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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Inter-Buddhist Pilgrimage to Kashmir and Ladakh

Jayacitta, an Order Member from the London Buddhist Centre, writes with news of an inter-Buddhist pilgrimage she's organising this Autumn. In September 2010 the party will be visiting the Buddhist Holy Places in Kashmir and Ladakh. She says -

"Calling on Buddhists from all different traditions, this will be a journey to the magical area of Ladakh, in the Northwest of India, near the Tibetan border. Travelling through the beautiful scenery of Kashmir we will come to Ladakh, where Tibetan Buddhism is still preserved in a form that one cannot found anywhere else in the world.

"The journey will lead through magical open landscape, clear air and to mountain lakes. There will be the possibilitiy to visit monasteries and to take part in people's everyday life. It is organised by Jayachitta who is reaching out to Buddhists from different schools to meet together, to share their experience and practice.

"This trip will be an adventure in a breathtaking setting which we will be in the middle of, whether driving, trekking or meditating".

For more detail please visit her website

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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

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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



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Sunday, December 07, 2008

FWBO Websites IV: the Sanctuary of Prajnaparamita

Prajnaparamita is at the centre of the Sanctuary created in her honour by SagaravajraThis week’s featured website was created by Sagaravajra, an Order Member from Bristol UK. It is dedicated to Prajna-Paramita, a beautiful female Buddha figure embodying the qualities of the Perfection of Wisdom.

More specifically, his site is devoted to the ‘Sanctuary’ he has created to her.

He writes -
"The Prajnaparamita sanctuary is the culmination of a personal spiritual odyssey. On my ordination into the Western Buddhist Order I received a visualisation practice of Prajnaparamita, who embodies the qualities of the Perfection of Wisdom.

“Basing my own work on a stunning Javanese rendition of her, I began working on a sculptural representation as part of my own exploration. After completing the figure, I felt the need to come into closer relation to her essence, and I was fortunate enough to be involved in founding a small contemplative community nestled in a limestone valley in Spain, the Guhyaloka vihara.

“Realising the importance of the surrounding context of the sculpture, I became interested in the idea of sacred space, and the possibility of creating a sanctuary or landscape for the sculpture to inhabit”.

His dream came true, and the Sanctuary appeared, located in a remote woodland in the Blackdown Hills in Devon.

The website covers the story of his relationship with the figure, the labyrinth and mandala being created around the central shrine, the sculptures adorning the surrounding land, and a little more about Sagaravajra himself. It’s no substitute for the real thing, of course – but if you’re not fortunate enough to be passing Devon, it may serve as a taster… As Sagaravajra writes -

“On entering this fertile landscape populated with springs, ferns, owls, deer and archetypal sculptures, one steps into a realm of heightened significance, of metaphor and imagination”.

You’ll find the Sanctuary on-line at

Next week’s website will be 'Buddhist Pictures: Images by Visuddhimati'.

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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.

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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.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

New pilgrimage website launched

Parayana is the new name for a long-established FWBO pilgrimage service – it’s led 12 pilgrimages since 2003. Parayana is Pali for ‘The Way Beyond’ and by extension ‘The True Refuge’.

Ratnaketu, the founder, gave TBMSG News a short account of what led him to start leading pilgrimages.

“Originally from New Zealand, I joined the Western Buddhist Order in 1979, a year that also saw my first visit to India, where I accompanied Sangharakshita from Auckland in New Zealand to the LBC in London via Bombay, Pune and Ahmedabad. Travelling with Sangharakshita in India when I was twenty was a life-changing experience; I discovered I had brothers and sisters in the Dharma whose lives were radically different to my own; I realised how remarkably fortunate I was; and I fell under the spell of India.

In 1985, I went on my first real pilgrimage, a magical amble amongst the clouds and into the Eastern Himalayas to visit Dhardo Rinpoche. Since then pilgrimage has become an important part of my own practice. In 1999, after more than twenty years of community living and team-based right-livelihood, I chose to explore the homeless life. After eighteen months at the Guhyaloka Vihara in Spain, I hit the road.

My intention was threefold; to live and enable others to live lives of radical freedom and simplicity; to create a new team-based right-livelihood business that would support our renunciants; and to help others experience the delights of true pilgrimage.

And - slowly slowly - we're getting there. Pilgrimage is becoming another sparkling facet of our Movement, linking East and West. We enable pilgrims to enter the path and experience the life of pilgrimage, to gain experiences of India, of the holy places, and of the Refuges that would scarcely otherwise be possible. Not only that - Parayana provides employment, community, and skill training to a growing team of Indians and Nepalese.

We have adopted the name Parayana because our pilgrimages lead us beyond, not just into strange new worlds but beyond ourselves and towards transcendence.

And now we have a website.

Check out also our next Sakyamuni:Heartland pilgrimage 8th – 31st November 2007.

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