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Monday, March 08, 2010

‘Turning Arrows into Flowers’
Friday 28th May to Tuesday 1st June 2010

FWBO News is delighted to bring you news of the second FWBO International Retreat, a big family-friendly event run by the FWBO Chairs Assembly in conjunction with Buddhafield and Taraloka.

The event commences on the Friday evening and goes through to Tuesday lunchtime. There will be a full programme of talks, meditations, storytelling, and rituals, plus free time for meeting up with friends or going for a walk. Some of the FWBO’s most experienced teachers will be there, including Jnanavaca, Maitreyabandhu, Padmavajra, Saddhanandi, Sona, Tejananda, Vajradarshini, Vidyamala, with more to be confirmed…

There will be two sessions each day when those with children can bring their kids along to be looked after, allowing them to go to the talks, meditations and so on. Also, in the evening we'll have storytelling that kids can come to, sometimes join in, and sometimes stay for part of the ritual/puja that follows on from it... Children aged 3 or under can come for free, and 4 to 16 year olds half price.

It promises to be another huge opportunity for a very imaginative collective celebration of Buddha Day (Wesak) - the festival of the Buddha's Enlightenment. It's also a great way to experience the depth and breadth of the movement, and to get a taste of just how satisfying it can be not just to practice but to live for a short time immersed in a Buddhist context, to work together in teams, and so on.

Places are limited so book soon!  

For more details check the dedicated retreat website at

Story-telling, chanting and ritual: to create an atmosphere of magic and beauty, re-enacting the story of the Buddha’s Enlightenment.
Meditation: teaching and time to practice how can we see-through negativity and free our own hearts and minds.
Talks and discussion: looking at the society we live in and what helps and what hinders our attempts to move towards Enlightenment. How can we help turn “arrows into flowers”?
Sangha: an experience of the breadth and depth of the FWBO with hundreds of us from all over Europe living, practising, and creating sangha together over a long weekend.
Family Friendly: facilities and activities for children and teenagers.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

BODHI goes digital - in Sweden

Rounding off a very international week for FWBO News, Viryabodhi writes from Sweden to say -

"BODHI goes digital!"

Bodhi is the Newsletter published since the late 1990's by the Swedish FWBO (or VBV as we are and have been known in Sweden). They’ve recently decided to go digital and only publish it as a pdf (with both a high quality and a low quality edition) on their website -

Viryabodhi goes on to say - “Even if you don't understand Swedish you can enjoy the pictures and layout, and wonder at the reality that the FWBO flourishes in many countries and in languages that – well, what do you say? – are not easily understood, or sound like gobbledegook.

“Issue no. 21 of BODHI contains the beautiful story (in translation) of Srivati's experience of her attendance of the Order Convention in Bodh Gaya, India, and the pilgrimage that followed, with the stunning photos of Padmadhara. It also takes a look into the distant past of Dharmagiri Retreat center, when it was a school – with a lovely photo from the early 1900's. One added bonus of being on-line is that we can have active hyperlinks to websites, e-mail addresses etc.

“We hope to bring out BODHI a little more often, but it is certainly a test, so let us see. And we will send out a message that one can download it from our Swedish website. The photo you see is the cover, adapted from a template in Pages, an apple program.

“Here is also a direct link to the high def. of BODHI, no 21, January 2010:

“With metta, Viryabodhi”

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Transforming Self and World — the New Society, 40 Years On

Dhammaloka writes from the FWBO’s Dharmapala College, based in Birmingham UK, with news of an important seminar they’re planning for early April. They’ll be exploring the theme of ‘Transforming Self and World — the New Society, 40 Years On’.

The FWBO was founded in the 1960s with the creation of a ‘New Society’ as one of its founding ideals. 40 years on, it’s an international, vibrant, and diverse community of practitioners - but it hasn’t been an easy ride! Hence the subtitle to the event - “The Vision — The Lessons — The Challenge”.

Dhammaloka says -

“The Triratna Buddhist Community today wouldn’t exist in its richness, diversity and unity without the people who — from its very early days until now — have given themselves to the realization of Sangharakshita’s vision of a New Society. This vision of a society radically focused on spiritual growth and compassionate activity lies at the heart of our activities in the world. It is an incredibly challenging and inspiring project, working out in practice one of Bhante’s central teachings. In relation to it, people have found themselves full of hope and close to despair. We have much reason to celebrate our achievements and we must humbly acknowledge that all these are no more than a beginning.

