, competitive atmosphere of the Paralympics to the atmosphere of the temple. There were many stalls selling all kinds of incense to offer - packets, boxes, bundles, gold-covered, short, medium and huge two-foot-long sticks! I was amused to be downwind of one old woman who was offering her cellophane wrapped incense without removing the wrapping!

“As I wandered round the different halls I was very moved, and felt as if I was very much at home in this environment –the images and symbols had a real, felt meaning for me. Most of the images were of Amitabha, or Amitayus in the large halls. They were larger than life-size and conveyed a lovely quality. In a side hall, among other more esoteric images I found a large thanka of Kurukulle - the lotus-family dakini. I was fascinated by this naked female figure who has a lovely smile and attractive appearance – as well as a garland of male skulls and trampling on another prostrate male figure! Another hall had a huge figure of Tsongkhapa that rose up to the upper tiers. Very gracefully and quietly authoritative. I sat for a while in each hall just to feel the atmosphere - it felt alive and charged. I could see many monks around and assume that there was still some practice going on there. I felt a little jaded within myself by having been in the sporting environment that lacks levels of awareness.

“Yinhua was very good company and knew of a vegetarian restaurant nearby. It was so good to be able to eat in a quiet environment. And to eat vegetarian food. Time passed quickly with him and in no time we were off to get me a taxi back to the village. The area seemed very Chinese and every few hundred yards there were elderly gents and ladies, part of the community security force. All very keen to help us find a taxi. Through narrow entrances we glimpsed the famous ‘hutong’ home areas - warrens of tiny dwellings, similar in some ways to the rougher old Glasgow tenement areas, but smaller and more cramped. We found a taxi and I was on my way back to modernity and the Paralympics..."

Meanwhile, Team GB looks to be doing very well - Sky Sports reports they have won an historic century of medals, and the handover ceremony to the UK for Paralympics 2012 is just taking place.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Amoghavajra returns to China - and the Paralympics

Amoghavajra, new chairman of the FWBO's Ipswich Buddhist Centre, has for many years been an enthusiastic practitioner of wheelchair basketball. Besides playing, he is also an ‘international classifier’, or grader, of wheelchair basketball players and an adjudicator on the sensitive questions of how to classify players with varying degrees of disability.

As a result of this he has been invited to China to classify players in the Basketball Paralympics - an event that has, for the hopeful competitors, been many years in the planning. Amoghavajra is especially excited to be going to China because of her ancient connections with his namesake, the Indian Buddhist monk Amoghavajra. “At last Amoghavajra is returning to China”, he says…! He goes on to say -

“I'm at Manchester at the moment classifying for the Paralympic World Cup - it's going very well although a huge culture shift from last week at Padmaloka on sadhana retreat!!

“I did consider the possibility of not taking up the invite but bringing to mind the hugely positive impact on disabled people in China I decided that I would definitely accept. Chine has not devoted many financial resources to assisting its disabled people but by hosting the Olympics part of the deal is to also host the Paralympics. This means that they have to back their disabled athlete programmes and provide them with direct support but maybe more importantly with wheelchair accessible social infrastructure that benefit a much wider range of disabled people - thereby benefiting many people”.

After the Paralympics he hopes to spend some time visiting China's ancient Buddhist sites - a personal journey that will undoubtedly be a test of China's disability-friendliness away from the Olympic spotlights.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

FWBO Home page now available in Russian

A new translation of the FWBO's main website,, has been launched, this time in Russian. The address is -

As with the other versions of, the site carries information on basic Buddhism, meditation practices, and the FWBO's distinctive approach, as well as a short biography of Sangharakshita, founder of the FWBO.

Russian is of course not the only languaged into which the FWBO's website has been translated; below is a list of some others -

The FWBO's Wildmind meditation website is available in many of the above languages plus Portuguese.

See our contacts section for a fuller list and for details of the local centres in each country...

