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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Bahujan Hitay Amaravati celebrates with annual festival

Amitayus, an Indian Order Member from TBMSG’s vibrant Amaravati centre in central Maharastra, writes with news of their recent annual festival, organised to celebrate a very successful 2009. He says -

“Jaibhim and many good wishes from Bahujan Hitay project Amravati.

“It is our pleasure to let you know that Bahujan Hitay project Amravati has organized the Bahujan Hitay annual festival. Participants included beneficiaries, indirect beneficiaries, stakeholder’s staff, donors, well-wishers and management. It is a reflection of our year long success, and for the first time we made it for four days in length, from 9-12 February.

Events included sports events for the Staff and the cultural activities for our direct and indirect beneficiaries and stake holders. The concluding ceremony on 12 February was presided over by Dhammachari Nagabhadra, Chairman of our Bahujan Hitay project management committee.

Some sense of the breadth of Amaravati’s activities can be found from their annual report - available on the Resources page of FWBO News at

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

India week continues - introducing the Bodhisattva Foundation

We continue this week of stories from India with a report from the Bodhisattva Foundation, a new FWBO/TBMSG charity created to work with women from nomadic tribes near Mumbai in Maharastra. Alokasri, its founder, writes-

First Republic Day Celebration by most disadvantaged community:

“India`s 60th Republic day was celebrated on 26th January 2010 all over India but there was something special about the festivities in Aundhe - a small village near Lonavala 100km from Mumbai. Unbelievably, it was first time Republic day had ever been celebrated in that community.

“Aundhe is home to a community of Adivasi and Katakari people, known as nomadic tribes in India. They are every bit as marginalized, if not more so, than the Dalits, or Scheduled Castes, who TBMSG have been working with for over thirty years now. When we met them we were really surprised to discover that in last 60 years they were not knowing what is meant by republic day, nobody involve them in such occasions or make any efforts to aware them about their citizenship. So an early result of our work is that they celebrated 60th Republic Day for those people in their own community.

“On the day, the head of the local Sarpanch, or village Council, hosted the national flag in the early morning at 8.30 AM, saying that though Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar had through his hard work given a constitution to the country, yet there is need to create an awareness amongst people about their rights and educate them how to receive basic amenities from the local authorities.

“Alokashri then explained the purpose of the Bodhisattva Foundation and its first project, the Comprehensive Education Center was inaugurated. It will emphasise a balance of formal and non formal education, plus social awareness programs that will help raise the confidence of the community so that local people will take responsibility of their own development and become self reliant.

“The Bodhisattva Foundation is an Indian Charitable Trust (NGO) run by Indian women who are actively involved in Buddhist practice and as expression of their practice working for underprivileged, marginalized and disadvantage section of the society. It works in partnership with Bodhisattva Activity, a similar trust registered in the UK”.

As a way of fundraising for their activities, Alokasri is leading a series of pilgrimages in India, the next ones being to Nepal in March and north-eastern India in April-May. For further details of these, or their charitable work, please email Alokasri on

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Jai Bhim International tours India

Starting today FWBO News is featuring a week of stories from India and some of the many FWBO/TBMSG projects there. We start with a report from Ann Dennehy from San Francisco, founder and director of Jai Bhim International. She’s been touring Buddhist youth projects all over India. Here’s what she says -

“Dear Friends - I am writing from Bodh Gaya, about halfway through the current Jai Bhim International tour, connecting with the Jai Bhim community and implementing our new projects. Here are a few highlights.

“Currently I am staying on the land of The 3 Jewels Center, where several hundred Tibetan monks and nuns are camped out, for The Dalai Lama's visit. Today the sangha team and I sat together meditating under The Bodhi Tree. Such an experience!

“I began my India visit in Delhi, visiting our sangha friends at The Dhammachakra Center, practicing together, meeting with Board members to discuss our projects, and spending lovely time in one another's company.

|”From Delhi I headed south for our first retreat with the Kerala sangha, where we practiced conversational English within the context of a Buddhist retreat; studying Buddhist Dhamma and meditation along with the teachings of Dr. Ambedkar. It was a small retreat, all men except for me! Our last activity was creating team-based 5-year plans, and we all left inspired and invigorated. The retreatants have since formed JAI BHIM KERALA, to continue meeting together for Dhamma study, to create community projects, and to plan for our next retreat December 2010. They have even set as their own goal for there to be 50% women in attendance.

“From Kerala I headed East to Chennai and up to The Sakya Hostel, with its 49 young students and its committed team of graduates from The Nagarjuna Training Institute in Nagpur. I practiced English with the children, as well as meditation and puja, and spent time with the wonderful team. When I asked one team member what most inspires him about their project, he replied, "This is not a project. It is our dream world." I felt very lucky to be part of their dream world; a place of love, creativity and possibility. I delighted as the children prepared for New Year's Eve, decorating the hostel, reflecting on their confessions from the past year, and their aspirations for the year ahead, writing them carefully down, and then offering them in the puja to the shrine.

“From Chennai I returned to Delhi and, by lucky coincidence, connected with Tempel Smith from San Francisco, on tour through Asia with a group of American Buddhist youth. Tempel and Maitriveer Nagarjuna had met in Thailand, and their two Sanghas spent time together in Delhi practicing meditation, socializing, and learning about Dr. Ambedkar's vision for a truly democratic society based on Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Jai Bhim International!

“And finally, after a few days, I headed to Varanasi to visit the "Cry for Change" project, which works with the scavenging community, the most oppressed of the ex-Untouchable communities. The project offers after-school classes in computers and English to girls, and gives micro-loans to people in village communities so that they may leave their traditional, dangerous and degrading jobs.

“It has been an incredible trip, full of possibility, full of joy. I have posted a few albums of pictures on our facebook page - or check our website -

“I'd welcome your thoughts on our projects and invite you to join our community, the "caste-free generation".

“Jai Bhim!”

Ann Dennehy, San Francisco Buddhist Center

Ann Dennehy, Creative Director
Jai Bhim International -caste-free generation-

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Inter-Buddhist Pilgrimage to Kashmir and Ladakh

Jayacitta, an Order Member from the London Buddhist Centre, writes with news of an inter-Buddhist pilgrimage she's organising this Autumn. In September 2010 the party will be visiting the Buddhist Holy Places in Kashmir and Ladakh. She says -

"Calling on Buddhists from all different traditions, this will be a journey to the magical area of Ladakh, in the Northwest of India, near the Tibetan border. Travelling through the beautiful scenery of Kashmir we will come to Ladakh, where Tibetan Buddhism is still preserved in a form that one cannot found anywhere else in the world.

"The journey will lead through magical open landscape, clear air and to mountain lakes. There will be the possibilitiy to visit monasteries and to take part in people's everyday life. It is organised by Jayachitta who is reaching out to Buddhists from different schools to meet together, to share their experience and practice.

"This trip will be an adventure in a breathtaking setting which we will be in the middle of, whether driving, trekking or meditating".

For more detail please visit her website

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Karuna: 30 years of compassion in action

Karuna was formed in 1980 as Aid for India, the movement's response to the suffering of India's Dalit community. For 30 years, Karuna has worked with some of South Asia's most disadvantaged people, sending over £1 million every year to support low-caste and tribal communities, street children and refugees fulfill their potential through our social and Dharma projects.

