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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Technology and Enlightenment: new Wildmind newsletters out

Wildmind logoWildmind is the FWBO’s US-based website dedicated to teaching meditation. Each month they publish a newsletter exploring one or another aspect of meditation or dharma practice. 

October 2009 looks at the interesting topic of ‘Technology and Enlightenment’, in which contributors explore whether immersing ourselves in a world of gadgets may also distance us from more authentic connections with teachers, family, and friends - or not. There’s reports too on recent scientific research disproving the notion, still common in the West, that Buddhists must be a miserable lot because their teachings dwell so much on suffering. The research in fact suggests what Buddhists have believed all along - that Buddhism -- or at least Buddhist meditation- leads to happiness.

November, by contrast, is on the theme of ‘ Making your meditation work’. One article sees Sunada explain how working with (as opposed to fighting against) our fears can point us toward our own place of freedom: she describes fearlessness not as the absence of fear, but the ability stay with one's fear and use its energy wisely. Meditation teacher and life coach Srimati offers a ten-stage guide to getting the most out of your meditation practice -and new contiributor Rev. Canon Renée Miller explores Buddhist practice from the perspective of her own Christian faith.

December, just out, is simply on the theme of ‘Practice’ - especially appropriate at a time of year which often seems dedicated to anything but! There’s a rich collection of articles here too - but we’ll leave you to find out more by clicking here...

If you want to keep in touch with Wildmind they’ve recently launched a new Wildmind Facebook page and Twitter feed, which will deliver ‘tweets’ right into your Twitter in-box each time they post an article - sign up at

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Monday, December 08, 2008

What Buddhists do at Christmas - on the BBC

Dharmacharinis Munisha and Vajramudita, Vajramudita's family and the FWBO's Manchester Buddhist Centre all appeared on BBC1 TV last Sunday morning (7th December).

Their short series 'Christmas Voices' is taking a very short look each week at how people of other faiths celebrate Christmas. This week it was the Buddhists' turn.

Munisha says: "The interviewers asked me what Buddhists think about Jesus. I was sorry they didn't use the bit where I said most Buddhists worldwide have probably never heard of him! But it was very good that they featured Manchester's Chinese Buddhist temple as well as us. After all, minority ethnic groups account for about 60% of UK Buddhists but are very marginalised. (In case you wonder, the Chinese Buddhists were invited to be interviewed but none was willing.)"

Click here to see the programme on iPlayer.
Skip ahead to about 18 minutes – and stop when you see Munisha! (Note - this link may stop working after Dec 20th)

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

FWBO People I: Dayamati - a 'Clearness Process' in Albuquerque

Anyone familiar with the book will know him as “a sceptical Buddhist” (quoting here Windhorse’s description of him on their website, where he is known by his secular name of Richard Hayes) – but one who nonetheless proposes the radical path of the Buddha to those seeking genuine wisdom, “not just slogans to stick on the bumpers of their cars”.

His explorations have now led him to what is perhaps an unexpected place. He writes –

“Dear friends,

“Earlier this month I formally became a member of the Albuquerque Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). The request for membership came after attending the meeting regularly for three years, and after about five years of experience attending Quaker meetings in Canada from 1968 through 1975.

“The step of being what is called a convinced Quaker involves a number of steps, including meeting with a committee of Quaker elders and discussing one's intentions. In my case I also consulted with my kalyanamitras in the FWBO and sought their opinion on whether being a Quaker was in their eyes in any way incompatible with being a dharmachari in the WBO. No objections were voiced by my kalyanamitras. On the Quaker side there was no objection to my being a Buddhist going for refuge in the WBO context and being a Quaker.

“Now that the step has been taken, I am feeling that making an announcement to the wider FWBO community is in order. I have written something about my motivations and experiences on my blog site, the address of which is under my signature below. I am curious what the range of opinion within the FWBO is on membership in more than one religious organization, especially when one of them does not have Buddhist roots.

“Something to bear in mind in my case is that I live about 1000 miles from the nearest FWBO chapter. Attending dharmachari chapter meetings regularly is out of the question. The closest thing I have found to a WBO chapter meeting is a Quaker meeting. The ways that Quakers make corporate decisions, and the way they meet for spiritual practice, is very similar to the way things are done in the (F)WBO. That said, I am sure I would attend Quaker meetings regularly even if there were a nearby chapter of the WBO...”


Comments welcome!

His article is also available on the Order page of FWBO Discussion - a website full of thoughtful perspectives on the FWBO and its appreoach to the Dharma.

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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,

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Sangharakshita news - in London with the Dalai Lama

Dharmamati, who works in Birmingham as secretary to Sangharakshita, sends us this report of his recent meeting with the Dalai Lama at gathering of religious leaders in London.

Sangharakshita meets the Dalai Lama at Lambeth Palace“Recently Sangharakshita was invited to Lambeth Palace, official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury for a meeting of religious leaders organised by the Archbishop of Canterbury. This was primarily a reception for the Dalai Lama. Gordon Brown, the UK Prime Minister, was there to have a private meeting with the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop prior to the main meeting. After this Gordon Brown greeted the religious leaders, during which time Sangharakshita got to meet him.

