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Friday, May 15, 2009

Two ordinations in Scotland

The Three Jewels of Buddhism, displayed on the Kesa received by members of the Western Buddhist Order on their ordination
Dhammarati, chair of the Order's College of Public Preceptors, writes - 

On Friday evening 8th May, Paul Thomson and Patrick Nicholson had their public ordination in the Glasgow Buddhist Centre.

Paul (who was the ex-Dharmapala) re-entered the Order as Dharmapala (long third "a"): protector of the Dharma. Smritiratna was his private preceptor and told us that when Bhante originally gave Dharmapala the name in 1969 he told him that he was naming him after Anagarika Dharmapala of Sri Lanka. "The Great Dharmapala". 

Patrick became Kshantidipa (long first "a", long second "i"): lamp / light of patient forbearance. His private preceptor was Suryavamsa. 

Dhammarati was the public preceptor in both cases.

The ceremony was attended by over 100 people, family and friends of both men as well as sangha members.

The College of Public Preceptors comprises about 30 senior members of the Order who are responsible for all ordinations.

The photograph shows a statue of Anagarika Dharmapala at Sarnath, India.

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Two ordinations in Scotland

The Three Jewels of Buddhism, displayed on the Kesa received by members of the Western Buddhist Order on their ordinationDhammarati writes from Scotland -

"I'm happy to let you know that there will shortly be two public ordinations at the Glasgow Buddhist Centre:

"Patrick Nicholson, who is on retreat now with Suriyavamsa, his private preceptor, and Paul Thomson (the ex-Dharmapala), on retreat with Smritiratna, who will privately ordain him.

"The public ordinations will take place at the Glasgow centre on Friday May 8, beginning at 7pm. I'll officiate at the public ordinations, welcoming Patrick into, and Paul back into, the Order."


Smritiratna adds some background -

"Dharmapala was originally ordained in 1969 but resigned in 1999. Six years later in 2005 he returned as plain Paul Thomson, to attend one of my monthly day retreats at Dhanakosa and has rarely missed one since, also attending the local FWBO group in Stirling. We have become very close friends.

"Last year he requested re-ordination, asking me to be his new private preceptor, and the College agreed. His private ordination will now take place in the first week of May, on a dual retreat here in the forest near Dhanakosa. The public ordination will take place on Friday 8th May (eve of Wesak) at Glasgow Buddhist Centre. Dhammarati will be his new public preceptor and will ordain Patrick Nicholson on the same day. Paul Thomson, who has asked to resume his old name, will therefore be the once and future Dharmapala".


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Monday, March 16, 2009

Kindred Spirit applauds FWBO retreat centres

Kindred Spirit is a long-established alternative magazine, describing itself as “the ultimate global guide to positive change”. Each issue covers a range of diverse subjects such as spiritual growth, personal development, complementary therapies, travel, health and much more.

Their latest issue picks out five ‘top spiritual retreats to nourish your holistic health’ – and two of the five are FWBO retreat centres. There’s the ‘Jungle Club’ in Thailand offering outdoor Scaravelli yoga; there’s meditation in Marrakech, there’s Findhorn’s ‘Experience Week’ in Scotland – and there’s our own Rivendell and Dhanakosa retreat centres… They describe the FWBO approach as “making Buddhism and meditation accessible as a living tradition in the modern world and open to people of all cultures and heritages”.

About Rivendell they say “surrounded by picturesque grounds, fields and woodland, with a library and garden, introductory group weekend retreats here are the ideal way to experience Buddhist values and principles for the first time”. Dhanakosa is described as “the most beautiful retreat centre I have been to, sitting on the shore of Loch Voil, with the Highlands just a short walk away”. Dhanakosa runs a wide range of retreats where meditation is allied with other activities – Kindred Spirit specifically mentions their ‘meditation and clowning’ and ‘meditation and hill-walking’ retreats.

