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Friday, September 18, 2009

New Retreat Centre in Holland: first resident moves to Metta Vihara!

There's great news just in from the FWBO's Dutch and Belgian Sanghas, where for more than 20 years they’ve been hiring accommodation to hold retreats.  Parina, their newly-ordained project manager, writes to say -

“We've finally signed a contract to start building an FWBO retreat Centre here in The Low Countries. Our Chairwoman Karin van Kesteren signed the contract on Friday morning 4th of September on behalf of our charity Metta Vihara. And in the afternoon, Akasasuri opened the door of our future retreat place!

“It's an old pig farm and we will have to demolish the barns first before we can start the building work in spring 2010. We hope to open the doors of our centre at the end of 2010.

“In the meantime, there’s more work to be done, and more money to be raised - but our spirits are up! Both our Sanghas are very supportive of the project and willing to help in all kinds of ways. In fact, the network of friendship and interconnectedness just grows and glows.

“Thank you to all who've supported and encouraged us”.

Metta Vihara’s new address is Hengstdijkse Kerkstraat 36; on the outskirts of a small village near the sea and well-placed for all the local Sanghas, being more or less midway between Gent, Antwerp, and Rotterdam, south of Amsterdam.

There’s lots more about what’s going on there on their (Dutch) website In fact, we can’t resist copying some if here, translated courtesy of Google Translate. Apologies for any inaccuracies! They say -

“On September 4 we had the keys of the future retreat centre and then we immediately got to work with cleaning and painting of the house. The next step is to move all the stuff from Bilthoven to Hengstdijk (September 12) and then in October following the demolition of the old barns. If everything goes to plan we will start the spring with the new construction.

“Meanwhile, we continue to the final design for the retreat centre, and the building permit application. 

"For the future, sustainability is a topic of conversation: the care for the earth is dear to our hearts and we explore all possibilities that exist for sustainable building and focus.

“Yours, Dhammaketu, Karin van Kesteren, Akasasuri, Manigarbha”.

Meanwhile their fundraising goes on, and they’d like to draw attention to one thing especially - the Urgyen Sangharakshita tulip bulbs. They say (also in translation) -

“BUY THEM NOW!!! And help the fundraising campaign of € 80,000 together for the establishment of the brand new retreat centre. This unique tulip was named after Urgyen Sangharakshita, the founder of the Friends of Western Buddhist Order, which Metta Vihara is part of.

"You can get 15 bulbs for € 10 and 7 bulbs for € 5. The bulbs can be planted from October to December on balconies or in the garden and bloom in the spring. Click here for photos and ordering."

The photos show Metta Vihara's latest poster,  the contract-signing ceremony, and an architect’s impression of the new retreat centre building.

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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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Monday, March 02, 2009

A retreat centre for the Low Countries

The new retreat centre is the building on the left with the church of the small village of Hengstdijk (521 inhabitants) in the distanceAkasasuri sends us this report from Holland -

“For over twenty years FWBO retreats have been held in The Netherlands. They were started by Vajragita in the eighties and later also in Belgium by Dhammaketu.

"Over the last four years we’ve held about twenty retreats a year, from a weekend to a fortnight, and most of them are reasonably booked up (about 20 -30 people). We hire three different locations ( a monastery and a youth hostel in Holland, and a monastery in Belgium) for the retreats, every time we have to create the retreat environment from scratch. We have been a ‘virtual retreat centre’. Our charity is called Metta Vihara – please do have a look  As the site is in Dutch, English speakers may like to go straight to "nieuw retraitecentrum" and then to "foto's".

“But now I'm very happy to say it looks like we’re reaching the end of transporting cushions, mats, Buddha images, food, etc!!!

“After 4 years of property search in a densely populated country like The Netherlands we’ve finally found a suitable place in the South of Holland (not far from the Belgium border).

“In the photograph it’s the building on the left with in the distance the church of the small village Hengstdijk (521 inhabitants).

“The Netherlands being what it is, there are LOTS of regulations to satisfy before we can finally say we’ve done it.

signing of the contract. from left to right: Karin van Kesteren, Manigarbha, Akasasuri, Hein Gietema (all trustees of Metta Vihara, including Dhammaketu from Belgium who could not be present)“Although we’ve bought the property, it won’t be until the 1st of June that we’ll know whether or not we can renovate the farm into a retreat centre – and even then we’ll only be 90% sure. By January 2010 we’ll know for definite. At present the buildings include a set of pigstables, and as part of the work we will have to take them all down. In their place a purpose-built retreat centre will appear, designed by Peter Van Assche who is a Mitra.

