free counters

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Death in the Order

Akasasuri writes from Holland with news of the death of Vajrayogini, one of the Order's oldest members.  She says -

"Dear friends,

"Vajrayogini died on the morning of Monday February 8th, at home very peacefully, without illness or pain, with two nurses present.  At the age of nearly 94, her life came naturally to an end. The last two days she had difficulties recognizing people.  The funeral was on Friday 12 February at 2pm in Rotterdam, Holland.

"She was ready to die. Last Thursday when I asked her whether there was anything she still wanted, she said to me: 'It's been enough. Life is very tiring these days. I'm going to the Buddha'. When I asked her whether she thought we would meet again (we've known each other closely for 24 years) she said: 'Of course'! She said it in English, despite not having spoken English for years!

"Vajrayogini came into contact with the Order and movement through Vajradaka, whom she met in the context of a psychosynthesis weekend in the UK in the early seventies. She started the first FWBO retreats in Holland around that time supported by various Order members from the UK and Sangharakshita.

"Vajrayogini was ordained 35 years ago and at her ordination she received the Gate Gate mantra from Bhante.
Her main meditation practice all those years has been the mettabhavana. Over the last ten years or so the Abhaya mudra of Amoghasiddhi had also become a 'constant' companion for her, giving her faith and trust that in the end 'all will be well'.

"She had a long and eventful life, with strong dakini-like qualities (not surprisingly with a name like hers!) which she used very skillfully in her work as a Gestalt and Psychosynthesis therapist. She stopped working and leading a yearly retreat at the age of 84! Even then she carried on with a meditation group at her home.

"She had great faith and trust in Bhante Sangharakshita. And I've been moved several times by their connection and friendship. Though she wasn't involved in the institutions and life of the Order and movement very much, she showed her loyalty and commitment in other ways. She was extremely generous to 3 retreat centre projects (Guyhaloka, Akashavana, Metta Vihara), donating large sums of money to them. She also gave financial support to quite a few Order members so that they could spend their time spreading the Dharma.

"May she be well and happy.

Labels: ,

Thursday, December 31, 2009

FWBO People gets a makeover

FWBO People is a website listing over 200 personal websites of Order Members, Mitras, and Friends up and down the FWBO - and the AOBO, VWBO, BBBD, and TBMSG - as the Movement is known in various countries worldwide.

It was created some three years ago by Jayarava and during 20009 has been managed by Lokabandhu of the FWBO Development Team.

Now, thanks to the technical expertise of Dridhamati, it’s had a makeover, and we’re proud to present the new improved version. There’s more people, fewer screens to scroll through, and - most importantly - a ‘snap’ function that lets you preview each site before clicking on it...

You’ll find it at

If you’re an Order Member, Mitra, or Friend, have a personal website, and would like it to be included, please write to us at It doesn’t have to be a ‘Buddhist’ site - blogs, photo collections, YouTube videos - all are welcome...

Labels: , ,

Resignations from the Western Buddhist Order

The past six months have seen seven resignations from the Western Buddhist Order:

Achalavajra from Abingdon, near Oxford UK, and ordained in 1989;
Amaradeva from Somerville Massachusetts in the US, ordained in 2003.
Karunadrishti from Berlin, ordained in 2005;
Kuladeva from London, ordained in 1977;
Manjudaaka from Finland, ordained in 1998;
Prajnacitta from the Netherlands, ordained in 2005; and finally
Vipassi from Liverpool, ordained in 1989;

After some discussion, it has been decided the best way to report resignations from the Order is in a similar way to ordinations, ie in batches, and without giving details of individual circumstances.

FWBO News wishes all of them well as they continue their spiritual journeys in other contexts.

Labels: ,

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Death in the Order

Maitreyaraja, Centre Manager at the London Buddhist Centre, writes with news of a death in the Order. He says -

“Dear Dharmachari/ini,

“I am writing to let you know that Aryamitra died on Wednesday morning the 9th of December at around 6am. Nityabodha led a ritual for him in the Breathing Space shrine room at the London Buddhist Centre the same evening at 9.45pm.

“Aryamitra was ordained in 1974 and was aged 61.

“Details about Aryamitra’s funeral will be sent around in due time.

“In the Dharma,

FWBO News adds -

Aryamitra contributed to the life of the Order and the Movement in many ways. To mention
just a few things: in the late seventies he was involved in establishing the FWBO Printing
Service at Aryatara in Croydon with Mangala. In the eighties he left Glasgow and went alone
to set up the Leeds Buddhist Centre. In the nineties he was involved with the Ordination team
at Padmaloka for a while and became part of the process of helping men to prepare for
ordination. In 1995 it was discovered that he had a brain-tumour. The tumour was removed
and after recovering Aryamitra moved to London. At the London Buddhist Centre he led
meditation courses and retreats, and for many years regularly led lunchtime classes.

Labels: ,

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Some statistics on the Western Buddhist Order...

In 2007 the first comprehensive Survey was carried out of the 1,400 members of the Western Buddhist Order.

 This has now been updated and a selection of charts are posted below, examining the growth of the Order (now 1,600 and counting); its gender balance and how this has changed over the past 30 years; its age profile; and finally the absolute numbers of men and women being ordained.

Noteworthy are the continuing decline in younger Order Members (ie those below 40) and the dramatic expansion of the over-60s, also the steady trend towards equality in the numbers of men and women in the Order.

The Western Buddhist Order has always offered the same ordination on equal terms to both men and women, and has always had a policy of women deciding on the ordinations of women (and men on the ordinations of men).  This has not however meant there have always been equal numbers of men and women in the Order: the second chart shows a striking progression in the gender ratio over the past 30 years, from a peak imbalance of  over 5 men to every women, to the present ratio of 1.5:1 (or three men to two women) - with a marked trend towards parity.

The full results from 2007 are on-line at

The age chart especially will be slightly inaccurate due to the facts that (a) it has not been possible to incorporate resigned Order Members; happily there have been relatively few of these over the years; and (b) a number of newly-ordained Order Members are not included in the age profile as we do not yet have their dates of birth.

 This means the numbers of younger Order Members is likely to be slightly understated - there are at least a couple in their twenties, while the chart says zero.

The final chart shows the absolute numbers per year of men and women's ordinations into the Order.  This naturally jumps about as individuals become ready, but the dotted lines show trendlines for each, and a clear growth in the numbers of women joining the Order each year.

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Four women ordained in Spain

Four women were welcomed into the Western Buddhist Order on Tuesday 27th October 2009 at Akashavana, the WBO’s Women’s retreat centre in the Spanish mountains.