“What is the vision — what were the lessons learnt — what are the challenges today? We invite you to find out with us. Through talks, discussion and questions & answer sessions, we will explore the vision and the challenges of transforming self and world in the 21st century.

“We hope to have Bhante with us for a morning or afternoon session”.

Here’s some more details -

April 1 (6pm) to 7 (2pm), Dharmapala College, Birmingham— open to all.

Speakers and themes:
o Subhuti: The Vision of the New Society and its Challenge Today
o Dhammarati: The Order — Individuals in Community
o Parami: The Nucleus — a Global Net of Friends
o Vajragupta: Messengers of the Dharma – the Gift of the Triratna Community
o Ratnaghosha: The Tantric Guru — Bhante’s Vision of Right Livelihood
o Keturaja: Work in Progress — the Windhorse Experience
o Subhadramati: Living in a Mandala — LBC and More
o Maitrisara: Meeting the Suffering of the World — Compassion in Action

Each speaker will be available for a separate question-and-answer session with participants of the seminar that is being offered in conjunction with the talks. There will be study and discussion groups to further explore the themes. The talks will be open to the public. The seminar, including the question and answer sessions will be for participants of the full event only.

All Dharmapala’s seminars are offered in the spirit of dana. They suggest a donation of £210 for this seminar — but add that if that is too much, please don’t hesitate to book. For accommodation however, they must separately charge £15/10 per night.

To book, send your details with a non-refundable deposit of £50 (cheques made out for Dharmapala College). To contact them, please send an email to or phone +44 (0)121 4493700. Their website is

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Monday, February 15, 2010

second FWBO International Retreat - update

fwbo  international  retreat  2010
‘Turning Arrows into Flowers’
Friday 28th May to Tuesday 1st June 2010

Vajragupta writes with an update for FWBO News readers on the second FWBO International Retreat -  a big family-friendly event run by the FWBO Chairs Assembly in conjunction with Buddhafield and Taraloka.

He says - 

"It's shaping up to be another huge opportunity for a very imaginative collective celebration of Buddha Day (Wesak) - the festival of the Buddha's Enlightenment. 

"It'll also be a great way to experience the depth and breadth of our international Sangha, and to get a taste of just how satisfying it can be to live together for a short time immersed in a Buddhist context - practicing together, working together in teams, and so on.

"Here's some of what we've arranged so far -  

Story-telling, chanting and ritual: to create an atmosphere of magic and beauty, re-enacting the story of the Buddha’s Enlightenment.
Meditation: teaching and time to practice how can we see-through negativity and free our own hearts and minds.
Talks and discussion: looking at the society we live in and what helps and what hinders our attempts to move towards Enlightenment. How can we help turn “arrows into flowers”?
Sangha: an experience of the breadth and depth of the FWBO with hundreds of us from all over Europe living, practising, and creating sangha together over a long weekend.
Family Friendly: facilities and activities for children and teenagers.

"Places are limited so book soon!

"The event commences on the Friday evening and goes through to Tuesday lunchtime. There will be a full programme of talks, meditations, storytelling, and rituals, plus free time for meeting up with friends or going for a walk. Some of the FWBO’s most experienced teachers will be there, including Jnanavaca, Maitreyabandhu, Padmavajra, Saddhanandi, Sona, Tejananda, Vajradarshini, Vidyamala, with more to be confirmed…

"There will be two childcare sessions each day when those with children can bring them along to be looked after,allowing them to go to the talks, meditations and so on. Also, in the evening we'll have storytelling that they  can come to, sometimes join in with, and sometimes stay for part of the ritual/puja that follows on from it... Children aged 3 or under can come for free, and 4 to 16 year olds half price".

For the latest updates - and to book - please check the retreat website

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

FWBO and Western Buddhist Order discussing name change; likely to become Triratna

The FWBO and the Western Buddhist Order worldwide are discussing a change of name. If the proposed changes go ahead, later this year the Order would become the Triratna Buddhist Order and the FWBO (Friends of the Western Buddhist Order) the Triratna Buddhist Community. In India the Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha (as the Order is known there) would become the Triratna Bauddha Mahasangha.

