free counters

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".

Labels: , , , , ,

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Buddhist youth gatherings in UK and India

This weekend sees two gatherings of young Buddhists involved with the FWBO/TBMSG - but on opposite sides of the planet. Both are in response to a growing awareness that our Sangha has aged in the 40 years since the FWBO and TBMSG were founded.

In the UK’s Peak District a record 37 people (plus Lokabandhu, no longer so young but needed as organiser and cook!) will come together to practice, strengthen friendships, and explore the possibility of setting up a network of young people’s reps across the FWBO’s centres in the UK and Europe.

In India there’s a North India regional youth gathering at Bodh Gaya (site of the Buddha’s Enlightenment) organised by NNBY, the National Network of Buddhist Youth, a self-organising network that came out of TBMSG’s Dhammakranti project a couple of years ago. They say “In this gathering youth will develop their skills on Personality Development, English Education, the Right to Information Act, Mind Mapping and Social Awareness through the teachings of Lord Buddha and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Dh. Subhuti will be the main teacher”. Hard on the heels of their event will be another, this time in Amaravati in Central India, and home to a thriving Buddhist Sangha.

For more information, check the FWBO Young People’s group on Facebook - up to 180 members and counting; or the NNBY website.

Buddhist Sanghas in the West generally seem to be experiencing the same issue - this year has seen the both UK’s Network of Buddhist Organisations and the European Buddhist Union devoting their annual gatherings to this theme. The EBU’s meeting was held last week at Taraloka, and was addressed by Lindsay Hannah, co-organiser of the coming weekend.

The chart shows how the age profile of the Western Buddhist Order has changed in the 40 years since it was founded. Pink bars represent the proportion of 20-30-year-olds; yellow 30-40-year-olds: both groups in rapid decline as a percentage of the whole!

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Calling Buddhist Artists - and their fans...

Lokabandhu writes to say -

"Calling all Buddhist artists - there's a new community-based website dedicated to featuring the work of Buddhist artists of all schools and working in all media. You are of course invited to join! The site offers simple ways of sharing your work (text/images/videos), searching for others (by location, media, or Sangha), linking to personal websites, and exchanging news and views.

"The initiative for the site came out of the inter-Buddhist 'Buddha Mind Creative Mind' conference at SGI's Taplow Court this summer in the UK, where it became apparent just how many Buddhist artists there are in the UK Buddhist community, working in so many ways.

"You'll find it at Signing up is quick, easy and free.

"Lastly just to say that of course many Buddhist artists are not likely to be very interested in the Internet. So, if you're a FAN of someone special, how about asking them if you can act as their agent, and create a page promoting their work?

"Best wishes, Lokabandhu (not an artist, but an administrator of the website)"

Labels: ,

Friday, July 03, 2009

Report from ‘Buddha Mind - Creative Mind?’ conference

Amitajyoti from the FWBO’s London Buddhist Arts Centre writes with this review of the recent ‘Buddha Mind - Creative Mind?’ event, held over the weekend of 12-14th June. She says -

"‘Buddha Mind - Creative Mind?’ was an intra-Buddhist Arts and Creativity event, held at Taplow Court, a beautiful venue just outside London belonging to Soka Gakkai International (SGI), and organised by the Institute of Oriental Philosophy, supported by the UK’s Network of Buddhist Organisations (NBO).

"The focus of this event was an exploration of the relationship between Buddhist thought/practice and Creativity with specific reference to the arts. Does Buddhist thought and practice help or hinder the creative process? The theme was explored through a series of academic lectures, discussion, exhibition of artworks and workshops. The event brought together around 80 people from a broad spectrum of backgrounds Buddhist and non-Buddhist, artist and non-artists all who share an interest in the theme. The exhibition of visual arts included sculpture, painting and film and represented 40 artists who each share some association with Buddhism.

"The spirit of creativity was evoked during the weekend through the spirit of participation and play that was encouraged by the organisers throughout the event. Contributors included academics, artists, singer-songwriters, curators, and art critics from a range of backgrounds and traditions including singer-songwriter Howard Jones; Robert Beer, artist and author of ‘The Encyclopaedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs’; Sister Zangmo, Buddhist nun, artist and tutor; Samanera Amaranatho from Amaravati; and members of ‘The Bodhisattvas’, an Engaged Buddhist acoustic duo! For a fuller review of the programme see Chris Wards report on TripleGem.

"Dr John Peacock gave the introductory talk on the theme of ‘Life as a Work of Art’, offering us the opportunity of being creative moment by moment through the activity of ‘giving attention’ to one’s experience, which, he stated, is the ‘opening of the creative life’ - a willingness to experience things beyond the familiar. The range of talks given covered historical developments in art from ‘The Rise of Buddhist art in India, Third century BCE to second century CE’ to the influence of Buddhism upon the visual arts in the USA since 1950’s, and poetry in USA and UK, as well as some talks given by contemporary Buddhist artists, writers, singers and musicians in the UK.

"Of the FWBO practitioners who participated in the weekend, Akasaka led a drawing workshop entitled ‘Drawing as meditation’, Ratnagarbha gave a talk on Buddhism in modern poetry, and Lilavati and myself each gave a presentation and facilitated a discussion group on the theme of how Buddhist thought and practice influence the creative process.

"On the Saturday evening we had a vegetarian dinner prepared by volunteers from SGI UK which was held in the main house. The food was delicious and was served with great care and consideration which can only be an influence of Japanese etiquette – reflective of the general care and attentiveness of the organising teams throughout the weekend. The Saturday eve soiree was an opportunity for participants to offer poetry, performance and music. The richness and diversity of this event was a real highlight, with Richard Gombrich singing Wagnerian arias, John Peacock sublimely playing the sitar, followed by poetry readings and songs concluding with ‘The Bodhisattvas’ who offered guitar, drum, singalong vocals - and the odd Sex Pistols song!

"With a healthy combination of analytical enquiry, discussion and play the event offered us an opportunity to really explore the theme and gain deeper understandings of the relationship between the creative processes of the mind and Buddhist thought and practice. Thanks to Jamie Cresswell (Director of the IOP) and Val Stephenson for their broad vision of the arts and creativity and for putting so much energy, enthusiasm and skill into the organisation of this event.

"If you would like to make contact with other people interested in this field, go to - the site of the Dharma Arts Network (DAN) which was launched at the conference, or the London Buddhist Arts Centre’s website where you can sign up to their database.

For further references to the influence of Buddhism upon Western Art I recommend two American publications entitled ‘Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art’ and ‘Smile of the Buddha’.

Labels: ,

Friday, April 10, 2009

Coming up soon: three events looking at Buddhism in the cultural life of the West

Mostly FWBO News is about exactly that – news of the FWBO. However the FWBO is but a small part of the much larger wider Buddhist world; and today we bring you news of a few upcoming events from it. They’re interesting as all three point to the increasing influence of Buddhism in the cultural life of the West.

Coming up soon is a major exhibition and programme of events at London’s V&A Museum. “The Many Faces of Buddhism” is a season of arts and cultural events presented in London by The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation. Starting on Saturday 25 April it will see artists from around the world taking part in an international forum at the V&A. This aims to “Investigate the ways in which contemporary art practice resonates with Buddhist thought “, including an exploration of the use of the mind in the process of creation and perception; the role of Buddhism in the modernist impulse to integrate art and life; artists whose work is linked with their own Buddhist practice; artists whose work reflects the themes of Buddhism; and the potential of Buddhist theories for the teaching and presentation of art.