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Dharma classes in Beijing

Dhammaloka has been travelling and teaching in China for some weeks now; he sends us this report from Beijing -

“Its cold in Beijing, but luckily the people here are very warm-hearted and welcoming. Like those in other Asian countries, the Chinese are very hospitable, friendly, and generous. Many have a lovely sense of humour and curiosity, and wish nothing more than to live a meaningful life of relative safety and prosperity in peace and harmony with the rest of the world. How saddening it is that so many people in the West have an entirely misguided view of China and the Chinese!

Sure, there is a lot of materialism and consumerism as well, probably no less than in the West. And, perhaps, Chinese people can even match Westerners in terms of pride and conviction that their culture is the greatest of all. It is about 15 months ago I was last in Beijing, and once again the city is difficult to recognize – apart from anything else, there are so many new and spectacular buildings.

I have been here for a little more than a week now, and it has been a busy and truly interesting time. it has been wonderful to be with my friends again. Our first public event was in the "Purple Spring Heart Wisdom Centre," a newly opened, rather posh and somewhat club-like centre for all sorts of spiritual events. They were keen to have me (a Westerner) there, probably as a boost to their publicity, but as they were willing to host our events ‘by donation’ I didn't mind. Some 20 or more people joined us for an introductory evening class on awareness and meditation. As in Malaysia some three weeks ago, we followed this up with an 'Urban Retreat.' With the help of my friend Yinhua, I was able to offer them daily support by email. My Chinese not being quite up to scratch, it's been difficult for me to see in detail how they have been getting on, but Yinhua tells me of grateful comments and occasional questions—so I take it they are gaining something.

A highlight has been a series of morning meetings with cancer patients at one of the most famous hospitals for traditional Chinese medicine, many of whom had been ill for many years. While the doctors are using Western medicine for diagnostic purposes, they treat the disease using traditional means, complemented by Chi Gong, breathing exercises, and working with support groups. We’d been asked to introduce meditation and mindfulness practice - I was happy to respond, but did so with some hesitation as I’ve never before worked with such severely ill people. Our meetings included some wonderful and touching encounters. Beautiful in particular to see how these people responded to the metta bhavana - they obviously felt they’d been given a precious gift, very well suited to complement their approach of living with, rather than against, the cancer.

Only a few days are left before I'll be returning to the West. I'll be sad to leave. More than ever have I felt that the time is ripe for a modern form of Buddhism to be presented in Beijing and China.

Interestingly, whilst still in Malaysia, I had a long conversation with a monk friend who has a lot of first-hand experience of China and the resurgence of Chinese Buddhism. He very strongly expressed his conviction that, for Buddhism to again take root in China, it will have to be introduced largely by bypassing the existing Buddhist organisations. Like me, he too felt that NOW is the time for that to happen.

Here you are—and Beijing and China are waiting for you. Please contact me, and we'll figure out how you can help making the new age really become a NEW AGE.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Windhorse:Evolution supports new social projects

Windhorse's warehouse in Cambridge, UKWindhorse:Evolution is the largest and most profitable of the FWBO’s many Right Livelihood businesses, with a turnover of some £10 million and employing over 200 people – 100 at their main warehouse, ‘Uddiyana’ in Cambridge UK, and another 100 in a chain of ‘Evolution’ shops around the UK and elsewhere.

Besides practicing Right Livelihood, as chronicled by Padmasuri in her book ‘Transforming Work’, they have always aimed to make a profit and to give that profit away as dana. At first they simply asked Sangharakshita for direction in this; in recent years they have donated it to the ‘Windhorse Trust’ which has in turn created five independent funds and distributes the available dana among them.

Initially all available dana was given to FWBO projects; but in a new departure, one of the new funds created was the Windhorse Social Fund. This aims to invest in social projects close to Windhorse’s main suppliers, and they now contribute around £20,000/year to this as part of their ‘Trade for Aid’ initiative.

In a new feature on FWBO News, Samata writes about two new social projects supported by Windhorse - The Wheatfield Plan in China and The Kupu-Kupu Foundation in Bali. Click here to read it.