Triratna simply means ‘Three Jewels’, specifically the Three Jewels of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, to which all Buddhists commit themselves in the simple but definitive act of ‘Going for Refuge’. The Three Jewels have long been used as emblems in many F/WBO situations, for instance the logo of FWBO News and on the Kesas worn by Order Members.

If the proposed change is accepted, it’s likely that a Movement-wide ceremony will be held on or around Wesak this year, a date which happens to coincide with the FWBO International Retreat at Taraloka: see for more details.

The suggestion to change the name was made on January 6th in a letter from Sangharakshita to all members of the Western Buddhist Order. His letter was itself a response to one from a group of Indian Order Members gathered in Pune, in which they requested him to change the Indian name of the Order from the present ‘Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha’ and also to give a new and unified name to the whole Order world-wide.

Both ‘Western’ and ‘Trailokya’ had become increasingly problematic for some over the past decade - ‘Western’ because the Order is increasingly international, with members active in India, Russia, Turkey and China, as well as other non-Western countries; and ‘Trailokya’ because Indians outside Maharastra find it difficult to relate as a Buddhist name - and the Order is increasingly active in many States all across India.

Discussions about changing the name had continued in the Order on and off for many years - in fact, from 1979, when TBMSG  was founded in India. However, partly due to the increasing size of the Order, it proved impossible to obtain consensus and the matter was dropped until Sangharakshita’s recent intervention.

Sangharakshita’s letter says in part -

... I hope that Western Order members will be as moved as I was by the request I received [from India], and that they will join with me in wanting to meet the wish of the Indian Order members for a change of their own name and for a name for the whole Order. Having one name for the whole Order will make it clear to the world not only that we all go for Refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, but that whether in the East or the West, the North or the South, we are one united Order, with a single vision and a single heart and mind.

“After much deliberation, the new name for the Order that has come to me is the Triratna Buddhist Order (in Hindi, Triratna Bauddha Mahasangha), and I suggest that all Order members adopt it straight away”.

Rather than follow his suggestion to adopt the new name immediately, a process of discussion opened up among both Order Members and those running the many branches of the FWBO about how best to proceed, and when. Sangharakshita’s letter ended by proposing that the FWBO became the Friends of the Triratna Buddhist Order, which was immediately shortened by many to FTBO.

However the European Chairs Assembly, which happened to be in session at Dhanakosa in Scotland at the time, saw an opportunity to take the Movement’s unification a step further, by making it easier to translate the name into different languages - and by moving away from the many sets of initials presently used to identify it. In France and Spain, for instance, the FWBO is the AOBO, in Holland the VWBO - and in Turkey, the BBBD!

After some discussion they chose to reply to Sangharakshita suggesting that the FWBO instead became the Triratna Buddhist Community, a suggestion he accepted. They wrote -

We like ‘Triratna’. Not only does it encapsulate our central values, it also provides a positive identifying marker for the Order and the movement. We have chosen ‘Buddhist Community’ to replace ‘Friends of’ as an expression of the relationship between the movement and the Order and our emphasis on spiritual community and friendship. We have considered this in some depth, bringing to bear our collective experience and care for our movement internationally, and we would be grateful if you would seriously consider our proposal. At the same time we want you to know that we will be happy with whatever decision you make.”

The European Chairs are currently in dialogue with other Centre chairs internationally, and once these are complete further announcements will be made regarding the change and the best way to mark it. Parallel discussions are going on in the Order and again we’ll announce the details as soon as they are available.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Turning Arrows into Flowers: an invitation to the second FWBO International Retreat 2010

Vajragupta, from the FWBO's Development Team, writes with news of the second International FWBO retreat - and an invitation to you all...

He says -

"Dear Friends,

"I'm being cheeky and writing to everyone I can think of, to invite you to take part in the second 
FWBO International Retreat. It'll run from Friday 28th May to Tuesday 1st June 2010.

"400 of you attended the first retreat in 2008 and the feedback from the event was tremendously positive: people loved the opportunity to hear talks and be taught by some of our most experienced teachers, they loved taking part in large, magical rituals, and they loved taking part in the teamwork organised by Buddhafield to help keep the event running smoothly.