The forum will bring together four distinguished international artists: Lin Hwai Min, choreographer and founder of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre in Taiwan; Meredith Monk, internationally acclaimed composer, singer and choreographer of new opera; Sanford Biggers, multi-media African-American artist who fuses aspects of Buddhism with global pop culture; and Kimsooja, South Korean artist who addresses issues of the displaced self through performance, video and installation.

More details at

May 7-17 sees the International Buddhist Film Festival (IBFF) festival opening in London. During a ten day run at the Barbican Centre they’ll show forty-six films from eighteen nations, including dramatic features, comedies, documentaries and animated works, including twenty-seven UK premieres.

“This is world cinema with a Buddhist touch,” said IBFF executive director Gaetano Kazuo Maida. “We reached out to filmmakers and archives on three continents to bring over a wide range of works that reflect the incredible diversity of expression and impact of Buddhist ideas today.”

More on this at

And last – but by no means least, and following directly on from the above, is a Conference entitled "Buddha Mind-Creative Mind?" organised by the ‘Institute of Oriental Philosophy’ in conjunction with Britain's 'Network of Buddhist Organisations', of which the FWBO is an active member.

They describe this as a “weekend of exploration” exploring links and relationships between the creative life, artistic expression, and Buddhist thought and practice. The programme includes speakers, workshops, demonstrations, dialogues with artists, live performances, and an exhibition covering a range of artistic practices.

Dates are Friday 12th ~ Sunday 14th June at Taplow Court, Taplow, nr Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 0ER. More details and a booking form at


Monday, March 30, 2009

News from the Network of Buddhist Organisations

The Network of Buddhist Organisations,, or NBO, is the UK’s principle forum for Buddhists of all schools to meet and collaborate. Last weekend saw them launch two important new initiatives at their AGM: a ‘helpline’ for those who have, in the words of the NBO, "Bumped into Buddhism and come away Bruised" and, for the first time, a Code of Conduct.

In addition the afternoon session was devoted to exploring the topic of Young People and the Dharma, with an informative presentation by Venerable Amaranatho and Sister Cittapalo from Amaravati; this was followed by discussion. Amaravati have a website with many useful resources at, of especial interest may be their Child Protection Policy at

The NBO’s new Code of Conduct asks members to promote their aims, which are:
a) To promote fellowship and dialogue between Buddhist Organisations.
b) To facilitate cooperation in matters of common interest.
c) To work in harmony with Buddhist and other like-minded organisations throughout the world.

Furthermore it says “In order to maintain harmony and promote Buddhist teachings in the UK, as a Buddhist organisation and member of the NBO we undertake the following:

a) To observe the ethical standards as exemplified by the Five Precepts in all our activities.
b) To undertake that our members will not defame or attack each others organisations or teachers in public or through the media.
c) If disagreements arise between NBO organizations or with other organizations or groups, every attempt will be made to resolve them through internal processes or through private discussion and mediation.

A fuller Code is under discussion and may be introduced during 2009.

Of the new helpline they say -

“From time to time people have bad experiences in the context of their exploration of the Buddhist path. Sometimes this is as a result of mistakes and misunderstanding on the part of one or both parties involved. More rarely, some organisations or some teaching relationships have become dysfunctional for a variety of different reasons. Either way, individual Buddhist practitioners may have been profoundly upset and disturbed. The UK’s Network of Buddhist Organisations first came together to discuss the idea that the wider Buddhist community should offer a compassionate response to the distress that is evident in these situations.

“Over a period of time it has become clear that the NBO does not have the resources to establish a comprehensive counselling service for people who are experiencing this type of distress. Neither does the NBO have any role to play as policeman to the Buddhist community. However, over the years the NBO has built up a useful range of contacts, a certain amount of background knowledge concerning Buddhist groups in the UK, and counts among its members experienced practitioners of Buddhism who have some understanding of the issues that can arise. The Network would like to make a small start towards offering useful help in appropriate circumstances.

“Those who feel that they would like to discuss a problem of this nature are invited to speak to the Secretary who will be happy to provide a listening ear and may be able to offer constructive suggestions. The current Secretary is a qualified general medical doctor who practices Buddhism in the Chan tradition. If you would like to contact her, please send an e-mail to and a phone call can then be arranged. Please note that as she does this work for the NBO on a part-time basis, e-mails are not checked every day”.


Monday, February 09, 2009

Upcoming: Buddhism and creativity conference - call for artists and performers

June will see the second conference in the ‘British Buddhist Landscape’ series. Entitled “Buddha Mind: Creative Mind?”, it’ll look at the relationship between the creative life, artistic expression and Buddhist thought and practice.

Areas to be covered include exploring the work of artists who have drawn on Buddhism in their creative practice, the twin topics of Buddhism influencing Art and Art influencing Buddhism; Buddhism and the creative life; and Buddhist Art through the ages – all to be explored via lectures, workshops, demonstrations, dialogues, performance, and exhibition.

The weekend will be of interest to anyone with an interest in Buddhism, creativity, art, performance and the creative life. A number of FWBO artists from the London Buddhist Arts Centre are already planning to take part.

The organisers are putting out a call to artists and performers – anyone interested in exhibiting work or performing (on a voluntary basis) is asked to contact them now at .

The conference is organised by the Institute of Oriental Philosophy-UK in conjunction with the UK’s Network of Buddhist Organisations, of which the FWBO is an active member. It will be held at Taplow Court, IOP-UK’s beautiful headquarters, set in 85 acres of grounds overlooking the River Thames near Maidenhead.

For full details, click here.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Interactive Buddhism from ClearVision

What would the Buddha have said if he'd known schools would be studying his life 2,500 years later - using online interactive media?

The ‘Life of the Buddha Interactive’ is an exciting new resource for 8-12 year-olds in Religious Education.

Clear Vision, the FWBO’s educational charity based in Manchester UK, have a reputation for lively, informative, video-based materials for Buddhism in RE. With their first interactive resource, they've become possibly the UK's first faith group to embrace the new opportunities offered by online learning in RE.

The Life of the Buddha Interactive features 7 video clips with questions, activities, extra information, teacher's notes and a friendly help-lion called Bodhi. (See if you recognise his voice!)
Later in the year a home-use version will be available – there’s already a sample section available here.

Munisha, education officer at Clear Vision told FWBO News - "It's very exciting finding new ways of stimulating young people to examine their experience in the light of the Buddha's teaching. These new materials are really distinctive: we believe that new kinds of activities, involving carefully guided use of the internet, can offer schools unprecedented access to the contemporary Buddhist world."

The move from DVD to interactive online materials has been made possible through the generosity of a Manchester Friend who specialises in Flash software.

All product details may be found at, or contact them at the Clear Vision Trust, 16-20 Turner Street, Manchester M4 1DZ. tel 0161 839 9579

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Introducing the Buddhist Recovery Network

This week’s featured website is

Created by the Buddhist Recovery Network, it exists to “support the use of Buddhist teachings, traditions and practices to help people recover from the suffering caused by addictive behaviors".

It’s not an exclusively FWBO site or project; we chose it because of its intrinsic interest and because a number of FWBO members and Order Members have been involved with it since its founding. In particular Lokapala (from New Zealand), Kuladitya (from the UK), and Guy Holden (from Australia) serve on its Advisory Council and Amara (from the US) and Dridhamati (UK) serve as its accountant and webmaster respectively.

The Buddhist Recovery Network describes itself, in its Mission Statement, as “Open to people of all backgrounds, and respectful of all recovery paths”, while being firmly grounded in Buddhist principles and practices.

