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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Buddha walks at Nagaloka

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Urgyen Sangharakshita sent the following message for the inauguration.

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

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

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

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


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

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Big Buddha inaugurated in India

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

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

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

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


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Monday, November 30, 2009

Dhamma travels in India

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

She writes -

Dear all,

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

Our plan, in roughly chronological order, is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

best wishes to all,

Shakyajata and Priyadaka

PS - do check our  fundraising page!

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Shakyajata and Priyadaka set off to support ex-Nagaloka trainees

Priyadaka reports -

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

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

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

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

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

Blog March '09 – Shakyajata

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Nagaloka Buddha nears completion - you're invited to be part of it

Lokamitra writes from India with news of the remarkable 'Big Buddha' statue currently being installed on the Nagaloka campus - and with an invitation to be part of it. He says -

"I’m writing from Pune in India, where late monsoon rains are beating down outside. Much of my time for the past weeks has been occupied with wonderful developments at Nagaloka, our training institute in Nagpur. We have received a great donation - a very large and beautiful walking Buddha, which is presently in the final stages of erection on the site. It will be a breath-taking centrepiece for the Nagaloka complex. Already, it is extraordinarily beautiful.

"The statue is made of brass and is 10.3 metres tall, with lotus and steps below, all placed on a 20-foot high base. Around this we are building a platform of 12 metres square, down from which there will be 9 steps, and at the bottom of these, a grassy mound, surrounded by a path, giving the whole mound including the central platform and steps a radius of 38 metres as indicated by the picture. The statue has been an enormous donation, from our old friend Ven Kuang Shin, and Wen Kwei Chan, the most well known sculptor in Taiwan.

"Now we are raising money from local Buddhists to finance the landscaping works. And we’d like to invite Western Dharma practitioners to be part of it too. We are hoping to raise £13,000 in India and would like to request the help of our friends in the West to try and raise the other £13,000 needed to complete the work.

"Specifically, we’re appealing for donations of 150 pounds (or more). Anyone making such a donation will be able to dedicate their donation to anyone they choose, perhaps a loved one who has died, and have their dedication deposited in the statue or its base in perpetuity. It’s an opportunity for you to contribute to a very special project, and - if you choose - to commemorate someone special.

To do this, please visit our webpage at

Meanwhile, the work goes on - a team of four engineers, led by Mr. Tung, came out from Taiwan on 18th August to set it up, and another team of four from Taiwan is at present painting the statue. There were many difficulties and hurdles! - some due to rain, some due to difficulties communicating the long distance between India and Taiwan, others because of the unfamiliarity of the materials and the unique challenge of the task.

The inauguration date is not yet finalised, but is expected to be in early December.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Walking Buddha statue arrives in Nagpur

For the past two years a remarkable sculpture has been taking shape in a Taiwanese foundry: a bronze walking Buddha, no less than 10.8m high. Its creator is Wen Kwei, one of Taiwan's leading Buddhist sculptors, who has also been managing the difficult process of transportation and erection of the statue.

It has now completed the long journey to its destination: Nagaloka, the FWBO/TBMSG’s training centre in Nagpur, central India. Here it will occupy the pride of place, facing the existing (but much smaller) statue of Dr. Ambedkar.

Vivekaratna, Nagaloka’s Director, brings us up to date with just a few of the many adventures and difficulties that have been faced and overcome along the way. He told FWBO News -

“Finally the walking Buddha statue arrived in Nagaloka out of generosity of Taiwanese Buddhists.

“They were transported from Mumbai by road in three containers. We had difficulty to get to Nagaloka as the railway bridge is at low height and container height was more. So we unloaded with the help of crane before the bridge and then brought to Nagaloka. Our Buddhist friends at Bombay port helped a lot to get the custom & excise clearance of Buddha statue containers.

“Foundation work is in progress and we expect to be completed before 18th August.