Gillian Enlund becomes Aryashila (long first and last 'a', and long 'i'): 'She who has noble conduct or character'. (Private Preceptor: Vijayasri)

Beverley Ellis becomes Jayakara (long second and last 'a'): 'She who has a multitude, or mine, of victories'. (Private Preceptor: Paramachitta)

Seg Gaskill becomes Chandrika (long final 'a'): 'She who has the moon / moonlight' (poetic description: 'she who resembles moonlight; who sheds light on things'). (Private Preceptor: Parami)

Georgie Reiser becomes Sanghamani: 'She who is a jewel (lodestone) of the Sangha' as well as 'she to whom the Sangha is a jewel'. (Private Preceptor: Kalyanasri)

Ratnadharini and Parami were the Public Preceptors


Those interested in statistics might like to know that women’s ordinations into the Western Buddhist Order (outside India) have out-numbered men’s for four of the past five years, 2005-2009. On Sunday we’ll publish some statistics illustrating this and other demographic trends in the Order.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

First Funding Allocation for the Abhayaratna Trust: Seeking to help Order Members in need

We're pleased to pass on important information regarding a significant new development in the Western Buddhist Order: the launch of the Abhayaratna Trust and their first big 'give-away'.

The Abhayaratna Trust aims to relieve financial hardship among members of the Western Buddhist Order, particularly in the face of sickness, old age or disability. Their vision is to contribute to a long and vibrant life of spiritual practice for members of the Western Buddhist Order, especially in the face of old age, sickness and disability and the isolation that can bring; to be a means for Order Members to support each other where help is most needed.

Over the past couple of years they've been thinking though how best to help, and they're just about ready to go. Read on for details of their first funding allocation...


---------- Seeking to help Order Members in need ----------

£3000 to be given away at allocation meetings in December

~ Extended DEADLINE  ~
Applications are invited by Saturday OCTOBER 31st

GRANTS will be given to individual Order members to meet needs due to hardship arising out of old age, sickness or disability that are unable to be met by Local Authorities, Charities or Sangha friends. For example, we are keen to help you go on retreat, get to an Order weekend or solitary.

Our VISION is to contribute to a long and vibrant life of spiritual practice for members of the Western Buddhist Order; to be a means for Order Members to support each other where help is most needed.

To APPLY please write or email to:-
The Secretary
The Abhayaratna Trust, 7 Edward Close, Ipswich, Suffolk IP1 4BE, UK

Applicants can apply on behalf of a friend.

P.S. We also invite all readers to MAKE A BEQUEST in your WILL and also think of giving by regular donation. Help more Order Members to have a long life in the Order.  Details on Application.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, September 12, 2009

FWBO People lists 199 practitioners - more welcome!

FWBO People is a ‘portal’ website dedicated to showcasing the talents and interests of some of the thousands of individual people who make the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order a living spiritual community.

Specifically, it lists their personal websites, blogs, photo collections and more. A significant number, especially members of the Western Buddhist Order, have also added personal ‘profiles’, giving short accounts of the spiritual journey that led them to join the Order.

The site has just chalked up its 199th member! That seemed a good opportunity to advertise the site and appeal for more members. All we’d ask is that you consider yourself a member of the FWBO - and you like to share your website with others in the Sangha.

To have your site listed, please email

Labels: ,

Monday, August 24, 2009

Talks from the Order Convention now available on VideoSangha

Mahamati, International Order Convenor, writes to say -

“The talks from the European Combined Convention held earlier this month are now available on Videosangha. They will also be available on free buddhist audio soon.

“You will find a full-length talk by Bhante, given on the final morning of the convention, where he launches "The Essential Sangharakshita" and "Living Ethically" and along the way says much else besides. His talk is at -

You will also find all the other main talks at the following link:

“These talks comprise a talk by Vishvapani - "Recollections of the Buddha" - and Srivati - "Coming Home: a Journey to India 2009", both given on the afternoon of the first day. Then there’s a total of 9 talks from three colloquia on the themes of "Discipleship", "Coherence and Experimentation", and "The Collective Life of the Order". These talks appear in the order in which they were given.

“I don't suppose that these videos can substitute for the actual experience of attending the convention, where along with these talks there were opportunities for discussion and communication in several contexts, and substantial collective practice in the shrine-room. However I hope that even so these recordings will give those of you who were not present some of the flavour of the event, and give those of you who were there an opportunity to see and hear these talks again.

“Thank you to all who gave these talks, and to Clear Vision for making the recordings.

With metta,

Two talks are featured below - Sangharakshita's book launches, and a rousing plea from Guhyapati, founder of the FWBO's EcoDharma retreat centre in the Catalunya mountains. A personal account of the Convention can be found on Nagapriya's blog, in his post entitled "The Order as Bodhisattva".

Labels: ,

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Death of Dharmachari Buddhapriya in India

Lokamitra writes from Pune with sad news of the death of Dhammachari Buddhapriya. He died on Sunday 16th August at 4.30. p.m. in Talegaon General Hospital. His funeral was held on 17th August.

Lokamitra says -

“ I have just heard the news of Buddhapriya’s death and am leaving shortly for his funeral at his home near Dehu Road.

“Buddhapriya was one of the first to be ordained by Sangharakshita in India, on 1st June 1979, at Sinhagad Fort and was given his name because of his obvious devotion to the Buddha. He was extremely loyal to Bhante from the word go.

"He was a head master but left his job to work for us with no security in those days. Without him we would not have got the land for Bhaja retreat centre nor our land in Buddha Gaya. At both places he spent months, if not more, living in the most primitive conditions. Buddha Gaya at that time was infested with dacoits and buying land was one of the most dangerous things one could be involved in. He had to be in hiding at times for fear of his life.

“He had a heart attack a few years ago, and went to the hospital by bus, standing for some of the way! Last night or this morning he had another heart attack and did not survive. Buddhapriya was born in February 1930, so this year was his 80th year.

“We have lost someone who made a very special contribution to the movement through both the way he lived, and what he did.

“With love,

A ‘punyanumodan‘ or memorial service will be held near where he lived at Chincholi, Dehu Road on 23rd August Sunday at 10.30.

Part I of Buddhapriya’s life story is published on FWBO Features, and you’ll find many mentions of him in ‘Jai Bhim’, Nagabodhi's excellent account of the ‘Dhamma Revolution’ - now available on Google Books. The second photogaph shows Buddhapriya and his companions on the day of their ordination in 1979, at Sinhagad Fort, near Bhaja.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, August 15, 2009

VideoSangha hosts new series of videos

VideoSangha, the FWBO’s video-sharing website, has begun hosting a new series of videos in which members of the Western Buddhist Order speak about the meaning of their names and how they use them as a path of personal practice.

The six uploaded so far were recorded on the recent Men’s Order Conventions and include Order Members from a wide spectrum of the Order - Vaddhaka, living and working in Estonia; Harshaprabha, mentor to the small FWBO Sangha in Ontario, Canada;  Aryaketu from Nagpur, in India;  Vajranatha, living and working in Spain;  Suvannavira, en route to Russia; and finally Lokabandhu from the UK.  Look out for more over the next few weeks...

