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Thursday, February 11, 2010

A flood in Paris

Vassika sends us this report from the small FWBO Centre in Paris - it seems they're inundated and in need of assistance...  Any French speakers out there...?  She says -

"Sadly, since last September the Paris FWBO Centre is having to turn away many people wanting to attend meditation and Buddhism classes. At the first beginners’ evening in September about 70 people turned up, far more than the Centre can accommodate, and every day since then, the Centre has received at least one request to attend classes.

"Why this sudden surge? We have no definite answer – though some ideas come to mind, and the answer is probably a mix of them.

• Buddhism is better understood and becoming better accepted in France. When the Centre was established 13 years ago there was still ignorance and even suspicion in the general population with regard to Buddhism. Many people had little idea what it was, those who came to the Centre would often not talk about it with their families and colleagues and people often feared that we might be a cult. Nowadays, hardly a week goes by without something about Buddhism in the media, Buddhas are appearing everywhere, in shop windows and interior decoration shops, propping up beauty products, spectacle, CDs, lamps, taking a bizarrely prominent place in the world of consumerism, and the word “zen” is in vogue, meaning cool, laid back, relaxed, unflustered… even though most of this may not be the kind of development we Buddhists might hope for…

• People are increasingly using the internet as a means of looking for information, and our web site is extremely visible – always one of the first ones when one looks for “Bouddha”, “bouddhisme” or “méditation” in Google, and even more so if one adds “Paris” as a search criterion; this is mainly the result of the dedicated work of Suvannavira when he created our web site.

• In addition, our feeling is that people are attracted by the clear presentation on our web site of how they can start and progress with us and how they can learn meditation and the Dharma and put them into practice in their daily lives.

And why do we say “sadly”?
"The reality is that the Centre is fairly small, 25 being the maximum number of people that the shrine room can reasonably accommodate. Even if the Centre were bigger, there is currently only one Order Member, Vassika, who is already doing as much as she can to teach beginners, friends and mitras as well as overseeing all the Centre’s activities and administration.

"So even though we are delighted that interest in meditation and Buddhism is growing, even though Vassika has gathered a team of mitras to support her, and even though we’re fortunate that some Order Members are giving her a hand here and there (Padmaketu and Dhridamati recently came over from Cambridge to lead a 3-day retreat, and Jayamuni runs a small group via Skype from China), until we have some more Order Members we will have to keep turning people away.

"We are hopeful, even confident, that help will eventually come. This year, Barbara-Laure Desplats will become our first fully home grown Order Member, though she lives some three hours south of Paris in Chambéry.

"In the meantime, turning away so many interested people will continue to be a source of frustration and sadness to us. If you feel moved to help in any way, do not hesitate to contact us!

"We don’t have a photo of floods of people at the Paris Buddhist Centre, so at the top of this report is one of the flood in Paris nearly exactly 100 years ago, and at the bottom, one of the queue we saw outside the Moulin Rouge as we cycled home from a night dealing with the queue at the Buddhist Centre!"

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Sangharakshita en français

Yes, Sangharakshita in French!
Three years after Vision et Transformation, the FWBO Paris Buddhist Centre, locally known as Centre bouddhiste de l’Ile-de-France, has just released his second book: Poèmes. This is a bilingual edition of 64 poems by Sangharakshita, translated into French by two mitras, Barbaralaure and Christian, and two order members, Varadakini and Vassika. In addition, another mitra and artist, Marc, drew a picture of Sangharakshita for the cover, and a friend, Gérard, did the typesetting of the book and designed the cover.

The Centre has decided to publish these books - and more will be coming in the future - as it has not yet been possible to find a mainstream publisher for Sangharakshita’s works in France. This is because he is not very well known there yet, the FWBO having only been present there for a few years and through a single Centre so far. For the time being, the books are only sold at the Centre, as selling them elsewhere would require resources and an organisation that the Centre does not have at the moment.

Christian comments: "We started to translate poems to inspire people during pujas or festivals. Then Vassika came up with the idea of translating more poems and gathering them in a book: this will now give people a fuller sense of Sangharakshita as a person. Though he came to visit our Centre a couple of years ago many people attending classes these days have not met him and may never have an opportunity to do so. They therefore only rely on the written word to get to know him, and having the chance of reading some his poetry will give them access to a different facet of him than the one they encounter through his books about Buddhism.

For us translators, it has been as great a pleasure as a challenge to translate these poems. In all cases translation is a difficult but rewarding practice of truthful speech; in the case of poetry the challenge is even greater if one wants to convey images, rhythms, rhymes and beauty as well as meaning. It was also a great pleasure – and a challenge too sometimes – to receive advice and feedback from the author (he does not speak French, of, course, but in a few places we’ve needed his clarification or explanation to make sure we got things right). It has also been an enriching process of deepening our relationship with each other, as in the end all the poems were the result of the work of two, three or even all four of us."

The poems were chosen to provide readers with as "comprehensive" an image of Sangharakshita as possible in a few pages, so there are poems old and new (from 1948 to 2006), short and long (from haikus to The Veil of Stars), with and without rhymes or metre, and showing different aspects of this remarkable man – the thinker, the contemplator, the friend, the teacher – as well as different moments of his life: his life in India and in Kalimpong, his return to the West, and his life as founder of the FWBO.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sangharakshita in Paris

Sangharakshita recently spent three days in Paris, on the occasion of a visit to the Paris FWBO Buddhist Centre (locally known as the “Centre Bouddhiste de l’Île-de-France - AOBO”). It wasn’t his first visit to Paris, but it was his first visit to the Centre, which was founded nearly 10 years ago by Varadakini.

During his visit he met several groups of people: mitras, mitras who have asked for ordination, the council of the Centre, and Vassika and Suvannavira, the local Order Members. The highlight of his visit, however, was a well attended two-hour question & answer session on Saturday afternoon, with questions on subjects as diverse as emptiness, the sevenfold puja, Sangharashita’s own Going for Refuge, the teaching of conditioned co-production (pratitya-samutpada), or the language spoken by the Buddha, to mention just a few. Two mitras, Barbara and Christian interpreted for the session which was appreciated by all participants.

Some of the people who met Bhante Sangharakshita commented afterwards:

I had the privilege of meeting Bhante twice, in a sangha-wide Q&A session and then as a small group of mitras having asked for ordination. Bhante was very sharp, he truly shone with his clarity and pointedness. We are fortunate to have met a man of his stature in our lifetime.

I was struck by the youthfulness of his words, his clarity, his liveliness, his humour… I was also moved by this different, foreign voice chanting the refuges and precepts; it was no meaningless litany but something already recited… elsewhere, and repeated many times, since long ago. I was very interested by the way he described the development of Buddhism in the West and its re-appearance in India as part of its evolution.

Meeting Sangharakshita in Paris was for us a deep and unique experience: a warm and unique encounter with the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha as well as a personal encounter. There are three things we remember specially about Sangharakshita’s visit to Paris:
• The depth in his chanting of the salutation, refuges and precepts; there was no difference between the words and their meaning, and no difference between the message and the one who was chanting.
• The clarity and precision of his answers and teachings; the simplicity of the language and of his choice of examples from daily life; and the self-evidence of the Dharma – Sangharakshita makes no distinction between the Dharma and common sense, friendship, calm; humour, determination…
• The real interest that Sangharakshita takes in each person and what preoccupies them, and his encouragement to us to continue along the path with calm, joy and determination
. BEGGA, IOANA & JAN, who came from Ghent for the occasion

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