“A team of four Engineers from Taiwan will be arriving at Nagaloka on 18th August to erect the Lotus & Buddha statue (total 12 tons in weight and cast in Brass material) on the foundation made for that purpose. The Lotus is having a diameter of 6.7m and height of 2.1m. The statue itself is 10.8m. Another team of six from Taiwan, with the chief sculptor, are scheduled to arrive in the first week of Sept to do the painting and finishing.

“Their target date to complete the Statue is 28th Sept.: the anniversary day of Dr. Ambedkar’s Conversion to Buddhism.

“We have declared inauguration of the statue on 2nd Nov. 09, which is Sangha Day. All are heartily welcome".

with Metta.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mitraloka celebrate their second birthday

Nagaketu, Director of Mitraloka, TBMSG’s School of Foreign Languages in Nagpur, Central India, writes to say -

“Mitraloka School of Foreign Languages celebrated its second anniversary on 15th June. A special get-together of all present and ex-students was organized on this occasion. As part of the celebrations there was an address from Mitraloka’s founder, Dhammachari Nagaketu, plus special guests Nitin Kamble (a French language teacher) and Rohan Chahande (a Japanese and English language teacher).

“Over the past two years Mitraloka has become one of the major language training centers in central India, providing courses in multiforeign languages. For last two years at Mitraloka; various foreign languages have been taught including English, French, German, Japanese & Chinese.

“Through this teaching we are cultivating awareness about foreign languages and different cultures in the world. Hundreds of students have been benefited by learning foreign languages and thereby they have shaped their careers in different fields. Mitraloka is also help them with job placement in the global market.

“Soon we are going to start Portuguese, Arabic and Pali language classes.

“With metta, Nagaketu.

Situated in central Nagpur, Mitraloka is a fairly new - but very successful - addition to the portfolio of social and Dhamma projects run by TBMSG in India.  More and more, it's clear that command of English and other foreign languages are a key to social mobility and economic advancement - crucial in the rigid caste structure of Hindu India.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Aryaloka Computer Education: profiling a Community and Right Livelihood Project in Nagpur, India

Dhammamitra Nagaratna from Kerala in South India writes with a great profile of a very successful grass-roots initiative in Nagpur, Central India. This is the ‘Aryaloka Computer Education and Community Center’, one of many TBMSG projects in the city.

He says -
“Our Aryaloka community and computer center is located in the middle of a thickly populated area called Laghuvetan Colony, nearly 5 kilometers from central Nagpur. Nagpur is a large city right in the centre of India, in Maharastra state.

“We are four members right now here in our small community, trying to adjust and live together with small available amenities. Each of us has some responsibilities in the computer institution which is in same building: we are working as computer teacher, instructor, receptionist. Also we are students learning some advanced computer courses (which are much expensive to afford by us in other places) as well as continuing our Academic Education. We get support as pocket money from the institution to meet our basic needs.

“It’s true that we are enjoying our life here, living in spiritual community, practicing meditation, trying to develop our friendship based on spiritual values - “to create a positive atmosphere in the society on the basis of humanitarian principles”. This is hard in the midst of India’s caste-ridden society. In order to achieve our vision we took our great opportunity to incorporate with this mission the ‘Aryaloka Computer Education and Community Center’.

“Thanks to Dhammachari Aryaketu (photo, right) for establishing the Institute and creating a situation like this. He has still so many innovative ideas to help flourish Buddhism all over the world. At present he is in UK visiting Buddhafield.

“Really speaking, this is also our individual mission, keeping what we have created as a role model and working in the future to create institutions in our own native places which are generally located in remote areas and towns. For that purpose we are here from different parts of the country, living together, trying to know each other’s culture, mental attitudes, etc. We are sharing and by responding sensitively we try to practice spiritually to be robust as well by doing some advanced computer courses like 2D, 3D Animation, Photoshop….and so on we could develop our creative and imaginative mind to make it more refined and focused.

“And pioneering like this we can help assure our Right Livelihood at present and in future to make success of our own life mission, to help and show the way for others too.  Please check our website at”.