The FWBO has some eight retreat centres in the UK, and details of all can be found on our website

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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,

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Monday, September 22, 2008

New chairman in Edinburgh

Vajrahridaya was last week installed as the new Chairman of the FWBO’s Edinburgh Buddhist Centre. He took over from Kalyanavaca, who had served as Chair for the past 8 years and steered the Centre through two moves and a variety of hired premises to its present, permanent, location. Vajrahridaya is the first Indian Order Member to become Chairman of any FWBO centre (outside India, of course). However, he’s lived in Scotland for several years, having originally moved there to be cook at Dhanakosa retreat centre.

Trained originally as a doctor in Maharastra, India, he told FWBO News that for some time he’d been feeling the urge to put his energy into “something bigger, something more Dharmic”, and that the opportunity to be chair had come at just the right time – and, having spotted it, he simply had to respond.

The occasion was marked by a two-hour ceremony for the local Sangha in which Parami, their president, and a member of the FWBO Preceptors’ College, presided. The highlight of the evening was perhaps the presentation to Vajrahridaya of a Jewel, representing the Bodhicitta – which he then planted in the centre of a Mandala, symbolising all aspects of the Edinburgh centre and even the wider world around it.

As Vajrahridaya explained, “for me, the Mandala represents a sacred circle of harmony and transformation. I see the Buddhist Centre as a series of circles, or teams, all overlapping and all in harmony, some working for the Centre itself and some reaching out to society around”. He went on to say “Actually, we’ll mostly be carrying on Kalyanavaca’s work –she has laid all the foundations for us to build on”.

Far from going into an early retirement, Kalyanavaca has immediately joined a Karuna door-knocking fundraising appeal in nearby Glasgow – after which , she says, she’ll have a well-earned ‘gap year’. As part of the leaving celebrations she was presented with a cheque, collected from members of the Sangha. She was delighted, and says she plans to pass it to Aloka, the WBO’s most prolific artist, who is at present working on an Avalokitesvara painting for her.

The photograph shows Kalyanavaca and Vajrahridaya, both looking remarkably at home in one another’s national costumes.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Clowning and Insight in Scotland

Jayachitta has sent FWBO News this report of the FWBO's first-ever 'Clowning and Insight' retreat, held recently at Dhanakosa retreat centre in Scotland. She writes -

"Dhanakosa in early autumn was the perfect venue for this first ever 'Clowning & Insight' retreat. The skies gave us clear and calm skies and the loch was often still like a mirror.

"'It's all about space' was what inspired both Tejananda and myself, co-leaders of this retreat. Central to 'Open Awareness' meditation is the experience of ever-present space that is always available. It is this space that allows ever-changing experience to arise and pass, being just what it is, and not the 'I' that we so often construct out of it with our habitual minds. Whilst in the quiet of our meditation we turn towards this experience with interest and care. Clowning allows us to share what goes on from moment to moment publicly - with everyone!

"Body-work, dance and partner exercises led us - on a road of much play and laughter - to discover our very own clown. We found out what he or she likes, how they dress, what moves them, and just which other clown might set them of to discover joy, longing, jealousy or vulnerability. Our clowns even learned to meditate! All of that was shared and shown, and appreciated by an empathetic audience, who only knows too well what those states are like!

"Clowning allows us to be so much more that we usually do. The 'smallest mask in the world' (Jacques Lecoq) - the red nose - liberates us from our ideas of what we should be (or what we are afraid we might be!), and allows us the great space to be whatever is arising - without fixing it into a personal identity. So insight and clowning go hand in hand: it is not just a concept that we are ever-changing and without a fixed self. As a clown it is an tangible fact - and it becomes obvious through the naivety of the clown and the possibility of laughing at oneself.

