free counters

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sheffield launch 'Still Learning' schools project

The FWBO’s Sheffield Buddhist Centre have recently launched a new Right Livelihood business - their ‘Still Learning’ education service for schools. You’ll find it at

The project is the brainchild of two Sheffield mitras, Allan Kirkman and Kate Arrowsmith, who’ve teamed up to create a complete spectrum of activities, tours and workshops for schools. Among their repertoire are introductions to -

• Stilling Exercises
• Artefacts and Shrines
• Story-telling
• Questions and Answer sessions
• Drama/role-play
• Information about Buddhism
• The Buddha’s life story
• Buddhist Ethics and Beliefs
• Buddhist Doctrine and Teachings
• Buddhist Statues and Images
• Talks about Buddhist Festivals

- everything a school teacher might want to pass on to their pupils about Buddhism!

In preparing themselves for this venture, they’ve drawn heavily on the FWBO’s ClearVision project’s experience in this field - they have a huge on-line resource library at - including the new on-line interactive ‘Life of the Buddha’ - check their demo at

Labels: , , ,

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.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Interactive Buddhism from ClearVision

What would the Buddha have said if he'd known schools would be studying his life 2,500 years later - using online interactive media?

The ‘Life of the Buddha Interactive’ is an exciting new resource for 8-12 year-olds in Religious Education.

Clear Vision, the FWBO’s educational charity based in Manchester UK, have a reputation for lively, informative, video-based materials for Buddhism in RE. With their first interactive resource, they've become possibly the UK's first faith group to embrace the new opportunities offered by online learning in RE.

The Life of the Buddha Interactive features 7 video clips with questions, activities, extra information, teacher's notes and a friendly help-lion called Bodhi. (See if you recognise his voice!)
Later in the year a home-use version will be available – there’s already a sample section available here.

Munisha, education officer at Clear Vision told FWBO News - "It's very exciting finding new ways of stimulating young people to examine their experience in the light of the Buddha's teaching. These new materials are really distinctive: we believe that new kinds of activities, involving carefully guided use of the internet, can offer schools unprecedented access to the contemporary Buddhist world."

The move from DVD to interactive online materials has been made possible through the generosity of a Manchester Friend who specialises in Flash software.

All product details may be found at, or contact them at the Clear Vision Trust, 16-20 Turner Street, Manchester M4 1DZ. tel 0161 839 9579

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, December 21, 2008

FWBO Websites VI: Red Noses Unlimited

FWBO News' editor-in-chief, with a very red nose!Red Noses Unlimited ( is this week’s featured FWBO website.

Created and run by Jayacitta, an Order Member living in East London, it invites one and all to enter the world of the clown. And there is, perhaps, more to clowns and clowning than meets the eye. As she says -

“A Clown is a being that steps into the world afresh. He or she is open to new experiences, meeting things, people, events with wonder, curiosity and a sense of pleasure. Quite different from our pragmatic and often routine way of being, a clown is forever discovering the new. She enjoys being just herself however she is - so being shy, awkward, grumpy, afraid, bossy, falling in love or falling over - all those have a place and can be experienced, seen and celebrated."

More seriously (if one can use the word in such a context!), Red Noses offer professional training in team-work, communication skills, leadership, public presentation, listening & engagement. Jayacitta’s a regular trainer on street-fundraising appeals for the Karuna Trust – she’s found clown training helps people working or living together to meet in deeper understanding and with more empathy for each other, therefore to create a deeper trust and a stronger sense of community and co-operation between them.

Red Noses have also appeared in Scotland – FWBO News reported in September on what was probably the first ever ‘Clowning and Insight’ retreat, held at the FWBO’s Dhanakosa retreat centre.

Red Noses Unlimited emerged after Jayacitta trained in physical theatre at KIKLOS SCUOLA INTERNAZIONALE DI CREAZIONE TEATRALE in Padova, Italy. And according to Giovanni Fusetti, director and main teacher at KIKLOS, part of the training – in fact the final point and highest art – is the development of one’s own Clown, the “poetic transposition of the unique silliness of the actor".

Discover and enjoy…!

Red Noses is (we think) another facet of the multi-facetted spiritual community that makes up the Western Buddhist Order.

To see most (not quite all) the Order at a glance, try the Order Mosaic.

Next week’s website – the FWBO on Facebook..