Back at FWBO News we’re reminded of the three Aniruddhas in the Pali Canon, who live together in perfect harmony. The Buddha asks them “Aniruddha, how do you live thus?”, and they reply -

Venerable sir, as to that, I think thus: ‘It is a gain for me, it is a great gain for me that I am living with such companions in the holy life.’ I maintain bodily acts of loving-kindness towards these venerable ones both openly and privately; I maintain verbal acts of loving-kindness towards them both openly and privately; I maintain mental acts of loving-kindness towards them both openly and privately. I consider: ‘Why should I not set aside what I wish to do and do what these venerable ones wish to do?’ Then I set aside what I wish to do and do what these venerable ones wish to do. We are different in body, venerable sir, but one in mind".

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

New students arrive at Nagaloka for 8th year of training program

The Nagarjuna Training Institute in Nagpur, India, has just accepted their 2009 batch of new trainees – and continues to expand.

Based on the Nagaloka campus on the outskirts of India, NTI is the FWBO/TBMSG’s largest training centre in India, every year training around 80 young men and women in the basics of both Buddhism and social work. The graduates then return home, often in small groups, ready to do what they can to promote both Dhamma and social work in their area. Over 300 graduates have emerged during the 8 years the course has been running.  This year they welcomed 87 new trainees.

Students come from all over India, and this year for the first time NTI was able to accept trainees from West Bengal: they join others from Maharastra, Orissa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and many other states in an exhilarating mix of students from many Indian cultures and even languages – in fact, often, the students find their only common language is English!

Continuing the trend of the past few years, a sizeable proportion of the students are women – no less than 24 this year.

Back in the UK, Shakyajata has launched an appeal to support Nagaloka’s graduates in their Dhamma and social projects post-graduation. She writes –

Now, with much increased self-confidence, fluency, and determination, they are setting out on the next phase of self-sufficiency for themselves, their families, and communities. At this crucial stage, they still need help to launch the projects that will make a huge difference to the future of India; giving dignity and unlocking human potential among thousands of poor people”.

On her fundraising webpage at you can read more about some of the projects they will be initiating after graduation.  If you'd like to support the course itself they have a second page at

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Little Buddhas salute Dr. Ambedkar in India

Nagaketu writes from Nagpur, TBMSG's largest centre in India, with news of a new project.  He says  -

"The Little Buddha Children Club (LBCC) is a new project of Dhammakranti and TBMSG. It was launched in December last year when Dhammachari Subhuti inaugurated it.

It is a club for children in Nagpur and already we have a branch in Vadodara in Gujerat. So far we have four hundred members and are still growing.

In this modern age to educate children is a very big responsibility, we have to teach them human values and provide them with positive conditioning. This is our one of our aims while forming the children's club. Through games, stories, plays, songs and information we try to help them develop their confidence, concentration, sensitivity for others and friendship. We work with children through small retreats, workshops and celebrating Buddhist festivals.

"Recently we celebrated with them Dr. Ambedkar's birthday. On 14 April at around 7.30 in the morning nearly a hundred children and the same number of parents, mitras and order members gathered at the Dikshabhoomi (the 'Ground of Conversion') in Nagpur to pay homage to Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and celebrate his 118th Birth Anniversary in a fitting style. At the beginning we chanted the refuges and precepts in front of Dr. Ambedkar’s statue and then walked nearly two kilometres around the Dikshabhoomi. It was a peace march, children and parents were holding flags on which were written Dr. Ambedkar's thoughts.

"We ended a programme with a song about Babasaheb by one of the members of the Little Buddha Children Club and then Ritayus spoke about Dr. Ambedkar's life followed by Mrs. Shubhangi Wanik.

"Nagaketu conducted the programme and at the end gave information about forthcoming Little Buddha Programmes, we ended with some snakes [possible typo here - though maybe not? - who knows? - ed] and ice cream".

FWBO News wishes them well.

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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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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

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Monday, September 29, 2008

New Students arrive at Nagaloka in India

The VIIth batch of students as they begin their studies at Nagaloka
Nagaloka is TBMSG’s training centre on the outskirts of Nagpur, in Central India. Every year it takes a batch of young Buddhist men and women from all over India and gives them a year-long intensive training in both the Dhamma and basic social work – plus marketable skills such as NVC (Non-Violent Communication). After completing the course, some stay for further training while the majority return home and begin to do what they can for the Dhamma in their local areas. In this way a network of over 200 has built up, an India-wide network that is gathering strength every year.