Sangharakshita with the Dalai Lama in India in the 1960's“Before the meeting Sangharakshita chatted with the Dalai Lama. It was the first time they had met since the early 1960’s. The Dalai Lama remembered him very clearly, also mentioning that he was well aware of the work of the Western Buddhist Order (Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha) with the Dalits(ex-untouchables) in India. Sangharakshita also got an opportunity to chat to some of the other delegates including Ajahn Sumedho from Amaravati, Ven Tawalama Bandula from the London Buddhist Vihara and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor R.C. Archbishop of Westminster. After the Prime Minister departed the meeting proper got under way.

Left to right: the Dalai Lama, Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Murphy O’Connor, and Sangharakshita“This was a private occasion and the opportunity, according to the Archbishop of Canterbury, for some religious leaders to come together away from the media to reflect quietly on those things that are important for the wellbeing of the people of this country. There were 21 delegates and apart from the Christian and Buddhist contingent, representatives came from the Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Bahai, and Jain communities.

“The Dalai Lama was invited to address the meeting. He stressed the importance of relating on the basis of our common humanness rather than difference in beliefs. He used the example that Buddhism and Jainism are both non-theistic and yet have a different view on atman and anatman. He then mentioned the enormous differences in the understanding of God between all the theistic faiths, concluding that because there is no end to difference, we have to find what is common to us all - which is, that we are all human beings. And, that any human being can develop wisdom and compassion regardless of what they believe. And finally, that this would be a definite step in the right direction! There was a delightful moment after the meeting when the Dalai Lama helped Bhante up the stairs, the two of them almost dancing hand-in-hand in a very playful way.

“Although this gathering of some of the most influential religious leaders in the country was very brief, let us hope that it goes some way in helping them realise their common humanity and find a path to peace and reconciliation”.

FWBO News hopes to bring you a more complete account of Sangharakshita's diary for the past two months very shortly. In the meantime we are pleased to annouce that his personal website has been totally overhauled and been given a new look by Dharmamati.

Here you will find some 15 of his books available for free download; many of his poems both old and new; a complete bibliography, many book reviews and editorials from the 1950s and 60s, and some little-known articles, such as the fascinating glimpse into Sangharkshita's early days back in the West to be found in his ‘1970 – A Retrospective’. There's more, of course – but we leave you to browse!

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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!!”

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sangharakshita to speak at 'British Buddhist Landscape' conference

This summer Sangharakshita will be speaking at a major conference, entitled “The British Buddhist Landscape – Transplantation and Growth”. Bookings have just opened and all are invited to attend.

The conference is being organised by the Institute of Oriental Philosophy (UK) and the Network of Buddhist Organisations (UK), of which the FWBO is an active member.

The dates are the 27th, 28th, 29th June 2008 and the venue is the Sokkai Gakkai headquarters at Taplow Court, near Maidenhead, Berkshire, where the Institute of Oriental Philosophy is based - shown in the photograph.

The aim of the conference is to look at the history and development of Buddhism in the UK from its early days up to the present. It will be suitable for anyone with an interest in Buddhism as well as other religions in the UK, the teaching of religion, as well as social action and ethnic social groups.

Topics will include the History and Development of UK Buddhism, Ethnicity and Buddhism in Britain, Buddhist Scholarship (including areas such as teaching Buddhism in schools and universities and over the internet), Buddhism and Psychotherapy, and Engaging with Society.

The speakers will include Sangharakshita, Stephen Batchelor, Dr. John Peacock, Dr Helen Waterhouse, Ajahn Laow, Prof. Sato, Dr. Peggy Morgan, Colin Ash, Rev Saido, Dharma Shakya, Keith Munnings, and others.

The approximate fee will be £65.00 and attendance for part of the conference is possible, for a reduced fee. Concessionary rates are also available. Please enquire for further information. Latest details will be on the IOP website.

Artists and performers are being invited to join us to present their work, please make contact if you would like to be considered.

For further information please contact the conference organiser Jamie Cresswell, Director, IOPUK, tel : UK 01628-591213, email :

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Buddhist-Christian project

FWBO - Church of England combined projectThe Place of Peace is a new joint venture by Manchester Cathedral (Church of England) and Clear Vision/ Manchester FWBO Centre (FWBO).

Pupils visit the Cathedral (right) and nearby FWBO Buddhist Centre on the same day, using the buildings to explore Christian and Buddhist perspectives on issues of war, peace and justice.

The cathedral features a regimental chapel, war-time bomb damage and some of the finest medieval carving in England; the Buddhist Centre is a beautifully converted Victorian cotton warehouse and home to many Buddhist Right Livelihood projects. Both are places of peace.

The project, dreamed up by Clear Vision's Munisha and the cathedral education officer Pam Elliott over a cappuccino one afternoon, turns out to be very popular - we're already booking for next autumn! Because the cathedral has a very different school database from Clear Vision's, many schools are now visiting the Buddhist Centre for the first time.

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