Others are very welcome to create and submit similar videos: the Order today consists of over 1,600 men and women each with unique and very beautiful names; each potentially a personal ‘Dharma-door’ and path of practice for that person.

To add a video to VideoSangha simply record yourself, upload it to YouTube, and tag it with ‘FWBO’ and any other relevant tags. The VideoSangha moderators will find and add it if they find it’s appropriate...

Many other videos have recently been added to VideoSangha and we will be highlighting some of these over the next period: in particular, some of the many excellent talks from the recent Men's, Women's, and Combined Order Conventions held in Norfolk, UK.


Labels: , ,

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Two tragic deaths in the Order

Amritadipa from India writes -

"Dear Sangha members,

With great sadness I am informing you of the death of Dharmachari Sudarshan and Dharmacharini Bodhisakhi, husband and wife, in a road accident in the early hours of the morning Indian time on Monday 6th July. They were coming by taxi from Mumbai airport after visiting their son Vikram and daughter Nagashila in USA. The driver is in hospital in a critical condition.

Sudarshan was one of the earliest Order members in India, he was ordained in 1979, and was aged 63. He is Public and Private Preceptor to many Order members. His Yidam is Manjughosha.

Bodhisakhi was closely involved in the Sangha since these very early days, she was ordained in January this year, and was aged 55. Her yidam is Green Tara.

They were both on the International Convention at Bodhgaya and had both visited several Centres around the world, especially Sudarshan who was often on International Conventions in the U.K, so they will be known to many Order members outside of India. Order members, mitras and friends all around India are today doing puja and meditation for Sudarshan and Bodhisakhi.

Your in the Sangha,
Indian Order convening team"

The funeral took place on July 8th afternoon at TBMSG's Mahavihara Buddhist Centre in Dapodi, Pune and the nearby burning ghat.

Just after the news was received many had gathered for the annual Dharma Day celebrations, during which Lokamitra and Subhuti gave talks which are available on FreeBuddhistAudio at

Both are both about 30 minutes long. There is also an interview with Sudarshan given in 2004, where he recounts his early life as a Dalit, or ex-untouchable, under the Hindu caste system.  This was published in Madhyamavani.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Three resignations from the Order

Mahamati, the WBO’s International Order Convenor, writes with the news of three resignations from the Western Buddhist Order. He says –

“The following have recently resigned from the Order: Amaradeva from Massachusetts, USA, Manjudaaka from Helsinki, Finland, and Vasumitra from London, U.K.

“These resignations have been accepted by their respective preceptors. We wish all three of them well”.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Death of Sampada

Prajnananda writes with news of Dharmacharini Sampada's death.

He says:

" I have just learned that Dharmacharini Sampada has died. She was 91. Her funeral arrangements are yet to be finalized but the ceremony will take place in Truro on the afternoon of Monday 22nd June. Anyone wishing to be kept in touch with the arrangements for Sampada's funeral should email me or phone 0044 1752 405173".

Sampada was ordained in 1996, and the second-oldest member of the Order. She lived in Truro, Cornwall, and until recently ran a meditation class from her home.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Four resignations from the Order

The past few months have seen four resignations from the Western Buddhist Order: Ajitasena, Amaraketu, Aryadeva, and Sakyadevi.

The news comes from Parami and Mahamati, joint International Order Convenors, who write -

"The following have recently resigned from the Order: Amaraketu from Bristol, U.K., Ajitasena also from Bristol, and Sakyadevi from Minden, Germany. These resignations have been accepted by their respective preceptors. We wish all three of them well".

Aryadeva, also from Germany, resigned a little while previously, in order to become more closely involved with the Insight Meditation Society and their teachers.

Among other remarks, Amaraketu says in his letter of resignation "I hugely appreciate everything that very many people in the Order have done for me and with me, and I hope to keep in touch with good friends. I also ask forgiveness from those I have hurt and for all unskilful actions for which I have been responsible. I wish you good health and peace. Fare well. With love and appreciation"

Ajitasena is a talented woodcarver, and the photograph shows his larger-than-life Buddha, currently on display at the FWBO's Glasgow Centre.

FWBO News also wishes all four of them well as they continue their spiritual journeys in other contexts.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"What is the Western Buddhist Order?": a 'Message' from Sangharakshita

Last week Sangharakshita, founder of the FWBO and the Western Buddhist Order, issued an important 'Message' to all members of the Order, entitled "What is the Western Buddhist Order?"

He introduces it thus -

"On 17th, 18th, and 19th March 2009, a small group of senior Order members put to me a series of questions about the nature of the Order, and related topics, and I replied to those questions. Our exchanges were recorded and I have gone through the transcript of the recording, giving clearer expression to some of the points I wished to make and cutting a few digressions which, though interesting in themselves, had no direct relation to the questions I was being asked.

"Now that I am in my 84th year, I am glad to have had the opportunity of placing on record my views concerning the nature of the Order, and related topics. My replies to the questions put to me may, indeed, be seen as my Last Will and Testament for the Order, and I therefore request all Order members not only to 'read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest' its contents but also to give it appropriate expression in their lives as Order members".

(Sd.) Urgyen Sangharakshita.
8th April 2009

Sangharakshita would like the Message to be available to everyone connected with the FWBO, and it has therefore been posted on his website under 'News'. The direct link is

More or less by coincidence, the theme for this summer's Order Convention has just been announced as being "What is the Order?". It will explore the theme using a variety of approaches - an informal 'conversation café' to open up the topic; a talk locating the Order/FWBO within the context of the Buddhist tradition; a series of 'Colloquia' on the three themes of Discipleship, Coherence and Experimentation, and The Collective Life of the Order - each presenting a number of perspectives on the topic followed by questions and answers; meditation and Puja, including the 'Mula Yogas'; and finally an 'Open Forum' specifically to air responses to Sangharakshita’s Message.

Labels: ,

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Death of Sanghapalita

Amrutdeep, from the TBMSG's Order Convening team in India, writes with news of a death in the Order -

Dear Order members,

This is to inform you that Dhammachari Sanghapalita passed away on Friday 8th May at 10.30 p.m. Indian time.

He was at the age of 92 from Wardha Centre, Maharastra, India. He was still active in his Dhamma life.

On Friday about 7 pm, he was crossing through the road to the Wardha Hostel (which is also our Buddhist centre) for attending a special Sevenfold Puja arranged by centre and all of sudden one bike rider dashed him, he was seriously injured, his right leg and right arm got fractured. He was immediately taken to the nearest Hospital but was in very critical situation, struggling to survive but unfortunately could not survive.

