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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Jambudvipa reports on hard-hitting anti-caste work

Many readers of FWBO News will be aware that at the twelfth session of its Human Rights Council, the UN moved to declare discrimination based on the Indian caste system to be a human rights abuse.

TBMSG - as the FWBO is known in India - is a grass-roots Buddhist community which has been working for 30 years to spread the ‘Dhamma Revolution’ in India.  Creating a caste-free society open to all Indians has long been central to their vision, and besides their long-running Dhamma teaching and extensive social projects they have more recently moved into advocacy work. The Jambudvipa Trust, based in Pune, is their most active ‘advocacy’ project; their work is an inspiration.

We’re proud to reproduce here this editorial from ‘Padmapani’, Jambudvipa's annual report and magazine.

Lokamitra, their president, writes -

“The Jambudvipa Trust, under its Manuski project is at present targeting five of the most disadvantaged communities in Maharashtra. One of these, the Paradhi community, along with other similar communities, has been cruelly dismissed and marginalised by being termed a Criminal Tribe. The result is that as well as having to live in unimaginably appalling conditions, they are subjected to arbitrary killings by the police and administration. Jambudvipa is working with such communities to make known their plight and help them develop their own leadership.

“Dr. Ambedkar urged Dalits in the strongest terms to leave behind their traditional degrading work and live a life of dignity. And yet millions of people born into the Mehetar and other sweeper castes think they are destined to do only this work. Scattered in all the towns in India, they are still obliged to work in the most inhuman conditions and carry human excreta, despite the denials of the administration and government. Indeed the latter maintain this system. They need people to clean all the filth and sewers, and, given the caste-contaminated mindset of most people in India, can only turn to these people. To make sure these people do not try and break out of the caste mould, the government hands out sops like housing and a steady wage to the Mehetar community. But without education, and social support and stimulation, these result in little, if any, progress. [see photo on right]

“Manuski has been producing field reports to bring these denied facts out in the open, and working with other like-minded organisations to campaign to end these inhuman practices. Out of these activities Manuski has been encouraging the development of networks of activists from these exploited communities who can take this forward. At the same time it has continued to develop Its advocacy work with regard to the frequent atrocities these people are subjected to. Finally Manuski has been supporting the emergence of a strong network of Dalit women leaders, activists, educators and social workers in Maharashtra which has now developed its own momentum'.

“While our approach in social work is entirely secular, most of the Jambudvipa and Manuski team have become Buddhists, inspired by Dr. Ambedkar, who realised that only a complete change in mindset or attitude will bring about the social change required to destroy the extremely deep roots of caste and untouchability. To this end Jambudvipa works with the Nagarjuna Institute, TBMSG and other similarly inspired Buddhist organisations to teach people how Buddhist practice can bring about the transformation of mental attitudes. In March 2009 a three day retreat was held in Tamil Nadu, organised jointly by Jambudvipa and the Nagarjuna Institute. It was attended by members of the three most exploited Scheduled Castes in Tamil Nadu - quite an achievement in itself in that, as stated above, people from different castes rarely co-operate. The enthusiasm and determination of the participants to leave behind the shackles of their old designation and all that goes with it, is developing all over the country.

“India is entering into a period of the deepest and most extensive social transformation it has ever experienced, and we feel proud to be able to contribute to this. In the following pages you will be able to see some of the work we are engaged in to this effect. We would like to take this opportunity to appreciate all the support we get from all those who in one way or another have helped to make this contribution possible.

“Founder President, Jambudvipa Trust”

For more information check their website

 In the UK, the FWBO’s Karuna Trust fundraises to support many TBMSG projects - you can contribute financially or by taking part in an appeal. It’s a great way to get your Dharma practice off the cushion and out into the world!

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Neo Natal Ambulance is donated by Rotary Club, Pune to TBMSG Pune’s Jeevak Medical Project

Milind Shakya, an Order Member from the Mahavihara, TBMSG’s large centre in Pune, India, writes with news of a generous donation to Jeevak, the long-running women’s social project. 

He writes -

"The Gandhi Bhavan Rotary Club of Pune recently donated a Neo-Natal Ambulance with Ventilator and Portable incubator to TBMSG Pune’s Jeevak Medical Project in Mahavihar.

"In this program the Rotary Club’s President Mr. Shrikant Mahajan, Vilas Jagtapji , Dr. Sudhir Rashingkar, Dr. Govind Datar, and Atul Joshi were present. They met with Yashosagar, TBMSG Chairman, and Karunadeepa, Director of Jeevak.

"Dr. Rashingkar said they approached Jeevak for this donation because of the credibility of the TBMSG and Jeevak’s medical projects in India and particularly in the Pune area. He expressed confidence that the new facility will allow the Trust to save many newborn lives. Dr. Datar expressed in his speech the importance of childcare and reducing the child mortality rate.

"Many Rotarians were present for this Program and they all appreciated the work Trust is doing. And extended their wish for further help".
Readers of FWBO News may remember the fire that gutted the building in March; we are delighted to report this improvement in their fortunes.

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

New issue of Varada: women's social projects in India

The Arya Tara Mahila Trust (ATMT) is an all-women's project in India run by Order Members and Mitras from TBMSG. They've just released the second edition of their newsletter Varada. You'll find it on-line here.