Vivekaratna, Nagaloka’s Director, has written to FWBO News to say –

“The Inauguration Ceremony of the VIIth batch was held at Nagaloka on 6th July 2008. This year we have 67 Trainees, it is a special year for us because so many of them are female – in total we have 23 Female & 44 Male. They come from 14 states of India – this is great news. In addition 6 Trainees from 6th Batch have stayed on and joined the community in Nagaloka.

You can see photographs of Nagaloka on the FWBO Photos site here, and a detailed map, produced in 2007, of all TBMSG groups across India here.

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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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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Dispatch from Nagpur

FWBO News is happy to present the second dispatch from Saul Deason, a mitra from the FWBO's North London Centre, presently in India for an extended period with two projects teaching English. The first instalment saw him in Delhi with the Amida Trust, this comes from Nagpur and the many TBMSG projects there.

"Arriving by train at Nagpur I hit a seedy hotel mattress and stay on it three days recuperating. This is the lowest point: I begin to think I’ll give up and go home. At that instant things begin to happen. I am visited by two Indian Order Members and re-accommodated at Nagaloka, the out of town Buddhist training centre. I lay on another bed surrounded by a sea of Hindi voices. I venture out at what I think is mealtime and eat incredibly monastic food.

"Reflecting on the finiteness of my energies I start to work. Three days teacher training at Mitraloka, TBMSG’s language school in the city centre, goes well. I start speaking classes for advanced students at Aryaloka, a computer training centre also run by the TBMSG. Finally I start teaching speaking skills for basic level Dhamma trainees at Nagaloka. The enthusiasm of the learners is so great that I find myself forgetting my afflictions and work becomes an antidote to my sickness.

"Countless communication breakdowns at Nagaloka help me map out learner needs for speaking skills. I begin to get a fumbling cognizance of cultural sensitivities. Slowly my teaching strategies begin to become more cogent. In the Aryaloka class – in an all-Buddhist part of town - it goes from strength to strength. We start discussing personal development issues –how to meditate, how to kill fear - only to grind to an apathetic halt when we discuss political issues. At Nagaloka the programme is a more basic one for learners with less English: shopping, booking a rail ticket, describing a friend so somebody can meet them at a station, answering questions at job interviews, talking about qualifications and experience... Things threaten to break down under a vocabulary overload so I switch to carrying out numeracy operations (plus, minus, times, into, equals) with students going up to the board and calculating out loud (so their numeracy improves even if their English doesn’t!) Trying to break down boredom I get the karate experts showing basic blocks, kicks and punches at the front of the classroom. We even get round to doing Black nationalist poetry: “Play it cool and dig all jive”. After class trainees taunt another trainee for liking Kung Fu movies which are hardly non-violent, “I just dig Jackie Chan!” he exclaims. I begin to feel I’m getting somewhere.

"There are features of Hindi discourse that I know I haven’t mastered although I teach the functions of insisting, refusing, expressing failure to understand, requesting clarification. Many Indians were taught in English so they often have considerable passive knowledge of English but they all, basic or advanced, have an enormous need for actual speaking practice. I often meet someone who ploughs through a Sangharakshita text but does not understand elementary English requests and cannot tell when he is being told “No!” It strikes me that the more advanced the student the greater the scope for self delusion!

At dawn I walk towards the meditation shrine into the rising sun. In the evening a motorbike picks me up and takes me into town. We drive into the setting sun. My life is both monastic and worldly. From Amida’s Delhi Project the advice of Sahishnu echoes in my mind, “if you are not careful you’ll end up teaching advanced English to middle class students who can afford tuition anyway.” I turn my back on my classes and do walking and chanting invoking Vajrasattva to cleanse me of egotistical motives. I resolve to check out the classes being taught in the slum districts of Nagpur. I reflect on the prospect of recruiting English teachers and have them stay at Nagaloka before sending them on outreach classes that don’t burn them out as I had done in Delhi. Foreign funding flows into bricks and mortar but not into staffing so we’d have to train locals to help us run the outreach classes. The Ambedkar movement needs new initiatives and younger leaders say my students but how do we do that when we fail to educate the coming generation? I plant my meditation cushion on the shrine room floor and admit to myself that I just don’t know".