“At the earliest we hope to open our doors in autumn/winter 2010!!!

“For the Dharma to take hold in a country takes a very long time, like holding a lotus flower next to a boulder and hoping it will take root. So waiting for another 1 ½ years should not be too difficult even though we are very very keen. Manigarbha and I will be so glad once we’ve done the last van run for our virtual retreat centre and settle into our own place.

“I’d like to use this opportunity to thank people in The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and the UK who have encouraged, supported and helped us financially.

“We are truly all interconnected. Akasasuri”

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

An interview with Sangharakshita

Photograph of Sangharakshita taken by Belgian photographer Diego FranssensFor Saturday's 'people' slot on FWBO News we are happy to feature Sangharakshita once again, and specifically an interview with him on the the subject of 'mindfulness.

As mentioned on FWBO News in November, last year Sangharakshita had an interview published in the Dutch Buddhist magazine ‘Vorm en Leegte’.

This was part of an issue of the magazine devoted to mindfulness, and was conducted by Dorine Esser, a mitra from Antwerp, in Belgium.

The interview is now available in English on the Features section of FWBO News. Click here to read it...

Some of what Sangharakshita says has been translated from English to Dutch and back again - please bear this in mind when reading it! It covers a wide range of topics – from the importance of mindfulness to our participation in a planet-wide ‘higher evolution’ – to the value of reading the Pali scriptures and the joy to be derived from classical music and art.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

BoeddhaNatuur releases programme for 2009

The cover image of the BoeddhaNatuur program for 2009

Mokshagandhi, a Dharmacharini living in Amsterdam, has sent us the 2009 program for the FWBO's BoeddhaNatuur project - BoeddhaNatuur being the Dutch Sangha's version of Buddhafield, running camping retreats in the Dutch or Belgian countryside.

If the retreats are anything like as beautiful as the programme, they should be a treat - though long-standing readers of FWBO News may remember their retreats in 2007 suffered from the water and wind elements!

Their website is or you can contact them by email at

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sangharakshita inverviewed in Holland

cover image from the Dutch Buddhist magazine Vorm en LeegteFollowing his trip to Holland in April, Sangharakshita has had an interview published in the Dutch Buddhist magazine ‘Vorm en Leegte’, part of an issue of the magazine devoted to mindfulness.

The interview is available (in Dutch) on the Features section of FWBO News here; it was conducted by Dorine Esser, a mitra from Antwerp, in Belgium.

Non-Dutch speaking readers may still enjoy the very beautiful photographs that accompany the article, taken specially for the article by Belgian photographer Diego Franssens.

A translation is being prepared and will be added to FWBO Features once it is available.

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Dharma developments in Amsterdam

the unassuming front entrance to the FWBO's centre in AmsterdamThe FWBO’s Amsterdam centre is over 20 years old and has quietly established itself as a significant element in the Buddhist life of the city, with some 8 Order Members living there. Gunabhadri became chairwoman last year, and has focused on developing and systematizing the Centre’s teaching, including developing teaching materials in Dutch.

Gunabhadri, chairwoman of the FWBO centre in AmsterdamShe writes – “The main news as far as I am concerned from the Amsterdam Buddhist Centre is that we have just finished year 1 of our 2-year Buddhism course which we started in September last year. The course consists of various modules that people can either follow one-by-one in a linear way from 1 to 2 through to the last, or pick and choose and just follow some of the modules.. The second year modules will follow on from particular modules from year one - for example, in year 1 we have a module on the Buddha, in year 2 one on the Mandala of the Five Buddhas which will take people deeper into the theme of the Buddha. Other themes are: the Wheel of Life (year 1) followed by the Spiral Path (year 2); the Noble Eightfold Path (year 1) followed by the Wisdom Sutras (year 2); and the Threefold Path, the Sangha and the Bodhisattva Ideal. During the last year meditation modules were also part of the course.