Alongside this they have been taking active steps to ensure their goods come from ethical sources, so far as this is practicable. You can read more about this on their Evolution shops website here, which includes the reply given by the Tibetan Government-in-Exile when asked if Windhorse should be trading with China at all, given its poor human-rights record.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

First steps towards an FWBO centre in Beijing...

For several years, Dhammaloka, a German Order Member, has been visiting China. Here is his account of his relationship with the country –and his assessment of the FWBO’s prospects there.

“I love China in a way that I find difficult to understand – and don’t really need to. I love the people, the extraordinary culture, the landscape, the smells and even the noise (sometimes!). I tend to believe that the Dharma and certainly the FWBO haven't fully arrived on our planet as long as they aren’t well established in China. In my modest way, I wish to contribute to the meeting of Western and Chinese cultures and I wish to share my life-changing experience of Dharma with my friends in China.

Very gradually, I’ve been forming some friendships, most notably with Ruan Yinhua, whom I first met at Wutai Shan (Manjusri’s sacred mountains) in 1995. Over the years, our friendship grew in depth and, three or four years ago — at Tiantai — he became a mitra. If you want to find out a little more about him and his views on Buddhism in China, please read his article on the Free Buddhist Audio website. It’s well worth reading.

My last visit included 10 days of intensive ‘teaching’ in Malacca and a number of events in Beijing. During that time, Yinhua arranged for two non-residential weekend seminars and a talk in Beijing. One of these seminars, it must be said, was a little bit of a flop as it turned out that the people attending were mainly interested in practicing their still basic English without really being aware of what the subject was going to be! That was different with the second seminar (in which we explored principles of skilful communication with reference to NVC) and it was even more different with the talk. These last two events were held in a semi-public setting, the seminar having 12, the talk perhaps 25 people attending. Many of them ‘knew’ each other — but only under pen-names, through a web-based discussion forum on ‘spirituality’. Here they met face-to-face for the first time. I spoke on mindfulness practices and meditation, with short periods of silent sitting, interspersed with lively and well-appreciated discussion. Yinhua has maintained contact with those interested – and new people have come into the orbit since.

During that last visit, as previously, Yinhua and my conversations explored our mutual wish to establish what might develop into an FWBO centre in Beijing. For the time being, we are still playing with various options ranging from a small flat to be used for informal, ‘private’ meetings to a secular organisation promoting awareness-based life skills.

Very likely, an online 'virtual Buddhist Centre' will be the first major step in that direction. A few more people are being included in our discussions and time seems definitely ripe to move activities to a new level. Not the least, with the Olympic Games drawing close, there is a liberal wind blowing through Beijing and it would seem foolish not to align ourselves with the new dynamic of exploration and experimentation in this huge city. Continuous access to our ‘own’ premises in Beijing would certainly make it easier and more attractive for other order members, friends and mitras to actually visit China and contribute to our evolving Sangha.

In December 2006, Yinhua was able to visit India for the first time. For much of his time, he stayed with our friends from TBMSG in Pune and he was deeply moved by the way they looked after him. He had long wanted to get a first-hand experience of our movement in India. This visit was made possible as he was partly funded to attend an NVC seminar with Marshal Rosenberg. After his return to Beijing, he wrote:

“I started believing that I can do something greater than myself, not only to meet my needs for meaning and livelihood at the same time, but also do something meaningful for many people. Now I am considering much more seriously creating an awareness centre or a training company in Beijing, inviting people to teach Buddhism, NVC, etc. As it is a wish now coming more out of a desire to care for the welfare of the majority rather than solving personal problems, I feel much more inspired, confident, relaxed and energized to go ahead. Yes, I need some funds to start it but I trust I can get the funds by talking to some friends. I believe that what I am going to do is very important and have a lot of merits. May Tara prepare me for that!”

If you wish to contact Yinhua, or to be involved in future activities in China or Malaysia, write to me here. Please also read Yinhua's article 'My Perspective on the Revival of Buddhism and Spirituality in China' on Free Buddhist Audio.

Thanks to Yinhua, Wildmind has a Chinese section, and there is also a Chinese section ready and waiting on Free Buddhist Audio - though we do not yet have many Dharma talks in Chinese!

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