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Thursday, February 11, 2010

A flood in Paris

Vassika sends us this report from the small FWBO Centre in Paris - it seems they're inundated and in need of assistance...  Any French speakers out there...?  She says -

"Sadly, since last September the Paris FWBO Centre is having to turn away many people wanting to attend meditation and Buddhism classes. At the first beginners’ evening in September about 70 people turned up, far more than the Centre can accommodate, and every day since then, the Centre has received at least one request to attend classes.

"Why this sudden surge? We have no definite answer – though some ideas come to mind, and the answer is probably a mix of them.

• Buddhism is better understood and becoming better accepted in France. When the Centre was established 13 years ago there was still ignorance and even suspicion in the general population with regard to Buddhism. Many people had little idea what it was, those who came to the Centre would often not talk about it with their families and colleagues and people often feared that we might be a cult. Nowadays, hardly a week goes by without something about Buddhism in the media, Buddhas are appearing everywhere, in shop windows and interior decoration shops, propping up beauty products, spectacle, CDs, lamps, taking a bizarrely prominent place in the world of consumerism, and the word “zen” is in vogue, meaning cool, laid back, relaxed, unflustered… even though most of this may not be the kind of development we Buddhists might hope for…

• People are increasingly using the internet as a means of looking for information, and our web site is extremely visible – always one of the first ones when one looks for “Bouddha”, “bouddhisme” or “méditation” in Google, and even more so if one adds “Paris” as a search criterion; this is mainly the result of the dedicated work of Suvannavira when he created our web site.

• In addition, our feeling is that people are attracted by the clear presentation on our web site of how they can start and progress with us and how they can learn meditation and the Dharma and put them into practice in their daily lives.

And why do we say “sadly”?
"The reality is that the Centre is fairly small, 25 being the maximum number of people that the shrine room can reasonably accommodate. Even if the Centre were bigger, there is currently only one Order Member, Vassika, who is already doing as much as she can to teach beginners, friends and mitras as well as overseeing all the Centre’s activities and administration.

"So even though we are delighted that interest in meditation and Buddhism is growing, even though Vassika has gathered a team of mitras to support her, and even though we’re fortunate that some Order Members are giving her a hand here and there (Padmaketu and Dhridamati recently came over from Cambridge to lead a 3-day retreat, and Jayamuni runs a small group via Skype from China), until we have some more Order Members we will have to keep turning people away.

"We are hopeful, even confident, that help will eventually come. This year, Barbara-Laure Desplats will become our first fully home grown Order Member, though she lives some three hours south of Paris in Chambéry.

"In the meantime, turning away so many interested people will continue to be a source of frustration and sadness to us. If you feel moved to help in any way, do not hesitate to contact us!

"We don’t have a photo of floods of people at the Paris Buddhist Centre, so at the top of this report is one of the flood in Paris nearly exactly 100 years ago, and at the bottom, one of the queue we saw outside the Moulin Rouge as we cycled home from a night dealing with the queue at the Buddhist Centre!"

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Sangharakshita en français

Yes, Sangharakshita in French!
Three years after Vision et Transformation, the FWBO Paris Buddhist Centre, locally known as Centre bouddhiste de l’Ile-de-France, has just released his second book: Poèmes. This is a bilingual edition of 64 poems by Sangharakshita, translated into French by two mitras, Barbaralaure and Christian, and two order members, Varadakini and Vassika. In addition, another mitra and artist, Marc, drew a picture of Sangharakshita for the cover, and a friend, Gérard, did the typesetting of the book and designed the cover.

The Centre has decided to publish these books - and more will be coming in the future - as it has not yet been possible to find a mainstream publisher for Sangharakshita’s works in France. This is because he is not very well known there yet, the FWBO having only been present there for a few years and through a single Centre so far. For the time being, the books are only sold at the Centre, as selling them elsewhere would require resources and an organisation that the Centre does not have at the moment.

