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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Ambedkar in Hungary - a report from India

Pardeep Jade, a journalist and blogger from TBMSG in India, writes with news of his recent fact-finding mission to the new Ambedkarite Buddhists of the Roma community in Hungary. His article has been published in The Hindu, one of India’s largest English-medium newspapers, plus Countercurrents, a major on-line alternative media site.

He tells the story of how he came into contact with two Roma leaders, Derdák Tibor and Orsós János, as they were discovering Buddhism and the inspiring example of Dr. Ambedkar, India’s great Buddhist leader - and how this led to his own visit to Hungary this Autumn. And how he discovered during his visit the deep parallels between the prejudice experienced over centuries by the Dalits, or Untouchables, of India, and the Roma, or Gypsies, of Europe.

He writes - “Jai Bhim, Namo Buddhay!  “Please read my article on "Ambedkar in Hungary" in The Hindu newspaper at

We quote an excerpt -

“After discovering Ambedkar, Tibor and János visited Maharashtra in 2005 and 2007. They felt a deep connection with the Dalits of India and with Dr. Ambedkar's emancipatory agenda. After returning to Hungary, in 2007, they founded the Jai Bhim Network, embraced Buddhism and opened three high schools named after Dr. Ambedkar in Sajókaza, Ózd and Hegymeg for Roma children. One of the activities of the Network is to invite young Dalit activists to Hungary and provide them with opportunities to interact with the Roma community. Recently, I was part of one such three-member delegation and lived with the Roma community in the village Sajókaza for almost a month…

Read more on The Hindu newspaper website or in Countercurrents.

You can contact Pardeep on

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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Jai Bhim! - links develop between 'Dalit' Buddhists in India and Hungary

Amitayus, an Indian member of the Western Buddhist Order, and Chair of the FWBO/TBMSG centre in Amaravati, central India, writes to say -

“Congratulations and Bon Voyage to Dharma Mitra Bharat Wankhade who leaves Amravati, Maharashtra, India this week for a 10 week visit to Sajokaza, Hungary, where he will meet with Roma tribal Gypsy communities.

“The visit, which has been organised by the Jai Bhim Network, an organisation dedicated to integrating marginalised Roma tribal communities into society, has invited Bharat who will represent Bahujan Hitay Amravati Boys’ Hostel.

“Inspired by the message of Dr. Ambedkar for parents of marginalised communities to educate their children, in order to escape oppression and poverty, Bharat’s mother and father entered him into the Bahujan Hitay Amravati Boys’ Hostel at the age of ten. For the next eight years, Bharat boarded at the hostel whilst completing his education. Bharat is now studying in his 2nd year of Chartered Accountancy at The Institute of Chartered Accountants, Pune, Maharashtra.

“Commenting before his departure Bharat said “My parents are marginal farmers which is the only profession in the small village where I am from. My mother read an article about the hostel in a newspaper and once she had enrolled me into the hostel my life started to change. I feel indebted to Dh. Tejdhamma, Dh. Nagabhadra and Dh. Amitayus who guided and cherished me both through my education and more importantly my spiritual development. I met with Tibor Janos, of Jai Bhim Network in 2004 when he visited the Bahujan Hitay Amravati night study class which I was leading at the time. We have kept in touch since then and each time we’ve met he has invited me to Hungary. Eventually I said yes. In Hungary I hope to share my life experience with the beneficiaries of his project. I will meet students and perhaps share my knowledge of accountancy too.”

“Wishing him farewell Dh. Amitayus, project leader, BH Amravati commented, “Bharat is a young man with a very compassionate heart; he is kind and generous and being with him gives people a sense of security. I wish him good health on his journey; otherwise, I am confident he will help meet the needs of many people.”

“BH Amravati Boys Hostel is one of 24 hostels run by Bahujan Hitay and TBMSG and supported by Karuna Trust, the FWBO’s main fundraising charity which raises and sends over £1m/year annually to many social and Dhamma projects in India. To contact the Hostel direct please email Amitayus.

If you would like more information about Karuna and the work they support in Asia please visit the Karuna website - or to find out how to donate to Karuna please go to

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Monday, April 27, 2009

social activism in Hungary: the Jai Bhim

This is an unusual article for the FWBO News.