As they themselves say “the organization promotes mindfulness and meditation, and is grounded in Buddhist principles of non-harming, compassion and interdependence.” And – as should be obvious – it’s international.

In fact, over the past year or so its taken off, with there new website playing a central role in their ability to provide resources for all those able to make use of them. There’s a substantial download library, including guidelines for setting up and facilitating recovery groups. Besides this, and outside of cyber-space, they seek to “serve an international audience through teaching, training, treatment, research, publication, advocacy and community-building initiatives.”

May their work be of benefit to beings…

To quote the great Buddhist poet Shantideva –

“As long as the existence of space
And as long as the existence of the world,
That long may my life
Be devoted to the world's sorrows.

“Only medicine for this suffering world,
May the teaching of the Buddha,
With all honour and glory,
Endure till the end of time.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

FWBO News featured in

FWBO News has been selected to feature in the Buddhist section of (

As the name suggests, Alltop is an “online magazine rack” of popular topics. They hand-pick sites offering exceptional content and aggregate articles into themed sections.

Their Buddhist section is just one of many: they have categories covering everything from addiction to yoga and auto-racing to zoology.

In their Buddhist section you'll find (besides us of course) a series of glimpses into the extraordinary diversity of Western Buddhist voices: the joys of Zen Coffee, the Dalai Lama's blog, the Strawberry Koan, beer and Buddhism, Buddhist comments on the Pope's Christmas message, and lots more... The FWBO's Wildmind meditation teaching site is also featured (they're the one's writing abouut Zen Coffee!)


Labels: ,

Monday, December 01, 2008

TBMSG in Japan: presenting Indian Buddhist Youth work

Five members of TBMSG, the FWBO’s Indian wing, are just back (in India) from attending the annual World Fellowship of Buddhist Youth conference, which this year was held in Japan. This is a major step onto the international Buddhist stage for them, and Yashosagar, one of the delegates and chairman of TBMSG, has sent us this report –

“The 24th General Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) and the 15th General Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhist Youth (WFBY) was devoted to the subject of “The Buddhist Contribution to Resolving Social Problems”; it was held from 14th to 17th November 2008 at the Asakusa View hotel, in Asakusa Japan.

“370 people from all over the world attended the conference of WFB and WFBY (WFBY is the youth section of the WFB). Nearly twelve countries’ regional centers were present.

“The WFBY’s purpose is to promote and strengthen understanding and practice of the teaching of the Lord Buddha among youth and increase respect and piety towards the Triple Gem, our parents, elders and to each other. It aims to promote unite, solidarity and networking among young Buddhists around the world.

“TBMSG is one of the Regional Centres of WFB and WFBY in India, and Priyadarshi and I made a special presentation of our work and especially our youth work. We presented Dr. Ambedkar’s contribution to Buddhism and also what we are doing in India, our activities in India, particularly the new situation which is arising in India for the growth of Buddhism. We were able to show the great influence of our work is having in India on people’s minds. People felt very happy to see our slideshow, the living Buddhism in India.

After the presentation were Symposiums – Dhammamitra Mangesh Dahiwale was also invited to speak on ‘Buddhism Past Present and Future’, particularly on the youth’s situation. One of the panelists from Japan expressed his concern over the isolation of youths in Japan from Buddhism. He expressed the need for youth’s participation in Buddhism and the social action.

Yashosagar and some new friends in Japan“Interaction with many people from the different parts of the world is the most important part of this conference in our view. To share with each other what we are doing and what we can do together. Actually it was a great occasion to meet many Buddhist people throughout the world - making contact with them gives you an idea of their situation and work they do.

“Later on a Prayer and Procession for world peace was arranged; all 370 of us silently walked to Senso-ji Temple where we held peace prayers and then a Traditional Tea Ceremony. All the people were served the green Japanese tea by the Japanese Sisters in their traditional dresses.

“The WFBY youth conference concluded by organizing a two year action plan. We in India are having a special youth program in January 2009 - Dr. Ong See Yew, the new Vice- President of WFBY, is coming with Young Buddhists from Malaysia to our centre in India (Bhaja, Pune) to do workshops on youth leadership. Most likely youths from other WFBY regional centres like Nepal, Sri-Lanka and Bangladesh will also take part in this program.

We are currently fundraising for this and other youth work in India, please do contribute if you wish to assist us.

“Now we are looking forward to our Youth leadership development program in January 2009. The connection we make during the conference help us to be in touch with each other and share what we do and cooperate with each other to help the youth from the world and youth from India.

“Yours in the Dhamma, Yashosagar

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Calling Buddhist women in the UK...

Sakyadhita, the name of the International Association of Buddhist Women, means "Daughters of the Buddha." The objectives of Sakyadhita include:

To create a network of communications for Buddhist women throughout the world
To provide improved facilities for women to study and practice the teachings

Beatrice Gassner, who represents Sakyadhita UK at the UK’s Network of Buddhist Organizations (NBO), is researching the current state of women Buddhists in the UK. She has devised a questionnaire, which women Buddhists practicing in the UK are invited to complete and return. If you would like to reply, please do so direct to her at

Yasodhara – Buddhist Women in the UK” – Questionnaire
She says - Please only write what you are happy with, to be used in the article. I may quote you or just summaries – please use only the name/initial which I may use. Thank you.

Buddhist since:
Previous Religion/Spiritual Practice:
Ordained – do you live in a Centre, Nunnery/Monastery, or on your own – do you have to work: Lay – Occupation:

Why Buddhism?

Can you say something about your Practice?

What supports you in your Training?

What helps you to keep your Commitments/Vows?

Do you go on Retreats?

How does your Practice work in your daily life?

What inspires you?

Anything else you would like to say about being a Buddhist Woman in the UK:


Thank you very much, and I will send you a copy of the article .

May this be for the benefit of all living beings.

Beatrice Jutta Gassner
(Sakyadhita UK)

Send to: or: 77 Earlham Road, Earlham Street, Norwich NR2 3PF

Labels: ,

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Engaged Buddhism in the FWBO

Indra's Net, magazine of the Network of Engaged BuddhistsThe Network of Engaged Buddhists (NEB) is the UK’s main forum for what has become known as ‘Engaged Buddhism’. For them, Engaged Buddhism is “engagement in caring and service, in social and environmental protest and analysis, in non-violence as a creative way of overcoming conflicts, and in 'right livelihood' and other initiatives which prefigure a society of the future”.

They go on to say “It also engages with a variety of contemporary and often controversial concerns of relevance to an evolving Buddhism. Engaged Buddhism combines the cultivation of inner peace with active social compassion in a mutually supportive and enriching practice”.

Indra's Net, their magazine (available both in paper and on the web), has in recent issues carried quite a number of articles by members of the F/WBO.

You can read Saul Deeson and Suddhaka on the Dhamma Revolunion in India; Rowan Tilly on Spiritual Activism; Sophia Young (now ordained as Kuladharini) on Gie’s Peace – a lively introduction to Glasgow’s ‘Shambolic Warriors’. The LBC's ground-breaking Breathing Space project is profiled in Health and Wellbeing for All; and there’s an excellent introduction to the significance of Dr. Ambedkar for engaged Buddhists (indeed, for all Buddhists) in Jai Bhim, by Khemasuri.

There’s other articles too, but not yet on the internet – for them you’ll have to join NEB - which is a bargain at £10/year - or £8 for concessions!

In the FWBO itself, besides Gie’s Peace, there’s other ‘engaged Buddhism’ projects, some connected to ‘The Redwoods’. These are an ad-hoc group of Order Members with a shared commitment to engaged Buddhism and social change, who meet once a year, for a week, in a retreat setting, with no agenda other than waiting to see what emerges.

