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Friday, December 04, 2009

Young FWBO Buddhists gather in Sheffield

Last month saw a gathering of 35 young Buddhists from FWBO Centres all over the UK. They met at Whirlow Hall Farm outside Sheffield, for a busy weekend connecting with one another, practicing together, sharing inspiration, and making plans for finding ways to inspire more young people with the Dharma. Demand for spaces was so high that eight participants ended up camping!

They explored a total of six specific questions, three near the beginning of the weekend and three near the end -

* What is it about the FWBO that inspires your practice?
* Where is your radical edge?
* What do you want to make happen in the FWBO?

* What are the DOMINANT THEMES that have emerged for you?
* What DISCOVERIES have you made?
* What would you like to EXPLORE FURTHER?

The last questions gave rise to a rich collection of ideas, available on the FWBO News Resources page.

Lindsay Hannah from Taraloka, one of the organisers of the weekend, commented afterwards -

“On the weekend retreat there was a real sense of energy and enthusiasm from those present to go back to their centres and run events for young people. Some individuals were interested in becoming young person’s facilitators at their centres and I hope we can identify a named young person’s facilitator for every centre or region in the UK in the coming months. We have also set up a Kula of inspired young FWBO Buddhists on facebook, this is a closed group where we can get to know each other and inspire and support each other to run initiatives at our centres to inspire other young people; it’s in addition to the public group which is at and now has over 200 members.

“In 2010 there is a weekend retreat for young women at Taraloka (January 29 -31st), we hope to establish activities for young people on the FWBO international sangha gathering in May and there will be another mixed retreat from October 8-10th, again near Sheffield (details on Facebook) I also hope events will be run at individual centres (these have already been organised in Cambridge, London, and Sheffield).

“We need to inspire young people in the Dharma to ensure we pass the Dharma and the WBO onto the next generation! There’s energy building amongst the young Buddhists in the FWBO to try and inspire more young people to join us – it is important and exciting!

“Young people at FWBO centres are very welcome to contact me or they can check out our facebook group at:

Three talks from the weekend are available on FreeBuddhistAudio at

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Inspiring Young People in the Dharma

Following last week's posts on the NNBY (Buddhist Youth) retreat in India, it seems appropriate to report on how things are going with young Buddhists in the West. A top priority identified last year by the FWBO’s European Chairs Assembly was the need to attract more young people to the Dharma. In the 40 years since the Order was founded, the average age of its members has risen by some 25 years, a trend which shows no signs of stopping. It seems this is not only an issue for the F/WBO: in 2009 both the Network of Buddhist Organisations in the UK and the European Buddhist Union (in Europe!) have devoted their main annual forums to this theme.

In the UK a variety of initiatives have begun, most recently a weekend for 35 young FWBO Buddhists held in a farm outside Sheffield - attended by young Buddhists from as far away as Germany. Here Lindsay Hannah from Taraloka gives an overview of what’s happened to date - there’s links to some on-line talks for anyone who wants to learn more, and to Facebook if you want to get involved. She says -

In November 2008 the FWBO Development Team ran the first “inspiring young people in the Dharma” weekend which 25 people of all ages attended. In January 2009 I was invited to talk to the FWBO Centre Chairs Assembly meeting about how to inspire more young people to come to our centres and the Chairs voted this as a priority for our centres this year. Over the last year individuals at various centres have run activities for young people and the momentum has started to build amongst young people in the FWBO. There’s a ‘Young FWBO Buddhists’ Facebook group which now has nearly 200 members (they may not all be young though!) Its’ the best place to find out what’s going on.

We recently ran the second young person’s weekend outside Sheffield where 35 people in their late teens, 20s and 30s came together for highly successful weekend where we explored how to inspire more young people in the Dharma. A write-up of the main issues is available by emailing Lokabandhu.

couldn't resist posting this poster image for the movie 'Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging' - how do you find the Dharma in the middle of all that?!There’s loads I could say about my vision for inspiring more young people in the Dharma and I have said loads in the talks I have given in the last year! The talk I gave at the October 09 weekend gives a good overview of the project so far and a vision for the future and is only 15 minutes long! They are available here -
• October 09 Three short talks from the young Buddhists weekend - by Lindsay Hannah, Kate Arrowsmith and Vidyaruci.
• Sept 09 Lindsay’s talk to the European Buddhist Union
• January 09 Lindsay’s talk to the FWBO Chairs Assembly