This is a great loss to the Whole Order. He was one of the oldest Order members in India. He was ordained in 1987. His sadhana was Sakyamuni Buddha. Please send your maitri.

With Metta.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Archive photos from early days of FWBO now on-line

For the past two years Padmakara, an Order Member from Manchester UK, has been occupying himself in his spare time scanning hundreds and even thousands of historic photographs from the FWBO Archives, held by ClearVision.

Four collections of these have now been uploaded to the FWBO Photos website, covering-



and Team-Based Right Livelihood

We hope a further collection, covering the early days of TBMSG in India, will be added soon.  Further contributions are very welcome - please email FWBO News.

Any statisticians among FWBO News’ readership might be interested to know FWBO Photos
( currently contains 3,767 photos related to the FWBO, which have been viewed 70,002 times.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Photos from the Order Convention

Last month the WBO held it’s first-ever International Order Convention at Bodh Gaya, in India, site of the Buddha’s Enlightenment and centre of the Buddhist world.

Since then a number of photo collections have appeared on the internet and we thought we’d share some with FWBO readers.

Photos from Bodh Gaya and the Order Convention


Ashvajit -




Gunabhadri -


Taranita (whose photos include a few of the ITBCI school in Kalimpong) 

From FWBO Photos

Labels: , ,

Monday, April 06, 2009

A death in the Order

Maitreyabandhu writes from the London Buddhist Centre:

"I am very sorry to inform you that Mahananda died on Thursday evening April 2nd at 9.20 p.m. in hospital in London. He did not regain consciousness after his stroke the previous evening.

"The funeral will be at the London Buddhist Centre and details will be circulated later. Mahananda was 61 years old and he was ordained in 2002.“

Mahananda was an Alexander Technique teacher and accomplished accordion player. He had recently returned from the 'trip of a lifetime' overland from the UK to Thailand via Mongolia and China; the photograph, taken from an album featuring him on Facebook, shows him “proudly exhibiting his likeness to the Great Khan“ while in Mongolia.

He will be much missed by his many friends.

Labels: ,

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Featured website: FWBO People

FWBO People - websites of over 150 members of the FWBO Sangha worldwideToday’s featured FWBO website is FWBO People – a one-stop-shop displaying the websites of over 150 members of the FWBO and Order.

New to the site is a number of ‘profiles’ giving short biographical sketches of a number of Order Members, generally in their own words and generally describing their spiritual journeys towards ordination into the Western Buddhist Order.

They are moving and authentic testimonials to the power of the Dharma to change people’s lives, and provide glimpses into the many different lifestyles lived by members of the Order.

You'll find FWBO People at

Labels: ,

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Order Convention in Bodh Gaya in pictures

Mahamati, International Order Convenor and organiser of the Order Convention at Bodh Gaya, sends us this update –

“Hello all, a brief note from Bodh Gaya where the Convention is going exceptionally well. We have nearly 350 Indian Order Members here and 160 Order Members from outside India – in fact it could be slightly more as we have not yet got the final figures from the registration of the Indian Order Members.

The interview with Bhante went down very well – and as some of you will have heard if you have watched the video, at the end of the interview he gives the new name for the land

It is "The Three Jewels Centre". Amazingly, the name is already up on the signboard, with our big Three Jewels order emblem as instructed by Bhante!

We are all doing refuge tree practice beneath the Bodhi Tree each morning, and puja beneath the Tree each evening.

In fact here is the programme below...


Daily events:
Refuge Tree practice in front of the Bodhi Tree.
Evening Puja in front of the Bodhi Tree.

Tuesday 24th February
“Seven events after the Enlightenment”: Talk by Sudarshan
TBMSG Day: Book launches: Vimalasara’s Hindi edition of “Broken Voices”; Prajnajit’s book of Marathi poetry
Screening of Interview with Bhante: “The Legacy of Sangharakshita”.

Wednesday 25th February:
“The Significance of Bodhgaya”: Talk by Nissoka
Dedication of land with new name given by Bhante.

Thursday 26th February
Women’s Day and Men’s Day:
separate programmes

Friday 27th February
Celebrating 30 years of TBMSG: “30 Years On”: Talk by Lokamitra
“Panorama of memories: 30 Years of TBM”: Symposium of talks chaired by Bodhisen

Saturday 28th Feb
The Unity of the Order - Talks by Parami and Silavati:.
Tabla recital by Mukesh Jardo with accompaniment on our land.


Labels: , , ,

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sangharakshita interview premiered at Order Convention in India

Sangharakshita in interview at MadhyamalokaA significant part of the International Order Convention in Bodh Gaya has been a full-length interview with Sangharakshita, founder of the FWBO and Western Buddhist Order.

Now aged 84, he’s not there himself – the video was recorded a month or so ago in Birmingham, UK, and has been prepared for viewing by the FWBO’s ClearVision film crew.

It’s been kept under tight security until now, mostly because in it he ‘reveals’ the new name for the combined FWBO/TBMSG Centre at Bodh Gaya – which is now ‘coming to life’ after an extended period of planning and preparation.

Now the interview’s been shown in India, it’s been uploaded by ClearVision website for all to see - in fact Bhante specifically requested it be shown more widely than just the Convention.

The link is

However - there's a second recent interview with Bhante, speaking specifically about Bodh Gaya, available here -

The Western Buddhist Order’s biannual International Order Convention is taking place at Bodh Gaya from Feb 23rd - March 1st, and is the first ever International Order Convention held outside of UK. Attending are more than 160 Order Members from outside India and about 300 living in India (mostly Indian of course, but some Westerners too). The event is being held on our own land on the outskirts of the town, though of course those present are spending plenty of time meditating and doing puja close to the Bodhi Tree.

In the interview, Sangharakshita addresses topics such as the significance of gathering at Bodh Gaya, his own decision not to attend, reflections on “The Essential Sangharakshita” (a very substantial compendium of his writing, recently released by Wisdom Publications), his thoughts on his ‘legacy’, and his comments on an oft-quoted remark he is supposed to have made, to the effect that members of the Order “can change everything except the Going for Refuge”.

There’s also Sangharakshita’s reflections on meditation, on insight, on inspiration, and on the part our Movement has played in the revival of Buddhism in India. Last but by no means least, there’s his announcement of the new name for our Centre at Bodh Gaya…

We'll post a report and photos on the Order Convention on Sunday.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, February 23, 2009

Order Convention at Bodh Gaya

The Mahabodhi Temple at duskToday sees the start of the 2009 International Order Convention – which for the first time in the FWBO’s 40 years is not taking place in the UK. It is in fact being held at Bodh Gaya in north-eastern India, site of the Buddha’s Enlightenment 2,500 years ago.