Strongly linked to the Redwoods is the FWBO’s new ‘EcoDharma’ retreat centre , situated in a beautiful and wild part of the Catalan Pyrenees. Guhyapati, it’s founder, says “We offer courses, events and retreats which support the realisation of our human potential and the development of an ecological consciousness honouring our mutual belonging within the web of life – drawing on the Buddhist Dharma and the emerging ecological paradigms of our time

“Our courses and retreats take place in a context of sustainable low-impact living, closely woven within the web of elemental nature. These meditation retreats, study seminars and training camps are intended to help people to empower themselves to make changes in themselves and the world consistent with a life-affirming vision”.

Ecodharma has two retreats coming up later this year – ‘Evolution, Ecology, and Enlightenment’ in November, and ‘Exploring EcoDharma’ in December.

EcoDharma is probably the FWBO’s most remote retreat centre and you’ll have to be determined if you want to find your way there…

By chance FWBO News came across Jo Nean’s blog ‘A Long Way From Eden’, where she describes hitch-hiking there all the way from London. She concludes -

“G (Guhyapati) arrives and greets me like an old friend, although we only met once before for a brief ten minute chat at the Buddhafield Festival. He has exactly the white landrover I imagined he would. I get in and we wind our way up an ever remoter road that turns into a track at steeper and steeper angles. G tells me a little about the centre and points out landscape features as we pass. He also tells me who else is on the retreat and it turns out I know one of them - he will be surprised to see me! There are only 8 of us, but another 3 will arrive over the next few days. My sense of excitement is growing...”

Labels: ,

Friday, October 10, 2008

Sangharakshita's news

Sangharakshita, photographed by DhammaratiIt has been quite some time since news of Sangharakshita has appeared in Shabda. However we have now received a report from Dharmamati, his secretary, and are pleased to reproduce it here -

"Sangharakshita has been very active in recent months, visiting centres both here and abroad, seeing individuals nearly every day, continuing working on 'Precious Garland Seminar' with Samacitta and taking regular study with a small local men's chapter.

Bhante's health:
Bhante has been in quite good health over the last couple of months. His eyesight has even improved a little and he has started to be able to read large print publications and smallerprint with the aid of an illuminated magnifying glass and he has even been able to draft a few letters. This said, however, his eyesight is still limited and most things have to be read to him.

The last report concluded with Bhante attending the Guhyaloka reunion at Padmaloka. At the end of this month he was invited to a conference organised by The Network of Buddhist Organisations (UK) and the Institute of Oriental Philosophy-UK. the conference was called The British Buddhist Landscape - Transplantation and Growth. He was one of the two keynote speakers for the conference, the other being Stephen Bachelor.

The FWBO had quite a strong presence at the conference, not only with speakers, but with artworks contributed to an exhibition of Buddhist art from Britain. Bhante's talk was entitled 'Looking back and forward a little, reminiscences and reflections. In it he recollected his association with British Buddhism especially his time with the Buddhist society in the early 1940s in London. He also gave some reflections about the future. (for more about the conference see the report on FWBO News.

July was quite a full month with visits to Sheffield, Berlin and leading study for the Men Mitra Convenors at Padmaloka. In both Sheffield and Berlin Bhante gave a Q&A session for Order members and a public talk.

In Sheffield Bhante gave a talk on something that he has rarely talked about in public, 'Rebirth'. This was a personal talk that included reflections on dreams, visions and experiences from his life.

In Berlin the public talk was on the 'Six distinctive emphases of the FWBO' According to the local sangha this was a very timely talk in helping establish what the FWBO has to offer in Berlin; a talk covering some of the same ground was given in Birmingham and is available here from FreeBuddhistAudio. During the Men Mitra Convenors meeting at Padmaloka Bhante led ten study sessions over a period of 5 days on 'The Path of Regular and Path of Irregular Steps'.

During August Bhante spent most of the month at Madhyamaloka. Towards the end of the month Bhante celebrated his 83rd Birthday. A special event was organised by Siddhisambhava with invited guests from Madhyamaloka community, Uddiyana trustees and those involved in the recent fundraising appeal for Bhante's support. Happily to say the goal was exceeded due to the generosity of many individual Order members.

Two days after this Bhante left for Spain where he attended an Order retreat. The venue was Tushita retreat centre run by the FPMT in the hills behind Barcelona. During this event Bhante gave a q&A session for Order Members. From there he travelled to Valencia where he stayed in the men's community. During his stay in Valencia Bhante gave a public talk at the Valencia Buddhist Centre. the theme this time was Padmasambhava, his talk included the five poisons and the five spiritual faculties. This event was attended by over 150 people.

The next event was an historic one, the public launch of the Spanish translation of 'A Survey of Buddhism'. The event took place in a lecture room at a University.

Most recently, Bhante has been to Krakow, Poland where he opened Sanghaloka, a new FWBO centre and our first in Poland.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Thich Nhat Hanh in Nagpur, at Nagaloka

Order Members and mitras in Nagpur, India, are busy organising a major visit to Nagpur by Thich Nhat Hanh. The visit coincides with the anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism, which took place on October 14th in 1956. Up to a million Buddhists converge on the city at this time.

Thich Nhat Hanh will be at the ‘Diksha Bhumi’, or ‘Ground of Conversion’ on October 8th, followed by an appearance on 9th as Guest Speaker at Nagaloka’s annual anniversary programme, followed by a two-day retreat, also at Nagaloka, on 10-11th October. He will be accompanied by up to 40 monks and nuns from Plum Village in France.

Nagaloka says “All are invited for the retreat” – as well as for the public events of course. More details are available on the Events page of their new website

Labels: , ,

Monday, October 06, 2008

Clear Vision in Asia - from Bhutan to Bangkok

A year on from an assignment working for Bhutan's Ministry of Education, the FWBO's Clear Vision Trust ( has just returned from an international conference on Buddhism and Ethics, held in Thailand near Bangkok.

As education officer at Clear Vision, Munisha was invited to give a presentation on “Using Video to teach Buddhist Ethics in British Schools” at the first conference of the International Association of Buddhist Universities (IABU). (The FWBO's Dharmapala College is a member of the IABU).

Munisha writes: “It was extraordinary to be part of a gathering of up to 3000 Buddhists, mostly Asian monks, as well as nuns and a small number of westerners. I went with Mokshapriya and Aparajita. Among the robes of yellow or brown or stylish grey linen, our kesas attracted a fair amount of interest, as did our display of Clear Vision DVDs for schools. The Dharma is not yet available in such formats in Asia!

"My strong sense is that young people of Buddhist background are losing touch with Buddhism, both in the UK and across Asia. You have to wonder whether there will be another generation of lay Buddhists as young people often know nothing of the Dharma and are less and less interested in tradition. To be fair, there were conference presentations from people who are running Dharma activities for young people in Burma, Thailand and Sri Lanka, one or two of them innovative, but still I suspect they are exceptions.

Meanwhile, some very good teaching of Buddhism for young people is being delivered in British schools, by and for non-Buddhists, using modern teaching materials such as Clear Vision's. If Asian young people are to be interested in the Dharma, I'd argue Asian Buddhists could benefit from seeing what we are doing here in Britain.

"We went hoping to spread the word about our materials and invite sponsorship and dana. It was a bonus to meet Asian Buddhists who approached us to tell us of their respect for Bhante and the importance of his work for the future of Buddhism. Then there's my favourite souvenir from the conference pack: a mustard yellow umbrella with a limb of the Eightfold Path printed on each section!”