Over the course of 2010, we will be featuring a series of articles highlighting Karuna's achievements over the last 30 years. We start with Kulamitra, founder of Aid for India, and a Karuna trustee relating his experience of how the trust came into being:
"In the late 1970's I was a young order member and had recently moved into a community near the London Buddhist Centre as I wanted to help the burgeoning movement and participate in right livelihood. The LBC had just opened and I was helping with some building work around the centre.
One day, Subhuti (Chair of the LBC) invited me to go for a walk with him. He told me he was looking for someone who was able to take on the challenge of a big fundraising project; someone who would take responsibility for raising £50,000 for Dharma and social projects for the Indian Dalit community. This was an enormous amount of money in those days!

Lokamitra, had been in India since 1978 teaching the Dharma to the Dalit community. In a short space of time he had realised that alongside the need for the Dharma, this community faced serious difficulties caused by caste discrimination, alongside, limited, if non-existent access to health care and education.

In 1979, I visited India for the first time. One particular experience stuck me. I was trying to sleep one evening in the small hut where I was staying, when I became aware of a small dog being attacked by a pack of wild dogs on a patch of wasteland opposite the hut where I was staying. I lay there listening to the whining of the savaged animal, and said to my companions, "Can't we do anything?". In that moment, I realised what life was life for Dalits living in these conditions. That like the wild dogs roaming the wasteland, they were born into a life that was unsafe and lacking in compassion.

At that time, the team in India were operating on a shoestring. For example, Dharma activities were conducted in a rudimentary garage (little more than a ramshackle tin hut), as well as corridors of flats with makeshift shrines.

When I returned from my trip, I eagerly got to work by trying to translate my experiences of the projects and conditions I had witnessed into fundraising copy that would motivate people to give to the Dharma and social projects that were coming into being.

I had no fundraising skills or experience and worked out of a small room in the community where I lived, typing with my gloves on with only a small paraffin heater for warmth!

I also consulted 'Who's Who' looking for anyone with a connection or sympathy with India. In 6 months, my only response was from a couple in Hampstead. I eagerly went to the appointment and thought it had gone well. Afterwards, I was asked by Tim Lilley, my fundraising mentor, 'Did you close?' - I had forgotten to make the all important 'ask'. I was on a fast learning curve.

Those first six months were tough but I was motivated by my experiences of the Dalit's conditions in India. I was eventually able to convince Tim to take on a role for a years salary and Karuna door-to-door appeals were born."

Out of such humble beginnings, Karuna now supports hundreds of thousands of people across South Asia supporting projects that are building dignity, challenging discrimination and supporting people's practice of Buddhism.

80% of Karuna's work is supported by thousands of individuals across the UK who, having met with a Karuna fundraiser on a door-to-door appeal, has decided to make a regular contribution to the social and Dharma work in South Asia.
You too can help South Asia's Dalit community by giving your time 2010 in one of the three ways:
  1. Help out on a telephone fundraising campaign in London
  2. Join a residential door-to-door fundraising appeal
  3. Live in pioneering men's fundraising community for a year

To find out more:

Contact: Jo Goldsmid, Pete Hannah, Khemajala or Amalavajra

Phone: 0207 697 3026



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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Interview with Subhuti: Ambedkar, Buddhism, and the world today

Insight Young Voices is an on-line Dalit Youth Magazine currently featuring an interview with Subhuti, a long-standing member of the Western Buddhist Order and leading light in TBMSG’s Dhamma work in India.

Anoop Kumar, the interviewer, explores with Subhuti the specific difficulties - and opportunities - faced by Buddhism in the world today - in fact in the ‘three worlds’ of the old Buddhist world, the new Buddhist world of the West, and the revived Buddhist world of India.

The interview can be found online at

To quote two of their exchanges -

Buddhism being reduced just to a new caste is indeed a great danger and we clearly witness this happening around us. How do we overcome this?

Subhuti: "We must overcome this danger of the marginalisation of Buddhism, referring back to Dr Ambedkar’s thoughts on conversion: Why did he choose Buddha Dhamma? According to him, liberty, equality and fraternity can only be attained when there is a completely different set of ethical attitudes in Indian society. In a caste-based society one does not see another person in terms of duties towards him or her as a human being, but as a member of a particular caste that stands in a particular relation to one’s own caste. Babasaheb says that this is not really ethics at all. Dr Ambedkar’s great insight was that society has to be based on some genuine ethical principles, not the pseudo-ethics of caste duty".

Buddhism is one of the world’s major religious traditions and therefore building linkages with wider Buddhist world was one of the main concerns of Babasaheb Ambedkar. As a practising Buddhist who is deeply involved with Buddhism as defined by Babasaheb, what are your observations on the wider Buddhist world?

Subhuti: "Buddhism generally covers three worlds today: the old Buddhist world, the new Buddhist world of the West, and the revived Buddhist world of India.

"The old Buddhist world of the East is not in good shape. There are signs of revival here and there, but it is severely battered by modernity and is often not impressive today as an example of a living faith, related to the modern situation. There are impressive people and impressive movements, but Buddhism overall is not that impressive in its old heartlands. The example before us at present is, of course, Sri Lankan Buddhism, a significant and leading proportion of whose followers are, frankly speaking, racists and have used Buddhism as a weapon of cultural dominance.

"Then, you have got the new Buddhist world of the West that has emerged from what has been called the ‘Me generation’, which I myself in fact came from – spoilt children of the post-colonial west who have lived with silver spoons in their mouths and face quite different sets of problems from their brothers and sisters elsewhere in the world, problems more of personal meaning and happiness. There is a strong tendency to individualism among western Buddhists and the Dhamma is often interpreted in quite narrow personal terms.

"Then you have got Buddhist India, which I think is a very interesting intersection of the other two. For me, India is the key to the revival of Buddhism worldwide, because here the Buddhist movement is uncompromisingly modern and has a social conscience, as well.

"This happened because Babasaheb, at least from one side, was the child of the European enlightenment, with its critical intellectual tradition, and at the same time he was also the child of the best of Indian culture: of the whole non-brahmanical shramanic traditions, of the Sant traditions represented by such as Kabir and so on, and above all of the Buddha.

"So the movement initiated by him has the intellectually critical approach - if you like, the scientific approach - that is a principal feature of the modern world. Indian Buddhism is modern in this sense; on the other hand it is functioning in a traditional society with intact family structures, which we have lost to a considerable extent in much of the west, and it has a very strong commitment to social transformation.

"In some ways, our Western Buddhist world shares more in common with India than the old Buddhist world of the East, because in our case we also started from a critical perspective. We in the west feel ourselves very much Buddhist, very much part of the Buddhist tradition, but we are not going to accept all aspects of it uncritically, and that is the position you take in India, following Babasaheb.

"However, although there are similarities between Indian Buddhism today and western Buddhism, there are also discontinuities and some of these we should be careful to maintain. I don’t want to see western individualistic attitudes imported into India – although that is already happening, of course".

There's other introductions to Ambedkar and Buddhism in India in the writing of Vishvapani and Lokamitra

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Little Buddha Children's Club attracts over 1000 members in India

Rohan Chahande, a mitra from Nagpur, writes with news of the second annual Children’s Retreat run by TBMSG’s ‘Little Buddha Children Club’ - plus an update on their plans for 2010.

He says - “I am sending report of Little Buddha Children’s Club for publishing on FWBO/TBMSG news site.