"The central theme of the clown is the flop, the failure to accomplish even simple tasks. Owning that and allowing ourselves to mess up again and again we free ourselves from so much fear! Especially for Buddhists - aiming for Enlightenment, no less! - it can be hard to admit how often and how regularly we make a mess of things. The clown, with great humility, can be just what they are - no better, and no worse. And that is the starting point to discover just what fascinating and multifaceted beings we all are!

"So the main flavour of the retreat was delight in each other. We delighted in what everyone showed of themselves, be it laughter or tears, being shy, bold, loving or confused. What was revealed, was each person's poetry, their own individual way of being themselves, with the struggles and successes of their own lives. - I felt very honoured to receive so much!"


For more about clowning see Jayacitta's website:

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

'Sangha without boundaries' in Scotland

Kevin McConnell from the Edinburgh Buddhist sangha has sent FWBO News this report of their inter-Buddhist activities - which have been quietly growing for the past four years...

“As the days get longer and the Scottish winter slides its way into spring, green shoots force their way through the warming earth, early lambs frisk in the strengthening sunshine - and the Buddhists of Edinburgh can be seen heading south to Wiston Lodge near Biggar (shown in photo). Why, we ask? - for their annual Inter-Sangha Weekend Retreats, is the reply.

“Inter-Buddhist events, where several of the local Buddhist groups come together on celebratory occasions such as Wesak, have long been a feature in Edinburgh. Usually, one group takes the lead with other members offering contributions from their own traditions.

“At first they were evening events rounded off by a shared meal. The popularity of these inspired the idea of an annual weekend retreat where groups could share and explore their various traditions’ differing perspectives on the Dharma. The initial idea, and the organisation of the inaugural gathering, was down to Kalyanavaca, chairwoman of the FWBO’s Edinburgh Buddhist centre. However they’ve been such a success (this year being the fourth year in succession) that now the role of organisation is taken up by a different group each year.

“This year the overall theme was impermanence, and each group led those present in a practice from their own tradition based on that theme. This produces an eclectic mix where, if you attend all the sessions, you could be experiencing body scan techniques, zazen, NVC workshops, Pali chants and Tibetan puja. In between the set events there is of course the opportunity to sit and drink tea or walk in the woods and compare notes on your experience of the Dharma. This celebrating the 'unity of variation' of the Dharma is what most appeals to the participants.

“Over the four years the retreats have been held, groups from the Community of Buddhist Contemplatives (Soto Zen), the Community of Interbeing, the Forest Sangha (Theravadin), FWBO, Samye Dzong (Kagyu) and Soka Gakkai have attended - but the invitation is open to any Buddhist groups in the Edinburgh area. Enthusiasm last year spilled over to a weekend visit to Samye Ling (the Kagyu centre and monastery in the Scottish Borders), and a tentative suggestion for future visits to other home centres has been made.

“Outside of these events the group collaborates on a newsletter ‘Sangha Without Boundaries’ and of course our website. We rejoice in our good fortune in having access to the Dharma in its many manifestations and in our commitment to put the Dharma into practise.

“As the verse in the three-fold puja so succinctly says,

We reverence the Sangha, and aspire to follow it:
The fellowship of those who tread the Way.
As, one by one, we make our own commitment,
An ever-widening circle, the Sangha grows

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Monday, May 05, 2008

West London emerges from the Flood – and Edinburgh says “thank you”

Last summer the West London Buddhist Centre experienced serious flooding on two separate and entirely unrelated occasions – one causing the ceiling of their shrine room to collapse and one covering the floor with water.

Undeterred, they embarked upon the necessary repairs and are now scheduled to be fully up and running again in time to celebrate Buddha Day on Sunday the 18th of May. There will be a free open day from 12 to 5, with talks, meditation, and an exhibition of Buddhist art works, followed by celebrations for the Sangha in the evening.

Among the artwork is a piece by local Buddhist artist Jason Etienne, titled “Basic Buddhism 2” – clearly inspired by the twin sources of British graffiti artist Banksy and the legendary biographies of the Buddha, which speak of lotuses springing up behind each step of the Buddha as he roared his lion’s roar..

