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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Aryamati and 800 Years of Women’s Letters

Aryamati, an Order Member from Manchester, is pleased to share the reprinting of one of her eight books on women’s writing.  The book is titled '800 Years of Women’s Letters', and was first published 19 years ago, which - she says - means it can be classed a classic!

 She was among the first to research the rich source of information contained in women’s private letters, commenting "When not suspected of innovative ideas by their menfolk, they discussed a bold range of themes, from improving education and diplomacy to dealing with illness - and poverty".

She goes on to say -

"I was particularly interested in women's spirituality, which is why l begin 800 years ago, with Hildegard of Bingen. Mystic, composer, herbalist, renowned preacher, she also wrote prescient advice to men in power. And Santa Teresa de Avila shows her ability as administrator, reformer and poet - spiritual women seldom mentioned by male hierarchy till recently. Though l include letters from Queens, l was also keen to find letters from working class women; easier once primary education was introduced. But l was pleased to find a petition from some women weavers at the time of the French revolution. l end with a letter l translated from La Pasionaria, the communist firebrand who made famous speeches to support the Republic against the uprising of Franco".

Aryamati has been invited to speak for an hour on her book as part of International Women’s Week at Manchester Central Library.  She'll be speaking on Wednesday 10 Mar from 6-7pm.  The event is  FREE and refreshments will be  provided. Friends will read a range of lively extracts.

You'll find more about the book, including some reviews, on Amazon.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Jyotivana Women's Community in Manchester Unveils Beautiful New Shrine Cabin

Dayanandi writes from Manchester with news of the women community's new shrine cabin. She says -

“15 months ago it was the dream of the Jyotivana women's community here in Manchester to have a shrineroom where the community could meditate together. Our previous meditation space was an unheated attic accessible only via a loft ladder which ruled out Vidyamala from joining the others due to her back injuries and was unsuitable for Amitasuri in cold weather due to her kidney condition. (In fact several of the rest of us found it rather gruelling in the winter months!) The dripping & splashing from the water tanks in the roofspace was another issue - arguably a spur to deeper concentration but one I wouldn't be sorry to leave behind!

“The house was being used to maximum capacity with 7 in the community so the only solution seemed to be an outdoor shrine room in some sort of log cabin - probably too expensive for us to afford we thought.... But enthusiasm grew for the cabin and we decided to go for it, enlisting the help of the Sangha through fundraising. Munisha had the idea to hold Fundraising Buddhist Film Nights for the Women's Sangha .....and the rest is history... as they say! The first night we ate a delicious curry, dhal & rice and settled down to watch what turned out to be the first of many inspiring and enjoyable films. The majority of the £6500 that we raised to pay for the cabin came via these film evenings through the small and large donations that were received. But as a community we gained far more than the money for the shrineroom as the evenings were so enjoyable and the sense of support for us and our project so dynamic. We enjoyed welcoming everyone to our community and the ensuing 'explosion' of Sangha was quite amazing with between 20 - 30 women chatting away over dinner and settling down on our sofas for the film. The rumour had got about that we had a big screen for the films - which we did - a large white sheet pinned to the curtains, with a PowerPoint projector! It's amazing how we all fitted into the lounge.

“There were a worrying few months when, with the credit crunch, cabin prices soared but as Autumn came the cabins we'd been looking at on the Internet went on Sale and we decided to buy then even though we hadn't raised the whole amount. We picked the fully insulated version of a timber cabin, with double doors and a window....looking very like a Swiss chalet! (see photo!) Sona and Moksapriya quoted us for installing it. They had a free week in December - and up it went! They both worked long, hard and well as did various members of the community & friends in preparing the site and applying stain and varnish to the finished shed. Amitasuri provided the workers with coffee and bagels. She & Dayanandi also took photos from which Vidyamala has made a great film - soon to be available on You Tube!

“I should mention that we received a great boost to our fundraising when Vidyamala and Amitasuri were granted £750 between them from the Abhayaratna Trust to help fund their use of the cabin. This is a new Charity, set up to support Order Members to live a full life in the Sangha in the face of difficulty due to old age, disability and sickness.

“And so, on the 3rd January, four of us, including Vidyamala, set up a simple shrine and meditated in the cabin for the first time. It was such a lovely, clear space to meditate in, just bare wooden floors and walls with views out across the snowy garden to the woods of the Kersal Dale Nature Reserve. It was pretty quiet; a woodpecker knocking loudly on braches above us, some birdsong, a few cars on the road nearby. Later that day, with six of the seven community members able to be present, we performed a dedication ceremony to ritually inaugurate this beautiful new cabin and with it, I think, a new era in the life of Jyotivana Community!”

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Manchester Buddhist Centre receives Marque of Excellence

The Manchester Buddhist Centre has been awarded the North West Multi-Faith Tourism Association's Marque of Excellence for its outstanding welcome to visitors, tourists, and people new to the MBC

The Centre was thoroughly assessed on various criteria, and was seen to be an outstanding example of excellence - in fact the assessor said that she had 'never written a report with quite so many overall category ratings of Excellent' !