“Over the Xmas period we held our second annual retreat for children from all over Nagpur. Over a hundred participated in this three-day event held at Nagaloka. They enjoyed Puja, meditation, play, songs, yoga, Karate, painting & games. On the last day children performed in groups and individually. We showed a movie on the life of the Buddha, which the children enjoyed very much - and wished to watch similar movies in future. We also conducted a workshop for parents; they wished to help LBCC and asked to have more programmes for children and parents this year.

“We ended with a resolution to develop more Friendship in 2010 - this was voted to be the main theme for Little Buddha Children’s Club activities in this New Year. This will inspire us therefore to reach more children in Nagpur’s rural areas and slum areas in other cities.

“We have been organizing activities for children throughout the year and now we have centres in Pune (Western India) and Varodaya in Gujarat (North India). In fact more than a thousand children are members of LBCC and we are still growing.

“With metta, Rohan Chahande

For contact details and updates check the Little Buddha Children’s Club website.

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Monday, February 01, 2010

Charlie Chaplain teaches Metta Bhavana in India

Varaprabha is an Indian Order Member who has for some years now been training as a mime artist, with his chosen character being the late great Charlie Chaplain.

He has been active in using his new-found skills to communicate with a wide range of Indians on topics such as debt, alcoholism, craving, and domestic violence. He also conducts workshops teaching mime to children living in TBMSG’s hostels and elsewhere.

Recently FWBO News came across this report of one of his recent workshops in the Indian Express, a major Indian newspaper, under the heading of ‘Charlie regales orphan kids’; and we’re pleased to share it with you. They say -

“The Mukta-Avishkar cultural unit, which works under the auspices of Trailokya Baudhya Maha Sangha (TBMSG), conducted a programme at its orphanage at Pimple Gurav, in Pune, recently. ‘The Change of Mind of Thief Charlie & Arley,’ a mime in which the role of Charlie Chaplin was played by Dhammachari Varaprabha regaled the children.

“The orphanage which has 64 children, is run by a group including Dr. Dinesh Metallu, Prakash Pagnis, and Arun Ovhal. ‘The effort was to create awareness among these children about the vices corrupting the society and how to stay away from them,’ said Dr Metallu.

"‘We teach them Buddha’s way of loving-kindness meditation, maitri bhavana, which means friendship in three stages — self- friendship, friendship towards unknown and friendship towards enemy, and finally on the lines of universal brotherhood, friendship towards the whole world’".

Sadhu Varaprabha!

He is fundraising to continue with his training; if you would like to make a donation please visit his fundraising site - where you can also see a video of one of his performances at TBMSG's Bor Dharan retreat centre.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

True stories from the Karuna Trust: Sanjivani Pawar

The FWBO’s Karuna Trust sends over £1million/year to a wide range of Dharma and social projects across India, most (but not all) to the new Buddhists, also known as the Dalits, or ‘Oppressed’. India as a whole may be industrialising fast, but life remains very raw indeed for the vast numbers of Indian poor and ‘low-caste’ people.

Andrea McCaghy, Karuna's press officer, sends us this account of one of Karuna's beneficiaries - one of hundreds of true stories heard by Karuna staff during the course of their work. She says -

Sanjivani Pawar’s story: A widow breaks free from the prisons of caste and gender prejudice to become a role model for others.

“Others should not suffer as I did and I want to help as many people as possible. I’m not going to fear anyone ever again.”

Today, Sanjivani Pawar is a leader of Ghodkar Rajouri village in Maharastra, but 16 years ago things were very different. When her husband died she was left with two small children, Jyoti and Rakesh, and little means of raising them.

Traditionally, an Indian woman loses her power as a wife and mother if her husband dies. This is one way that Indian caste society subdues women to maintain the caste status quo. A widow must stay at home and rely on the goodwill of her husband’s family. Her home, often nothing more than a mud hut ,can become a prison.

But Sanjivani wanted to work her land to get her children educated. ‘Land is important; it is more than growing food to raise my family. It takes me forward, to own something.’

But my community, and my family, said, “You are a widow, why are you going to farm, why are you trying to educate your children?”

And there was worse. ‘As I was a young widow there was pressure from men, demanding sex. They said: “We will make your life easier if you do this. “ That was horrible. I could not go out and work my land.’

Sanjivani made a friend who would change her life. Manisha Tokale and her husband Ashok run Savitribai Phule Mahila Mandal (SPMM), sponsored by Karuna. The project trains and supports community leaders in villages around the town of Beed in central Maharastra, raising awareness of rights, setting up self help savings groups, and empowering women to take charge of their lives.

Could you tell Sanjivani’s story to a Karuna supporter?

You can help give her and the many millions of Dalits in South Asia who suffer from caste-based discrimination a voice by giving your time and helping out on a Karuna telephone fundraising campaign.

Karuna Telephone Fundraising Campaigns
Led by Jo Goldsmid, an experienced and skilled fundraising trainer.

Telephone fundraisers are needed for our Spring 2010 campaign 19th April – 28th May

Phone campaigns run for 6 weeks and are non-residential. You will be working as part of a Buddhist team based in the Karuna office in London. Financial support is offered. We will be phoning existing supporters to communicate the benefits of Karuna’s work in South Asia with a view to them increasing their regular donation.

To find out more:

Contact Jo Goldsmid
Phone 0207 697 3026

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Buddha walks at Nagaloka

Readers of FWBO News will know of the remarkable ‘Big Buddha’ statue recently unveiled at the Nagarjuna Institute, TBMSG’s main training centre in Nagpur, Central India.

Mangesh Dahiwale writes with further news of the unveiling ceremony, an inauguration message from Sangharakshita, and a translation of a beautiful poem by Daya Pawar, the well-known Marathi women's poet.  He says -

"Nagaloka is located in Nagpur, which is the nerve centre of revival of Buddhism in India after the Great Conversion movement that Dr. Ambedkar initiated in 1956. The aim of the Nagarjuna Institute based in Nagaloka is to train people from all over India in Buddhism and social transformation through peaceful means. The training comprises Buddhist teachings, meditation and community life, besides responses to social situation in India which is largely dominated by caste attitudes. So far, Nagarjuna Institute trained over 500 people from 20 states, and they are actively working in all over India. Their work involves teaching the Buddha Dhamma, and some of them do extensive social work in terms of running hostels and schools.

"Nagarjuna Institute is also emerging as an important centre for interaction of Buddhists from all over the world. It hosted the International Network of Engaged Buddhist (INEB) conference in 2005, and International conference on "Buddhism in Modern World" in 2006. Buddhists from various denominations and nationalities have visited Nagarjuna Institute, notable amongst them are teacher and monks from both the east and west, which also includes Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh and Sulak Sivaraksa.

"To add to the serene atmosphere of the Nagaloka, an open shrine was envisioned with an unique image of the Buddha that will inspire people to follow in the footsteps of the Buddha as the teacher of the humanity. This vision was actualised when on 12th and 13th December 2009 a 32 foot high brass statue of the Buddha walking (on a 28 foot mound and base) was inaugurated at Nagaloka. It is estimated that between 40,000 and over 100,000 visited the Nagaloka campus that day.

"For many years we have wanted to have such a statue at the centre of Nagaloka but until recently that wish remained a mere dream; now it has been actualised. Lokamitra says that it has been one of the most difficult project he has been involved with in during the 31 years he has been living in India, but at the same time the most personally inspiring.