Meanwhile, up in Scotland, the Edinburgh Buddhist Centre, who last year experienced major floods of their own, are just celebrating the second anniversary of their new Centre. Their new Director, Vajrahridaya, has written an open letter to all who have ever contributed to the FWBO in Edinburgh. Since those many people are now scattered around the world, we have pleasure in reproducing part of it here on FWBO News. Vajrahridaya writes -

“I, along with the Trustees on the Edinburgh Buddhist Council would like to take this opportunity to thank you and express our gratitude for all the support and help you have contributed towards the stability and growth of our local Sangha in Edinburgh.

“We would like to acknowledge that your help and generosity, in the form of either Donations, Standing Orders, Gift Aid, your practical help, your encouraging presence and words or even just coming along to the centre to support us, has contributed towards the creation of this new centre and thus our Sangha.

“It is due to our collective effort and enthusiasm that we have managed to buy our own new premises and establish our Sangha, the spiritual community in Edinburgh. So Sadhu! Sadhu!! Sadhu!!!

“We hope that you will continue to offer your valuable support and help towards the growth and development of our Sangha and we very much value and welcome your ideas, thoughts and vision for spreading the Buddha’s Dharma in this modern world.

“Yours in the Dharma, Vajrahridaya”

Sadhu Edinburgh!

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Retreats of all shapes and sizes on offer in 2008

Following Friday’s post on the FWBO International Retreat, FWBO News is pleased to present a short roundup of some of the more unusual retreats on offer this year around the FWBO and TBMSG. If you want to highlight others, send us a comment on this post…!

First to catch our eye was Dhanakosa’s ‘Clowning and Insight’ retreat, led by Tejananda (chairman of Vajraloka meditation centre) and Jayacitta, founder of Red Noses Unlimited. The connection between clowning and insight, once explained, is surprisingly obvious. As the Red Noses website puts it:

“A Clown is a being that steps into the world afresh. He or she is open to new experiences, meeting things, people, events with wonder, curiosity and a sense of pleasure. Quite different from our pragmatic and often routine way of being, a clown is forever discovering the new. She enjoys being just herself however she is - so being shy, awkward, grumpy, afraid, bossy, falling in love or falling over - all those have a place and can be experienced, seen and celebrated…”

Dhanakosa, in Scotland, have in many ways led the way in developing ‘Buddhism and…’ themes – this year they are offering Photography & Meditation, Hillwalking & Meditation, and Dance and Meditation, plus the more predictable yoga and shiatsu...

Buddhafield, in the South-West of England, focus more on Buddhism and the natural world: their retreats include Tree-Planting, the much-loved and very child-friendly “Germinal Eco-Arts Dharma School” on their land in Devon, and a green retreat where retreatants will “cook with fire, harvest food from the land and eat and drink only local produce”. A taste of things to come? They have also developed retreats on the 'Work that Reconnects', using practices and exercises from the American Buddhist teacher Joanna Macy. A close connection is developing between Buddhafield and Guhyapati’s new Eco-Dharma mountain retreat centre in Spain, where, they say, towards the end of the year, “Immersed in the teachings of wild nature, we will explore interconnectedness…”

Rivendell, the Croydon Buddhist centre’s well-loved retreat centre, runs a wide range of arts and creativity retreats, including the ‘Magic Heart Crucible’ and ‘Wolf at the Door Creative Writing retreats’. And if hill-walking on a Scottish mountain is too much, they offer Rambling - with Taravajra and Dharmavasita!

In Spain, Amitavati, another small and privately-owned retreat centre run by Suratna and Vidyasri, is also focussing on the elements with their ‘Deep Peace of the Quiet Earth: Meditating with the Elements’ retreat at the end of May. Over in the US, at Aryaloka Retreat Centre there’s a retreat coming up that “explores major world issues and how we might engage with them in ways that are informed by Buddhist wisdom and practice”, and if you’re in Australia, check Vijayaloka for its intensive meditation or Qi Gong retreats.