"This year the retreat will again be held at Taraloka, it will be suitable for people of all levels of involvement in the FWBO, it will be family-friendly, and there will be groups of people coming from FWBO Centres across Europe. It will be another great opportunity to be inspired by the sangha gathering in large numbers.

"We learnt a lot about the practicalities of running the event last time - we are teaming up with Buddhafield and Taraloka again - and this time and it will be even better!

"The retreat starts on the full-moon night of Wesak; so this is our chance for a big, collective celebration of the Buddha’s Enlightenment in the FWBO this year. The theme will be “Turning Arrows into Flowers” – looking at the story of the Buddha’s transformation of Mara’s arrows into flowers. We’ll also be exploring the equivalent of that for us today – the transformation of our own selves and our world.

"More details can also be found on the website, which is now live.

"If you want to book (and we'd encourage you to book early), there are three ways to book: posting us the booking form in the brochure (which you should find at all FWBO Centres), or by downloading it from the website and sending it by post, or by booking directly on-line using pay-pal.

"If you need more information, check the website at;or contact us at:

"With thanks and best wishes for 2010... and hoping to see you there!


Sangharakshita's talk to the 2008 retreat, 'The Growth and Prosperity of the Sangha', can be viewed here thanks to VideoSangha -

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

FWBO Google calendars launched

Google Calendar is an easy-to-use way of keeping track of your appointments - and those of your friends. Now there’s two FWBO calendars publicly available - FWBO History and FWBO Festivals. One gives you significant dates in the history of the FWBO; the other, information on the Buddhist festivals celebrated through the year in the FWBO.

FWBO History is at 

And FWBO Festivals at

To use them, go to your Google calendar account and, under ‘Other Calendars’, click “add”, then “add by URL” and paste the above two links in one-by-one. Meanwhile the one above is fully-functional - and we'd love to be informed of other dates, eg the founding of FWBO Centres around the world...

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Second FWBO International Retreat planned for May 2010

Here’s an early heads-up for FWBO News’ readers on a major FWBO retreat coming up next year - the second FWBO International Retreat.

Dates are Friday 28th May to Tuesday 1st June 2010, the place is Taraloka, the FWBO’s retreat centre long-established on the English-Welsh border (and twice winner of the Good Retreat Guide’s ‘Retreat Centre of the Year’!

More details on the special retreat website

Vajragupta, one of the main organizers, says “The International Retreat is a collaboration between the FWBO Chairs Assembly, Buddhafield, and Taraloka. We aim to have 500 people from all over the FWBO in Europe practicing together over the Wesak weekend.

“The Friday the event starts is actually the full-moon of Wesak. This gives us the opportunity to have a large, collective celebration of Wesak in 2010. “he theme is going to be "turning arrows into flowers".

“ We'll begin with the story of the Buddha's overcoming of Mara, and then explore the spiritual transformation of our own lives and the world we live in. This will involve a mixture of talks, meditation teaching, story-telling and ritual, as well as activities for children. We'll be welcoming people from all over Europe, and providing priority booking and translation facilities for those from overseas.

“The feedback from the last event was overwhelmingly positive - it gave people a great experience of practicing with the wider FWBO.

“Please get involved to make the 2010 event even more of a success”.

Director, FWBO Development Team

The photos are from the 2007 International Retreat: inside and outside the main shrine marquee.

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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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Friday, October 23, 2009

New Dharma materials at FreeBuddhistAudio

Candradasa writes from FreeBuddhistAudio with news of new on-line Dharma resources.  He says -

Dear Friends,

We're delighted to let you know that - after a wee summer hiatus - we have a rush of new modules just posted for the FWBO’s Dharma Training Course for Mitras. The permanent web address to bookmark for the new course is:

Latest up are most of the modules for Year 2 -

Module 1 - Nature of Existence 1, Conditionality and the Middle Way
Module 2 - What is the Sangha, Spiritual Community
Module 3 - Vision & Transformation, the Buddha's Eightfold Path
Module 4 - The Bodhisattva Ideal
Module 5 - Transcending Views
Module 6 - Turning the Mind to the Dharma

We hope you'll enjoy using the online version of the Course, and that you'll make steady progress in your own Dharma studies.