Key points
• There are dwindling numbers of young people at our centres (and joining the WBO) and we need to put energy in to inspiring more young people to practice the Dharma with us.
• Like attracts like so it is essential to have young Buddhists visible at our centres supporting courses.
• We’d like to encourage 1 or 2 committed young people at each centre to become a “young person’s facilitator” for the centre. They would act as a point of reference for new young people into the centre and would help co-ordinate events for young people at the centre.
• Young people need to be supported and encouraged to run events for young people. It’s good to have a range of events available from intensive formal practice (TBRL, communities, study) to informal activities (walks, films)
• While young people are supported by other young people they are often inspired by older, more experienced practitioners - people who have energy about them and who exemplify the Dharma. So if you are an older experienced practitioner remember your role in inspiring young people!
• Run events on a dana (donations) system where possible and have some “drop in” activities
• Young people are interested in receiving training in teaching the Dharma to others – how this might happen needs further consideration

On the weekend retreat there was a real sense of energy and enthusiasm from those present to go back to their centres and run events for young people. Some individuals were interested in becoming young person’s facilitators at their centres and I hope we can identify a named young person’s facilitator for every FWBO centre or region in the UK in the coming months.

In 2010 there is a weekend retreat for young women at Taraloka (January 29 -31st), we hope to establish activities for young people on the FWBO international sangha gathering in May and there will be another mixed retreat in October (details tbc). I hope events will also be run at individual centres.

We need to inspire young people in the Dharma to ensure we pass the Dharma and the WBO onto the next generation! There’s energy building amongst the young Buddhists in the FWBO to try and inspire more young people to join us – it is important and exciting!

We’re keen to help young mitras get in contact with other young people around the movement - they can contact me on or check out the FWBO young Buddhists facebook group.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Calling everyone interested in contributing to the life and work of the FWBO!

There’s three new jobs being advertised on FWBO Jobs. Have a look and tell your friends...

The first is for a new part-time member of the FWBO Development Team, working for the FWBO’s European Chairs Assembly and contributing in many different ways to the life and health of the network of Buddhist centres that make up the FWBO.

The second is a great opportunity to get involved at the start of a major new fundraising project, raising money from the world-wide FWBO sangha to support the core Dhamma work of TBMSG in India - especially those working for the men’s and women’s the ordination teams there. Buddhism is enjoying a major revival in India and TBMSG is one of the key players - your fundraising work could (and would) make a real difference.

And the third, there’s an opportunity (actually, several opportunities) to join the Karuna Trust and become part of their more general fundraising work for Dhamma and social projects across India.

Details of all three, including how to apply, are at .

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

FWBO News celebrates 5th anniversary

Jayarava, the creator of FWBO News, has written to say -

"Hi. FWBO News will be 5 years old on the 30th of May! Keep up the good work!"

FWBO News is the main international news channel for the FWBO, carrying a steady stream of news, comment, Right Livelihood and volunteering opportunities from across the world, plus links to some of the many other FWBO sites.

For the first two years Jayarava worked on the new FWBO News 'blog' entirely in his spare time. After he retired due to ill-health it was taken over by Lokabandhu, who works in the small 'FWBO Development Team' coordinating the news reports from all over the world from his bedroom in Glastonbury, Somerset UK.

During the past 5 years it's carried nearly 1,000 stories, which are assembled each month into an 'anthology' for FWBO Centres to print out and make available. Contributions are always welcome - to submit an item simply email your story plus photograph (if possible) to

Over the 40 years of the FWBO's life many magazines have come and gone: we show here the covers of some of them…

Besides FWBO News, we recommend VideoSangha and Facebook as two excellent ways to stay in touch with the FWBO as an international Buddhist community.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

New Anthology of FWBO News

There's a new 'Anthology' of FWBO and TBMSG news available, covering the stories that appeared over the month of April this year. It's available (along with other Anthologies) on the 'resources' page of the FWBO News' website, where it is easy to print out for use in Buddhist Centres.Click the link above to access it. 

In case you missed them; stories over the past month covered such topics as -

A major conference coming up in the UK on Buddhism, Arts, and Creativity;
Buddhafield seeking volunteers for its summer season;
a new FWBO centre in Belgium;
a 'Safety Net' launched for UK Buddhists,
Youth events
and (very important!) the upcoming FWBO International Urban Retreat….

There's news from Hungary, Australia, India, Sri Lanka, Germany; and India. There's new images on FWBO Photos offering glimpses into the FWBO's archives - and plenty more.  