FWBO News hopes to bring you regular updates of events there over the next days, and of the big ‘Dhammakranti’ (meaning ‘Dhamma Revolution’) retreat that will immediately follow on – on which there may be up to 1,000 people.

To set the scene, we begin with a piece from Aranyaka, newly ordained and in India for the first time in over 20 years… He writes -

Glimpses of Buddhist Bodhgaya

Bodhgaya is amazing and mad…. On my first visit to the Mahabodhi temple I was struck by how beautiful the structure is – far more so than I had gleaned from Photos. The next thing that I found very striking is how definitely it is NOT a dusty, crusty relic or museum but a living place full of devotion, aspiration and practice. There is the fantastic array of Dharma on display from all over the globe, in all sorts of strange and wonderful shapes, sizes, colours and forms – some of them particularly intriguing to my eye such as wrapping up the temple in a large length of golden cloth- and the cacophony of discordant pujas assaulting the ears simultaneously from all directions. Everybody is free to give expression to whatever form their devotion takes and does. And everyone is treated equally in this, Tibetan, Indian, Thai, Bhikkhu or Dalai Lama… Equally striking is how happy everyone is to allow everybody else to do their own thing with absolutely no sense of the annual punch-up that can be witnessed in Bethlehem! The worst that seems to happen is people quietly ignoring each other.

So highlights: The madness of the Nyingma Monlam (prayer festival): huge numbers of Nyingmapas doing pujas all over the temple, each with their own sound system, which always goes on until 11 and sometimes even 12 o’clock! I am very struck at how similar the Tibetan monastic system is and its place in the culture to what was around in medieval Europe say at the time of Cluny or Citieux. Huge institutions that are enormously wealthy and politically embroiled, full of large numbers of monks mechanically performing liturgy but which also act as central social institutions for education etc. Definitely not the naively romantic situation I suspect envisaged by many Western followers here.

A few weeks ago they brought out the relics of the Buddha, Sariputra and Maudgalyayana for the annual display of three days. There was to be a big procession around the town with the relics being paraded on elephants (along with monks, soldiers, obligatory dignitaries, carnival floats and several thousand school children). Nissoka and I offered to help and on the ended up in the escort for the elephant with the Buddhas relics in. It was needless to say all somewhat chaotic but I ended up walking alongside this lovely big elephant along with (completely unplanned) a Thai Bhikkhu, a Vietnamese Nun and a Tibetan Monk: Theravadayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana and Navayana! How incredibly appropriate.

It was a fantastic day and really fun - the Vietnamese nun kept putting flowers in my ears and bursting out laughing!. All the while the relics were being showered with flower petals, and the monk n the palanquin would periodically throw some out to be collected by (usually) Tibetan devotees standing by. So I spent two hours being rained on with flower petals from that had been in contact with the Buddha relics. As you may know I am not one for such language but it was a bit like being in a Mahayana Sutra and being showered with Amrita, and by the end I realised that wherever I had been for the last couple of hours it had not been Bodhgaya. Perhaps not quite the Tusita heaven but....

The community who live on our land at Bodh Gaya gave some assistance to an impressive Ambedkarite Buddhist Lady called Sunniti, who we was here to help some friends as they single-handedly reintroduced the Bhikkhuni sangha into the Theravada. Couldn't resist a bit of controversy! It was apparently successful so the Theravada Bhikkhuni Sangha now exists again – though no doubt no one will recognize them and I have to say I feel it’s all a bit misguided anyway (cf 43 Years Ago, one of my favourite and IMO most underappreciated books by Sangharakshita).

I have been living on the land here with the community (3 young but dedicated Indian Dhammamitras, Siladitya and occasional visitors) and helping out where I can with the preparation for the convention – which has been going very well. An amazing tent has risen out of the land in the last few weeks. The community is small but has suddenly expanded to about 15 in the last couple of days - not including the 25-strong convention team that have just arrived! But this being India we all just fit in!

We have also been holding an open chapter meeting each week for any order members in Bodhgaya. So far this has now included Nissoka, myself, Siladitya, Vajralila, Sudakini, Shantigosh, Rochani and most recently Parami. The fact that we do not necessarily speak the same language has not mattered a jot! What an interesting Sangha Bodhgaya shows us to be…

Till next time



Labels: , , ,

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Rijumati’s Travels – Part X: Cuban Cameos, and home at last…

Rijumati and friend in MexicoFor the past year we have been featuring the travels of Rijumitra, an Order Member who left his home of 24 years in Cambridge, England, for a circumambulation around the globe, as far as possible without flying…

It’s taken him by sea to Sri Lanka, and on to India, Nepal, Russia, Central Asia, Japan, the USA, Mexico, and elsewhere.

Part X, just released, is titled “Cuban Cameos”, and is available on FWBO Features.

It's probably his last dispatch to FWBO News, as he's now back in Europe and (probably) won't be going anywhere else for a while...!


Labels: ,

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Public Preceptors' meeting - report now out

the image of a fish, chosen by the College to accompany their latest reportThe College of Public Preceptors is the body of senior members of the Western Buddhist Order charged with overseeing ordinations into the Order.

It currently has about 30 members, most of whom meet twice a year to discuss everything connected with their work – in practice, a very wide range of topics indeed!

They are keen to communicate what they can of their discussions to a wider audience, and have recently posted an account of November’s meeting on their blog. They say -

"We’d like our thinking to be more widely and easily available in the movement. At present our main way of communicating our thoughts and discussions is through retreats, talks and seminars and we'd like to make some of this material more widely available. For the time being we plan to do this through the college website and blog and will hopefully be adding more material over the coming months".

Among other things, the discussions addressed the appointment of Parami as a second International Order Convenor; Order Members and mitras going to other Buddhist teachers; the structure of the Preceptors’ College; training for Preceptors; fundraising for the College; and issues surrounding the topic of domestic violence. Finally some time was spent with Padmavajra in study of some teachings of Geshe Drom, Atisha's main disciple, from 'The Door of Liberation'.

A major topic, in addition to the above, was coherence in the Order and movement. they say -

"A regular topic of discussion in the College is that of maintaining the balance between diversity and unity in our work together, and how we can help the movement and Order to do likewise. This time we particularly focused on the aspect of coherence and wanted to look at the college's role in contributing to coherence and unity in the movement as a whole. Bhante has said recently that he thinks coherence in the movement is threefold: doctrinal, practice based and social...."

Their main website is at , which gives a broad outline to their work - plus a 'who's who' of the College.

Labels: , ,

Monday, December 29, 2008

Three Deaths in the Order

A recent photograph of PunyaAs the year closes, we are sad to report that December saw three deaths in the Western Buddhist Order - in America, India, and the UK.

Varada, from America, writes –
“Dharmachari Punya, died on December 11th around 2:45 eastern time at his home in Massachusetts, USA. He died peacefully and with Atula
(one of his closest friends), Sucharita and Alex (his son) by his side.