"Urgyen Sangharakshita sent the following message for the inauguration.

After his Enlightenment, the Buddha spent the rest of his life walking from town to town and village to village. Wherever he went he taught people the truth he had discovered. He taught them regardless of caste, education, or social position. By his inspiring presence he also encouraged people to live without fear.
Years ago, the revered Dr Ambedkar, the inaugurator of the Dhamma revolution, expressed a wish that there should be a Walking Buddha, instead of the usual image of the seated, meditating Buddha.
I am therefore overjoyed to learn that a 32 foot high statue of the walking Buddha in abhaya [fearlessness] mudra has been erected at Nagaloka and I heartily congratulate all who have been involved in this historic project.
In particular I congratulate Dhammachari Lokamitra, who originated the project, Wen Kwei Chan, the gifted artist who constructed the image, Ven Kuang Shin, the main donor, Ci Xiong Li, the second main donor, and the other generous donors.
The Nagaloka Walking Buddha will, I am sure, draw visitors and pilgrims from all over India, and indeed from all parts of the world. It will serve to remind us not only of the Buddha and his life but also of the fact that his teaching is a practical one, and one that is to be implemented for the benefit of all.

"The vision of Dr. Ambedkar’s was immortalised in the Marathi poem by Daya Pawar:

“I never see you sitting in
Jeta’s garden
sitting with eyes closed
in meditation, in the lotus position,
in the caves of Ajanta and Ellora
with stone lips sewn shut
sleeping the last sleep of your life.

I see you
walking, talking,
softly, healingly,
on the sorrow of the poor, the weak,
going from hut to hut
in the life-destroying darkness,
torch in hand,
giving the sorrow
that drains the blood
like a contagious disease
a new meaning.”


They are still appealing for funds to complete the landscaping works - please visit if you would like to donate.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Subhuti in India December 2009

Following yesterday’s report of Shakyajata’s Indian travels and Dhamma work, today FWBO News brings you an update on another Order Member's work there. Subhuti is one of the Order’s most active Dharma teachers; he is currently in India on a six-month teaching visit, criss-crossing it North South East and West... FWBO News has recently stumbled across his Facebook page and brings you a digest of some of the stories there.

They’re posted on the FWBO Features page at click to read...

For more news of Subhuti, we’d recommend you become a ‘fan’ of his Facebook page

The reports were written by Dharmashalin, Subhuti’s secretary and travelling companion.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

December in South India: news from a Dharma tour

As Christmas approaches, spare a thought for Shakyajata and Priyadaka,  two Order Members from the UK, both currently touring India and visiting many of TBMSG’s most remote ‘Dhamma outposts’, small projects in remote areas, mostly initiated by gradates from Nagaloka.

She says -

“Well, where to begin? We have been travelling for nearly five weeks now, and every day is packed with impressions, a rollercoaster of unfamiliar experiences. Both of us are showing symptoms of overload (poor sleep, strange dreams, loss of short-term memory etc) so have decided to spend a few days here in Kerala, meditating and chilling out - we have just spent an entire day at the beach!

Before that we were in Hyderabad, where we arrived having survived a rather trying train journey from Bhubaneshwar in Orissa... there were MICE! The situation in Hyderabad could not be more different from Orissa, a remote place where there are a bunch of young mitras full of enthusiasm and inspiration; here TBMSG is much more established.

We visited a very famous site, Nagarjunakonda, an amazing place. Up to about the 5th century CE, this remote, peaceful valley of the ancient river Krishna, was a huge Buddhist monastic settlement, with many monasteries, stupas, viharas etc; then as everywhere in India, Buddhism became overlaid by Brahmanism and eventually disappeared. Then in the 1950s it was decided to build a huge dam, for much-needed irrigation for the peasant farmers of a huge area of Andhra Pradesh. The whole valley was set to be drowned; but a remarkable Indian archaeologist completed an excavation of the whole huge area, in just 6 years. Now the site is a vast lake (the dam is staggeringly huge) with an island where all the artefacts are displayed in a museum, among beautiful gardens and a setting like a Japanese ink-painting.

The Buddhist artefacts are amazing, not quite like anything I have seen before; including large standing and sitting Buddhas with strong faces of a different ethnic appearance from northern Buddhas, and unusual mudras (hand gestures). The site finds go back to the Old Stone Age, so much to take in...and we only had an hour!

The heroine of this stage of our journey is Jnanajyoti, who is making great efforts to connect and reconnect with women she knows in the Sangha here. I do hope they will continue to be supported in future, by TBMSG and the FWBO as a whole. Also great thanks are due to Padmavir who is trying to organise good things for us and, it seems, lots of other visitors at the same time! It's great to witness a revival of the ancient Buddhist traditions in Hyderabad, in a new form which will transform the lives of people here.

Kerala, on the western coast of South India, is hot and humid, quite tropical, and very beautiful, generally cleaner and more sorted than other parts of India.

Today, meditating on the beach, it came clear that there are women here I especially want to help.
In fact we have lots of ideas for projects we want to pursue. We have had a number of successful (if rather stressful) 'programmes' and there is so much interest in people, in what we have to offer. Spending a day or 2 as a 'tourist' has made me realise what it is I love about being here - it is a sort of glow on people's faces when they realise what their potential is for a different way of looking at their lives - that brilliant gleam of human potential, it's the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

And people are so friendly and responsive - a few days ago I found myself talking (to about 100 people) about my brother Asangasila's death (it was the anniversary) in just a natural way...they are so open and uninhibited. In Kerala we have spent a lot of the time with Ratnasiddhi, an Indian Order Member from Nagpur who is very impressive. He connects with people in a way we never could - I said something that inadvertently offended someone very politically militant at a meeting, and he fielded it so expertly. We are learning so much - Priyadaka is revealing a particular talent for teaching meditation, making it simple and appealing and very effective - to a group of 150 people including lots of babies, on one occasion!

Return to Nagpur
On Saturday morning we are going about 150 km north to stay with one of the Indian Dhammamitras in Kerala, who is going to show us some historic sites and put us on the train on Monday morning, to go back to Nagpur in central India, where we shall be based for most of the rest of the time here. This is a bit of a cliff-hanger as we do not have a confirmed reservation yet....our previous experience of this was not positive, we had no space to sleep...the journey takes 2 days and a night, so wish us luck...but it should be an exciting journey, through half of India....time to go now.

Any support you can give will be most welcome, on ... and thanks to you all.

love to all,
Shakyajata and Priyadaka

The map above shows most of TBMSG's groups across India; their website is at

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Children’s activities in Amaravati and Nagpur; India

FWBO News brings you two stories today from India, both about children.

Prompted by our September story of the London Buddhist Centre’s ‘
Buddhist Sunday School’, Amitayus writes from Amaravati telling of their long-standing children's activities there ; and in the larger central India city of Nagpur Tejadhamma has been bringing together children and animated Dharma: surely a winning combination!

He says - “I recently showed the animated movie on Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha’s life to 50-60 children at Nagpur. Many children and parents appreciated the movie and some of the children expressed that they have watched the animated movie of Krishna, Hanuman, Ganesh and other Hindu god/goddesses on TV or cable channels but this was their first opportunity to see a Buddhist animated movie which was so inspiring and they liked it to watch and practice like the Buddhist great people.