They say -

"Welcome to the second edition of our newsletter and another chance to catch up on developments in women’s projects in India. Full details are on our website

"Despite the heat of early April, another new project successfully was launched in Pune. It is a community-based social project for girls and young women living in slums. We have started work in five slums in the Vishrantwadi area, Pune. The project is for teenage girls from 11 to 20 years of age who either go to school or have dropped out for some reason. We are including aspects of personality development, helping to develop self-confidence, negotiation skills, communication skills and also vocational courses so that the young women will be able to earn something and develop confidence about life. Another new Right Livelihood venture we have helped with is Mudita Screen Printers in Nagpur".

Karunaprabha, the team leader of this new venture explains why these projects are needed: "In the news almost every day we hear about India's rapid economic growth. While increasing prosperity is happening for some people, this development is exacerbating the divide between rich and poor. In a recent Pune University survey, 89% of girls/young women were found to be suffering from anaemia. We arrange anaemia detection camps for the girls and then provide the treatment they need".

They continue -

"ATMT is steadily building international links and a network of supporters - in Germany, Karuna Deutchland has successfully raised an impressive Euro 6000 for ATMT projects. Amoghamati's hard work and the commitment of her team will enable new initiatives to support women’s development.

"Two of ATMT’s Trustees, Karunadeepa and Jayamani were funded to visit Europe in the summer. They gave talks and took part in retreats in UK, Germany and Holland, raising awareness about ATMT’s work and collecting some extra funding too!

"Shakyajata from Manchester, UK, took up the challenge and is now fundraising to sponsor an Indian woman Dhamma teacher to travel with Dhammajyoti team support. Indian women from many backgrounds tell us they benefit from learning to meditate and studying the Buddha’s teaching. They feel more confident and happy in their families and their working lives.

"And in Croydon, south of London, Sue Bolton has started a cushion making enterprise which will fund poor women to escape the pressure of their family situations by going on retreat where they can rest, study the Dhamma, meet other kindly women, eat good food and meditate. Even the $2 per day retreat cost is too much for these women to afford despite the benefits of retreat life".

"If you're interested to support us, please see our website where's there's forms to make a regular donation. There's also our JustGiving page at

"VARADA celebrates the generosity of ATMT’s friends across the world".

Tomorrow FWBO News looks at another fundraising project raising money for Dhamma and social work in India, using a green elephant in Sydney...

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fire in India: Jeevak social work building badly damaged

Karunadipa, Director of Jeevak, TBMSG's woman's social project in Dapodi, India, has sent us this report -

"For twenty years I have been working for Jeevak - we are a team of women doing social and educational work in the slums of Pune. We serve the needs of 200,000 women and their families, providing basic healthcare, life-skills training, legal support and a thriving micro-credit scheme.

"By now you must have heard that fire broke out last month in Jeevak building and the medical and creche in Jeevak has been burnt down because of a short circuit, especially the medical project has been completely destroyed, 5 fire brigade came for help.

"We are fortunate that the whole building did not catch fire or else it would have been a great loss. The fire broke out in the early hours in the morning about 4am on 16th March, since then we have been very busy clearing up the burnt heap. The ground floor looks terrible hence the medical unit has been closed down.

"WE NEED HELP to set up the ground floor for painting, fixing new doors, windows, grills, complete new wiring, electrification etc, which will cost at least 5 lac (about UK £7,000) for renovation of the building, it will be good if you will be able to give this news in the FWBO news letter.

We have a fundraising page at

Thank you."

"With Metta Karunadeepa"

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

A death in the Order

The Mahavihara in Pune, IndiaAmrutdeep has written to FWBO News to inform us of a death in the Order. He says -

"This is to inform you of the extremely sad news of the death of Dhammachari Akashabodhi from Pune, India. Akashabodhi died at approximately 7.00 a.m. Indian time on Wednesday March 11th. He died of a sudden and unexpected heart attack.

"Akashabodhi was aged 49, and he was ordained in 1994, with Suvajra as his private preceptor and Subhuti as his public preceptor. His sadhana was Sakyamuni.The funeral took place the same evening , first at the Mahavihara and then at the nearby cremation ghat. There were maybe 3,000 people present, from Dapodi and surrounding areas where he was very well known and much respected and loved, and also from many other parts of Maharastra as people had set out for Pune immediately on hearing the shocking news of his death.

"Only last night Akashabodhi had given a vote of thanks after a talk by Sudarshan on the occasion of the 19th anniversary of the inauguration of the Mahavihara, and then he joined others in performing a song of Maitri. Those who heard him said that he was in a very positive mental state indeed. The previous week he had been at the International Convention at Bodhgaya which he found greatly inspiring and immediately preceding this he had visited Sarnath, Vaishali and Nalanda with friends.

The Mahavihara in Pune, India"Akasabodhi was a poet and singer, a hugely friendly man who made strong connections not only with many Order members but also with those from other Buddhist groups and political parties, and always he made friends not only with individuals but also with their whole families. For several years he was Chairman of our centre in Dapodi (Mahavihara).

"It's very shocking for us that Akashabodhi has left us, especially so suddenly, and he is going to be greatly missed.

Yours in the Sangha, Dhammachari Amrutdeep,
Co-ordinator of Order Convening Team, India.

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