Munisha's paper is available on FWBO Features here. This is a longer, written version of her PowerPoint presentation to the conference, which included video clips.

Click here to see what Clear Vision has to offer school teachers and students.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sand Mandalas at Aryaloka

FWBO News is happy to pass on a report from New Hampshire's 'Seacoast online' magazine detailing the recent visit of Tibetan monks to Aryaloka, the FWBO retreat centre in New Hampshire, USA.

"This week, four monks from the Gaden Jangste Monastery in India will spend days hunched over a board creating the intricate and colorful drawing at the FWBO's Aryaloka Buddhist Center in New Hampshire, USA. At the end of the week, after long hours of work, the monks will teach the lesson of the transitory nature of all things by systematically destroying what it took them so long to create.

"This mandala is being dedicated to the deity of compassion (Chenrezig in Tibetan, Avalokiteshva in Sanskrit)," said Nima Neduro, the group's coordinator and translator. "It shows his celestial mansion, and it will take all week to finish."

The process of creating the mandala is intricate and time-consuming. Long metal funnels with tiny holes in the ends are filled with colored sand. The funnels are ribbed, and the monks use metal sticks to rub the funnels, releasing the sand grain by grain.

"We have been criss-crossing the country for the past nine months to show our culture and, at the same time, raise money for our monastery in India," Neduro said.

The Gaden Jangste Monastery, was originally built to house 300 monks who had fled Tibet when the Chinese invaded in 1959. The continuing limits placed on the ability of Tibetans to practice their culture and religion freely has prompted a major migration of Tibetan Buddhists to India, and now the monastery is home to more than 2,600 refugees looking for religious and educational freedom, the coordinator said.

"Tibetans in India right now are free to practice their culture and religion," Neduro said. "The problem is with those still in Tibet.

"While the Chinese have allowed the communities to rebuild the thousands of temples destroyed when the Chinese invaded, Tibetan practices are limited by the government," he said. "Many are still trying to flee."

"Our purpose in inviting the monks here is a gesture of good will and support," said Amala, Aryaloka's director. "We heard that they were looking for venues in which to show their traditions, and we are extending the hand of friendship to other Buddhists", she said.

You can read Seacoast's full report here.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lokamitra awarded the Manhae Grand Prize for Peace in Korea

FWBO News is delighted to report that Lokamitra, one of the seniormost members of the Western Buddhist Order, and long resident in India, has been awarded the Manhae Grand Prize for Peace 2008 in a ceremony held by Manhae Foundation in South Korea.

The Manhae Grand Prize, one of the most prestigious prizes in Korea, is given annually to commemorate Han Yong-woon (1879-1944), known by the pen name ‘Manhae’. Han was a Buddhist monk, poet and thinker, as well as a great hero of the anti-imperialist movement. Previous recipients include the Dalai Lama (2005), Nelson Mandela (2004), and, last year, President Bongo of Gabon.

This report is from Mangesh Dahiwale, who has been in Korea with Lokamitra -

“In the ceremony, held on 12th August 2008, the President of Jogye Order awarded Lokamitra the Grand Prize for his 30 years of contribution to the understanding and practice of Buddhism in India amongst the followers of Dr. Ambedkar (most of whom were previously known and treated as untouchables). After moving to India, on Sangharakshita’s encouragement, in 1978, he helped initiate the Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha Sahayaka Gana (TBMSG) which now has many Dhamma teaching centres throughout India, a publications wing, and three retreat centres. Soon afterwards Bahujan Hitay was started which runs many social works for the deprived and discriminated, including 80 community centres and more than 20 educational hostels.

“Lokamitra's work is a continuation of Sangharakshita's work and vision, emphasising the possibilities of social transformation through Buddhist practice. Although Sangharakshita returned to England in 1960s in order to develop the FWBO, he never lost his connection with his Buddhist friends in India, and Lokamitra was able to follow up his very strong and deep contacts amongst the Buddhists in Maharastra, especially in Pune and Nagpur, developed through Sangharakshita’s extensive teaching tours in the slums and villages of India during the 1950s.

“Now the work we are doing in India has begun to appeal to the Buddhists all over the world and is being recognised as a very special example of socially engaged Buddhism in the modern world. Through his friendships in the Buddhist East, and involvement with organisations like the World Fellowship of Buddhists and the International Network of Engaged Buddhists, Lokamitra has helped to bring the attention and appreciation of many in the Buddhist East to the newly converted Buddhists of India. As a result many of them have now visited Nagpur and seen our work at first hand.

“Recently he has been concentrating his efforts on the establishment of the Nagarjuna Training Institute at Nagpur, where in 1956 Dr. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism along with half a million followers. There are perhaps 30 million Buddhists in India today all from the Scheduled Caste communities (Scheduled Caste being the official term for people designated as untouchables in the Hindu caste system), and over 200 million Indians who are open to Buddhism because of the influence of Dr. Ambedkar. While TBMSG does not have the manpower to start centres in every one of the thousands of towns in India (which is what is really required!), it helps to train new Buddhists from all over India at the Nagarjuna Training Institute, where it runs a one year introductory, residential training course in Buddhist teaching and practices, as well as basic social work skills. In fact the Nagarjuna Training Institute has been instrumental in training 495 men and women from 19 states in India since its inception in 2002.

“The people from the Scheduled Castes still face immense difficulties in realising their constitutional rights. Many are working to end suffering due to the caste system, but, at times, lack confidence, a sense of solidarity, and basic training in running organizations. The Jambudvipa Trust, founded by Lokamitra in 1998, encourages individuals and organisations from the disadvantaged sections of society to take initiative and responsibility for their situation. It has been able to assist in natural calamities (eg the Gujarat earthquake, the Tsunami and the Bombay floods) when the Scheduled Castes suffered terrible discrimination in relief and rehabilitation work. Furthermore, under the Manuski Project (Manuski being a beautiful word meaning respect, humanity, compassion) Lokamitra and his team have created a network of over 150 organisations across India for whom it has conducted hundreds of training sessions. The Manuski project is also doing human rights' advocacy work especially related to atrocities (of which there are many) and cases of discrimination.

“In his acceptance speech, Lokamitra appreciated the life and work of Venerable Manhae and expressed the hope that this award will bring much needed attention to the plights of the almost 200 million Scheduled Caste and the glorious non-violent struggle for liberation and social transformation of about 30 million of them through Buddhism”.

Sadhu Lokamitra!

There's a short video of Lokamitra speaking after the award on Tagstory.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Report from "The Buddhist Contribution to building a Just, Democratic and Civil Society"

Gunaketu, chairman of the FWBO’s small centre in Oslo , Norway, has for long been active in the field of environmentally and socially engaged Buddhism. He is recently returned from Hanoi in Vietnam, where he participated in a United Nations’ sponsored conference called “The Buddhist Contribution to building a Just, Democratic and Civil Society: War, Conflict and Healing-A Buddhist perspective

He reports -

"I was lucky to be invited to Vietnam to partake in a State sponsored Buddhist Conference. Some years ago UN recognised Vesak as an international holiday. Thailand promptly arranged a large conference to celebrate, and have done so the past few years.

"Last year Vietnam decided to host the conference in 2008. This was quite an historic event because the authorities in Vietnam have been restrictive with the practice of dharma. At the opening ceremony, the Chairman of the International Organizing Committee welcomed the previous Prime Minister and Foreign Minister who were instrumental in keeping him in house arrest for many years. Things change. Now, the Government are rebuilding Monasteries on a large scale. And at the same time, the Government took over the control with the organizing of the conference, last minute.