This month we've also made it available in a new interactive on-line format using ISSUU - you'll find it and other FWBO literature, including Sangharakshita's Complete Poems here -


Sunday, March 15, 2009

A million pages for internet fundraising website - 30 from the FWBO

Last month JustGiving, the internet fundraising site celebrated the creation of its one millionth fundraising page – they say they have helped raise an extraordinary £388,175,603 for 6,462 charities.

Since the FWBO has contributed around 30 of those pages we thought we’d mention it – and celebrate the fact that between them they’ve raised over £30,000 over the past year, each page raising money for a different Dharma project. First, so far as we know, was Simon and Tim’s Marathon page for the LBC’s ‘Breathing Space’ project.

Around a year ago FWBO Dhammaloka joined, and a wide range of pages appeared under their auspices appealing for funds for a wide range of Dhamma projects in India – starting with Chandrabodhi’s Buddha Festival at the Urgyen Sangharakshita Meditation Centre. This was a wonderful use of the internet, as it allowed Dhamma workers in remote rural India to communicate with donors in the West.

The most recent Dhammaloka appeal, for travel expenses for Indian Order Members to attend the recent Order Convention in faraway Bihar, met it’s target and more in just 36 hours – many thanks to all who contributed!

Dhammaloka was followed by pages advertising a selection of projects managed by the FWBO Development Team – projects as varied as sponsoring a large new painting of the FWBO’s Refuge Tree; Dharma work in Poland and Canada; and the Preceptor’s College.

Other FWBO charities have also registered and made their own pages, for instance Tiratanaloka and Karuna – whose pages include an auctioned haircut by one Ginger Fringe!

Besides all the dedicated project pages, there’s two ways to give to ‘general dharma funds’ -
one for India, managed by FWBO Dhammaloka; and one for the rest of the world;
managed by the FWBO’s Growth Fund Committee.

All contributions gratefully received - and will be used to spread the Dharma far and wide...!

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Monday, February 02, 2009

FWBO International Urban Retreat: plans take shape

Plans are taking shape for a major new FWBO event: the Movement's first ‘International Urban Retreat’.

Vajragupta, who works for the FWBO’s Development Team, says -

“This year we are running the first ever FWBO International Urban Retreat. All over the world, local FWBO Centres will run ‘urban retreats’, all during the same week in June.

"On an ‘urban retreat’ you carry on living and working in your normal circumstances, but with a difference...

"The week starts with a day retreat at your local FWBO Centre – this will be on Saturday 20th June. During that day you'll be helped and encouraged to set up the conditions to take your practice deeper. To support you during the week, there will be talks, led meditations, and other resources available, both locally and on-line.

"The urban retreat ends with another day event at your Centre on 27th June – this will include the opportunity to reflect on how it went, and where you want to take your practice next…

It’s simple enough but the benefits are many –

* you can gain confidence in your practice... the urban retreat shows you how you can create positive states of mind in the midst of everyday life.

* you can go deeper... link-up with other people at your Centre and help each other to practice more intensively for a week.

* you can be inspired... you'll be part of an international event, practising with people from FWBO Centres all over the world.

"For those who can't attend an urban retreat at a FWBO Centre, there is the chance to do the retreat on-line - for details check the website (coming soon) or via the FWBO Page on Facebook.

"As part of the retreat we’ll be collaborating with various FWBO projects – Wildmind, Free Buddhist Audio, Videosangha, and hopefully Breathworks. Watch this space - we’ll be posting more details over the coming weeks".

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008


As 2008 draws to a close, we thought we'd end it with a very simple 'news item'. This was received recently from an unknown reader; she says -

"I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often. Sarah."

Thanks, Sarah!

Happy New Year to all.


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

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Monday, August 25, 2008

A report from the FWBO European Chairs Meeting, July 2008

July 18-27 saw some 30 FWBO Chairs from around Europe – men and women - gathering for the usual summer ‘assembly’ at Vajrasana, the London Buddhist Centre’s very handsome retreat centre in Suffolk. The European Chairs work together through their shared charity the Indrajala Trust, which employs the FWBO Development Team – better known to most people as the friendly faces of Lokabandhu, Vajragupta, Satyadarshin, Siddhisambhava, and others!

This brief report, by Lokabandhu, gives a few of the highlights of the meeting, for any FWBO readers interested in some of the ‘background’ workings of the FWBO, at least the FWBO as it is in Europe.