Regular readers will know of the close connections between the FWBO/TBMSG in the West and India - they are two names for the same Sangha. Less well known are their connections with the Roma gypsies of rural Hungary - where there is a growing Buddhist sangha within the gypsy community there. This came about by chance when, a little over five years ago, a group from that community made contact with Subhuti and others from the FWBO.You can read previous FWBO News stories here. The photograph shows Tibor Derdk: a mitra, Buddhist and local gypsy activist.

They had heard about the work of Dr. Ambedkar in India and had been deeply impressed by what they had read of his work and the suffering of his people, the Dalits, or ‘untouchables’ of India. They had in fact come to feel a deep connection with the Dalits of India, even, to see themselves as the Dalits of Europe and Dr Ambedkar’s message of social transformation as being deeply relevant for them. In many ways the prejudice they face in Hungary is indeed comparable to the prejudice faced by the Dalits in India - see for example an article in today's New York Times exploring the current "wave of violence" against gypsy families.

Recently Saul Deason, a mitra from the FWBOs North London Buddhist Centre, visited the Jai Bhim Network ( in remote rural Hungary - a social and educational project they'd created, and named in honour of Dr. Ambedkar. This is run by mitras from the local Gypsy community, who had become Buddhists some years previously after being inspired by the example of Dr. Ambedkar and making contact with the FWBO.

When he arrived he found the gypsy community in turmoil. Not speaking Hungarian he did not understand what was happening until, at their request, he collaborated on an article for the Western press, part of an attempt by the local community to draw attention to their plight. You can read it on FWBO News' Features page or on the Jai Bhim website (click through to the English version).

It gives an insight into the problems of the Gypsies in Hungary and the challenging work of the Buddhists trying to achieve social justice for the downtrodden Gypsy minority.

At the time of writing this, the core of the Jai Bhim sangha is in UK, on retreat with Subhuti, who is himself recently back from Hungary.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New Buddhists in Hungary: two people's stories

FWBO News is pleased to present interviews with two new Buddhists, both unusual in that they are Hungarian gypsies, part of a growing Buddhist sangha within the gypsy community.

To give a little background, a little over four years ago a group of Hungarian gypsies made contact with Subhuti and others from the FWBO. They had heard about the work of Dr. Ambedkar and had been deeply impressed by what they had read of his work and the suffering of his people, the Dalits, or ‘untouchables’ of India. They had in fact come to feel a deep connection with the Dalits of India, even, to see themselves as the Dalits of Europe and Dr Ambedkar’s message of social transformation as being deeply relevant for them.

Since that time Subhuti and others have made many visits to Hungary, most recently earlier this month, and some of Hungary’s new Buddhists have visited both the UK and India.

In his latest visit to Hungary Subhuti interviewed two of our Mitras there, covering a wide range of topics including their personal histories, the general situation of Gypsies in Hungary and how they came to connect with the Dharma and the FWBO. Below is a short excerpt from Janos' story, if you’d like to read more please follow the links at the bottom -

“After one month in India, I came back convinced that I was a Buddhist. On a very big retreat in Nagpur for 5,000 people, in January 2006, I had become a Dhammamitra, publicly declaring that the Buddha is my teacher, that I will practise the five precepts, and that TBMSG/FWBO is my spiritual family.

“But back here in Hungary, there were only Hungarian Buddhists, and I could not identify with them. However, people from the Western Buddhist Order/Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha, both Europeans and Indians, came to stay with us and they were completely different from the Hungarian Buddhists.

“It took me some time to work out what kind of a movement the FWBO in Europe is, because these were white intellectual people who took to Buddhism for reasons that I could not really understand. But they were different from the Hungarian Buddhists I had met, because they were genuinely concerned with social questions. When they come to Hungary they spend time with us, which Hungarian Buddhists don't do. They have become our friends and the connection between us is very good.”
. excerpt from interview with Orsos Janos

The first, longer, interview is with Janos Orsos , who tells in some detail of the conditions of life for gypsies in Hungary and how he came to become a Buddhist. The second, with Benu, speaks of his personal struggles for a better life. Click on either to read their story.