“I have seen in many cities in India that the children are spending lots of time watching TV channels but they are not getting any Buddhist culture through the animated movies shown on TV. I realised they need to be shown attractive ways to learn some Buddhist teaching, which is very valuable for human life. I have found that if we talk about what Buddha said, children neglect to listen, so when I was discussing with my colleague  about children’s activities and the Buddhist culture for the next generation; we found that animated movies on Buddhism would be an easy way to communicate the teachings and this was our first attempt to show the movie on big screen by projector which was so appreciated and helpful .’

‘We would like this to show in every Buddha Vihar in Nagpur and the Buddhist centres in India. But this animated movie is in Chinese language; when we showed it, it was translated in Hindi by myself on microphone.

“Now we need to translate in Hindi and make more copies of it. To make this a success I am trying to get an expert translator and raising some funds for screen and projector, making/copying more DVDs with Hindi translation, voice experts to add the Hindi language, animation worker’s expenses, studio charges etc.’ I would be so delighted to see some interested people in this project who can help financially and through their personal contribution. They can contact me on my email

Over in Amaravati, Amitayus writes with news of their Buddhist children’s activities. He says -

“To the editor FWBO-TBMSG news, Jaibhim!

“We are happy to know that the London Buddhist Centre has started a Buddhist Sunday school focusing on children and their development. I heartily appreciate the activities the LBC team are arranging especially the stories and crafts which are the very effective way of nurturing the child’s mind. Also it is great to have the Little Buddha Children’s Club at Nagpur.

“We want to let you know that we at TBMSG Amravati in central India have a history of running successful children’s classes since 1994. The outcome of these are that we had many young men and women from that becoming Dhammamitras and many are now working for TBMSG in various places. They strongly appreciate how these children’s activities have helped them to understand Buddhism and meditation, and how the ethical practices of Buddhism have helped them to develop their personality.

"It is also prideful for us that we have regular Children’s classes in many slums around Amaravati, places like Mahadeo Khori, Panchashil Nagar, and the village Anjangao Bari.

"This class especially has become known to many people in India because the villagers boycotted the local school when it admitted 22 HIV positive children. At that time our Sukhavati women’s and children empowerment project (funded by Karuna Trust UK) successfully intervened in the issue and initiated a children’s class in this village too.

"Altogether it is clear to us that in all the FWBO –TBMSG there are INCREASING children’s projects which are not known to all Sangha members. We are happy to inform you of our activities in Amaravati. I hope you will publish the same through FWBO –TBMSG NEWS , all the news on FWBO-TBMSG is inspiring and experience the sangha success.

"Many thanks, Amitayus"

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) celebrates 20th anniversary

The International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) recently celebrated its 20th anniversary at Chiang Mai, Thailand, in the course of which Lokamitra led a retreat for over 100 participants from all over the Buddhist world. Priyadarshi Telang, from TBMSG's Jambudvipa project, sends us his report. He says -

"The International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) celebrated its 20th anniversary November 9th-17th at the at Chiang Mai, Thailand, November 9th-16th with a variety of activities. Over the last few years links with INEB have grown; Lokamitra is at present a member of their advisory committee, while Mangesh Dahiwale is a member of their executive committee. INEB was founded by Sulak Sivaraksa, who at the age of 76, is beginning to withdraw from the front line of INEB activities.

"The conference therefore also marked this period of transition with the formation of larger and more diverse advisory and executive committees, as well as a secretariat more able to coordinate the fast growing network.

Sangha and Kalyanamitra

"The celebrations started with a three day retreat led by Dhammachari Lokamitra. This was attended by about 100 participants from 16 different countries. The participants included almost 30 bhikshus and bhikshunis from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, Ladakh, and Bhutan. Indian participants included Maitrivir Nagarjuna from the New Delhi centre, Pradeep Bansode, Priyadarshi Telang and Mangesh Dahiwale from Jambudvipa Trust, Deepak and Manish from Nagarjuna Training Institute, Anand Shakya from Karuna Vihar Hostel, Gujarat, and Anurag Meshram and Sumedh Sthool, social activists connected with The Jambudvipa Trust. Ratnadharini, from Tiratanaloka, UK, also attended.

"The idea of the retreat was to provide a situation in which people could experience deeper communication on the basis of going for refuge to Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, as a prelude to the four days of discussions that followed. The theme was “Sangha and Kalyanamitra”. INEB is trying to operate according to the principles of Sangha, while Sulak Sivaraksa has always emphasised that it is the spirit of kalyanamitrata that breathes life into the network. On the first day Jonathan Watts, Jill Jameson and Ven Kalupahana explored the question of Sangha in the modern world. On the second day, Ven Khenpo, and Tempel looked at the principle of Kalyanamitra. On the last day, Anchalee Kurutach, Dhammacharini Ratnadharini and Harsha Navaratne talked about work as spiritual practice from their own experience.

"Given the diverse traditions which the retreatants came from, Lokamitra tried to make it as inclusive as possible. Apart from the short talks and discussion groups following them, the day consisted of a number of periods of meditation, including special emphasis on the metta bhavana. The days started with traditional salutations from Theravada and Mahayana monks and nuns, as well as from the Japanese “priests”. It concluded with the Seven Fold Puja, or the Pali Puja led by Indian friends.

"The retreat was followed by the 3-day conference, the mornings of which included four sessions of talks and symposia, while the afternoon sessions were meant for group discussions based on country and general issues. On the first day Mangesh Dahiwale made a presentation on “Critical reflections on Engaged Buddhism” with Jonathan Watts. On the third Ratnadharini gave a presentation on the future of the Sangha, along with the Thai bhikshu, Ven Phaisan, who preceded her, and in calling for a thorough review of approach to Sangha, paved the way for her by indicating that more serious attention needs to be given to the approach the Western Buddhist Order. Ratnadharini approached the question by looking at her work and life as a preceptor based at Tiratanaloka, the women’s retreat centre in UK dedicated to helping women prepare for ordination. Later in the morning Lokamitra led a discussion on “Coming Home – the implications of the Revival of Buddhism in India” in which Dhammachari Viradhamma, Dhammachari Maitriveer Nagarjuna and Dr. H.C. Yo participated. The last day was taken up with a meeting of the advisory and executive bodies. The whole programme was interspersed with other talks and cultural events, some of them spontaneous.

"Most of us felt, at the end of the retreat and conference, that we had been able to communicate something of the enormous significance of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism, as well as of the relevance of the approach of the FWBO/TBMSG in the modern world.

"But we all went away inspired by the efforts of so many Buddhists to put apply their practice of Buddhism to the social issues confronting the modern world, by their receptivity, friendliness, and by the trans-cultural situation we found ourselves in.

"It is a great tribute Sulak Sivaraksa that he has been able to cultivate this network of very dedicated but diverse number of Buddhists. INEB has grown considerably in the last 20 years and hopefully will have an increasingly positive influence on the world over the next few years".

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bristol Skills Auction raises money for Dhamma work in India

A major FWBO-wide project scheduled for 2010 is fundraising for Dhamma work in India.

The newly-formed India Dhamma Trust ( is seeking to raise funds to support around 20 of the Movement’s most central Dhamma workers in India, both men and women.

Fundraising for money to support two part-time fundraisers has been going on in the Western Buddhist Order for some time now, and an appeal to the wider Sangha is scheduled to begin in the New Year.