* Celebrating Dharma Day with meditation and a talk by Mahamati, who was visiting the meeting as a welcome guest. The theme was continued through the week with pujas to the figures in the Five Buddha Mandala most evenings.
* Welcoming Siddhisambhava as the new FWBO Fundraiser and agreeing with her a fundraising strategy for the next couple of years –probably with fundraising for Free Buddhist Audio her next major focus; also beginning to develop materials for an FWBO Legacies campaign. And celebrating with her the successful completion of her first campaign, raising over £37,000/year (and counting!) from the Order with which to support Sangharakshita and his staff.
* Agreeing £15,000 for Candradasa and his team to create a new and much more dynamic/interactive website for the FWBO, to be hosted under the new domain
* Agreeing to hold another FWBO International Retreat in 2010, and probably every two years after that – and congratulating Vajragupta on his very successful organisation of the first one.
* Agreeing to hold an international FWBO Urban Retreat in 2009 – and possibly every second year after that. This is building on the successful pilots that have been held in Sheffield and elsewhere. (See the FWBO Centre Support website for info). We’ll fix the exact date in October, after consultations with centres worldwide
* Participating in a day-long training on NVC (non-violent communication) with Vajrasara. The day was noteworthy, and all the more enjoyable, at least for some, due to the complete absence of jackals and giraffes! Those familiar with NVC will understand the reference...
* Agreeing to take up the subject of ‘Growth’ at the next meeting, in January 2009, and tasking Lokabandhu and Vajragupta to prepare a paper on this for presentation then.
* After noting that we now seem to be top in Google searches for “buddhism/yourtown” and “meditation/yourtown” almost everywhere we have centres, agreeing to bring to a close the successful work of Satyadarshin, for several years the FWBO webmaster.
* Previewing ‘Recurring Dream’, Suryaprabha’s new movie – a portrait of TBMSG, and part III of his five-part series in search of a spiritually meaningful way of life. (See FWBO News for a review).
* Reviewing the six ‘Strategic Priorities’ of the European Chairs’ meeting, taking several of them forwards in ‘Dream and Design’ sessions; and agreeing to revisit them and possibly revise them at the next meeting – which will be two years after they were created.
* Receiving reports from a meeting of FWBO Presidents – the first for some years – and also news of Windhorse:Evolution’s ambitious plans for growth over the next few years.
* Reviewing the work of the Development Team after their first two years, and as part of that, appointing Vajragupta to be its Director.
* Last but by no means least, enjoying the excellent hospitality of the LBC team who looked after us, and the many delightful walks around Vajrasana.
It was a remarkably harmonious and productive meeting and I think enjoyed by all. There was business to be done, of course, but also time for much else besides – not least the evening volleyball and frisbee! It marked, perhaps, the first really substantial fruits of the work of the FWBO Development Team, now some two years old – and laid the ground for the next phase of their work.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Getting the Dharma to Work…

Last year some 45 people from around the FWBO came together and held an exploratory weekend looking very broadly at “how to make ‘Team-Based Right Livelihood’ more attractive”. Team-Based Right Livelihood (TBRL for short) has always been a core component of the FWBO’s system of practice, being part of its practice of Right Livelihood, which is of course central in the Buddha’s own Noble Eightfold Path.

Vajragupta has recently written to FWBO News to give us an update -

"We considered all sorts of topics: support, training, spiritual practice, and possible new ventures. All sorts of people came, from old-timers who’d always worked in TBRL, to new people who’d never done so. It was a unique, enjoyable, and effective combination of sangha. It seemed to touch on something people were interested in and wanted to explore more deeply.

“At the same time, one issue that became apparent – for people in all forms of work, not just TBRL – was that “work as a spiritual practice” seemed to have gone somewhat off the boil. In the past we’ve been very strong on the general idea that spiritual transformation will only work if you keep practising all day, and it won’t if your practice only means an hour on the cushion. But perhaps we’ve not developed more specific teachings and practice in this area as much as we might. This is surprising, especially given there are some really talented people involved in our Sangha and working in all sorts of areas (both in Buddhist and non-Buddhist contexts).

“So, this year, in September, we will have another weekend. This time we will look more specifically on “getting the Dharma to work”, and it is open to anyone – Order member or mitra, those working in “traditional” TBRL, those in new Buddhist projects, those working in non-Buddhist contexts. The weekend will include talks and workshops led by a variety of talented and inspired folk, including Saddharaja, Shakyakumara, Subhadramati, and myself. If you know of someone who might be fired-up by this topic, please pass this information onto them".