“With the course comes a compendium of various materials in Dutch, which we are writing as we go along (including lots of material and quotes from Bhante’s lectures and other teachers in the FWBO). The plan is to use ‘new media’ more - to be able to do this we’ve invested in a new computer system, including a beamer, simple recording equipment, etc.

A beautiful shrine for a mitra ceremony at the Amsterdam Buddhist Centre“In terms of Order members, there’s also been some changes - Amsterdam has ‘lost’ Sobhanandi who has moved to our centre in Arnhem and Sarojini is about to move to our centre in Gent in Belgium. On the plus side, Mokshagandhi, who is based in Amsterdam, has just been ‘born’ into the Order, and so has Amritapurna, though she is planning to go and live in Groningen (in the North of Holland) – while over in Belgium Bart van den Berghe is about to be ordained (public ordination date 24 August).

“So, we are happy with the way it is going and it feels like a new generation of people is getting involved with the Centre – of course it’s early days really.

"Please do come and visit if you are ever in Amsterdam”.


Friday, June 06, 2008

de 3 Dharma translations into Dutch

Covers of some of the 3 Jewels Dharma booksBart Van den Berghe, from the FWBO's Dutch Sangha, has sent us this report on 'The 3 Jewels', their on-line Dharma translation project -

"The Three Jewels (de 3 is a Dutch-Flemish translation project.

"Texts from Bhante Sangharakshita and other FWBO sources (and ocasionally a non-FWBO text) are being translated into Dutch by language-loving members of the FWBO's lowland sanghas. The aim of the '3 Jewels project' is to make Dharma texts accesible to Dutch non-english speaking readers and inspire them to practice the Dharma.

"The texts can be freely downloaded from the website or bought in printed format at production cost from the different buddhist centres in the Lowlands. Of course we encourage people to support or work and consider a donation to enable us to do more and better.

"Right now 14 texts have been translated from English, including 'the ten pillars', 'what is the Dharma', 'change your mind' and 'vision and transformation'.

"In the pipeline are texts like 'the guide to the Buddhist path' and 'what is the sangha' that will soon be available for download on the website.

"Recently all the texts have been restyled and look and read better than ever before. Enjoy..."

A PDF spreadsheet with all existing translations of all FWBO texts into all languages is available on the Resources tab of FWBO News.

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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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Friday, March 21, 2008

Boeddha Natuur experiment with ‘primitive’ camping retreats in Holland

Every year the FWBO Growth Fund is able to give money to a selection of new FWBO and TBMSG projects around the world. Last year the fund had UK £30,000 to give away - but applications totalling nearly £200,000! This year, so far, it has only £15,000 in the kitty- and is looking to make its work more widely known.

This is the time of year when reports are coming in from last year's projects - and, of course, applications for the coming year. FWBO News is pleased to be able to present a few of these; on a wet Spring day (in the UK, at least) it seems appropraite to start with the FWBO 'Boeddha Natuur' group in Holland, who are exploring creating 'Buddhafield-style' camping retreats. In their first couple of years they used 'proper' camp sites and facilites (which in Holland are very nice!), in 2007 they took the plunge and went "primitive"! Read on...

"Thank you very much for your gift in 2007 of 700 euros. It helped us to make the transition to ‘primitive’ camping and buying the gear for that. It helped us become a low budget camping retreat centre. We want to attract young people to come in contact with the dharma in the Netherlands and Belgium. We camp in cheap, primitive forest areas, without electricity and running water. We want to reach people who are not connected to a FWBO centre.

"In 2007 we had 2 retreats over a long and a short weekend. At our second one in September we had 18 people , there were 7 young people. Many people came from Belgium, because we advertised more in Belgium. In 2007 we started to camp primitive, so we could keep the costs low. It wasn’t always as wet as the photo shows! In comparison to 2005 and 2006 we have got more new people coming on our retreats. We have started to invite people to help with the building-up days for the retreat, to get more people involved in our retreats.

"Our aim for next year is to spent more time and money to advertise more in magazines and on universities in the big cities.

"Thanks again from the Boeddha Natuur team: Hanske, Dennis, Mireille, Chris, and Vajramayi"

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ordination in the Netherlands

On Saturday 27th October in the context of a retreat in Schoorl, in the Netherlands, Eric de Ruijter became UJUKARIN, 'He who makes (the mind) straight'.

His Private Preceptor was Dhammaketu, his Public Preceptor Surata.