You can find a full introduction and background to Nagaloka and many of TBMSG's projects on TBMSG's Jambudvipa website.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Impressions from India – the second National Buddhist Youth Conference

Ann Dennehy is a mitra and English teacher from the FWBO’s San Francisco Buddhist Center. She sends us this report from India -

In December 2007 the National Network of Buddhist Youth (NNBY) held its second annual conference at TBMSG’s Bor Dharan retreat center, just outside Nagpur in central India. It was a gathering of the next generation of Buddhists from all over India, and was entirely student-led and organized, with just a little help from my friend, Dhammachari Kumarjeev, a leader of the TBMSG’s Dhammakranti project. 130 people attended the first conference in 2006, and this year there were 600 people. Next year they hope for even more! I was invited by Kumarjeev to attend as part of a team of 5 trainers to work alongside him, Subhuti, and a team of student leaders.

Each day consisted of meditation, dharma talks, various sessions (or "offerings" as we called them), pujas, and oh yes, delicious Indian food. Since I teach English I was there to offer English; basic conversation practice, grammar review, pronunciation improvement. I also met spontaneously with students one-on-one and in small groups as they approached me, offering specific language advice and encouragement. The other trainers offered sessions in NVC, drama, team-building games, aikido, study skills, time management, and many other activities.

As I spoke with students throughout the week I asked what they were enjoying - they spoke of the friendships they were making, how much they enjoyed Subhuti’s playfulness and his serious commitment to the legacy of Dr. Ambedkar and abolishing casteism in India, and all the practical skills they were learning from the different sessions. Some told me how they struggled with self-confidence, others how much their self-confidence has grown since last year's conference. I was very impressed by their sensitivity, their emotional clarity, and their honesty. In my sessions I noticed how eager students were both to learn and to play, how direct they were in asking for what they did and did not want from our time together, how supportive they were of one another's learning, and how rapidly they were able to absorb and apply new information. It was the most fun I have had in my 17 years of English teaching.

On the retreat myself I had good company in my roommate Sucitta and we fell asleep each night talking of India, and woke up giggling. I enjoyed so much my own deepening friendship with Kumarjeev and his family, the other trainers, the Indian Order Members, the student leaders, and the many many students I met during the week. I was in awe of Subhuti's clarity in teaching the dharma, in explaining the legacy of Dr. Ambedkar, and conveying the urgency of abolishing casteism once and for all in India. The students were completely engaged as he spoke, scribbling in their notebooks, laughing at his Bollywood filmstar references, following his chanting with vigour. I was enchanted watching the kitchen staff prepare lunch; the men stirring enormous pots of rice and vegetables, the women making chapattis for hours. I had fun dancing bhangra in the girls' dorm, polishing our nails, and painting our hands with henna. I was impressed by the concentration and mobile phone coordination of the student team and the way they built an extra dorm on site to house an unexpected 50 participants who arrived in the middle of the night. I was captivated by the art offerings that appeared each day; a multi-colored sand painting on the floor of the stupa of the Buddha, a detailed pencil drawing of Dr. Ambedkar, a relief made of mud, outdoor shrines that changed nightly.

I learned so much myself of Dr. Ambedkar's historic conversion 50 years ago, his commitment to ending the horrific caste system in Independent India, his devotion to his ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, and his inspiration from the Buddha. All the Indians present, the majority of whom were Dalits and from the community once labelled "untouchable", have known the oppression of the caste system personally, and expressed such heartfelt appreciation for Dr. Ambedkar – yet seemed so optimistic, so joyful, so motivated by his example. Understanding the impact of Dr. Ambedkar is essential in understanding Buddhism and the TBMSG in India, and hence to what unifies our world-wide movement. I left the retreat wondering how I might share his legacy with the North American sangha.