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Inspiring Young People with the Dharma

November saw a weekend gathering of 24 people from a range of FWBO Centres in the UK and beyond. They had met in Birmingham UK to explore the topic “How can we Inspire more Young People with the Dharma?”.

The meeting had been called because of what can only be described as the aging of the Order.

As the chart on the right makes clear, in the 1970s, when the Order was first founded, over half its members were in their 20s (the purple bars to the left of the chart). Although the Order has grown enormously over the intervening 40 years, both 20- and 30-year-old Order Members are now almost entirely extinct! (30-year-olds being represented by the yellow bars)

If we follow a trend of 'like-attracts-like' it’s hard to see how the FWBO (as a Sangha) will do other than grow older and older – and older. Hence this weekend. Interestingly, despite Buddhism’s positive reputation, this seems to be a problem across the whole Buddhist world, not just with us - the NBO (the UK’s main inter-Buddhist forum) is dedicating it’s next AGM conference to the same theme.

Over the course of the weekend the participants – who ranged in age from 17-60 - generated a rich collection of ideas for how we might move forwards.

A summary is available on FWBO Resources; they’re summarised in the mindmap...

Two talks from the weekend are available on the Community section of Free Buddhist Audio – one actually being three short talks, two highly autobiographical.

Lindsay’s, the third, was especially clear and practical, giving a three-point plan for how FWBO Centres could inspire more young people with the Dharma. She is currently living and working at Taraloka Retreat Centre. Her's is available here.

Also, Munisha used the opportunity to conduct video interviews with many of the younger people present, they were asked to answer in just one or two minutes one or another of the most popular (and tricky!) questions that Buddhists get asked again and again. They’re available on ClearVision’s excellent ‘VideoSangha’ site.

A Facebook group has been created, for any and all younger people who are Buddhists or are exploring Buddhism in the FWBO (Friends of the Western Buddhist Order). It’s a forum to get to know each other, discuss ideas and advertise events and retreats.

What comes next? There’s no current plans for any big ‘central’ initiatives, we’d welcome comments and ideas – just leave a comment here or write to FWBO News.

Other Western Buddhist groups are also looking at ways to involve more young people:

* Shambala have a special website, an annual Buddhist Youth Festival (focussing on the three themes of Discussion, Art, and Socialising); plus a ‘Vajra Dawn’ study programme for youth.
* Plum Village have a youth project called “Wake Up”, subtitled “Young Buddhists and non-Buddhists for a Healthy and Compassionate Society” – see
* Soka Gakkai are reported to have a thriving youth wing but we have no information on it.
* In Germany there’s a BuddhaTeens website, in German - see
* In Australia there’s a Tibetan initiative “Loving Kindness Peaceful Youth” (LKPY) at

* Books about/by/for Buddhist Youth have been published, especially ‘Blue Jean Buddha’, ‘Buddha’s Apprentices’, and ‘Dharma Punk’.

And - as mentioned several times on FWBO News - TBMSG in India have created the very successful NNBY, the National Network of Buddhist Youth – see or their website

Labels: , , , , ,

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.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, October 06, 2008

Clear Vision in Asia - from Bhutan to Bangkok

A year on from an assignment working for Bhutan's Ministry of Education, the FWBO's Clear Vision Trust ( has just returned from an international conference on Buddhism and Ethics, held in Thailand near Bangkok.

As education officer at Clear Vision, Munisha was invited to give a presentation on “Using Video to teach Buddhist Ethics in British Schools” at the first conference of the International Association of Buddhist Universities (IABU). (The FWBO's Dharmapala College is a member of the IABU).

Munisha writes: “It was extraordinary to be part of a gathering of up to 3000 Buddhists, mostly Asian monks, as well as nuns and a small number of westerners. I went with Mokshapriya and Aparajita. Among the robes of yellow or brown or stylish grey linen, our kesas attracted a fair amount of interest, as did our display of Clear Vision DVDs for schools. The Dharma is not yet available in such formats in Asia!

"My strong sense is that young people of Buddhist background are losing touch with Buddhism, both in the UK and across Asia. You have to wonder whether there will be another generation of lay Buddhists as young people often know nothing of the Dharma and are less and less interested in tradition. To be fair, there were conference presentations from people who are running Dharma activities for young people in Burma, Thailand and Sri Lanka, one or two of them innovative, but still I suspect they are exceptions.