The dates are Friday 12 to Sunday 14 September; the venue is just outside Birmingham (UK); the cost is £45; and to book, or for more information, contact Vajragupta or phone him on +44 (0)121-447-7427.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Report from Chairs meeting at Dhanakosa, January 2008

Last month some 40 Chairmen and Chairwomen from most of the FWBO’s European Centres gathered at Dhanakosa for the twice-yearly week-long meeting of the European Chairs Assembly. The meeting is a place where those taking responsibility for our Buddhist centres can come together for practice and friendship, besides discussing a very wide range of topics. This report, by Lokabandhu of the FWBO Development Team, aims to give a flavour of the meeting and to note some of the topics discussed.

To begin with, there were a good number of people to say farewell to, and an equal number of ‘hellos’. It’s a tradition of the meeting to give both these a good deal of time so that people can be properly welcomed when they arrive and properly rejoiced-in when they leave. It was noteworthy that six of the seven new faces at the meeting were women; the present overall ratio among the Chairs is approx 2:1 men:women. As usual, most of the FWBO Development Team, who are employed by the European Chairs Assembly, were also there.

The meeting got off to an adventurous start due to snowstorms: the coach from Glasgow was not willing to risk the last few miles along the lochside in the dark and we had to be ferried into Dhanakosa in a series of cars.

The topics covered in the many discussions included –

A thought-provoking paper by Dhammarati with his thoughts on how to ensure coherence across the many facets of the F/WBO. He has posted this on his blog.

The need for us to find ways of telling our ‘story’ in ways that were open and did justice to the multi-facetted nature of our history. As part of this it was agreed to commission a fairly short pamphlet covering the main areas, specifically including links to other sources for those who wanted more detail. Many of these are already on-line at FWBO Discussion.

A progress report on the FWBO International Retreat, coming up this May 22-26th. This is an ambitious new venture to replace FWBO Day, its looking good so far.

The proposed ‘Virtual Buddhist Centre’ was mentioned but not discussed in much detail, it was agreed instead to conduct a more wide-ranging review of our main websites and how they could be better coordinated – there are now over 300 different FWBO sites! Click here for an early (and now discarded) prototype, it does however illustrate some of the breadth of sites available.

A workshop on Team-Based Right Livelihood, highlighting in particular people’s expressed needs for (i) adequate support and long-term financial security, (ii) ongoing training and learning, and (iii) work as practice; as part of it we were led through a much-appreciated self-assessment of our own training needs. See the excellent resources on the FWBO Centre Support website here.

The lack of youth at our centres was discussed: according to the Order Address List,) there are now only 4 Order Members outside of India under 30! Click here for some graphic charts from the Order Survey illustrating this. In November we will host a weekend of ‘interested parties’ later in the year to explore ideas to address this; please contact FWBO News if you would like to be kept informed of this.
Results from the Order Survey itself were made available, click here to access them.

Last but not least there were centre presentations by Glasgow and Newcastle; these are a regular feature of the meeting and are always fascinating glimpses into the past and into the nitty-gritty heroism involved in taking the Dharma to a new city. Glasgow’s was particularly interesting due to the long history of the Glasgow Buddhist Centre – we were, among other things, treated to a rare slide of an Upasikaa’s red kesa!

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008


FWBO News was so delighted to get this unsolicited compliment from a satisfied reader, we couldn't resist reproducing it here! "Hi FWBO News, just a very brief note to say thanks for all the effort you put into producing the FWBO TBMSG blog throughout the year. Before I start work each morning I check my mail for a new blog and feel inspired by the sheer volume and diversity of work being carried out world-wide by the movement I am part of. It is very easy to take on a narrow, parochial outlook, becoming mired in local events and difficulties. The blog you put so much effort into maintaining is the perfect antidote.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Right Livelihood - Dharma practice in the world of work

A weekend exploring team-based right livelihood (TBRL) took place in early September. It was organised under the auspices of the European Chairs Assembly (ECA) – the collective body of all chairmen and women of FWBO projects across Europe. The ECA has particularly wanted to support TBRL and look at how to make it more attractive and possible for people to participate, particularly given the thirty or more yeaers that have passed since the FWBO launched its first TBRL projects back in the more cooperatively-minded 1970s.