His yidam was Amitabha so the chanting of his mantra would be a good way to send him off”.

Punya was ordained over 30 years ago, and was one of the first Order Members to take the FWBO to America.

Amrideeep, one of the ‘Order Convening team in India, writes –

A photograph of Shildhari, taken around the time of his ordination“On 12th December night at around 11.00 pm Dhammachari Shildhari passed away due to Heart problem. He had been under treatment for some time and had Angioplasty operation on same day on 12th, on which he died. The funeral took place next day on 13th at 12.00 p.m. Many OM's gathered for his funeral at Ambernath.

“Shildhari was aged 59, from Ulhasnagar centre, nearby Mumbai. He was ordained on 6th June 1999 in Mahavihar at Dapodi, Pune. He had deep shraddha towards Three Jewels, Dr.Ambedkar and Bhante Sangharakshita. He was most of the time Chairman of Bahujan Hitay Hostel and Social project and also Chairmen of TBMSG Ulhasnagar for a short period.

“Some of his good qualities are: he was always taking initiative in many activities and also very helpful in particular in chapter meetings. He was helping to create harmony within the chapter. He was outspoken, positive and well balanced in his spiritual life. Since his ordination he has been Kalyana Mitra for nearly all who were ordained thereafter. He was widely respected amongst Buddhists and centres nearby.

"His PUNYANUMODAN DAY was on Sunday 21st at his house in Ambarnatha”.

And Ashvajit writes -

A recent photograph of Satyashri"This is to inform you that Satyashri died on Saturday 20 December at about 9:00am in the Royal Sussex Hospital, Brighton.

"Her elder sister Susan and one of her sons were with her at the time of her death, and reported that her last breaths were taken gently, with dignity.

"Satyashri had been suffering for some months from a virulent cancer that spread from her womb to her lungs. She accepted the diagnosis with great fortitude about six weeks ago and the cancer spread rapidly. However she had time to write her will and make known her wishes for her funeral before she died. She had not long ago expressed a wish to take the Yellow kesa but her illness proceeded so rapidly that it was not possible to arrange for that.

"Amongst her excellent qualities were her readiness and willingness to help in practical ways, her extraordinary ability to empathise, her quick and bright intelligence, her truthfulness, outspokenness and lack of concern for mere convention, her loving nature, and her tendency to take more thought for others than for herself. When she heard the prognosis for her disease, she was immediately more concerned for her children and for her grandchildren than for her own predicament.

"Her close friends in the Brighton sangha attended a meditation session called at short notice at the Brighton Buddhist Centre the evening before she died. The Prajnaparamita and Amitabha mantras were chanted, as Satyashri had been particularly inspired by Amitabha in the months preceding her death, as well as by the golden radiance of her yidam the Prajnaparamita".

Labels: ,

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Rijumati’s travels: Part IX: to Mexico

The ninth instalment of Rijumati’s round-the-world travels are posted today on FWBO Features, covering portions of his time in America and Mexico.

He begins by saying “What unexpected adventures assail the lone world traveler!”

There’s love, big road trips, vivid portraits of the total inadequacy experienced by a carless traveller in America, visa problems, cheap and soulless Texas motels, the wonder of Mexican art and civilisation, the kindness of strangers, and far more.

Click to read more… You’ll find them at Rijumati_travels_IX_america_mexico .

Parts 1-8 cover his travels from the UK – which he left just over a year ago – by sea to Sri Lanka, to India, Nepal, Russia, Central Asia, Japan, and more. Also available on FWBO Features

Labels: , ,

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.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Abhayaratna Trust - relieving hardship in the Western Buddhist Order

the Abhayaratna Trust’s Founding Trustees:- Dayanandi (Chair), Jnanamitra (Secretary), Shantiprabha (Treasurer), Cittapala, Dharmottara, and Padmadhara (absent)The Abhayaratna Trust is a new and rather different FWBO charity. Instead of focussing on spreading the Dharma, its objects are “To relieve financial hardship among members of the Western Buddhist Order, particularly in the face of sickness, old age or disability”.

They say –
“The scope of this new Charity is to help members of our Order who find themselves in hardship due to poverty, particularly in old age, sickness or disability. The need may be particularly acute for those who have worked for a large part of their lives to bring the Dharma to others, either directly or indirectly, through the structures of the F/WBO, living on incomes which have not allowed for savings or pension.

“The vision is of Order Members helping each other through the transitions of life, in sickness and old age, eventually preparing for death supported by their friends in the Sangha.

“Donations to the Abhayaratna Trust will go directly towards helping individual Order Members in need, or to support relevant new projects or research. Through grants we hope to bring ease to the lives of Order Members in need, helping them to continue leading an active spiritual life within the Sangha for as long as they want to. Help might be given with cost of mobility aids or attendance on retreats, for items of practical or spiritual benefit – where other funding bodies are unable to help. We hope the providing of grants towards projects or research might encourage the initiation of projects of benefit to Order Members in need such as a Buddhist hospice or specially adapted community facilities”.

Sadhu Abhayaratna!

And they’ve just been granted Charitable status! They are delighted as this opens the door for them to receive donations, whether one-off, regular, or in someone’s Will. If you are interested in contributing, contact details are available here.

They hope to make the first of many annual Disbursements towards the end of 2009.

The photograph shows the Abhayaratna Trust’s Founding Trustees:- Dayanandi (Chair), Jnanamitra (Secretary), Shantiprabha (Treasurer), Cittapala, Dharmottara, and Padmadhara (absent).

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, November 15, 2008

On the Road in America - Rijumati's travels part VIII

Rijumati has published the 8th instalment of his travels around the world. Over the course of 2008 he has been - almost entirely overland - to Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Japan, Canada, and now the USA.

This instalment covers a road trip across part of the USA, including the Redwoods, Yosemite, and Las Vegas.

They are posted on FWBO Features - click to enjoy...

Labels: ,

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Musicians in the Western Buddhist Order

Yesterdays post on FWBO News featured Jnanadhara and his forthcoming tour with his group ‘The Pioneers’. Jnanadhara is but one of many musicians in the Western Buddhist Order and today we want to let you know of some of the others – and their websites, if they have them.

In no special order -

Padmamati, lead musician of ‘The Real Tuesday Weld’ is probably one of the Order’s most popular but least-known musicians. Popular in the world, little-known in the Sangha! Check him out at where he’s clocked up a remarkable 4578 friends – or on Wikipedia, where his band has its own entry.

