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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Retreat in Tamil Nadu, South India

Continuing this week's theme of stories from FWBO and TBMSG events in India, today we report on a recent TBMSG retreat in Tamil Nadu, South India - which is seeing a revival of Buddhism led in part by graduates from Nagarjuna Training Institute, TBMSG's training centre in Nagpur. They say -

"Namo Buddha. We are graduates of NTI in Nagpur. We are happy to inform you recently we arranged a three days retreat in Pallavoyal village, 70 kms from Chennai in Tamil Nadu. NTI has trained over 500 people from over 18 states in India.

"This was the first of its kind retreat in Tamil Nadu, it brought together Ambedkarites from various districts of Tamil Nadu, well wishers from Sri Lanka including Dhammachari Jinasena, and others including Dhammachari Viradhamma of the San Francisco Buddhist Centre. The ex-students of Nagarjuna Training Institute (NTI) constituted the core of the retreat organisation, arrangement and co-ordination. Over 120 men and women participated in this retreat.
"The major components of the retreat were Group Meditation, Dhamma Talks, Buddhist Formalities, Chanting Buddhist songs, Group Discussions and Buddhist Cultural Activities, it was a great help to revive Dhamma in the South India.

"In the beginning of the retreat, a small meeting was arranged between Buddhists from Sri Lanka and people in Tamil Nadu to clear misperceptions about current ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. Media and hardliners across the strait are trying to fuel enmity on religious lines and propaganda is trying to show that Buddhists in Sri Lanka are pro-war and are party to present war in Sri Lanka. This propaganda is creating negative impression of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, and the people inclined towards Buddhism in Tamil Nadu, mostly the followers of Babasaheb Ambedkar, get confused about role and involvement of Buddhism. However, Sri Lankan delegates made it clear that majority of the Buddhist monks and laities do not support the war and they are extending the humanitarian help to the people affected by war in North Sri Lanka.

"The theme of the retreat was why Babasaheb Dr. B. R. Ambedkar chose Buddhism, and his key points regarding Buddhism. Dh. Lokamitra gave two talks, which were followed by discussions in the small group. Dh. Lokamitra also introduced two meditation practices.

"Tamil Nadu is a new situation for Buddhism, though it has the 100 year history of revival of Buddhism initiated by Pandit Iyothee Thass, who hailed from the untouchable castes, and saw in Buddhism the potential to end caste system. There is an overwhelming response to the teachings and people are keen to explore Buddhism.

"The images of the Buddha are found all over Tamil Nadu. The images are very beautiful and of artistic excellence. At one place, the famous image of Manimekalai, the famous Buddhist nun in Tamil literature, was also found.

"In all, Tamil Nadu like most of the states of India is having huge potential for revival of Buddhism and this retreat is one of the initiatives, there is so much still remains to be done to make Buddhist teachings available to millions of people here. The members of the Sakya Hostels took tremendous pains to make this event a great success.

"Thanking you, with all our metta. Dhammamitra S. Jayasridhar, Visuddhalok, Tamil Nadu".

The photograph shows Lokamitra, who led the retreat, with some of the participants from Sri Lanka.  Tomorrow we report on developments in ATMT, the women's Dhamma and Social project in India.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

English Teaching Project in India is ready to roll

Shakyajata sends us this update on upcoming plans to teach English in India. She says -

“A project has been set in motion to teach English to the students of FWBO/TBMSG's Nagarjuna Training Institute (NTI) in Nagpur, India. And its really happening!

“The students are from some of the most marginalised communities all over India; they’re highly motivated to develop themselves and their communities through the practice of ethics and personal growth. They’ve gone to the NTI for a year’s intensive training in the basics of dhamma and social work – and now English.

“Over 60 students have been recruited this year, and more of them than ever before – about a third – are women. No less than nine Western Order Members and mitras have volunteered to teach them English, knowledge of which is a high-value skill that will enhance their effectiveness and life-chances in a number of ways.

“This group of teachers (armed with a readymade programme developed by Adiccabandhu of Clear Vision fame, a powerpoint projector, and other materials) are ready to go - most of us have bought our tickets! At a recent meeting in Birmingham Bhante gave us his blessing and a message for the students: 'Study hard now, reap the fruits later'. He also encouraged us to focus particularly on the needs of women.

“We hope this will be the start of an ongoing project to provide English teaching in India to people from our Movement.