Meanwhile, some very good teaching of Buddhism for young people is being delivered in British schools, by and for non-Buddhists, using modern teaching materials such as Clear Vision's. If Asian young people are to be interested in the Dharma, I'd argue Asian Buddhists could benefit from seeing what we are doing here in Britain.

"We went hoping to spread the word about our materials and invite sponsorship and dana. It was a bonus to meet Asian Buddhists who approached us to tell us of their respect for Bhante and the importance of his work for the future of Buddhism. Then there's my favourite souvenir from the conference pack: a mustard yellow umbrella with a limb of the Eightfold Path printed on each section!”

Munisha's paper is available on FWBO Features here. This is a longer, written version of her PowerPoint presentation to the conference, which included video clips.

Click here to see what Clear Vision has to offer school teachers and students.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Taking Buddhism to the Himalayas?

Munisha reports from Bhutan...

Last August I spent a very interesting three weeks in Bhutan. As the education officer at The Clear Vision Trust, I'd been asked by the Bhutanese Ministry of Education to come and put the finishing touches to their draft Framework for Values Education - which overlaps with the curriculum areas known in the UK as Religious Education, Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural Education, and Citizenship Education. I asked Joyce Miller to accompany me; she's a Theravadin laywoman and recently retired Bradford (UK) Local Education Authority officer for Diversity and Social Cohesion.

Bhutan straddles the eastern Himalaya. It's about the size of Switzerland, with a population of 600,000 mostly subsistence farmers, mostly Buddhists. Sandwiched between two superpowers, China and India, its survival as a sovereign nation relies on the maintenance of its distinctive culture, traditions and landscape, whilst meeting modern, global culture. Bhutanese are among the millions who have jumped straight from no phone to mobile phone; from almost no TV to cable. They're also moving from 100 years of absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy: March 2008 sees Bhutan's first elections.

Perhaps the most valuable thing Bhutan has given the world is the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH): the notion that the true wealth of a nation is to be measured not by its industrial and commercial output but by the all-round wellbeing of its people. All public policy is formed with GNH in mind, and education is part of this.

Our visit began with a presentation demonstrating our understanding of Values Education, and something of Bhutan's present spiritual and political culture. With the vice chancellor of the new university as Chair the officials sat in rank order down a long table. All in national dress, as he entered they bowed in turn, stroking the backs of their fingers across the floor towards their feet. During the discussion following our presentation, we noticed they contributed also in rank order. They'd specifically requested a PowerPoint presentation, which unfortunately became a PowerCut presentation. I won't forget their insistence on hearing some of the new Clear Vision CD of meditations for young people: the entire room in silence, most of them probably meditating for the first time, led by the voice of a female western Buddhist - me!

After that there were four fascinating days of visits to schools and teacher trainers, assessing the current teaching of Values. And further meetings, and work on the Framework - except that they kept taking us out sightseeing in office hours, so that eventually there were just four days for our work on knocking the Framework into shape, drawing up tables of exactly what values could be taught through what themes and activities, across all the years of school; all without explicitly mentioning Buddhism. The school system is secular (even if every day begins with lengthy whole-school prayers to Jampelyang, God of Wisdom - aka Manjushri - see photo) and up to 20% of Bhutanese are Hindu.

So, why did the government of a more than thousand year-old Buddhist culture consult a pair of British convert Buddhists? The Bhutanese educationalists we met love the Dharma and are exasperated at the lack of Dharma teaching for laypeople. Many of these educationalists are highly educated at western universities; one said he had learned all his Dharma from an Eastern Religions course at a Canadian university. Many are reading western Dharma books. We heard of school teachers sent abroad on Goenka retreats, much to the annoyance of Bhutanese monastics. “Well!”, commented the vice-chancellor - "What are THEY doing?"

I saw in senior educationalists a desire to introduce young people to what I'd call a “useable Buddhism”. Most Bhutanese lay Buddhists never learn to meditate or study even basic teachings, because Himalayan Buddhism is esoteric and traditionally the preserve of monastics, whom laypeople support out of a respect for tradition. But across Asia (and among British Asian Buddhists) many young people are no longer inspired by tradition. They want to be modern, western. If they become interested in Buddhism, it will be because someone teaches it from scratch, as we would do in the Religious Education classroom, with teaching materials such as Clear Vision's, and they find it makes sense.