"An example of this was related to David Blundell who was not allowed to show a 28-minute preview of a documentary about Dr. Ambedkar that he was invited for, because some party official had to see it first to approve it.

"On the other hand Thich Nhat Hanh was welcomed back to Vietnam a few years ago, and he was invited as one of the keynote speakers. He had led a five-day retreat in Hanoi just before the conference, and when it was his turn to give his speech, his followers walked onto the stage, single file, slowly. First there were the brown clad nuns and monks. Then came the light blue lay people. The procession went on for many minutes and nearly 400 people filled the stage. Thich Nhath Hanh had come back en force. They chanted and Thich Nhath Hanh delivered an inspiring talk about listening and personal practice. It wasn't challenging to the Government. The other keynote speakers were Matthew Ricard, the author of the book “The philosopher and the monk”, and Phra Dharmakosajarn, the Principal at the Main Buddhist University in Bangkok, Thailand.

"As I stood with our small Norwegian contingent of four, in the main hall, with thousands of people milling around, I suddenly saw another recognisable kesa. There was Amoghamati from our Sangha in Germany! I was very surprised and delighted. Someone had told her that I might be there. This was in fact one of the highlights of the conference: To be among Buddhists from so many traditions, to meet someone from my own Order (we had not met before), to feel a strong connection and shared point of view, and from there to explore the conference together. Salutation to the good companion!

The main theme of the conference was: Buddhist Contribution to building a Just, Democratic and Civil Society. The sub themes were:

1. War, Conflict and Healing: A Buddhist Perspective
2. Buddhist Contribution to Social Justice
3. Engaged Buddhism and Development
4. Care for Our Environment: Buddhist Response to Climate Change
5. Family Problems and the Buddhist Response
6. Symposium on Buddhist Education: Continuity and Progress
7. Symposium on Buddhism in the Digital Age

"Amoghamati delivered a clear and inspiring presentation of Karuna in Germany under 3) Engaged Buddhism and Development. It was good to see the work they are doing in this context. I was invited to speak under 1) War, Conflict and Healing, with the title: Healing Conflict with Awareness.

"Due to the size of the conference with over 4000 participants, it was quite chaotic. There were for instance twice as many people invited to speak in sub theme 1) than there was time for. Many of us were therefore given just a few minutes at the end. Rather than contend with this, I offered to give my presentation in a slightly altered form under 3), as Amoghamati had told me that they did not have that many speakers, which I did. Unfortunately, this meant that I couldn’t carry out a participatory exercise I had prepared, but c’est la vie.

"In the plenary session the following day, the moderators from the various groups summed up their activities. The moderator from group 4) presented six points to care for the Environment. I asked if he would consider a seventh recommendation for a vegetarian diet, which he partly acknowledged and yet did not fully agree with. Ajahn Brahmavamso gave the concluding speech where he too emphasized listening and finished by saying that he was careful with the earth’s resources by not having children (including a wry smile).

"Then the conference was brought to a close with various congratulatory speeches and a modern classical concert composed for the occasion, which included in the middle of it some 50 monks coming on stage to chant. The other days of the conference were also concluded with cultural performances of modern dance and a traditional Vietnamese “Reform Play” about the life of the Buddha.

"Yours in the Dharma,

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, August 10, 2008

British Buddhism - now available in paperback!

'British Buddhism: Teachings, Practice and Development' is a key source for anyone interested in understanding more deeply the landscape of British Buddhism. It’s been in print for some years now, but only in hardback and at the somewhat unaffordable price of UK £65. However the paperback edition has just been released, and given that it refers extensively to the FWBO, it may be of interest to readers of FWBO News. A
review was posted some time ago on the Reviews section of the FWBO News website.

The author, Robert Bluck, has written to FWBO News to say “the book describes and analyses a representative sample of the full range of traditions for the first time. It allows similarities and differences to be traced by tradition or by theme, and examines how Buddhism changes when moving to a new country. Written with the British Buddhist community specifically in mind, I hope it will encourage Buddhists in Britain to discover more about their spiritual friends in other traditions, and so promote the generosity, compassion and wisdom of the Buddha and his followers. I hope you find British Buddhism interesting, and I would welcome any feedback from readers.

“With all best wishes in the Dharma,

“Robert Bluck
“Associate Lecturer in World Religions, Open University”

For further information please see your local bookshop or visit

Labels: , ,

Friday, August 01, 2008

Brighton Buddhist Centre's 'Tibet week'

The FWBO’s Brighton Buddhist Centre is playing a major role in Brighton’s forthcoming Tibet 2008 Initiative, which will run throughout August starting next Saturday 2nd.

Pete Fountain, the inspiration behind the Tibet 2008 Initiative said, ”I hope that these events will encourage people to offer whatever help they can to other human beings. They can do this in the full knowledge that they are directly making a beneficial difference to another person's life; potentially to the extent of actually saving it.”

The programme aims to promote an understanding of the issues facing Tibetans, both in exile and in their homeland. It will also offer practical ways in which people can provide support for the Tibetan nationals.

First comes an evening where Tibetan refugees will share their experiences of life in Tibet through song and the spoken word – among those present will be Dorjee, a Tibetan refugee living in Brighton, who will be talking about his reasons for leaving his homeland, his 34-day journey walking over the snow covered Himalayas to India, and his life as a refugee living in Brighton. The Gangjong Doeghar performance group, many of whose performers come from the Karuna-funded Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Cultural Institute ITBCI, will also be performing.

Later in August there will be three Walking Vigils along the Brighton Seafront in Support of the Tibetan People – an opportunity to show solidarity with the Tibetan people's desire for greater freedom, to assemble together on behalf of those who cannot.”

Of special interest to those in the FWBO might be the last event, an evening showcasing “One Lama’s Mission to Preserve Tibetan Culture” – the lama in question of course being Sangharakshita’s friend and teacher Dhardo Rimpoche.

Many other events are also planned – more details on the web at

Labels: , , ,

Monday, July 21, 2008

Buddhafield Festival ends in beauty

The 13th Buddhafield Festival ended yesterday, with over 2,500 people heading home after a rich weekend on Buddhafield’s beautiful new site in the Blackdown Hills, Somerset. It was Buddhafield’s largest-ever festival and something of a risk given the new site and the increasingly uncertain weather of the British summer.

The Festival was dedicated the theme of the Six Elements – Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Space, and Consciousness, with rituals each day dedicated to one of the Elements. For Water, for instance, those participating gathered by the side of the lake for the recitation of verses of meditation. On the last night, for the closing ceremony and to celebrate the element of Space, many papier-mache hot air balloons were lit which flew up into the air and away – a beautiful sight.

Some photos can be seen in the attached slideshow or on FWBO Photos, FWBO News would welcome links to other online photos from the Festival – just let us know by posting a comment on this post. The slideshow takes you on a journey through the Festival, from arrival, to meeting the stewards, to the opening ceremony, the many shrines, a whistle-stop tour of a small selection of the hundreds of gems scattered through the site - and last but by no means least, a study of the remarkable paper stupa in the centre of the site.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The British Buddhist Landscape Conference - a brief report

Taplow Court at night Last weekend saw the first British Buddhist Landscape Conference, with some 70 people from across the full spectrum of British Buddhism gathering at Taplow Court, HQ of Sokkai Gakkai UK.