In the words of his website, Padmamati (aka Stephen Coates) “began to create music to try to recreate the sounds he heard in his childhood home - 'the crackling of radios playing swing and easy listening in some distant room.' As The Real Tuesday Weld, he doesn’t hesitate to put those sounds to subversive use much like some of his most illustrious forebears and influences—such as Serge Gainsbourg and Ennio Morricone. From his first EP 'The Valentine' on Dreamy records and through many singles, eps and compilation tracks with Motorway Records, Kindercore and Bambini records to the album 'Cupid Meets Psyche' he has developed the sound known as 'Antique Beat'.”

There’s some great podcasts available – look for ‘The Real Tuesday Weld’ or their pseudonym 'The Clerkenwell Kid'. …

Suryagita (, who has recently moved back to New Zealand, is a singing coach and features on the self-produced and very beautiful CD ‘Fleeting World’. For many years her workshops were a favourite on the Buddhafield Festival.

Also much beloved at the Buddhafield Festival – and beyond – is Mahasukha at . He's also a singing teacher, and to quote someone from his workshops, “Mahasukha has a talent for bringing people together through singing in such a way that every one feels included, supported and encouraged whatever their ability or temperament. He inspires and builds confidence in others, allowing them to achieve and experience something beyond what they thought possible.”

Jinati, the Nottingham Buddhist Centre’s choir, have set many mantras and short suttas to music; you can find their promo video on YouTube.

Achintya ( from Bristol, principle teacher of the South Bristol Buddhist Centre, has for many years moved between his music and his Buddhism. As he himself puts it – “…a terrible mistake mothballing my geeetar in 1995 and 10 wasted years trying to be a 'good' buddhist - crying at a tsunami benefit concert in 2005 as the wonderful gasworks singers sang stings song fragile - a beautiful timely reminder that only music can heal like this - only music can reconnect me with what is best in me - then remembering songs already written and still to write in my remaining years - the songs started coming again - more love songs ragings and paeans - music can help us understand this crazy journey called being alive…

By contrast, Sarajit, recently moved back to his hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, is a musician in the Hip Hop/Latin/Reggae style and founder of the group East Nasty – check their MySpace page .

Moving towards more classical music, Akasadeva from Cambridge has for many years been a concert pianist and composer, well-known both in UK and South Africa. His website is at where you’ll find his biography and upcoming schedule. He will shortly be performing in the Cape Town International Music Festival.

There are sure to be many more musicians and performers of all sorts in the wider FWBO Sangha, and we’d welcome hearing from you if you spot anyone we’ve missed…  Many of course just don't have web presences, for instance 'Tempo Verde', Amoghacitta's three-piece jazz band based at the LBC. 

Lastly, this article wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the FWBO’s London Buddhist Arts Centre, home to many Buddhist practitioners in dance, theatre, music and visual arts.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Rijumati's travels, part VII - following Kukai in Japan...

Part VII of Rijumati’s travels is now available on FWBO Features. He says -

“Dear Friends,“Here is a long piece about my 7 day walk along part of the ancient 88 Temples pilgrimage route around Shikoku island, known sometimes as the ‘Shikoku 88’. This was one of the highlights of my time in Japan, both in terms of stunning scenes and personal reflections. I found the pilgrimage very inspiring and challenging and I intend to return to Japan at some point and finish the 1200km walk (I only did the first 175km on this occasion). It was such a valuable experience that I would strongly recommend it to anyone, even those who don't consider themselves Buddhist.

“The Shikoku 88 is absolutely not a pleasant ramble. Undertaken by foot, it is hard-graft walking, often along busy highways, sometimes without even the protection of a pavement. Naturally the route, wherever possible, takes in the glorious beauty of Shikoku island: its mountains and forests, cliffs and rivers, the sky and the sea. But it is definitely a mixed bag.

“So the question "why?" remains. The official reason is that through undertaking the pilgrimage one enlists the aid and support of one of the greatest of all Buddhist saints, Kukai or Kobo Daishi as he is honorifically known in Japan. Kukai was born on Shikoku in the 8th century, was enlightened at Shikoku's southern cape, Muroto, and is attributed with founding most of the sacred 88 temples on the pilgrimage. Many of the temples tell special stories about Kukai's visit: here he conquered a dragon, here he carved a Buddha, here he created a stream that always runs pure.

“Yet in a sense there is no universal answer to this question. The answer must be sought in the heart of every would-be or actual henro, or pilgrim…”

Read the full account of his pilgrimage on FWBO Features here.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Two deaths in the Order

FWBO News has to report the sad deaths of two Order Members, Dharmacharis Mahadana and Adarsha.

Mahadana, from Pune, India, passed away at 9:15 pm on Saturday 13th Sept 2008, at the age of 83. The funeral ceremony took place the next morning at 11:00 am. Amrutdeep, Coordinator of the Indian Order Convenors’ Team, says -

"Mahadana was born in a poor Dalit family. He had many struggles in his early life. He was not an educated man, but devoted to Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. He was a member of the ‘Samata Sainik Dal’ when he was quite young; this was a group which used to take care of security for Dr. Ambedkar at the time of public meetings. He was a true follower of Dr. Ambedkar and an honest activist of his movement.

"He was having strong faith in Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, and practising Buddhism seriously. Bhante Sangharakshita had had very good impact on his life and he became follower of him. He got ordained in our Order in 1999 and his whole life style has changed remarkably.

"He used to sell Buddhayan (a Marathi-language magazine produced by TBMSG) by visiting people door to door in various slums in Pune. Due to his very strong faith and wish he could learn how to read and write at a very late age. He never took rest, with lots of Virya and spirit he used to visit to common and simple people to teach Dhamma to them.

"He was a true propagator of Dhamma, and in a true sense he was 'MAHADANA', which means Great Generosity. He was well respected and popular amongst all Buddhist people of society. He always helped harmonising the Order, for a few years he was the security person at the Mahavihara, Pune.

"At the end of his life he was ill but even in such a condition he could come to attend the 'Order Day' at the Mahavihar in Pune last month on Sunday 3rd Aug. A few days before he died, he expressed his strong desire that he wanted to attend the forthcoming Order Convention at Bodhgaya and would like to meet Bhante and all his brothers and sisters in the whole Order at the Convention.

"With Metta, Amrutdeep".

Adarsha died at approximately 11.30 pm on 2nd October 2008. He was at Bombay Airport, where he was returning to the U.K. after a routine visit to Karuna Trust projects in India.

He worked for the Karuna Trust and is part of the North London Buddhist Centre Sangha. His death was very sudden and unexpected. His funeral will be held on Monday October 13th at the North London Buddhist Centre and at a nearby crematorium.

Adarsha was 38 years old, came in contact with the FWBO in Lancaster during the nineties, after which he moved to India for a time and then to London to join the Karuna Trust. He was ordained in March 2007, when he took the sadhana of Padmasambhava.

He is going to be hugely missed by his mother, father and two brothers, and his very many friends in the Sangha in the U.K., India and elsewhere. At this time we can all send our metta to Adarsha, his family and his friends.