Our hosts were keen to invite us back to train the country's headteachers in the new syllabus, which is planned to start in January 2009. However, the elections mean that the country's tiny civil service is entirely preoccupied with voter education. Add to this the coronation of the new king in May and I doubt we'll be hearing from them for some time!

Labels: , ,

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.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

VideoSangha and ClearVision – two brilliant resources

Videosangha is the FWBO’s video website. Here you can find short movies on a very wide range of FWBO-related topics. The site has expanded dramatically in recent weeks and now boasts sections on FWBO History, Questions, Centres, Retreats, Meditation, Dharma, Social Work, Activism, and the Arts – to name but some. It's easy to contribute to - the creators say "Feel free to submit any video related to your involvement with Buddhism and the FWBO - however tenuous! Just upload your video to YouTube (for example), give it a tag of FWBO and we will import it automatically". You can also register on the Videosangha website and then review videos submitted by others - most recently, Ramesh teaching Bollywood dance at the Buddhafield Festival, Jayamati directing Sangharakshita's 'Going Forth' on the recent Order Convention, and a series of videos from our FWBO centres in Finland - rarely seen on these pages - such as the fast-moving, beautiful, and curious Kamnitsanmatka minuutissa .

ClearVision provides educational audio-visual resources for students and teachers to explore Buddhism. This site too has become a rich treasure trove of material – besides selling DVDs for teachers the ‘Students’ section contains a mass of free material for children of all ages – all carefully graded to match children’s needs and interests plus the UK RE syllabi. There are four sections, one each for children aged 5-11 (with some wonderful stores from the Jataka tales), 11-14 (with an interactive Wheel of Life), 15-16 (with sections on religious authority, and citizenship, and finally 17-18 A-level students (where there's sections on human rights and responsibilities, also sex and relationships).

For teachers, and adults generally, there is their new audio CD of non-religious ‘stilling exercises’ and a fascinating collection of on-line art by Western Buddhists.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ask a Buddhist...

Clearvision launches their new ‘Ask a Buddhist’ service for students.

Clearvision, an FWBO educational charity that provides audio-visual teaching material on Buddhism to schools, has launched its new on-line video service called ‘Ask a Buddhist’. Buddhist teachers from the FWBO (and, they plan, from other Sanghas too) give personal answers to all sorts of difficult questions posed by the many students who've visited Clearvision and the Manchester Buddhist Centre over the years. Several questions have multiple replies, indicating that Buddhists sometimes have different points of view and there is no one ‘right answer’ in the Buddhist tradition.

So far they’ve uploaded some 24 video clips in seven categories, covering such questions as -
What's the hardest thing about being a Buddhist?”;
"Is it OK for Buddhists to have same-sex relationships?";
"What's your view on abortion?"
and even
"Why does the Buddha have long ears?"!

They are inviting students to pose more questions and teachers from other Buddhist groups to submit answers. Click here to contact them.

This looks like a great resourse and an excellent use of the internet. Thank you Clearvision.

Labels: , ,

Friday, April 20, 2007

Dhamma Night College, Mumbai

The Dhamma Night College in Mumbai is celebrating one year of actitivites - a report by Dhamamcari Amritdeep.

Dhammachari Anomdassi with the help of Amritdeep & Adityabodhi started a Dhamma Night College in Dombivali Mumbai to benefit the working people who can’t attend classes due to their jobs. For nearly a year now they have been running classes for three different categories. There is a class for people who have asked for ordination), one for the Mitras, and a class for general people. So far many people have prarticipated in these classes. People from other backgrounds also attend the classes.

The class’s main aim is to provide Dhamma teaching to those who don't have good and easy access to Dhamma due to the life in Mumbai so busy, rushing and tense. People have really appreciated the effort Anomdassi Adityabodhi & amritdeep are putting in. Each class has about 30 to 40 people attending each week. A proper syllabus is planned to teach this people.

Anomadassi, Aditybodhi, and Amritdeep are very keen to carry on the activities of the night college in future although there are some difficulties of funds. Karuna initially supported it for six months, but classes are still going on. These Order members are committed to take this work forward. This is really very good initiative taken by this three people, and it is so far very successful.

Labels: , ,