Year 3 coming soon!

with best wishes,

The Free Buddhist Audio Team

ps. The new site has been developed to enable a free service to be kept in place for all users. To help us keep the service free, please think about making a donation. Many thanks!

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

FWBO International Urban Retreat update: talks uploaded and Facebook event launched

The FWBO International Urban Retreat starts this Saturday, with over 40 FWBO Centres around the world participating - plus another 250 or more people on Facebook.

To help illustrate the internationality of the event - and of the FWBO Sangha as a whole - a series of talks and videos is gradually being uploaded to the retreat website

These are short '10-minute-talks' by Order Members around the world, each talking about their life and practice. Already up are three very different talks by three widely-separated Dharmacharinis:

Karunaprabha (an Indian woman Order Member) telling the story of how her love of medicine led her to the Dharma;

Viveka, chair of the FWBO's San Francisco Buddhist Center describing, in a very personal talk, the challenges and opportunities in the areas of marriage, work and ethnicity; and

Suvarnamaitri, from Dinslaken, Germany, reflecting on her practice as a teacher.

Last but not least is a German talk by Mokshasiddha, on his life and practice as a physician living in Berlin.

You'll find all these on the 'Talks and Resources' page of the website .

On Facebook the 'Preparation' Event has been released, where people not living anywhere near a participating FWBO Centre can still participate fully. This links you to material on meditation, on creating a shrine, finding a retreat 'buddy', suggested daily programmes, retreat diaries, and lots more.

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Friday, June 05, 2009

FWBO International Urban Retreat: June 20-27th

Coming up very soon is a major new FWBO event: the movement's first ‘international urban retreat’.

Vajragupta, who works for the FWBO's development team, explains -

This year we are running the first ever FWBO international urban retreat. All over the world, over 40 FWBO centres in 12 countries 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 on Saturday 20th June with a day retreat at your local centre. During that day you'll be helped and encouraged to set up the conditions to take your practice deeper.

During the week, to support you there'll be talks, led meditations, and other resources available, both locally and on-line.

The retreat ends with another day event 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 the urban retreat at an FWBO Centre, there is the chance to do the retreat on-line - for details check the website  or via the FWBO page on facebook .

As part of the retreat we’ll be collaborating with various FWBO projects – Wildmind , Free Buddhist Audio , and Videosangha .

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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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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Urban Retreat piloted on Facebook

June sees the first-ever International FWBO Urban Retreat, in which some 40 FWBO and TBMSG Centres around the world will be taking part. It's open to all, and all readers of FWBO News are warmly invited to take part.

The retreat has a special website, at , on which there's links to the participating FWBO Centres and where you can find basic information on what an Urban Retreat is. We are expecting well over 1,000 people world-wide to participate.

If you don't live near a Centre, that's not a problem, as there is also an on-line version of the retreat. This will start from the FWBO's page on Facebook  and lead participants through a series of day 'Events', each containing a full programme of Dharma and meditation material. Already over 150 people have signed up.

If you're interested in the on-line version, click the link above (you may need to log in to Facebook), go to the FWBO page, become a 'Fan', and look for the Events in the left-hand column… You'll see an 'Urban Retreat' event, and if you register as attending it we'll keep you fully-informed as it unfolds.

This will be the first time we've held a 'virtual retreat' and this week a group of 10 volunteers have been piloting it: in fact the pilot retreat ends today - it's gone very well and a lot has been learned about how to make it 'flow'.

To wet your appetite, here's a retreatants diary from an Urban Retreat held at the LBC in London earlier this year, held to mark their 30th anniversary -

Notes on the LBC Urban Retreat

"I thought Sunday would be the highlight with Sangharakshita being interviewed & unveiling the triptych but I was wrong, everyday was a highlight in its own way, each as special as the last.

"Sunday morning we set our intentions for the retreat. After sharing a picnic lunch in the new Breathworks space in the LBC's basement, we head upstairs for Sangharakshita's interview, he talks about the early days - fascinating! We then troop back down for the grand unveiling of the 12ft triptych. It is breathtaking.

"Monday morning my flatmate leaves for the daily morning meditation at the LBC while I head off to work chanting a manta as I go. This is to be our routine for the week. Monday evening Parami gives a rousing talk during which I feel rather envious of the people who helped make this all happen back in 1978 - it seems a very passionate and idealistic time.