Christian comments: "We started to translate poems to inspire people during pujas or festivals. Then Vassika came up with the idea of translating more poems and gathering them in a book: this will now give people a fuller sense of Sangharakshita as a person. Though he came to visit our Centre a couple of years ago many people attending classes these days have not met him and may never have an opportunity to do so. They therefore only rely on the written word to get to know him, and having the chance of reading some his poetry will give them access to a different facet of him than the one they encounter through his books about Buddhism.

For us translators, it has been as great a pleasure as a challenge to translate these poems. In all cases translation is a difficult but rewarding practice of truthful speech; in the case of poetry the challenge is even greater if one wants to convey images, rhythms, rhymes and beauty as well as meaning. It was also a great pleasure – and a challenge too sometimes – to receive advice and feedback from the author (he does not speak French, of, course, but in a few places we’ve needed his clarification or explanation to make sure we got things right). It has also been an enriching process of deepening our relationship with each other, as in the end all the poems were the result of the work of two, three or even all four of us."

The poems were chosen to provide readers with as "comprehensive" an image of Sangharakshita as possible in a few pages, so there are poems old and new (from 1948 to 2006), short and long (from haikus to The Veil of Stars), with and without rhymes or metre, and showing different aspects of this remarkable man – the thinker, the contemplator, the friend, the teacher – as well as different moments of his life: his life in India and in Kalimpong, his return to the West, and his life as founder of the FWBO.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Franco-Indian connections deepen through Non-Violent Communication

Aniruddha, an Indian Order Member working in India as a trainer in NVC (Non-Violent Communication) writes -

"Hi. I would like to celebrate and share the article about ‘NVC and Anger’ which appeared in the Indian ‘Guardian Health Chronicle’ recently. This magazine publishes from Delhi and has a circulation of 125,000 readers. It's on-line at

"I am celebrating the way NVC consciousness is spreading in India. I am grateful to the NVC India team and all those people out there who are supporting our activities. Please check the article - I would love to hear your feedback.

"Much love, Aniruddha

What Aniruddha doesn't mention, in his modesty, is that he's the General Manager of NVC India, and just back from a major presentation in France to the first-ever NVC Festival in Paris in early May.

He has a website, reflecting their recent registration as the “Institute of Non-Violent Communication, India.” The new site is still being created, but on the old one you'll find an account of his visit - he writes:

"I was scheduled to make a two-hour presentation on the developments of NVC in India since my last visit to Paris two years ago. We had both imagined about 50 participants – and we realized the day before that there would actually be 200! The room was so full that we were asked to make the presentation on top of a table so that the participants at the back could see us!

"After the traditional and warm welcome à la française by François Dusson, ACNV’s President, I in turn offered a shawl to François as a gift of gratitude from NVC practitioners in India. We are rejoicing, through this symbolic gesture, our deepening Franco-Indian connection!

"The highlight for all of us, and the joy of living moment by moment, came when I shared that it was my wife Suchita’s birthday that day and that I was missing her. Someone in the audience spontaneously suggested we all make a call to India. In next to no time, 200 members of the audience were singing Happy Birthday to Suchita in English and in French through a mobile connection! Suchita, who was in bed, (it was past midnight Indian time) was in shock, as you can imagine!

"It was exciting to arrive at the Forum, with the buzz, the connections, the individual warm welcomes, the various stands set up to promote NVC for practitioners and non-practitioners alike. Several two-hour workshops were planned, including NVC Introductions, NVC and Aikido, NVC and Mediation, Drawing and NVC, and many more… As you can imagine, we were torn trying to decide which to attend!"

Aniruddha will be touring many UK FWBO Centres this summer, thanks to Karuna, who are organising his programme.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

FWBO Day celebrated in style in Essen

Sanghadarsini sends us this report from Germany -

"Last weekend FWBO friends from Holland, Belgium, France and Germany gathered to celebrate the 42nd FWBO Day, in Essen, Germany. This year's celebration was the best attended ever, which was very much due to Bhante Sangharakshita's visit to the occasion. For each of the last 7 years FWBO friends from the Middle European Region have gathered in either Ghent, Amsterdam or Essen, to celebrate together.