Lokabandhu reports –

“I've never been a ‘conference junkie’, and for me it was a rather new and stimulating experience to spend a weekend at a stately home in the company of intellectuals and leading Buddhist practitioners. One couldn’t help feeling just a little aristocratic! The programme was packed, and yet living together just for those two days lent a real intimacy to the event, for me at least it meant that we got to know one another far better than over a year of committee meetings – the only context in which I'd met most of the others previously.

"It was also fascinating to be able to glimpse other sanghas – I was especially impressed with the culture of dana and service at Taplow, which is run almost entirely by volunteers who are arranged in small teams of specialists or other shared interests. On the Saturday night, for instance, we had a lavish buffet supper cooked for us by their ‘chef’s group’. It was also fascinating to glimpse how others are engaged in translating the Dharma for the modern world – one example was the FPMT’s ’Essential Education and ‘16 Guidelines programs.

Shakyamuni, by Padmayogini"The FWBO was generously represented, with Sangharakshita offering ‘reminiscences and reflections’ on the Friday night; among many other points he encouraged the different Buddhist traditions in the West today to face squarely the issues raised for them by (a) the insights into Buddhist history afforded by the higher criticism of the West and (b) the fact that the Buddhist scriptures are full of ‘supernatural’ beings. Besides him Vijayatara (aka Dr. Sharon Smith) spoke on People of Colour in Western Buddhism, using as case studies the FWBO and SGI (UK); also Munisha on Buddhism and Young People. Amitajyoti had organised an impressive contribution to the art exhibition, with work by Aloka, Chintamani, and Padmayogini (whose Shakyamuni is shown opposite) among others.

"More generally, there were sessions on the early history of Buddhism in the UK, with useful statistical insights – did you know, for instance, that 150,000 people declared themselves Buddhist in the last UK census? Of whom 90,000 were of Asian descent, leaving some 60,000 new converts. Or that there are now over 1,000 registered Buddhist groups in the UK? Up, it should be added, from just 30 in 1968! The diverse ethnicity of Buddhism in the UK was drawn out in four short talks from Japanese, India, Nepalese, and Thai speakers.

"Later sessions focussed on the engagement of Buddhism in many areas of modern British life – education, interfaith dialogue, hospital chaplaincy, and ‘engaged Buddhism’ in general, where a useful three-way division was offered: engaged Buddhism as 'radical activism', creating the future 'New Society' through Right Livelihood, and engagement in caring and service. The conference ended with a stimulating survey of Buddhism and Western thought by John Peacock, for many years director of studies at Sharpham College.

"Most of the sessions were recorded, in several cases by ClearVision, and it is hoped that before too long they will be made more widely available – keep your eyes on the FWBO’s Videosangha or the Network of Buddhist Organisations’ website.

"Many thanks to the NBO and SGI (UK) for an excellent weekend!"

Labels: ,

Sunday, June 15, 2008

'Sangha without boundaries' in Scotland

Kevin McConnell from the Edinburgh Buddhist sangha has sent FWBO News this report of their inter-Buddhist activities - which have been quietly growing for the past four years...

“As the days get longer and the Scottish winter slides its way into spring, green shoots force their way through the warming earth, early lambs frisk in the strengthening sunshine - and the Buddhists of Edinburgh can be seen heading south to Wiston Lodge near Biggar (shown in photo). Why, we ask? - for their annual Inter-Sangha Weekend Retreats, is the reply.

“Inter-Buddhist events, where several of the local Buddhist groups come together on celebratory occasions such as Wesak, have long been a feature in Edinburgh. Usually, one group takes the lead with other members offering contributions from their own traditions.

“At first they were evening events rounded off by a shared meal. The popularity of these inspired the idea of an annual weekend retreat where groups could share and explore their various traditions’ differing perspectives on the Dharma. The initial idea, and the organisation of the inaugural gathering, was down to Kalyanavaca, chairwoman of the FWBO’s Edinburgh Buddhist centre. However they’ve been such a success (this year being the fourth year in succession) that now the role of organisation is taken up by a different group each year.

“This year the overall theme was impermanence, and each group led those present in a practice from their own tradition based on that theme. This produces an eclectic mix where, if you attend all the sessions, you could be experiencing body scan techniques, zazen, NVC workshops, Pali chants and Tibetan puja. In between the set events there is of course the opportunity to sit and drink tea or walk in the woods and compare notes on your experience of the Dharma. This celebrating the 'unity of variation' of the Dharma is what most appeals to the participants.

“Over the four years the retreats have been held, groups from the Community of Buddhist Contemplatives (Soto Zen), the Community of Interbeing, the Forest Sangha (Theravadin), FWBO, Samye Dzong (Kagyu) and Soka Gakkai have attended - but the invitation is open to any Buddhist groups in the Edinburgh area. Enthusiasm last year spilled over to a weekend visit to Samye Ling (the Kagyu centre and monastery in the Scottish Borders), and a tentative suggestion for future visits to other home centres has been made.

“Outside of these events the group collaborates on a newsletter ‘Sangha Without Boundaries’ and of course our website. We rejoice in our good fortune in having access to the Dharma in its many manifestations and in our commitment to put the Dharma into practise.

“As the verse in the three-fold puja so succinctly says,

We reverence the Sangha, and aspire to follow it:
The fellowship of those who tread the Way.
As, one by one, we make our own commitment,
An ever-widening circle, the Sangha grows

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 13, 2008

Major exhibition of Western Buddhist art - June 27-29th

Coming up soon is the British Buddhist Landscape conference, already mentioned in FWBO News but now with more details confirmed – including a major exhibition of Western Buddhist artists.

Amitajyoti, who is organising the FWBO’s submissions, reports “We have a really good range of some excellent work to show - do let people know. The artists involved are really 'giving it something'/'doing the business' so to speak! We’ll have work by Aloka, Akasaka, Chintamani, Padmayogini and me.”

Aloka and Chintamani have both been practicing as Buddhist artists for over 30 years, Chintamani is chair of FWBO Arts and probably best-known for his rupas which take centre-stage in both the London Buddhist Centre’s shrine rooms. Aloka’s large-scale paintings of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas grace many FWBO centre shrines – Brighton, Bristol, Nottingham, Norwich, Padmaloka, as well as dozens of personal shrines...

A rich line-up of speakers includes Sangharakshita, Stephen Batchelor, Dr John Peacock, Dr Helen Waterhouse, Ajahn Laow, Rev. Prof. Sato, Peggy Morgan, Colin Ash, Ven Sumana, Tony Kemmer, Phil Henry, Keith Munnings, Sharon Smith (aka Vijayatara), Yann Lovelock, and Munisha. It’s a unique opportunity to see and interact first-hand with major figures across the extraordinary diversity of British Buddhism.

Full details of the conference are available from the conference organisers, the UK's Network of Buddhist Organisations, this gives details of booking and each days programme; it’s possible though of course not ideal to attend only some of the events.

The dates are Friday-Sunday, June 27-29th.

The event is being generously hosted by the ‘Institute of Oriental Philosophy’, a branch of SGI-UK , at their headquarters, the very beautiful stately home of Taplow Court, set in 85 acres of grounds and overlooking the River Thames, between Slough and Maidenhead.

Transport is easy via regular trains from Paddington or Reading. Book soon as places are limited!

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nottingham Buddhist Centre hosts Dalai Lama students

The Dalai Lama has just finished five days of intensive teaching in Nottingham, UK, with up to 6,000 people attending his teachings and talks.