"Tuesday night Subhadramati gives a moving account of what it means to go for refuge, five order members speak about the point in their lives at which they realised that their going for refuge had been effective. I love the talks on retreats and hearing of peoples own personal experiences - I come away with something from every speaker, feeling very inspired.

"Wednesday night the 'circle of friendship' talks are kick started by Maitreyabandhu giving a very funny account of the difficult start to his friendship with J---. My friend A---- and I have been thinking about starting a new community and the talks of friendship and community life confirm that this is definitely something we want to pursue. A---- and I both give a talk, I feel nervous but enjoy the experience of sharing the joys of our friendship with everybody in the room. I love her talk which is funny and all about me.

"On Thursday the theme is team based right livelihood, Maria who has taken over the management of the Wild Cherry symbolically lights a candle from Padmasri, who has just told us about the early days of the Cherry and Priyadaka lights a candle from Ratnaguna's candle I have a mental image of Ratnaguna driving around in a van with the side door open selling his wares out of open-topped sacks at markets - I sincerely hope the two businesses survive these tough times. The evening ends on a positive note with Claire handing over a donation from Evolution's profits to the LBC. The full moon puja follows.

"On Friday evening Atula calls up the forces of darkness and later that night there is a fire in the doorway which is to be used as the new entrance - coincidence?

"On Saturday we spent the day reflecting on the retreat and the commitments we made at the start of the week. What an incredible experience this week has been. A huge big Sadhu to Subhadramati and Maitreyabandhu for leading it."

The International FWBO Urban Retreat will run from June 20-27th. If you want to take part, please contact your local FWBO Centre via the retreat website, or register for the on-line version via the FWBO's Facebook page.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Archive photos from early days of FWBO now on-line

For the past two years Padmakara, an Order Member from Manchester UK, has been occupying himself in his spare time scanning hundreds and even thousands of historic photographs from the FWBO Archives, held by ClearVision.

Four collections of these have now been uploaded to the FWBO Photos website, covering-



and Team-Based Right Livelihood

We hope a further collection, covering the early days of TBMSG in India, will be added soon.  Further contributions are very welcome - please email FWBO News.

Any statisticians among FWBO News’ readership might be interested to know FWBO Photos
( currently contains 3,767 photos related to the FWBO, which have been viewed 70,002 times.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

New Anthology for FWBO News

A new anthology of stories from FWBO News has been added to the FWBO News website. It includes news from India, Sweden, Holland, US, and the UK, plus information on the new Dharma training course for Mitras; the launch of the interactive Dharma DVD from ClearVision, a full report from the FWBO's European Chairs Assembly, an update on this summer's ‘International Urban Retreat’, and photos from the recent International Order Convention in Bodh Gaya - and more.

It is designed for easy printing for use at FWBO Centres or groups - or simply to give you a more permanent record of our news.

You can download it from the Resources section of the site, or directly here:

Comments and suggestions on the site are always welcome – and news stories too of course!


Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dana Economies in the FWBO

Today, in the third and final article by Siddhisambhava in this weeks series on money, we publish ‘Dana Economies’, a look at how many FWBO centres run and fund themselves.

“….money and its uses, how we think about giving and receiving, how we define our role as Buddhists within a consumerist culture, and how Buddhist groups and centres fund themselves are among the most important moral and practical issues facing…Buddhism in the coming decades.”
Santikaro, in his article on

practising generosity in ‘Hooked: Buddhist Writings
on Greed, Desire and the Urge to Consume.’

Written for the European Chairs Assembly held at Taraloka in January, her article is based on research into the financial situation of fourteen centres: twelve urban centres in the UK, plus one retreat centre and Dublin. It begins with an outline of the inspiration behind centres running a ‘dana economy’ ie the Buddhist monastic tradition of an economy of gifts between the monks and the laity. It looks at the areas we need to attend to in our context today: the centre itself, its teachers and staff, including volunteers, and the other people the centre ‘serves’.

Some centres charge for most of their programme. One centre, Sheffield, runs a 100% dana economy ie everything is by donation. Most centres run what Siddhisambhava calls ‘a mixed economy’. The financial situation of centres varies enormously so it’s hard to make straightforward comparisons and there’s no one way to run a dana economy. It seems that the way that centres run their economies is often based as much on the practical needs of the situation as much as, if not more than, a clear vision – for very understandable reasons!. And Siddhisambhava certainly isn’t arguing for economic uniformity: an important principle of the FWBO is that centres are autonomous. Yet some common themes and questions emerge.