I have never before received such gracious hospitality as I did on this retreat – it was continuous, from the red rose at the welcome ceremony, to the smiles and tiny flower buds offered throughout each day, to the songs, poems and garland at the New Year's puja on our last night, where about 50 people became mitras, and we all threw flower petals at midnight. It was all so gorgeous! The whole week was such an inspiration. I left feeling deeply moved by the spirit, creativity, and love of all the young people I met. They are so radiant, so dynamic, so energetic that I imagine them as beams of light shining out all across India, illuminating their own studies, illuminating their families, their peer groups, illuminating their sanghas, illuminating their entire community.

Jai Bhim!

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

News from the frontline – in India…

The Nagarjuna Training Institute in India is the FWBO/TBMSG’s largest centre there. It runs ongoing year-long residential courses in Buddhism and social work, training up to sixty young men and women per year, from all over India. At the end of the years training they graduates may either stay on for a second year or return home. Many have done so, and in this way a widespread network of local groups across India affiliated to the TBMSG have sprung up all over India. Once home, the Nagarjuna graduates do what they can to spread the Dhamma given their need to earn money, help their family, and meet the many other demands of Indian life.

In April this year the FWBO Growth Fund gave money to support for a year twelve Nagarjuna graduates in five widely-separated Indian States – Orissa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Rajasthan. The application was for funds to support twice as many, but as the FWBO Growth Fund is small and already over-subscribed six times over it was unable to assist!

Vivekaratna, Director of Nagarjuna, has recently sent us this report. Many other Dhamma projects are also going on across India, not least the recently-concluded and very successful Dhammakranti retreat at Bodh Gaya, which had 1,500 people attending - we hope to bring reports of these soon.

Jadumani conducted two seminars in Sumbalpur for college students on the Psychological Effects of Caste and Jaldhar & Panchanand supported him. Around 60 senior college students participated in both seminars. There is good team work among these three ex-trainees. They inspired people to participate in the recent Dhammakranti retreat at Bodhagaya – where five persons became Dhammamitras through their work.

Subhash, who was training till August 07, has now joined Binojbabu who had already started Dhamma work in Kollam district in Kerala. They have established a Dhamma centre in Mynagapally in Kolam distt – financed entirely by donations from local people. They are meeting individually and collectively with Ambedkarite activists from Kollam, Kottayam & Alapuzha (Alleppy) districts and conducting day retreats at the center and elsewhere. They organized a programme for Nagashuri & Saddhajyoti who visited last month – see report on FWBO News (forthcoming).

Subhash, Manimaran, and Ganesh organised a three days residential retreat at Villupuram in Central Tamilnadu. Vivekaratna led the retreat, which was on the Three Jewels, and 25 persons participated. They were very pleased because they managed to raise money locally to meet all the food expenditure of the retreat – and obtained the acconodation free of cost from a local charity. This is TBMSG’s first residential retreat in Tamilnadu. There is good teamwork between Subhash, Manimaran & Ganesh.

In September Satyam single-handedly organised a retreat in Gulbarga. 23 persons participated in the retreat, and Padmavir & Dhammadarshi led it. Once again, Satyam raised donations locally to meet the retreat expenditures. He is conducting regular dhamma activities, mostly working in Bijapur, Bider and Gulberga districts, as well as keeping regular contact with ex-trainees from Karnataka and encourging them to help in spreading the Dhamma.

Rambabu is working among the Meena community which is a tribal community. He is especially active in Bharatpur, Dhaulpur, Sawai Madhopur, and Alwar Districts. In addition he has regular interaction with Ambedkarite activists and gives lectures, leads Puja, and clarifies the doubts of the persons he meets. He is specifically emphasizing social transformation through Dr. Ambedkar’s thought – using Ambedkar’s emphasis on Liberty, Equality and Fraternity as Buddhist values for the transformation of society.