An extract from the MBC's website quotes the Tourist Association's report as saying that -

"Manchester Buddhist Centre is an outstanding example of a sacred site that not only offers the visitor a genuinely holistic experience that touches the mind, the body and the spirit in equal measure, but also offers a vision of work as a spiritual practice. All are welcomed to visit and to engage with the site at whatever level they wish. Everything about the site is a reflection of the ethos and philosophy of Buddhism

“It is located in a Victorian warehouse, part of the city’s industrial heritage, which has been sensitively renovated, honouring the history and character of the original building, and with regard to making it as environmentally sustainable as possible

“It is known as an ‘urban oasis’ – part of its attraction is the sense of peace, calm and reflection that visitors feel when they visit the building. Visitors are welcome to sit in the reception area or tea area and relax from the stresses of the busy city outside its doors. The Buddhist Centre is very much a place of spiritual practice and there is a clear path of development and commitment to Buddhist practice for those who wish to know more"

The MBC joins four other faith sites in Greater Manchester who have been awarded the Marque of Excellence -

* Manchester Cathedral
* The Jewish Museum
* Cross Street Unitarian Church
* The Parish Church of St. Peter, Bolton

The MBC itself comments -

“There are other major faith sites across the North West we also join, including both Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral and Anglican Cathedral, and also Manjushri, the NKT’s headquarters at Conishead Priory in Cumbria.

“The award means that the MBC will receive a lovely plaque saying 'Visitors Welcome' on the outside of the building, and we will be promoted as a 'must see' attraction by the tourist board. We are also planning a big presentation ceremony of the award in spring / early summer - watch this space!

Read more on the MBC website here, or about the Multi-Faith Tourism Association at


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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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Maitreyabandhu wins poetry prize

MaitreyabandhuLast year FWBO News reported Maitreyabandhu, from the London Buddhist Centre, had won first prize in the Manchester Cathedral Poetry Competition with his poem ‘Visitation’.

This year, he’s come second, and we’re pleased to reproduce his new poem, ‘The Bond’ here.

Maitreyabandhu writes –

“Dear Friend,

“I hope you don't mind me sending you this poem. I only send them out if they have won a prize or something (I dislike having poetry inflicted on me!...As I am sure you do) This poem won second prize in the Manchester Cathedral Poetry Competition (the competition I won first prize in last year). So I thought I would send it to you. It arose out of my meditation practice — in fact I wrote it straight after a meditation on a recent solitary retreat. I hope you like it. I also include the judges’ comments on it.

“Love, Maitreyabandhu

The Bond

Now that we are here again in this dark place
we must find something – a scratch of light,
an oval pebble. And we must sit here quietly
till he comes, wait patiently, not look
too often out of the window, not peep,
but know that he is coming, yes, and make
a clean place – like having clipped nails
and washed hands and a sharp pencil at the ready.
No crumbs. No digressions. We should say
gentle now and gentleness, like someone calming
a horse, or helping a child hold a kitten.
But not sweetly, not gingerly – hair pulled back,
buttons and a smock – he wouldn’t want that.
Just the air blowing through us. Just the air.

Linda Chase (judge): “This is an unrhymed sonnet in the contemporary style – not too strict on meter. It has a wonderful clarity from which arises a huge idea. Whether we think the speaker is waiting for the second coming of Christ, or for another kind of salvation, it is clear that tolerance and love will be part of the eventual realisation. The simple details employed in this poem totally disarm me. The last line, the last phrase – they are totally stunning.”

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ordinations at the Manchester Buddhist Centre

The following men had their Public Ordination on Saturday, 24th November:

Mike Slattery becomes NISHPARA = ‘He who is unbounded/boundless’. For pronunciation, the weight falls on the first 'a' (the long 'a').

Steve Johnson becomes NARAPA = 'He who is a protector of men'. For pronunciation, the weight falls on the first 'a'.

In both cases the Private Preceptor was Mokshapriya and the Public Preceptor Sona.


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Monday, September 03, 2007

Manchester Cathedral Poet of the Year 2007

Maitreyabandhu, Director of ‘Breathing Space’ at the London Buddhist Centre, has won first prize in the Manchester Cathedral Poetry Competition, making him Manchester’s Poet of the Year 2007. He is the first Buddhist to win and came first in a field of over 300 entrants and over 700 poems.

The poem is called 'Visitation' and part of the judges’ comments read as follows –

“'Visitation' engages with that sense of the sacramental from its title through to its very last line. The 'you' the poem addresses is addressed with a contemporary negativity: it is 'without any form' and 'carrying no symbolic implement'. But for all that indeterminacy, it fills this poem with deft and concrete imagery, not only in the actualities of the scene - 'The ocean-wedge/with its new, precise horizon' - but also with an adroit use of simile, 'as if you had been there all the time,/like a pair of gloves left in a pocket'. In the second half of the poem, the writer manages with piercing imagination to use the idea of grey to suggest so very much, and yet leave the reader open to fill that grey - neither a bonding of all colours, nor an absence of any - with a profound sense of the infinite. This was a wonderful poem by any measure and I have given it the first prize.”


Strange that you should come
like that, without any form at all,
carrying no symbolic implements,
without smile or frown
or any commotion,
as if you had been there all the time,
like a pair of gloves left in a pocket.

As if I had been looking that way,
into the wide blue yonder, and you were
beside me, enduring my hard luck stories
with infinite patience. Not even waiting –
the tree outside my window
doesn’t wait, nor the ocean-wedge
with its new, precise horizon – just there
like the shadow of a church

or a quiet brother.
And how I saw you, in the mess of things,
was as a slant of grey,
the perfect grey of house dust,
an absolute neutral, with no weaving,
no shimmer of cobalt
and light-years away from Byzantium.

Grey. And I want to add, like light,
as if a skylight opened in my skull,
and into the darkness fall
a diagonal of pure Bodmin Moor.
But even that’s too bright,
too world-we’re-busy-in.
Call it ‘dust’ then, or the bloom
of leaf-smoke from an autumn fire.

Sadhu, Maitreyabandhu.

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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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