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Monday, September 22, 2008

New chairman in Edinburgh

Vajrahridaya was last week installed as the new Chairman of the FWBO’s Edinburgh Buddhist Centre. He took over from Kalyanavaca, who had served as Chair for the past 8 years and steered the Centre through two moves and a variety of hired premises to its present, permanent, location. Vajrahridaya is the first Indian Order Member to become Chairman of any FWBO centre (outside India, of course). However, he’s lived in Scotland for several years, having originally moved there to be cook at Dhanakosa retreat centre.

Trained originally as a doctor in Maharastra, India, he told FWBO News that for some time he’d been feeling the urge to put his energy into “something bigger, something more Dharmic”, and that the opportunity to be chair had come at just the right time – and, having spotted it, he simply had to respond.

The occasion was marked by a two-hour ceremony for the local Sangha in which Parami, their president, and a member of the FWBO Preceptors’ College, presided. The highlight of the evening was perhaps the presentation to Vajrahridaya of a Jewel, representing the Bodhicitta – which he then planted in the centre of a Mandala, symbolising all aspects of the Edinburgh centre and even the wider world around it.

As Vajrahridaya explained, “for me, the Mandala represents a sacred circle of harmony and transformation. I see the Buddhist Centre as a series of circles, or teams, all overlapping and all in harmony, some working for the Centre itself and some reaching out to society around”. He went on to say “Actually, we’ll mostly be carrying on Kalyanavaca’s work –she has laid all the foundations for us to build on”.

Far from going into an early retirement, Kalyanavaca has immediately joined a Karuna door-knocking fundraising appeal in nearby Glasgow – after which , she says, she’ll have a well-earned ‘gap year’. As part of the leaving celebrations she was presented with a cheque, collected from members of the Sangha. She was delighted, and says she plans to pass it to Aloka, the WBO’s most prolific artist, who is at present working on an Avalokitesvara painting for her.

The photograph shows Kalyanavaca and Vajrahridaya, both looking remarkably at home in one another’s national costumes.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

'Sangha without boundaries' in Scotland

Kevin McConnell from the Edinburgh Buddhist sangha has sent FWBO News this report of their inter-Buddhist activities - which have been quietly growing for the past four years...

“As the days get longer and the Scottish winter slides its way into spring, green shoots force their way through the warming earth, early lambs frisk in the strengthening sunshine - and the Buddhists of Edinburgh can be seen heading south to Wiston Lodge near Biggar (shown in photo). Why, we ask? - for their annual Inter-Sangha Weekend Retreats, is the reply.

“Inter-Buddhist events, where several of the local Buddhist groups come together on celebratory occasions such as Wesak, have long been a feature in Edinburgh. Usually, one group takes the lead with other members offering contributions from their own traditions.

“At first they were evening events rounded off by a shared meal. The popularity of these inspired the idea of an annual weekend retreat where groups could share and explore their various traditions’ differing perspectives on the Dharma. The initial idea, and the organisation of the inaugural gathering, was down to Kalyanavaca, chairwoman of the FWBO’s Edinburgh Buddhist centre. However they’ve been such a success (this year being the fourth year in succession) that now the role of organisation is taken up by a different group each year.

“This year the overall theme was impermanence, and each group led those present in a practice from their own tradition based on that theme. This produces an eclectic mix where, if you attend all the sessions, you could be experiencing body scan techniques, zazen, NVC workshops, Pali chants and Tibetan puja. In between the set events there is of course the opportunity to sit and drink tea or walk in the woods and compare notes on your experience of the Dharma. This celebrating the 'unity of variation' of the Dharma is what most appeals to the participants.

“Over the four years the retreats have been held, groups from the Community of Buddhist Contemplatives (Soto Zen), the Community of Interbeing, the Forest Sangha (Theravadin), FWBO, Samye Dzong (Kagyu) and Soka Gakkai have attended - but the invitation is open to any Buddhist groups in the Edinburgh area. Enthusiasm last year spilled over to a weekend visit to Samye Ling (the Kagyu centre and monastery in the Scottish Borders), and a tentative suggestion for future visits to other home centres has been made.

“Outside of these events the group collaborates on a newsletter ‘Sangha Without Boundaries’ and of course our website. We rejoice in our good fortune in having access to the Dharma in its many manifestations and in our commitment to put the Dharma into practise.

“As the verse in the three-fold puja so succinctly says,

We reverence the Sangha, and aspire to follow it:
The fellowship of those who tread the Way.
As, one by one, we make our own commitment,
An ever-widening circle, the Sangha grows

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