The Bristol Buddhist Centre have been first to get on board with a very successful Skills Auction in aid of the new fund, and Silajala writes from Bristol to say -

“Hello, it's a little while now since we had our Skills Auction so this is a final update to let you know how it all went and to say thanks again to all of you who helped in one way or another.

“We raised over £700 including the gift aid. In fact the final figure is £756.32! I'm very pleased with this sum and it shows how much generosity there is within and for the Sangha. The atmosphere generated on the evening seemed to so strongly rub off on people that we ended up with extra skills being offered at the last minute, plus an extras like a one-off donation.

“To my mind the skills auction was a great way to build Sangha, in that it encouraged us all in our generosity, forged links with one another and brought us together in a lively and enjoyable way. Please come to the next one if you can!

“So a big final THANK YOU to everyone who offered skills and to those of you who came and bid for them too. I'd also like to thank Satyalila, Amaladevi, Achalavira, Adrian Bonds, Padmavyuha, Jnanarakshita, Karunavapi and MahaRatnajyoti for all their help in getting everything set up. And finally thanks to the auctioneer himself - Satyadarshin. With me as his assistant the two of us worked well together and along with everyone else we had a lot of FUN!

“Yours in the Sangha

Please look out for the India Dhamma Trust as we move into 2010 - their website is just on-line but they’re planning a series of Centre visits and other events.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Big Buddha inaugurated in India

Breaking news is just in from India (via Facebook): Yogesh Wanjari reports - 

"just back from inaugration ceremony of the 56 feet standing BUDDHA.  About 100,000 people were there [at TBMSG's Nagaloka campus in Nagpur] to attend that ceremony. everything was just so beautiful. hats off to all those BUDDHIST heroes who have been contributing their wealth, skill, time and whatever they have given, to accomplish this thing. with metta.
about an hour ago ·  · 

We'll try to bring you a full report and more photos soon.  

Fund-raising for the finishing touches to the Buddha and landscape works is still going on; please visit if you'd like to contribute.


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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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Monday, November 30, 2009

Dhamma travels in India

Shakyajata is a woman Order Member from Manchester, turned India traveller and supporter of the many graduates of TBMSG’s Dhamma and Social training programme at Nagaloka in central India. Since the programme started 8 years ago some 400 young men and women from all over India have graduated; many have returned home to begin Dhamma groups where they live. She and Priyadaka, also from the UK, are currently on an extended tour visiting many of them in their home towns and villages. She’s fundraising as she goes, and FWBO News readers are warmly invited to contribute to her fundraising page

She writes -

Dear all,

Here is an update of what I shall be doing in India this winter, all being well. The best news of the lot, is that I shall be travelling most of the time with Priyadaka, an old friend, India returnee, energetic idealist and very experienced fundraiser, to name but a few of his auspicious is that?

Our plan, in roughly chronological order, is:

Nagpur, central India: Aryaloka Animation students, 2nd - 7th November
We hope to be able to assess the success of this experiment in giving this training to 10 ex-Nagaloka Training Institute trainees, 6 of whom are fully supported by our fundraising efforts.

Orissa, north-eastern India - Dhamma Work, 8th - 22nd Nov.
We shall be travelling round this state where there is a lot of poverty and very little in the way of specifically Buddhist activity; the ex-NTI trainees here are focusing on social work, and we hope to devise strategies to support them in future. and raise their profile. Jnanajyoti and Tejadhamma will be with us, plus Utpal, Trinath and Nagavajra and others, who are doing the work on the ground.

Hyderabad, south India - 23rd - 28th Nov.
We hope to be able to meet up with Padmavir, late of NTI. Also I hope to pick up on some of the women who were contacted on previous outreach projects to Hyderabad. And do a bit of chilling-out in fascinating places!

Thiruvanathapuram and Kollam, Kerala, south India - 30th Nov - 11th Dec.
A short, but rather full programme of activities in Trivandrum with Nagaratna and others, joined by Ratnasiddhi for some of the time. We hope to spend time at Abhayaloka in Kollam, with Binoj Babu and others, and give everyone help where we can, with fundraising and publicity, for example.

Nagaloka, Nagpur, 14th Dec. - 13th Jan.
This part of the programme is still under negotiation, but will definitely include the 'launch' of the Buddhist Comic produced by the Animation course students, which we hope will be a successful fundraiser and focus for their first self-supporting efforts. We hope to do some teaching, myself on the mainstream curriculum at Nagaloka, and Priyadaka probably teaching English at Aryaloka Computer Education (where the A.C. course is being taught.)

Wardha, 14th - 21st Jan
We will both be on the team of a BIG retreat, maybe 1000 people, for 'Dalit' (marginalised) people, led by Saddharaja. Two-thirds of the retreatants are expected to be women. Check their fundraising page at

Our aims
This rather diffuse-looking programme will be unified, we hope, by the following long-term aims; "to support young people from disadvantaged ('low-caste') communities throughout India, so that they will have the skills and confidence to bring about radical positive change for their communities: overcoming poverty, prejudice and ignorance by peaceful means."

Your support will be most welcome, financial but also encouragement, thank you. Our fundraising page is at

Just to bring you up to date - I’m writing this from extremely hot and steamy Orissa. It actually rains from time to time, then it gets hotter and steamier - but I'm not complaining, Orissa is very beautiful, and we are doing things I love, with lovely people.

For example, this afternoon we visited the State Museum, Bhubaneswar, mainly to view local Buddhist artefacts; and maybe predictably, that section of the museum was closed for renovation. And in that Indian way, they let us look at the stuff anyway. There were some amazing images, - including a terrifying Tantric one of a kind of gruesome animated corpse holding a severed head - but many of them appeared to have been quite brutally defaced by some past holocaust. Orissa is strongly orthodox Hindu, and our friends here work against a lot of resistance to their Buddhist values. They are mostly young and inexperienced, and we are here to find out what sort of support network can be given to them.

In the museum, I wandered into the 'tribal section' with Trinath, who is our main organiser here, and it was absolutely delightful. He comes from a village family in Western Orissa, and was brought up in quite a traditional way; and many of the objects on display, were just like things used by his family. His grandfather made this sort of basket net to catch fish, he used to wear this sort of hat woven of leaves; and best of all, he is very interested in music, and a very good mimic, and he imitated the sounds of all the strange instruments we saw, and even knew how to make them; like a personal audio show, and it was so good to see how he came alive, in contact with his own history. I felt so privileged to share that.

Spending time with these young people who are so dedicated and kind, despite their struggles, is a sheer delight; and my Order member friends too. Tejadhamma (from Nagpur) is full of energy and enthusiasm, seems to be able to handle any situation, and is full of good ideas to support the mitras in future. Jnanjyoti (also from Nagpur) is a rock, a terrifically strong woman and a great role model for the girls and women we are meeting here. I shall miss them so much when we part (quite shortly), and I am so grateful that Priyadaka (from east London) will still be with me. He is so supportive and thoughtful, and gaining in confidence (eg in public speaking) all the time, and forming good friendships with the young guys here; they tease each other unmercifully, a very good sign.

There is so much I could write about, but this may have to do for now....we are all pretty well, I am fine, and just very happy to be here. At the weekend we will have a two-day retreat for the mitras, to try and give them some tools for their work here. Then we are off to Hyderabad, next Monday; more from there later.

best wishes to all,

Shakyajata and Priyadaka

PS - do check our  fundraising page!