"On Saturday afternoon, we began the programme with a meditation, followed by short talks from the different centres about their new developments. The French read out some of Bhante's poetry which had been translated into French and will soon appear as a book. Jnanacandra talked about the Essen Centre's step to offer all Dharma activities on a Dana basis, a big, but seemingly already very successful step for the Centre. Upekshadaka talked about the new Centre in Ghent, which now occupies a former restaurant - it was a big project for their Sangha to renovate the place and to turn the old kitchen, with all its white tiles which looked more like a slaughter house, into a shrine room. Akasasuri spoke about developments with Metta Vihara, Holland's new retreat centre and Mokshasiddha spoke about the plans for a new town centre in Berlin. Ingrid Menzel told us about the opening of a new FWBO Centre just outside Hamburg, and Abhayada and Tanja Stevanovic talked about Breathworks activities in Germany and their wish to become more of a Right Livelihood Team one day.

"At 5.30 we had an Indian meal, laid on by some of the Essen women. At 7.30 there were three more talks, the theme being "sitting under the Bodhi Tree" - and miraculously, in the Shrine room, a large Bodhi Tree had appeared! Three very different Order Members - Gunabhadri, Suvannavira and Lalitaratna - talked about their quite different Experiences on the Order Convention in Bodhgaya this year. Lalitaratna's very lively talk about the noises in India made us nearly roll over the floor with laughter.

"After that, Vimalavajra beautifully led a three-fold Puja, gathering and focussing all our energies together and bringing the day to a perfect close.

"The next day brought more than 150 people to the Essen Centre. The reason for so many people coming was ... Bhante Sangharakshita. The shrineroom was packed, but quite magically, it didn't feel crowded. When Bhante appeared, the atmosphere became very mindful and light and quiet and after saluting the Shrine together, Bhante gave a talk about the 'The FWBO and the Path of Spiritual Development'

"He talked about integration and the importance of mindfulness, about positivity and the importance of Metta and about spiritual death and the cutting away of our ego through acts of selflessness.

"Without a script and with his sharp clarity and humour, Bhante's talk moved many people.

"The talk has been recorded by Clear Vision and will soon appear on one of the FWBO's websites.

"After the talk we all went into silence to prepare for a 7-fold Puja done in three languages: Dutch, French and German.

"At about 3 pm, after a lovely lunch, most people made their way back home, to Amsterdam, Ghent, Arnhem, Berlin, Paris, Minden, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Southern Germany. We met in large numbers for the weekend and the effects will be felt for some time to come".

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Going on retreat... for three years!

Vessantara was ordained into the Western Buddhist Order in 1974, and is well-known as the author of ‘Meeting the Buddhas’ as well as a number of other books. He’s led a long and active life in the Order, travelling and speaking widely – see for instance his talks on Free Buddhist Audio for a sample…

But later this month, he’s off – on a three-year retreat! Most people involved in the FWBO have done at least some retreats – often planned using our website – but not many have done one lasting three whole years – and it could be longer. Not surprisingly he’s been asked many questions about it – and some of his answers have just been published as a short article in the features section of FWBO News.

FWBO News wishes him, and his partner Vijayamala, all good wishes as they embark on this major undertaking.

Vessantara says -
I'm planning to do a long retreat, starting at the end of June. Here are answers to some of the questions I've often been asked about it:

Where are you going to do your retreat?
In southern-central France in the Auvergne. It's about 2,000 feet (700 metres) up in the Massif Central. From near where we're staying you can see the range of mountains that includes the Puy de Dome. You can also see the golden roof of the temple of the Karma Kagyu Tibetan Buddhist centre founded by the late Gendun Rinpoche.

Why aren't you doing it at an FWBO place like Guhyaloka or Sudarshanaloka?
I would be very happy to do so, except for one factor: I really want regular access to someone experienced who can guide my retreat. I have done quite a bit of solitary retreat over the years, as well as living at Vajraloka and Guhyaloka. Whilst they've been very useful, I've come to the conclusion that I would make much better progress with regular access to someone to help me sharpen up my practice, point out my blind spots and bad habits, and generally help me to 'steer to the deep'. So when Lama Lhundrup offered to help Order members who wanted to do long meditation retreat, I decided to take him up on his offer.