Although not directly involved in the event, the FWBO’s Nottingham Buddhist Centre has been playing a part, offering accommodation and food to around 30 of the participants. The centre was opened to all wishing to use it, with sleeping spaces for women on the ground floor, men in the shrine room, and three Tibetan ladies on the top floors with the community. Interestingly, only one of those present knew members of the community in advance – it was a real ‘instant community’ open to all who needed it.

Jinaraja, the centre’s chairman, said “as well as different nationalities we also had different types of Buddhist all living in harmony. Much intermingling and friendship, trust generosity and kindness abounding - and someone left us a beautiful brocade on the shrine room as a gift. So much dana given as well, though we asked for no money – we’re planning to use some of what we were given to purchase a set of DVDs of the Dalai Lama’s talks.

“It was a little stressful for the community, being responsible for security among other things, but our guests became very sensitive and considerate of us, we all ate breakfast in our kitchen together and all used the bathrooms and showers. Nothing broken! And a mild smell of socks the only unpleasant after-effect! Actually, it was like being on retreat together – we were only five minutes from the Nottingham Arena where the teachings were talking place, so people were able to come and go as they needed to.

“Several of us were able to meet the Dalai Lama personally, some at an inter-faith event and others at a reception with civic dignitaries. I was pleased to be able to remind him of the Western Buddhist Order and the work we are doing in the West – of course he has seen a lot more of us in India at some of our TBMSG centres”.

Nottingham is having a bumper year for visiting Buddhists this year, with Thich Nhat Hanh due to visit in August.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Gunaketu, chairman of the FWBO’s small centre in Oslo , Norway, has for long been active in the field of environmentally and socially engaged Buddhism. He is soon off to Hanoi in Vietnam to participate in a United Nations’ sponsored conference called “The Buddhist Contribution to building a Just, Democratic and Civil Society: War, Conflict and Healing-A Buddhist perspective” .

It is to take place in Hanoi starting May 13th and FWBO News hopes to present a review of it in due course.

Meanwhile Rijumati continues his “round-the-world-more-or-less-without-flying” travels – and has had a variety of adventures both in the world of TBMSG and on the Buddhist pilgrimage circuit of India. The second collection of excerpts from his letters home has been posted on FWBO News’ Features.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, March 23, 2008

"Breaking the Mould": Buddhism Comes West & Gets Engaged

Coming up is a conference that will be of interest to all who wish to explore and practive Engaged Buddhism. The event is organised by the Amida Trust, a Western Pure Land Buddhist order who have put engaged Buddhism right at the centre of their practice. The FWBO's Parami will be one of the main speakers, along with a wide variety of others.

Known as the 5th Living Buddhism Conference, it is subtitled 'Breaking the Mould: Buddhism Comes West And Gets Engaged'.

The detailed programme is:

26-27 April: Pre-Conference Gathering: Practice, Discussions, Gatherings
28-30 April: Pre-Conference Events: Monday Outing; Tuesday and Wednesday Mini-conferences "Buddhism and Arts", "Amida Around the World", "Buddhism in a Multi-Faith World", "Buddhist Education".
1-4 May: Conference Proper: Keynote Speakers, Plenary Sessions, Presentations, Workshops, Exhibitions, Bookshop, Entertainment.
5 May: Post Conference Meeting: "Buddhism in Organisation Development".

The organisers say - "Buddhism is entering the Western world and as in each of its previous cultural transitions, it has to change and adapt. At the same time, Buddhism aims to break the mould of the society that it enters. Where there has been greed, Buddhism teaches generosity; where there has been hatred, love; where there has been pride, selflessness; and where there has been fear, faith. In the west Buddhism is so far primarily known as a quietistic practice for cultivating personal calm. It has more to offer. This conference will bring together the personal and the social, the spiritual and the practical dimensions of the Dharma and invite reflection on the path ahead".

FWBO News wishes them every success.

The conference will be held in Narborough, Leicestershire, UK, from late April - early May, and you can download a booking form here.

Labels: ,

Thursday, February 21, 2008

FWBO News ranked no.2 Buddhist blog

FWBO News has been ranked second in the Buddhism section of’s worldwide catalogue of blogs – and a respectable 18 out of 4,153 in the overall ‘spirituality’ group. According to Blogged, “we evaluated your blog based on the following criteria: Frequency of Updates, Relevance of Content, Site Design, and Writing Style. After carefully reviewing each of these criteria, your site was given its 8.7 score, “Great”. Please accept our congratulations on a blog well-done!!”

Labels: ,

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Dispatch from Delhi

Saul is a mitra from the FWBO’s North London Buddhist Centre. Last month he travelled to India to team up with the Amida Trust, who have for some three years now been running English classes in Delhi under their ‘Buddhist voluntary service overseas scheme’. He sent FWBO News this report -

“I’ve recently finished two weeks teaching very large classes of children from slum areas in Shahadhara in east Delhi. At first I couldn’t cope with it, or I felt I couldn’t cope with it. Then I became rather accustomed to it and I've missed it on leaving.

Classes were hectic affairs with anything from 45 to 70 children there. Shabbily dressed with big open smiles and irrepressible enthusiasm. I say hectic because children were coming and going from the classroom during the class. When I commented on this I was told that it was better than before!

These classes were usually conducted in half built Buddhist viharas in the slum districts. The conditions were extremely basic. Blackboards, when there were any, were crude and basic. Power cuts would frequently plunge the vihara into darkness. Equipment minimal. Paper rare and books next to non-existent.

We travelled to these outreach classes on rickshaws or in auto-rickshaws “tuk-tuks’ through the chaotic Delhi traffic. All manner of traffic: bicycles, motor bikes, ox carts all vied with lorries, buses and cars. The rules were pretty minimal, nobody worried too much about traffic lights or the right of way, not everyone even drove on the same side of the road. I confess I found it all rather exciting.

Outside the vihara there was the seething mass of humanity: beggars and street vendors, endless stalls and tiny stores; incessant activity and the omni-present smell of sewerage. Sometimes our classes were conducted in order to increase the harmony in conflict torn communities. Occasionally they were in relatively harmonious Buddhist communities. Their poverty was what they all had in common.

After two weeks’ I was used to it! The classes were led by two spirited individuals – Shiasnu (Joy) and James Goodman – who against all odds managed to maintain their teaching. We were working for ADEPT – the Amida Delhi Education Project Team. At first I can’t say I really I really warmed to their approach, which involved lots of song and movement. Then I realized that actually it did really work because it motivated and enthused the young learners. Mostly I’ve been used to teaching adults so it was a bit of a culture shock. The sessions with the children didn’t seem like ‘real lessons’ but then I'd been thrown into a situation where they didn’t necessarily have blackboards, only occasionally notebooks, and so on. Use of movement motivated them and they clearly enjoyed the classes. Whenever someone did well Joy would call out ‘give that child a sticker’ and they would proudly walk out to the front of the class to get their sticker. The teachers refused to allow any smacking to discipline the children and they tended to get overexcited and classroom control seemed problematic. Then I started to realize that they were actually succeeding in increasing the confidence and self-esteem of these children.

At first I found it all rather exhausting and overwhelmed by these classes. Delhi in midwinter was a hard way to start in India, not even the food would stay in my stomach! Everything, just everything had changed. But I got used to my little room on the roof of the block, even when the cold North West winds blowing off the Himalayas tried to invade it. My tolerance of noise shot up, and later, as I started taking tea at roadside cafes with the workers, neighbours started to recognize me, little routines started to take over – and then, so quickly, my stay there was over and it was time to take the train south to Nagpur and more English teaching with the TBMSG’s many projects there…

Labels: , , ,