“For the past few months we’ve been fundraising using a special page on JustGiving; we’ve raised over £1,500 for materials and expenses but more is needed - any help we get from people now will go a long, long way.

"Please see our fundraising page for more details about the project and to contribute”.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Buddha statue for Nagaloka nears completion

Last year FWBO News reported TBMSG’s Nagarjuna Training Institute in Nagpur, India, had decided to commission and install a giant walking Buddha figure as centrepiece for the 15-acre site. At the time the completion date was announced as being December 2007 ; this has, perhaps not surprisingly, been delayed. However work on the statue has been proceeding steadily and we are pleased to bring you this photograph showing it nearing completion. An idea of the scale can be seen from the man working on the statue’s shoulder, also from the two-storey buildings that surround it…!

Unveiling is now scheduled for February 2009, which will be shortly before the WBO’s International Order Convention, which next year is being held in India – in fact in Bodh Gaya itself.

The statue is being created by Wen Kwei, one of Taiwan's leading Buddhist sculptors. He is famous for an equally large ten-headed Samantabhadra. Wen Kwei is also managing the difficult process of transportation and erection of the statue, and even some of the fundraising, which is all being done in Taiwan. Vivekaratna, chairman of NTI, told FWBO & TBMSG News that Wen Kwei has said he wants this to be the best of all his works, and famous throughout the world.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Dhamma tour in South India

Vivekaratna, the Director of the Nagarjuna Training Institute, TBMSG’s training facility in Nagpur, India, has recently returned from a trip to southern India. South India is very very different culturally and linguistically to Maharastra, TBMSG’s heartland, and until recently, has had few Buddhists and little contact with TBMSG. However over the past two years there have been Keralan students at NTI and the first of these have now returned home and begun work in their local areas. Last year the FWBO Growth Fund funded three of them so they would be able to focus their efforts on establishing Dhamma activities there. Vivekaratna sends this report -

“I toured to South India from 22nd April to 4th May. The purpose of my tour was to interview the candidates for the 7th Batch of students at the NTI. In addition to that I met with number of institutions as well as individuals. It was very inspiring tour as people are thirsty for dhamma. Padmavir was accompanying me.

“The highlight of my tour was a day retreat at Kottayam in Kerala. We reached Kottayam at 6.30 am, Subhash met us and took us to the Kerala Social Service Center, where Binojbabu had organized a day retreat. This started at 11.30 as particpants were coming from different parts of Keral (Trivendrum, Kollam, Iduki, Trishur & Kannur). The organisers had made a beautiful shrine. There were 150 participants, a very good audience. They came to understand just Buddhism and stayed through out the day. We were able to interview 9 candidates (7 male & 2 female) for 7th batch of NTI students. After the retreat Rejimon escorted us to Thengana. Four persons were waiting for us till 9pm to conduct Puja at their center. But we could not do the Puja as it was too late and also we were tired by travelling. We took rest in Lodge.

“The next day Rejimon introduced us to his work at Thengana. He had raised local donations for deposit to have accomodation for regular TBMSG activities and also for monthly rent. He has now started regular TBMSG actvities at Thengana. In the morning we visited his center and did Puja and appreciated his dedication for dhamma work without any financial support from us. Local few Buddhists look after his needs. We left Thengana in the aftrnoon for Mynagapally – this is our first TBMSG Center in Keral started by NTI alumni at their own initiative. After three hours train & bus journey, we reached to TBMSG Mynagapally Center at 4pm.

A conversion ceremony was organised at the center at 7.00 pm. The christian family who wanted to convert reached at about 8.30pm. They were coming from 60 kms away and had lost the way too. Mr. Johnson who was at one time an NTI trainee, and his wife Sharika, daughter of Sukumaran who was strong supporter of Buddhism for many years and helping in many ways to Rejimon for spread of Buddhism; were the converts. Padmavir gave lecture on the importance of convertion to Buddhism and Going for Refuge and I led the conversion ceremony that concluded at 10 pm. About 25 local Buddhist witnessed the conversion. We six enjoyed the the dinner supplied to us at the center by three Buddhist families and took rest at Center.

Finally the next day we had meeting with Binojbabu, Subhash, Rejimon, Arun & Rajanikant. We rejoiced in their merits for spreading Buddhism. I assured Binojbabu to support for one more year from the left out of growth fund and suggested him not to find out work outside. Subhash may get scholarship and he is trying for lecturership too. There is a need to support to Rejimon too. We left at 12am to catch a train at Karunangapally railway stn for Bangalore.

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