It’s an interesting snapshot of how FWBO centres are dealing with the financial challenges that face them. It raises issues and questions for every one of us who have ever benefited from going to a Buddhist centre – and who want to see the Dharma survive in the years ahead. How do you relate to the dana bowl?

Siddhisambhava's article is available on FWBO Features at

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

FWBO Address List - major update published

 The FWBO’s main address list has recently benefitted from a major overhaul, and as a consequence many groups have been listed there for the first time.

The new list is available on the main fwbo website at

In addition an ‘in-house’ version has been prepared for use by those running FWBO Centres or groups – please contact FWBO News if you are interested in a copy of this. 
One delightful discovery was that there are no less than 57 residential FWBO communities still in existence, spread across nine countries.  It’s certainly true that a much smaller proportion of the FWBO now live in communities compared with ten or fifteen years ago, but community living is clearly alive and well in the FWBO Sangha.   

It also became apparent that since the list was last revised, new FWBO groups have sprung up in a substantial number of new places, especially around the UK but including such out-of-the-way places as the West of Ireland, where there are three groups - all run single-handedly by Sinhaketu! 

The FWBO now has centres in many of the West’s major cities and it looks likely that future growth will come not from new city centres but from new local groups, meeting in people’s houses and taking far less effort to run than acquiring and maintaining a new building. 

In addition, some at least of the many TBMSG Centres in India have been added, again for the first time. 

Any corrections to the list are welcome, please contact FWBO News at any time.  Any readers interested to start an FWBO group where they live are also invited to get in touch.  

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Report from recent FWBO Chairs meeting

Young People, the upcoming International Urban Retreat, Karuna’s draft strategy for the next five years, the prospects for Windhorse:Evolution, and the growing field of ‘Mindfulness-Based’ therapies were among the topics discussed by the FWBO’s European Chairs when they met last month at Taraloka.

It was a packed week – but one with a general mood of excitement and optimism underlying it. Dhammaketu arrived celebrating the FWBO’s Ghent centre moving to new and larger premises; Amoghavajra Ipswich’s; and tales were told of the hoped-for new FWBO retreat centre in the Low Countries.

Sangharakshita attended and brought copies of the new 792-page ‘Essential Sangharakshita, recently published by Wisdom, answering questions and speaking on several of the figures in the FWBO Refuge Tree.

There were presentations on the new website, on the history of the FWBO in Germany and Holland, on plans for growth, media collaboration across the FWBO, and ‘Dana Economies’ in the FWBO.

Of course lots of other stuff happened as well as the formal meeting sessions: Dhammagita was there to offer daily workouts, promising (rumour had it) ‘bums of steel’ to attendees, late-night cinema audiences seemed to work their way through a series of Wallace and Gromit movies, and the frisbee fanatics were out on the frozen grass on every possible occasion. So it wasn’t all hard work…

Big themes were discussed, some big new developments are in process. Economically, 2009 looks set to be a tough year, but spiritually the FWBO Chairs and the FWBO itself seemed to be in good shape.

A full report is available on FWBO Features. Further details of many of the topics are available on-line, hyperlinks are included in the report wherever possible.

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

FWBO News anthology for January 2009

Every one or two months FWBO News produces an anthology of all recent stories that have appeared on the website. It’s made available in an easily-printable form; this is intended as a way of making the site (and the stories!) more visible to those who don’t find themselves in cyber-space very often.

The most recent edition has just been prepared and covers the period January 2009.

You can download it from the Resources section of the FWBO News website, or directly here.

Comments and suggestions on the site are always welcome.

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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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Friday, November 21, 2008

Date for your diary: FWBO International Urban Retreat 2009

June 2009 will see the first ever International Urban retreat run by the FWBO. Urban retreats have been pioneered at a few FWBO centres over the past few years, and have proven both popular and effective.

The dates – set after consultation with FWBO Centres worldwide - are 20-27th June 2009.

All readers of FWBO News world-wide are welcome to take part, whether or not they are near an FWBO Centre.