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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Possible new retreat centre in the Low Countries

Since 2004 METTA VIHARA, a Dutch FWBO charity started by Akasasuri and others in 2001, has been actively seeking a retreat centre for the FWBO (known locally as the VWBO) in Holland and Belgium. In 2005 the trustees decided to create 'a virtual' retreat centre as a way of demonstrating the projects’s viablility to the bank and potential dnors, and this has been an extraordinary success.

Akasasri says “last year and again this year we coordinated, planned and organised all the retreats in Holland and Belgium, running 20-22 retreats a year at 3 different locations spread over both countries. We (she and her friend the newly-ordained Manigarbha) are on all the retreats - we do the shopping, the bookings, the finances, the mail-out's, the PR, the setting-up of the retreats, the cooking, plus co-leading and leading some of the retreats etc. Everything is stored in our living room (mats, cushions, blankets, food, shrine material, etc); we bought a large van to transport everything from our house to the various retreats and back".

And nearly all retreats (but 3) in 2006 were fully booked with a waiting list – a remarkable and heroic achievement. There are 5 order members committed to living at the future retreat centre: Sarojini, Sobhanandi, Khemasiri, Akasasuri and Manigarbha; with nearly all the other Order Members in the Lowlands are involved in some way in attending, leading and co-leading the retreats.

And now they are on the verge of realising their dream – purchasing a property owned by a nature reserve organisation. It’s an old farmhouse, built in 1880, about 100 meters from a large estuary, with 5 acres of land, located halfway between the Amsterdam Buddhist Centre and the Ghent Buddhist Centre and easily accessible for the Buddhist Centres from Arnhem, The Hague and Antwerp. See photos of the building here.

Akasasuri says “Voices in our local sangha say 'this is THE place' and all are very keen for this to come off. WE ARE READY TO GO - JUST SOME MORE MONEY REQUIRED!

For their appeal they have created a website, have a proper brochure, became a member of the Buddhist Union and advertise in national papers, buddhist magazines and some new-age magazines.

Click here for a fuller introduction to the property and the appeal.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mettaloka retreat centre appeal

A retreat centre for The Low Countries (Belgium and The Netherlands)

An old farmhouse, built in 1880, about 100 meters from a large estuary, with 5 acres of land, located halfway between the Amsterdam Buddhist Centre and the Ghent Buddhist Centre and easily accessible for the Buddhist Centres from Arnhem, The Hague and Antwerp.

Have a look at the

We need another ₤ 70.000,- will you help us?

Over the years Dutch Order members have, between them, lived and worked in the UK for 147 years helping to build up the FWBO and the WBO in the UK and beyond. Will you help us now that we would like to create better conditions for spreading the Dharma and building Sangha in the Low Countries? At the moment we hold 21 retreats a year even though our Sangha is still relatively small. We’ve been renting places for over 20 years.

The residential community will be Akasasuri, Khemasiri, Manigarbha, Sarojini and Sobhanandi.

Akasasuri writes -

Dear friends,

I'm writing to ask for your support for establishing a retreat centre in The Low Countries (Holland and Belgium).

A few months after my arrival back in Holland (2003) I've been involved in trying to establish a retreat centre here......from property search to fundraising. Currently Manigarbha and myself share a flat and we organise all our retreats, nearly every other weekend, from home. We go on all the retreats supporting/leading/co-leading some of them; doing the cooking and organising on nearly all of them.

This is THE place

Voices in our local sangha say 'this is THE place' and all are very keen for this to come off. We feel very well supported by the Sangha in Belgium and Holland and it has been a great delight to be on the receiving end of so much financial and emotional support, especially the faith and trust that people have put in Bhante's explanation of the Dharma and through that in us who are trying to get this off the ground.

The residentail community is keen to start and so is the Sangha here in The Low Countries.


Please send any contribution, however large or small, to:

Natwest account 65912225, branch sort-code 01-06-88, made out to Akasasuri, BIC: NWBK GB 2L, IBAN: GB55 NWBK 0106 8865 9122 25

Triodos account in Holland 212442511, made out to Metta Vihara, Bilthoven, BIC: TRIONL2U, IBAN: NL13 TRIO 0212442511

Heartfelt metta,

Akasasuri on behalf of Khemasiri, Sobhanandi, Sarojini and Manigarbha

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