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Death of Dhammachari Silendrabodhi in India

Amrutdeep, one of the Indian Order Convenors, writes to say -

“I am very sorry to inform you that Dhammachari Silendrabodhi passed away at his home in Ulhasnagar, India, on Saturday 14th November at 11.30 a.m. His death was due to old age - he was 92 years old.

“Silendrabodhi was ordained in 1987. He contributed a lot to establishing the Ulhasnagar centre and was Kalyanamitra for so many Order members and well respected amongst the whole Order here.

“His funeral took place evening of 14th November 7.30 p.m. and before that his body was kept in the shrine hall at Ulhasnagar centre”.

“Yours in the Sangha, Amrutdeep”

An interview with Silendrabodhi about his remarkable life, including a meeting with Dr. Ambedkar, can be found on the Karuna Trust website. He begins -

"I was born in 1918 in Hyderabad, which at that time was a separate country with its own ruler. My mother died when I was very young and I was brought by my father to a village near Nagpur in what was then the British ruled part of Maharashtra. While I was growing up we suffered a lot because of untouchability. At primary school if we accidentally touched the food of other children we would be beaten up and the food would be thrown away. My father worked in the Brahmins' fields, but we couldn't drink from their wells or go into their houses..."

Click here to read more.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Report from International Dhammakranti Retreat at Buddhagaya

Rohan from India’s ‘Dhammakranti’ project sends us this report of their recent retreat at Bodh Gaya, place of the Buddha’s Enlightenment and pivot of the Buddhist world.

‘Dhammakranti’ means ‘Dhamma Revolution’; their vision is a revival of the Buddha’s teaching across the length and breadth of India, and thus, the establishment of a truly caste-free society in India and an end to the appalling suffering this system still causes. He says-

“We have been organizing the Dhammakranti retreat for last seven years; this is the eight one in a series. Over last seven retreats nearly 8,500 people from 15 different states and from 20 different caste backgrounds have participated, we have tried to give to each an experience of a casteless society based on Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. This is one of our main aims.

"This was the fourth Dhammakranti retreat we have organized at the most holy and auspicious place Buddhagaya in Bihar, India.  It took place 18 Oct to 23 Oct 2009.

Our aim

A. We wanted to set up a model for a casteless society. This would work as an inspiration for people in India who are working to annihilate the caste system as per the vision of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.

B. We wanted to give an experience of a compassionate community of a wide variety of people coming from all many different parts of India and around the world.

C. We wanted to create an opportunity for people to interact with each other from different caste backgrounds and meet one another deeply enough to experience the unity and harmony between each other so that the habit of seeing people as higher or lower vanishes.

D. We decided to use Buddhist teachings as the major components of the retreat.

E. We wanted to revive a Buddhist culture in India

We brought together people from 7 different states in India - Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, and 4 Countries in the world - India, Britain, Thailand, New Zealand. This allowed us to have a real international flavor on the retreat.

We allowed 75 people to come free on the retreat, they were from various poor backgrounds specially from Bihar and Orissa. This helped them to build their confident and have the chance to interact with other Buddhists.

"All together 200 people participated in this retreat.  Dhammachari Subhuti was the leader of the retreat.

Talks and events

"We had an inauguration program on 18th evening where people from different countries and states introduced themselves in a group with their cultural background and won the hearts of many people.

"The main theme on the retreat was The Buddha Mind and the Five-Buddha mandala. Subhuti gave talks every morning. We explored the Buddhas by visiting the Maha Bodhi Temple everyday and reflecting on the five Buddhas, meditation, group discussion and communication exercises. Walking meditations also helped us to go deeper in to the theme.

"At the end of the retreat we had a mitra diksha (mitra ceremony) under the Bodhi tree. In this, seven brothers and sisters from four different states and two different nations expressed their strong commitment to the three jewels. As part of this, Dhammapali is the first Thai mitra we have in our movement.

Coming up - and our request to you
"Our next retreat we are going to have is in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, in December. We would like to get your generous help for this great cause.

"Please visit or; your support will help us to do the Buddhist uplift in India.

"Namo Buddhay and  Jai Bhim to all!"

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Karuna Trust patron dies

Andrea McCaghy writes from the FWBO’s Karuna Trust to say -

“We have just learned that one of our patrons, Professor David Morley, has died aged 86. He was a doctor specialising in Tropical Child Health and saved the lives of many thousands of children in developing countries, making huge contributions to improving their health and development.

“Virabhadra, a Karuna Trustee and doctor, explains Karuna's connection with Professor Morley: “My connection with David Morley started when I did the Diploma of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene course in London in 1981. At that time Prof Morley headed the Tropical Child Health Unit at the Institute of Child Health and during the course we had the opportunity to visit his unit to learn about the community oriented approach to child health that he very actively advocated.

"At that time the UK Government's ‘teaching aids at low cost’ programme was up and running, and I remember obtaining many of those materials that I subsequently used when establishing our health activities for slum dwellers in Pune. I particularly remember his strong views against the building of what he called ‘disease palaces’ (hospitals!) in the developing world, and his advocacy of community-based child health strategies that really reached those in need. That is still a very live issue in many parts of the developing world, where curative services tend to consume the lion’s share of health budgets.

“He took a keen interest in the education programmes as well as our slum health work, and I think that reflected his insight that the key to health lay ultimately in education, and especially access to education for the poor. I recall a detailed list of very interested queries and comments that he sent us in 1994 after we produced the first formal evaluation of the hostels project and the quality of educational support being provided.”

Karuna was formed in 1980, as the FWBO’s principal response to the suffering of India’s Dalit population. For 30 years Karuna has worked with some of India’s most disadvantaged people, sending over £1million every year to support low-caste and tribal communities, street children and refugees fulfill their potential through the wide range of social and Dharma projects. Karuna now works with hundreds of thousands of people across South Asia supporting projects that are building dignity, challenging discrimination, and supporting people’s practice of Buddhism.

80% of Karuna’s work is supported by thousands of individuals across the UK who, having met with a Karuna volunteer fundraiser (usually via one of Karuna’s legendary door-knocking appeals!) have decided to contribute money to Karuna on a regular basis.

There is still much work to do, so in 2010 Karuna are launching new fundraising campaigns to support our ongoing efforts to help uplift the Dalit people of South Asia out of poverty and discrimination towards lives of hope and choice. You can contribute in one of three ways -

• Help out on a telephone fundraising campaign
• Join a door-to-door fundraising Appeal
• Live in a pioneering men’s fundraising community for a year

If you’re feeling inspired, or simply curious to find out more, click on the Karuna ad! You can contact one of us direct - the Karuna fundraising team is Jo Goldsmid, Pete Hannah, Khemajala or Amalavajra, phone 0207 697 3026 or email us on Karuna’s appeals website is

Thanks, Andrea

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Youth Retreat in Bodh Gaya, part II

Here's a follow-up to yesterday's brief report on the recent NNBY Youth retreat at Bodh Gaya.

Aruna Kornana from NNBY reports -

The National Network of Buddhist Youth (NNBY) organized their first regional gathering at Bodhgaya, in Bihar.

It was a great challenge - the first time for this event with an entirely new group of people, working in a new place - but so successful.