The plan is for individual FWBO Centres across the world to run their own retreats ‘in parallel’ with one another, with some shared teaching from leading FWBO teachers, plus special arrangements for all those not living near Buddhist centres. We hope this will offer the best possible combination of local flexibility and international solidarity.

Typically an Urban Retreat starts with a day spent on retreat, if possible at the local Buddhist centre. During this, participants are encouraged to think about how they’d like to practice over the coming week – unlike ordinary retreats however, for the retreat itself they are not required to leave their normal homes or work. This means the urban retreat takes place within people’s everyday lives and it’s therefore a great way to bring Buddhist ideals more effectively into one’s daily life – whatever one’s daily life consists in.

Preparation on the day retreat will include things like becoming aware of what may help and what may hinder one’s practice, beginning to keep a ‘practice diary’ for the duration of the retreat, agreeing to ‘buddy up’ with someone to exchange notes on how things are going; and perhaps making arrangements to come to daily morning and evening meditations at the Buddhist Centre - and so on. Another important element is performing an “aspirational puja”, which includes chanting a mantra that can then be used through the week. At the end of the week there is another day retreat to review and learn for the future.

If you’re interested to take part, we suggest three things – put the date in your diary now (June 20-27th 2009); talk to your local Buddhist Centre if you have one to see if they will be taking part, and if not, keep an eye on FWBO News and also the FWBO Facebook page where more information – and contact details - will be posted nearer the time.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Sangharakshita interviewed live on-line

A recent photograph of Sangharakshita, photographed by AlokaviraMaitreyaraja, manager of the FWBO’s London Buddhist Centre, has contacted FWBO News to tell us -

“On Sunday at 4pm GMT Sangharakshita, founder of the Western Buddhist Order and the FWBO, is being interviewed live on-line by Maitreyabandhu. This event is part of the London Buddhist Centre’s 30th anniversary celebrations.

“The interview will explore Sangharakshita’s vision for the London Buddhist Centre, his life in Bethnal Green, the building of the Centre in the 1970s, and his hopes for the future.

“This event will be streamed live on the internet starting at 4pm GMT - click here to join us”.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

FWBO News anthology now available - July-September 2008

Every two or three months FWBO News produces an anthology of all recent stories that have appeared on the website. It’s made available in an easily-printable form; this is intended as a way of making the site (and the stories!) more visible to those who don’t find themselves in cyber-space very often.

The most recent edition has just been prepared and covers the period July-September 2008. You can download it from the Resources section of the FWBO News website, or directly here.

Meanwhile FWBO News’ readership continues a steady growth; the graph opposite shows its progress from 2006 (when the site was launched) to the present.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

ClearVision launch new photographic archive

A passport photograph of Sangharakshita, from a long time ago! (c) ClearVision ArchiveClearVision, the FWBO’s film and video arm, based in Manchester UK, have been working hard over the past months digitising Sangharakshita’s photograph library – a vast collection stretching back many decades.

It's full of many glimpses of Buddhist history – including several glimpses of a very youthful Dalai Lama, among many others. Substantial sections of it have now been uploaded and are available for public viewing.

Sangharakshita conducting the WBO's first ordination ceremonies.  (c) ClearVision ArchiveThere's sections for Sangharakshita pre-FWBO, of the early days of the FWBO, and post-1980.

There's also sections for Sangharakshita's teachers and the start of a new section showcasing FWBO artists.

Many thanks to Padmakara especially for all his work in digitising and cataloguing the photographs.  There's more to come we believe but thanks to his work there's a great deal already available!

The three photographs shown are respectively, an early passport photograph of Sangharakshita, the first ordinations into the WBO in 1967, and a recent one of Chetrul Sangye Dorje, the only one of Sangharakshita's teachers still living. 

Chatral Rimpoche, the only one of Sangharakshita's teachers still living. (c) ClearVision ArchiveMeanwhile their pages for schoolchildren (of all ages) have had a makeover; and Videosangha continues to grow – it now hosts nearly 200 video clips on a wide variety of Buddhist- and FWBO- related subjects – meditation, arts, activism, Sangharakshita, pilgrimage…
The award for Videosangha's most-watched clip may still be held by the classic ‘Heart Sutra’, sung by Karuna Carpenter (aka Kavyasiddhi) – over 2,000 and counting…

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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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