Click here to continue reading…

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

FWBO Home page now available in Russian

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Berlin - Paris Sangha friendship weekend

At the very end of October, on Halloween, five men and women from the Paris sangha set off by train from the Paris 'Gare du Nord' on the night train to Berlin's Ostbahnhof station. On arrival they were put up by different members of the Berlin Sangha and a long weekend followed of rich and interesting meetings and exchanges, including activities at Buddhistisches Tor Berlin (the Berlin Buddhist Centre) and sightseeing in this most historic city.

The highlight of their visit was undoubtedly the Berlin–Paris friendship day on Saturday, at Buddhistisches Tor. The day was led by Amogharatna, chairman of Buddhistisches Tor Berlin, and included meditations, meals and short talks on the theme of ‘Going Forth’ from Kalyanaprabha and Akasaraja from Berlin, and Danièle Adam and Pierrick Parigot from Paris. For Pierrick it was a last opportunity to visit as he has been invited to be ordained in New Zealand early in 2008. There was also a longer talk on ‘Internationality as Practice’ from Suvannavira from Paris. The day concluded with a French–German sevenfold puja with alternating verses - first one in French and then one in German, and so on.

“The weekend was very inspiring, international and spiritual; our German hosts were creative, friendly, fascinating and gemütlich (which means something like cosy, pleasant and comfortable in German)” - Sandra.

The Berlin sangha are already invited to visit Paris the same time next year. Some photos of their visit have been posted on the Berlin portion of the Flickr FWBO Photos site.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sangharakshita in Paris

Sangharakshita recently spent three days in Paris, on the occasion of a visit to the Paris FWBO Buddhist Centre (locally known as the “Centre Bouddhiste de l’Île-de-France - AOBO”). It wasn’t his first visit to Paris, but it was his first visit to the Centre, which was founded nearly 10 years ago by Varadakini.

During his visit he met several groups of people: mitras, mitras who have asked for ordination, the council of the Centre, and Vassika and Suvannavira, the local Order Members. The highlight of his visit, however, was a well attended two-hour question & answer session on Saturday afternoon, with questions on subjects as diverse as emptiness, the sevenfold puja, Sangharashita’s own Going for Refuge, the teaching of conditioned co-production (pratitya-samutpada), or the language spoken by the Buddha, to mention just a few. Two mitras, Barbara and Christian interpreted for the session which was appreciated by all participants.

Some of the people who met Bhante Sangharakshita commented afterwards:

I had the privilege of meeting Bhante twice, in a sangha-wide Q&A session and then as a small group of mitras having asked for ordination. Bhante was very sharp, he truly shone with his clarity and pointedness. We are fortunate to have met a man of his stature in our lifetime.

I was struck by the youthfulness of his words, his clarity, his liveliness, his humour… I was also moved by this different, foreign voice chanting the refuges and precepts; it was no meaningless litany but something already recited… elsewhere, and repeated many times, since long ago. I was very interested by the way he described the development of Buddhism in the West and its re-appearance in India as part of its evolution.

Meeting Sangharakshita in Paris was for us a deep and unique experience: a warm and unique encounter with the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha as well as a personal encounter. There are three things we remember specially about Sangharakshita’s visit to Paris:
• The depth in his chanting of the salutation, refuges and precepts; there was no difference between the words and their meaning, and no difference between the message and the one who was chanting.
• The clarity and precision of his answers and teachings; the simplicity of the language and of his choice of examples from daily life; and the self-evidence of the Dharma – Sangharakshita makes no distinction between the Dharma and common sense, friendship, calm; humour, determination…
• The real interest that Sangharakshita takes in each person and what preoccupies them, and his encouragement to us to continue along the path with calm, joy and determination
. BEGGA, IOANA & JAN, who came from Ghent for the occasion

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