This is only a tiny glimpse of the many Dhamma and social projects the FWBO/TBMSG runs in India.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Nagpur celebrates the 51st anniversary of the conversions; Dhammakranti joins in

The Dhammakranti team recently took time out from working on preparations for their big retreat in Bodh Gaya to attend the annual celebrations in Nagpur of Dr. Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism in October 1956. This year was the 51st anniversary of the great conversion ceremony, and they organized the biggest stall ever to be seen at the Dikshabhumi (the ‘ground of conversion’) in Nagpur.

All the major TBMSG projects in Nagpur participated in the event – Dhammakranti itself, the Samata Mahila Society (a women’s project running a hostel for 80 girls as well as thirteen community centres in the Nagpur slums), Triratna Pustakalya (a TBMSG-run bookshop in central Nagpur), TBMSG Nagpur itself (general social and Dhamma work across Nagpur) and the Nagarjuna Training Institute (a major TBMSG teaching centre which runs year-long training courses for new Dhamma teachers from all over India on a beautiful campus on the outskirts of Nagpur).

Dhammakranti’s manager, Nagaketu, told FWBO News “Thousands of people visited the stall and purchased books on Buddhism and social change. We were also able to give information to thousands more on the coming International Dhammakranti retreat in Buddha Gaya and on the next training course on Buddhism and social work, which we are running at Nagaloka. This was the biggest stall organized by anybody ever in the history of the Dikshabhumi!”

Click here for further information on the Nagarjuna Training Institute.

Readers interested in the thought of Dr. Ambedkar are invited to read a selection of his quotations or his classic work, Annihilation of Caste. His Buddhist classic 'The Buddha and his Dhamma', published posthumously, is also available on-line.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mitraloka School of Languages launched in Nagpur

The Dhammakranti team have recently started the 'Mitraloka School of Languages' in the heart of the Nagpur City. They are teaching English and Japanese, and will soon be adding Chinese, German and Spanish classes.

In four different classes they have seventy students learning English and Japanese with many more on the waiting list. They told FWBO News they got a huge response to these classes because their School is the only Institute of its kind in central India - training people from very poor economical backgrounds in international languages. They are confident that having had the training, people will be much better placed to get jobs - Nagpur is rapidly becoming an international city with many multinational companies offering jobs for people trained in foreign languages. In some ways they are parelleling the development of the Aryaloka Computer Education, also in Nagpur, which has for some years been offering low-cost computer education to students in need.

Although the School is only three months old, due to the huge response and great need in Nagpur and in central India they are already thinking about expanding this project very soon.

Finally they have an appeal to make. Nagaketu, the Centre Director, says "We are looking for more teachers, especially in German, French, Spanish and Chinese. If anyone reading this is interested then please contact us!"

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Friday, September 21, 2007

FWBO News back in action…

There’s been very little activity on FWBO News these past few weeks. That’s not been through lack of news to publish – in fact we have a queue of nearly 40 items! - but a changeover of editors plus personnel absences during the summer retreat season. But now we’re back and eager to get going again. Expect to see reports soon on –

The Jai Bhim Community in Hungary
The Mitraloka School of Languages in Nagpur, India
Ethical Investment opportunities in Valencia, Spain
The recent Preceptors College meeting in Wales
News from Order Members active in the world of Non-Violent Communication (NVC)
The Golden Rainbow Appeal
Poetry and Art in New Hampshire
An Ordination in Berlin
Progress towards an FWBO Centre in Beijing
Glasgow Buddhists ‘Sitting in Peace’ at the Faslane nuclear submarine base, others at the DSEI arms fair in London
The Western Buddhist Order Convention – celebrating ‘What is Alive in the Order’
The recent Team-Based Right Livelihood weekend in Birmingham
Indian Mitra presents paper at United Nations conference
The 9th Buddhafield ‘Child-Friendly’ retreat on their new land in Dartmoor, UK (from which comes the pink heart above!)
An update on the 2008 Dr. Ambedkar Conference planned in San Francisco
New websites at FWBO Discussion and FWBO Developments

There’s plenty more but hopefully that’s enough to whet your appetites…

In addition we hope to be bringing you more in the way of in-depth features (click the Features tab above) and an FWBO-wide Jobs advertising service for those interested in working or volunteering for the FWBO in one way or another.