If you would like to know more about the FWBO’s work in Hungary or contribute in any way please contact You can read previous stories from FWBO News here or on the Dharmaduta blog here.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Developing the East-West Sanctuary - Budapest, Hungary

For the past 2 years Sinhagupta, a Dharmacharini from Cambridge UK, has been developing the East-West Sanctuary in Budapest, Hungary, in collaboration with the Budapest Buddhist University. This is a major project, and one which will take many years in development.

She has sent us this news of recent developments there -

“Since the opening 18 months ago, we have been running a variety of meditation and psychotherapeutic workshops, and also seminars on business sustainability and developing a European Buddhist University. Many of these have run for Hungarians, but now we are hoping to expand internationally to a wider audience. The sanctuary is beginning to attract different people from many different areas - but all with a willingness and desire to communicate and relate within this globalising but fragmented world.

“Starting in March we are running the first of a three-week, year-long course in Buddhist theory and practice. This will be led in English by Paramananda, Tamas Agocs from the Budapest Buddhist University , and myself. We are also starting a three-weekend course in contemplative psychotherapy, which will run in English with Hungarian translation. Finally, we are offering one other more specialised event: a series of short retreats called 'Javas' which are based in a Hungarian spiritual tradition that itself is founded in Ayurvedic medicine and healing, astrology, and Buddhist philosophy and healing”.

More information on all these can be downloaded from the internet - 2008 East-West Centre Programme for the programme,
Javas_retreats for the retreats

If you are interested in attending or knowing more, please contact Sinhagupta. If you know anyone else who may be interested, please would you forward this link.

And finally, if you wish to see more about the sanctuary, please visit the website at:

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Dr Ambedkar and the Jaibhim Community in Hungary

For some two years now there have been growing links between the FWBO and the Romany gypsies in Hungary. This began when they discovered Dr. Ambedkar and became inspired by him and his followers in India. Roma gypsies in Eastern Europe live lives of extreme poverty and discrimination similar to the conditions experienced by Indian Dalits about 75 years ago, indeed, they describe themselves as the ‘untouchables’ of Europe. They realised Dr Ambedkar’s ‘Dhamma Revolution’(in which in 1956 millions of his followers renounced the Hindu social order based on caste discrimination and inequality and became Buddhist) was relevant to them too.

By the time they contacted the FWBO they had already opened the Little Tiger Grammar School in Alsoszentmarton in south Hungary. The name comes indirectly from Dr. Ambedkar, who referred to education as ‘tiger’s milk’. More than that, they realised Buddhist ethical practice helped to develop confidence and self-respect, and that Buddhist conversion opened the door to social, economic, and personal development - thus, that Buddhism could be directly relevant to their problems. In addition to their feeling for Dr. Ambedkar, East European Roma/Gypsies are deeply conscious of their roots in India and many identify strongly with what happens there.

Since the initial contact there have been several exchange visits to Hungary, mostly by students of the Dharmapala College, Birmingham. Mostly recently Manidhamma, an Indian Order Member, visited, together with Ashwin Gunaratna, an Indian mitra from Nagpur. Reports of some of thier previous visits can be found on the Dharmadhuta blog.

One of the important events during this visit was the formation of the Jaibhim Community. This is an initiative by Janos Orsos and Derdak Tibor, two mitras from the gypsy community (there are now four in total). It will provide the organisational framework for Buddhist activities and the communication of Dr Ambedkar’s vision in Hungary. The Jaibhim Community is linked to the FWBO/TBMSG and has adopted a modified version of Ambedkar’s 22 Vows in its constitution. These are, in essence, a set of vows to practice Buddhism, to spread Dr Ambedkar’s message and to reconstruct society to one based on Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Manidhamma and Janos together collected the registration document from the Charity Commissions’ office in Pecs. The website contains several videos of their activities and Dalit programs in India – even a ‘Jai Bhim’ ringtone!