Before the retreat the team went from one village to another, house to house, with the aim of educating the local people in the benefits of attending. Some places they could only reach on foot (almost 8-10 KM) and some on tractor.

The greatest challenge we expected was to get the Bihari girls out to come on this retreat as many had never before been away from their family. The local people proved our misconceptions wrong by sending their daughters to the retreat. In fact our efforts resulted in 35 enrollments, which is a big achievement as the tradition doesn’t allow girls to come out and participate in any such activities. This clearly shows how enthusiastic the people of Bihar are.

Dhammachari Subhuti led the retreat educating all present in the importance of Babasaheb Ambedkar ’s great Mantra “EDUCATE, AGITATE AND ORGANIZE”, dealing each of them separately. He mainly focused on how great a difference it makes when we form a proper Sangha: how much more we can contribute to each others’ growth, leading to development of ourselves and the society.

Dhammachari Maitriveer Nagarjuna from U.P. (Uttar Pradesh) led the team with morning Meditation and a talk followed by Group Discussion. We had Personality Development sessions in the afternoon - NVC (Non Violence Communication), English, information about RTI (Right to Information), Career Counseling, Play for Peace, and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), all led by different organizers. At night before we dispersed to bed we had daily Vandana (Puja). We also had a temple visit where we were guided around the sites where the Buddha spent 7 weeks after attaining enlightenment.

One could clearly see what difference the retreat had made on the young citizens. We encouraged them to put forward their concerns which brought into focus the lack of proper resources in the villages and the many obstacles they face in their way to growth.

Greatest of all was the need for girl’s education. The girls present were so happy that they could make it to the retreat. Most of them went back with a positive energy to do something for the other village girls, to motivate them, educate them and take this further. By the end of the retreat we had NNBY task groups (Sangha) one each for different regions. Dhammachari Subhuti in the concluding session said “Before I came to India I told my people in England that there wouldn’t be any girls on the retreat. But I can see that you had made a big difference, a great contribution.”

So a big applause to the whole team of organizers: Sailesh, Sachin, Sujivak (Govind), Suchit, Sujit, Seema, Sandhya, Preeti, Keerti, Aruna, Praneet and Ratnesh.

The whole team contributed in fulfilling the purpose of the Retreat: bringing awareness to the Youth, spreading the message of Buddha and Babasaheb Dr. Ambedkar, also personality development, career counseling, guidance, and play!

With Lots of Metta,
Aruna Kornana

If you'd like to contribute to NNBY's work in India please visit their fundraising website (In the US, we recommend

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Indian Buddhist youth gather in Bodh Gaya

News is just in of the first-ever NNBY Youth retreat held at Bodh Gaya, place of the Buddha’s enlightenment some 2,500 years ago. NNBY stands for the Indian ‘National Network of Buddhist Youth’, a TBMSG project created some three years ago and now spread across India.

130 young Buddhist men and women came for 4 days from 6 states across India, creating between them a true ‘casteless society’ and giving many their first real taste of Sangha, or spiritual community.

Organising the retreat was a major achievement for them given that Bodh Gaya, up in a remote corner of North-East India, is many hundreds of miles from today’s ‘Buddhist heartland’ down in Maharastra.

The retreat was led by Subhuti on the theme of 'Educate, Agitate, Organise' - Dr. Ambedkar’s famous slogan. They meditated, studied, performed puja -and of course found time to play and sing! You can get a flavour of it from the YouTube video sent us by Dharmashalin - or check their website

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Shakyajata and Priyadaka set off to support ex-Nagaloka trainees

Priyadaka reports -

"We will be visiting several states in India over the next three months to follow up these young men and women, all graduates of TBMSG’s Nagarjuna Training Institute, helping them put their Dhamma and other skills training to full use in their communities. You can catch a fuller picture of this exciting project at:

"We intend to help them establish Dhamma teaching; to learn fundraising; to improve their English and even set up a Buddhist materials shop, all in three months! This is ambitious, but we want to aim high and build this project over several years.

"We thought a good way to mark it would be to reproduce here her final blog post, written immediately after her return last March - it captures very evocatively the joys and struggles of working in India, the idealism, the rewards and the frustrations…

She says -
“Thank you Lokabandhu, I'd be very pleased indeed to have my blog report reproduced on FWBO news. Maybe you could say too, that I am fundraising for the future skills training of these prospective young Dhamma workers - see my new webpage 'YoungIndianFutures'.

“Hope you are very well.
“much metta, Shakyajata

Blog March '09 – Shakyajata

“Hello from Shakyajata. I am writing this in the women's community in Manchester, where I have been kindly invited to stay for a while, to recover from the physical and emotional shocks which I experienced on leaving India and returning to the UK. A combination of a nasty bug, jetlag, and the pain of parting from people and projects which had become very dear to me, combined in a devastating way, and I lost about a stone in weight in the first 24 hours after arriving in Manchester.

“However, I am now recovering rapidly (more rapidly than I did when I returned from India in January 2008) and keen to re-engage at a distance with those projects and those people. I feel thankful to the gods of the IT realm, that my little laptop seems to have survived the travelling of 1000s of miles, and the terrible spikes and surges of the Nagaloka electricity supply. It seems ready to carry me into the work of following-up the deeply inspiring initiatives that I have seen developing in India, towards a better future for the young heroines and heroes to whom we have been teaching English, and through them, for hundreds or even thousands more people from poor backgrounds.

“Let me say here a big THANK YOU, to all the people who participated in the English teaching project at Nagaloka. Thank you Jess, Julie, Ken, Jenny, Sue, and Nealey, and especially Aryagita and Achala who are keeping the project going on a permanent basis. I think we can congratulate ourselves that we have made a great difference to the lives of the students of the Nagarjuna Training Institute. At the very least they have gained greatly in confidence; those with reasonable English have become much more fluent, those even with a little have made some progress, and the majority have a sound basis for improvement now and in future, in their fluency and their life-chances. Well done us, team! We gave it our best, and I personally feel I have gained greatly from the experience (or will when I have picked up the pieces!).

“THANK YOU also to all you out there who sponsored us. As well as ourselves and 3 - 4 months of teaching, we gave to the Nagaloka students (who have so little) books, stationery, a PowerPoint projector and laptop, and ongoing financial support for this year's project and the next one. (Also a lot of laughs, and sometimes oranges). You were so generous, and what you gave has gone a long, long way.

“The next big THANK YOU, is to the people who made it possible for us to do our work at NTI; to Padmavir and Vivekaratna, Nagamitra and Tejadhamma, Aryaketu, all the staff at Nagaloka and the girls' hostel, all our wonderful Guest-masters and porridge-cooks, and especially the students themselves, who threw themselves in with such enthusiasm and gratitude, who sang and danced and wrote poetry and drew pictures and mimed for us, made us laugh and cry, who bring the place alive in such a heart-opening way. A huge garland for each of you, of jasmine roses and blue lotuses. I will never forget you, you will always have friends in the West.

“Phew. What a life-changing experience it has been. If any of you out there, would like to participate in future, please let me know...”

Their plans for 2009 include an ambitious travel program visiting many Nagaloka graduates, who are scattered all over India. They’re off to Orissa, Hyderabad, Kerala, Chennai, Wardha, and Pune - India veterans will know just how much travelling this means! We hope to be reporting on some of their adventures in due course…

To contribute to their work, and to the Nagaloka Futures support fund, please visit

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