All these retreats are open to newcomers; but there are many more intensive retreats on offer as well. In the UK Padmaloka and Tiratanaloka specialise in retreats for either men or women who have requested Ordination into the Western Buddhist Order. Both have resident communities who worked for many years with candidates for ordination, and many of the Order’s Public Preceptors live at either one or the other. Back in Spain, Guhyaloka and Akasavana host annual long Ordination retreats; these have just started for the men and will begin soon for the women. Once they are complete, more open retreats are generally on offer.

If this seems a bit bewildering, it’s not surprising – the FWBO is a large and diverse community. In the UK the Going on Retreat will hopefully help cut through the many options and help you find the one you want.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Glasgow's Buddhist Stress-Busting Make-Overs - and Stupid Cupid day...

The Glasgow Buddhist Centre have launched a new range of courses for the new year – ranging from a “Buddhist Stress-Busting Make-Over” to their new “Stupid Cupid” day retreat – or should that be day-long treat?

They’ve advertised them with characteristic pizzazz; we found this report in a local Scottish newspaper: “If the stresses and strains of the festive season have left you feeling frazzled or your relationship with your nearest and dearest a bit frayed around the edges, make a new start in 2008 with the stress-busting techniques taught at the Glasgow Buddhist Centre. You can stretch your body and soothe your mind at the same time with a six week yoga and meditation course starting on Wednesday 9th January or delve straight into the clearer states of mind brought about by the two meditation practices taught by experienced practitioners on Tuesday evenings starting from the 22nd January. To discover how the teachings of the Buddha can help us deal with modern life, come along on Wednesdays from 23rd January.

And if your relationship needs a rethink before Valentine’s Day, book yourself onto the Stupid Cupid Day on Sunday 3rd February and find out how you can stop getting in the way of romance".

The report goes on to point out that the Stupid Cupid day will be co-led by Nagaraja, well-known for being he who gives the Buddhist perspective on the Pause for Thought slot on Terry Wogan’s BBC Radio Two show - Friday mornings at 9.15am UK time.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Shambolic Warriors return to Faslane

Sophia Young has sent us this report on Glasgow Buddhist Centre's network of engaged buddhists - the Shambolic Warriors.

We celebrated the summer solstice in fine style by taking a six mile hike to the North gate of Faslane naval base and peacefully meditating, dancing and singing outside. On Sunday 24th June - the 20 warriors, two children and a dog gathered on Helensburgh pier and,fortified by homemade scones and flapjacks, began the long trek to the base in heavy rain.

A detour for a cup of tea at the peace camp was made. Under a parachute canopy the shambolics shouted three saddhu's saluting the work of the peace campers who have been maintaining a presence at the base now for twenty-five years. Faslane naval Base situated on the River Clyde is the base for UK's Trident Nuclear weapons System.
The Campaign "Faslane 365" is drawing attention to the opposition that exists in the UK to Trident and any plans to update it. Diverse groups from around the country, including the Shambolic Warriors and the Network of Engaged Buddhists have been taking responsibility for organising individual days of the year long protest.
While there have been complaints about the heavy policing of such events- there are often as many officers as there are protesters, the day passed peacefully and happily, with much banter on both sides. Indeed, our lone protestor on the second day, Shantiketu,was offered lunch and given a lift back into Helensburgh by the duty cops.

The Shambolic Warrior Network was formed two years ago after Parami's Healing Self, Healing World retreat in Dhanakosa and members of the network lead actions in areas of concern to us. We are inspired and sustained by the ideas of Joanna Macy and the Work that Reconnects. Other strands of activity in the network currently include a housing project, environmental events in the centre, personal development workshops and womens group in the centre, outreach teaching of the dharma, cooking for large numbers ( we have the best catered events!).

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