Manidhamma and Ashwin were able to visit the Little Tiger School and meet students and staff. Manidhamma gave a talk on Dr Ambedkar’s emphasis on self-help and his threefold injunction to his followers to ‘Educate, Agitate, and Organise’. The school is very successful and has been taken as a model by the Hungarian government. A new similar school is being set up in northern Hungary at Tomor in association with the ‘Bhim Rao Association’.

Manidhamma also led a 3-day retreat at Uszo, a beautiful place in North Hungary, which 30 young men and women attended from different parts of Hungary. There were talks about Dr Ambedkar, Buddhism in India, meditation and discussion about the five precepts and vegetarianism. Ashwin and Manidhamma cooked delicious Indian vegetarian food and distributed gifts - Dr Ambedkar’s photos, books, CDs, Indian saris, dhotis and cloths, Buddhist images, ‘Jai Bhim’ head-bands (as seen in the photo), necklaces, lockets, rosaries and vegetarian food-spices and sweets. They travelled visiting Romas/Gypsies in Budapest, Pecs, Komlo, Baksa, Manfa, Hidas, Harkany, Sayokaza and Ozd. The response was warm and welcoming and our connection with them seems set to grow.

We are currently looking for English teachers able to go to Hungary and teach English to the gypsy community for four or five months at a time, if anyone is interested please contact

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  • Friday, September 29, 2006

    Dharmadhuta returns to Hungary

    Dharmadhuta returns to Hungary

    Readers of FWBO News will remember that in April this year, students of the Dharmadhuta Study Course based in Birmingham went to Hungary to deepen the FWBO's connection with Romany gypsies who had become interested in Dr. Ambedkar and Buddhism. In September five students returned there with Subhuti and Sagaramati. Anne Barrey writes:

    Our particular purpose was to run a retreat for the mitras, but also to carry on the connections made during our first trip. We had spent time in class with Subhuti, preparing to undertake this work in a context full of challenges, especially the differences in language and culture and connecting with people who are marginalized and excluded in their own country. We were able to take advantage of our learning from the April trip and the parallels with the movement’s work in India.

    Although there was some sense of familiarity around the experiences on this second visit, it was as challenging as the first trip had been and very much a practice of ‘being in the moment’. We found ourselves located in a village in the north east of the country very near the Ukraine border, seven hours train travel from Budapest. The facility we were accommodated in is a base for a number of community programs, including a kindergarten, computer training, domestic and catering services and accommodation for students and their families. This is also where Tibor (see previous article) hopes to set up another Kis Tigris (‘Tiger’s Milk’ – a phrase used by Dr. Ambedkar to point to the benefits of education – ed.) school for Romany (Gypsy) people in the region.

    Another significant difference to the first visit was the gender composition of our group. Due to the ground work of Tibor, Janos and Klari, a teacher at Kis Tigris, and their visits to families, three young gypsy women were able to travel away from home and be a part of this event. In our group of twenty people over the five days, we had eight women and twelve men, radically different to the one lone woman and twenty men the first time around!

    The challenge for “the Birmingham group” (as Tibor dubbed us) was letting go of our collective plans and individual aspirations. A clash of cultures it certainly was and the challenge of communication was a big theme of the week. Out of these struggles and frustrations arose the practice of ksanti, much positive work was done on all sides. Differences in language, education, class, life experience and ways of thinking, demanded a real effort to meet one another on some common ground. What emerged from such effort was a lot of good will and some memorable and fun times, playing ‘getting to know you’ games, acting out stories from the life of the Buddha, doing presentations on a diverse range of subjects, ranging from the caste system in India to the history of Indo-European languages and simply relaxing together, dancing to gypsy music sounding forth from the ghetto blaster or swimming in the river under the hot, hot sun.

    Making connections and developing friendships was certainly the most tangible and visible effect of our time in Hungary. As for teaching meditation and sharing the Dharma, it remains to be seen how well we planted our seeds and how effective we can be in tending them. Ten days after departing there, two of our Hungarian gypsy friends, mitras Istvan and Aniko, have arrived in England to spend time with us here and experience sangha in Birmingham. Who knows what might take shape next?

    Anne Barrey, a student on the Dharma-Dhuta course at Madhyamaloka
    See for the Dharmaduta blog.

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