Suggestions and contributions for news items are always welcome – please email us at
  • email:

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  • Thursday, May 31, 2007

    New map of FWBO/TBMSG in India

    A new map is available on-line of all FWBO/TBMSG groups in India. Click here to see it and/or download it from the FWBO Photos site on flickr.

    This is probably the first time all of our many centres and groups in India have been collected and made visible in this way. Comments and corrections welcome. For contact details for the centres go to the TBMSG website; for contact details for the smaller groups the best is to try Nagaloka, Dhammakranti outreach project, or the Jambudvipa in Pune

    There are also maps on the flickr site for the FWBO's centres and groups in Europe, the UK, and around the world.

    You might also like to try exploring Google maps and searching for 'FWBO' or 'TBMSG' - in many cases, incuding in Inda, it is possible to zoom in to a street-level view of our actual centres. Check the Mahavihara in Pune for intance.

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    Monday, March 19, 2007

    FWBO Karuna Trust Partners' Conference

    February 14th – 16th saw the first Karuna partner conference at Nagaloka in Nagpur, Maharashtra.

    Almost all of the Karuna Trust's 45 project partners attended- one hundred delegates in all- NGOs and projects from all over India and beyond, working in a very wide range of fields. The title of the conference was “Towards a shared vision of Social change”. Our aim was to bring people together to share experiences and to establish a sense of working together towards a common vision.

    Introducing the event, Karuna Director Suddhaka said “This conference is the realization of a long held dream for us. For many years we have been developing links with groups doing effective and inspiring grass roots work in many different parts of India. Now our hope is that by bringing these groups together we can play a small part in building a movement for social change.”

    The three day program included talks on such themes as education, caste and Buddhism; presentations on Karuna and the way it raises money; and lastly skill sharing on subjects such as IT, management and planning, and dealing effectively with government.

    The key points that emerged were that India is changing very rapidly and is no longer seen by donors as a very poor country. At the same time the issues facing poor communities are as serious as ever. As a result Karuna sees the need to make a shift from funding service provision; to a mixture of service provision, capacity building, advocacy and network building.

    The final session looked at specific strengths and suggestions for improvement for both Karuna and its partners; a number of useful points were made in an atmosphere of considerable mutual appreciation. There was a tangible sense of a ‘family’ of partners emerging, all the more pleasing as many had not met one another before – and it was very much hoped that all sorts of ‘cross-fertilisation’ and mutually beneficial contacts would be developed over the months to come.

    All three nights saw cultural programs, by Ashvaghosa, children from a local TBMSG community centre and kindergarten, and a group of drummers, dancers and actors from Tamil Nadu.

    Karuna would like to thank everyone involved in organizing and co-ordinating the conference. Thanks especially to the Nagaloka and Jambudvipa teams who worked hard to make the event run smoothly- to Jane Goldsmith who facilitated the event and brought many creative ideas - to all our speakers and workshop leaders and to all our partners who came and participated in a wholehearted way.

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    Wednesday, March 07, 2007

    Work Begins on Buddha for Nagaloka, India.

    As mentioned last month in FWBO & TBMSG News, the Nagarjuna Training Institute has commissions an enormous Buddha statue. Work has now started on the in Taiwan on the walking Buddha, which will be a remarkable 10.8m high. It will be positioned on top of a visitors' centre and lotus that will add a further 4m to the height - making it by some way the tallest structure on their extensive campus, and a feature for miles around. The image shows a large poster of the Buddha errected on site.

    The statue is being created by Wen Kwei, one of Taiwan's leading Buddhist sculptors who 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. Conscious of the fact that Indian aesthetics are very different to Chinese, he has already made an extended visit to the site and discussed the details of the figure with local Indian Order Members. The date of inauguration has been planned for 27 December 2007, with work starting on the foundations on 14 April - both dates, and the exact location of the statue, having been chosen using fengshui.

    Story by Lokabandhu

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