About 45 people (Order members and mitras) met at Bilberry Hill on the outskirts of Birmingham. There was a wide range of centres and TBRL projects represented, as well as quite a few people who had not previously worked in TBRL, but were interested to find out more. It was a busy, full weekend - not much time to go gathering bilberries on the nearby Lickey Hills!

After arriving, those present went swiftly into the four-stage process of ‘appreciative enquiry’ that was to take up most of the weekend. Dhammaloka ably facilitated this, with Vajramudita from Manchester and Vajragupta from the FWBO Development Team providing support and back up from the wings. People’s best experiences of work in the past were shared as a way of ‘discovering’ the underlying ideals and inspiration, so creating a positive basis from which to explore TBRL. Vajragupta, who organised the weekend commented: “I was struck by everyone’s full engagement with the ‘appreciative enquiry’ process, and impressed by the ideas people came up with.”

By the end of the weekend there were a number of people going away to work on business plans for potential new businesses, a group planning to stay in touch and explore developing a ‘right livelihood network’ for those not in TBRL, plus many other ideas for people’s own individual or team-based practice of right livelihood, as well as suggestions for the Chairs Meeting and Development Team.

In the midst of all this, there was an inspiring presentation from Ratnaguna about the work and development of
Breathworks plus an excellent, comprehensive overview of traditional and FWBO teachings on right livelihood, given in a talk by Ratnaprabha entitled ‘Working Together’.
The consensus seemed to be that it had been a worthwhile event. People enjoyed the appreciative enquiry process and the ‘content’ it had generated. There was less confidence enough definite ‘outcomes’ had been produced, perhaps unsurprisingly considering we’d only met for one weekend. There was general enthusiasm for future weekends exploring TBRL, with more inspirational talks and the opportunity to explore issues in more detail.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

FWBO (Europe) Chairs Assembly report Feb 2007

Emerging strategy in the FWBO

The European Chairs Assembly consists of all Chairmen/women from European FWBO Centres and our movement-wide businesses, plus some members of the FWBO Development Team and a few others (eg representatives from centres without Chairs). 34 of us met from January 5-12 at Vimaladhatu, the FWBO's German retreat centre near Essen.

The meeting covered a lot of ground, the biggest single topic being a three-day enquiry into strategic priorities at this time for at least that part of the FWBO covered by the European Chairs Assembly. Those present arrived at a list of six headings, each of which was ‘worked up’ to some extent with a plan formulated for follow-ups. It is hoped that by our next meeting in July each will have ‘project plans’ ready for presentation and subsequent action. The six headings were –
  • Creating a clear, progressive, and complete framework of practice, widely shared, taught, and translated.
  • Understanding Sangharakshita's vision of the Dharma more deeply and communicating it more effectively.
  • Resourcing people to be Preceptors, Teachers, Kalyana Mitras and Mentors.
  • Making Team-Based Right Livelihood more attractive.
  • Telling the story/history of our recent 'troubles', in a way that fosters understanding and confidence.
  • Building a virtual (on-line) Buddhist centre, building on the many internet resources we already have.
Many other areas were suggested - the above list is certainly not intended to be exclusive. It was noted that these are not our priorities for evermore, rather, they are those the European Chairs wish to focus on for the next few years.

Besides the strategy process, the meeting heard from
Dhammarati, giving an account of his liaison work; it also met with Kamalashila for a general discussion on meditation. Viryabodhi presented photographs from the new Swedish retreat centre (very impressive!) and Paramabandhu showed the LBC’s movie ‘Lotus in the City’; as did Manjuka Karuna’s new recruitment/training video ‘On the Threshold’.

There were a series of presentations on the different approaches different FWBO centres have taken to inviting (or not inviting) outside teachers to teach at their centres; also a meeting of all the retreat centre chairs to review the success of ‘’, which has become a very successful vehicle for advertising our eight UK retreat centres.

There was a ‘business meeting’ which among other things gave Lokabandhu the go-ahead to launch the ‘Order Survey’; and the ever-popular ‘ten-minute talks’, though less of these than usual due to widespread illness among those present, and finally the usual space for meditation, puja, walks and talks.

In general it was an excellent meeting, and the clarification of strategic priorities was felt to be an important step towards the Chairs really starting to consider how the resources available to them could most effectively be used in their sphere of responsibility, ie the European institutions of the FWBO. The next meeting will be held in early August, just before the biannual Order Convention.

These notes by Lokabandhu, January 2007.

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