If you would like to make a donation in his memory there is a memorial page at All monies collected will go towards Karuna’s Dhamma projects in India.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, October 04, 2008

A letter from the Forest: Insight retreats in Scotland

Smritiratna is an Order Member who has for some years now been a resident teacher at the FWBO’s Dhanakosa Retreat Centre in Scotland. Between retreats, he lives in the woods as a hermit, and has written FWBO News a ‘Letter from the Forest’.

In it he describes his coming three-month retreat at Guhyaloka in Spain and his hopes for the ‘Stilling and Seeing Through’ insight retreats he will be leading on his return. At the end of his letter you’ll find links to fuller descriptions of his approach to his practice - and to the development of insight.

“Dear All,

“I am writing this at the window of the forest cabin where I spend much of my time these days, a mile from Dhanakosa Retreat Centre in Scotland. Looking up, a profusion of green leaves meets my gaze, thousands of grasses and ferns, spruces and larches, oaks and willows, birches and rowans, lichens and mosses. This rich variety arises in response to the rains that come so often here. Without the rains there would be only rock and sand as far as the eye could see. But the rains give life to the earth and green things flourish.

“This puts me in mind of the first teaching of the Buddha, the one celebrated by Dharma Day at the full moon of the Indian month Asalha (June/July). I believe the torrential rains of the Indian monsoon commence around mid-June. So this first outpouring of the Dharma teaching of the Buddha was accompanied by ‘the soft thunder of the rain on leaves’. It came to be known as the Dhamma-cakka-ppavattana Sutta, (the ‘Dhamma-wheel-set-rolling’). The new Buddha has sought out the five ascetics who had shunned him before. Now deeply moved by his appearance and the quality of his presence among them, the five open their hearts once more and their teacher expounds the Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path. Transcendental Insight arises first in Kondanna. The Truth is out, the Dharma Wheel set rolling, and, eight-spoked like the Eightfold Path, it has rolled down the centuries, rolled through the lives of generations of the Buddha’s disciples and is rolling still.

"Two years ago I spent the Autumn at Guhyaloka, Spain, on the Vihara retreat for Dharmacharis. We were in silence for ten weeks. As the basis of my daily practice, I chose this first Sutta of the Buddha, together with his second. Following the Eightfold Path as my system of practises, I cultivated vision and devotion, made efforts to maintain good moods, practised mindfulness and a range of meditations in accord with Bhante Sangharakshita’s system. Day and night I returned to the theme of impermanence, a pile of animal bones on my shrine, laid out like a skeleton at the feet of the Buddhas. Every day I sat before them in meditations – letting go the aggregates as best I could, and opening my heart to the Buddhas and All.

"This system proved effective so the following year, when I introduced insight meditations on the ‘Stilling and Seeing Through’ retreats at Dhanakosa, they were framed within the Noble Eightfold Path. Practised as a spiral path, you wheel around it over and over. Each new glimpse of the Vision sends a new ripple through devotion, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, meditation, stirring new insights into the Vision that in turn send a new wave though the eight spokes or limbs of the Dharma life.

"By the time you read this I’ll be at Guhyaloka for another three month retreat. During the life of the Buddha, many of his disciples were forest renunciates for whom the annual Rains Retreat was regarded as an essential part of their practise. For nine months they’d wander from place to place, living the Dharma life in the open air, sharing the Dharma with the people. But for the three months of the monsoon rains, when the roads and paths were impassable, they would camp together in communities, dwelling in caves or temporary huts. These were the annual Rains Retreats. Inspired by their example, I plan to do a three month retreat every year from now on. This year at Guhyaloka seven Dharmacharis will attend for the whole three months while another nine will attend for one or two months.

"I’ll return by December, in time to lead another Stilling and Seeing Through retreat, and then another at Vajraloka Retreat Centre, Wales. These retreats assume prior knowledge of the mindfulness of breathing and metta bhavana, also a basic understanding of the Dharma and of the Sevenfold Puja. For the first few days we’ll be settling and softening, in mindfulness and metta. Then we’ll contemplate the natural elements and spend a day on ‘transience and true refuge’ before returning to ‘visionary devotion’ at the end. If you would like to know more about these retreats, you could either read my long and detailed article (click here) or Joe’s short one (click here) or else try the websites of Dhanakosa or Vajraloka.

"Bye for now!

"Yours truly,

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rijumati's travels - Part VI - Hiroshima, Kyoto, and more in Japan

Rijumati, an Order Member from Cambridge UK, has been travelling the world since the end of last year, making every effort to avoid flying. His travels have taken him from the UK by cargo ship to Sri Lanka, across India, to Russia and Japan.

He has now published part 6 of his travel journal, which includes visits to Hiroshima, Kyoto, Honshu, and elsewhere. His travels are often in the spirit and even the footsteps of the great Buddhist Japanese poet Basho. As Rijumati himself writes -

Ah, so wonderful
To meet a friend along the Way
The boats and trains
Grow weary of my solitude.

Part 6 can be accessed here, and you can find parts 1-5 on FWBO Features.

Labels: ,

Saturday, August 30, 2008

On pilgrimage in Japan - Rijumati's travels part V

FWBO News is pleased to publish part V of Order Member Rijumati's travel diaries, as he heads around the world after many year's work in Right Livelihood in Cambridge, UK.

Part V is an account of his pilgrimage in Japan to the four Japanese Teachers on the Western Buddhist Order’s Refuge Tree (shown opposite) – Hakuin, Kukai, Dogen, and Shinran.

The Refuge Tree as a whole contains some 42 figures from across the whole Buddhist tradition, being those the Order draws on most strongly for teaching and inspiration. It's a symbol of the highest ideals of Buddhism, a traditional image that takes different forms in different schools. Modern Buddhists might be regarded as heirs to the whole of the Buddhist tradition and the Refuge Tree of the Western Buddhist Order includes figures from India, Tibet, China and Japan as well as archetypal Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and the teachers whose guidance helped to shape Sangharakshita’s understanding of Buddhism. An excellent introduction can be found in ‘Teachers of Enlightenment’, by Kulananda.

Click here to read about Rijumati’s visit to Shinran’s place of exile, on the coast of northwest Honshu; Eiheiji, Dogen’s monastery (which Rijumati unflatteringly describes as a “Buddhist airport departure gate”); Kukai’s remote mountain forest plateau at Koyasan - whence come the famous lines

“You ask me why I entered the mountain deep and cold,
Awesome, surrounded by steep peaks and grotesque rocks,
A place that is painful to climb and difficult to descend,
Wherein reside the gods of the mountain and the spirits of trees.

And last but by no means least, his visit to the shrine of Hakuin and the old and beautiful tree named the Suribachi pine.

Part V is on FWBO Features.

Labels: , ,