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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Right Livelihood in the USA: Tipu's Chai

Tipu’s Tiger was a much-loved Indian Restaurant in the small mid-Western town of Missoula, Montana - and the FWBO’s first Right Livelihood business in the States. Sadly the business closed as a Buddhist Right Livelihood some years ago - but the vision lives on and is just taking off in the form of a new business - Tipu’s Tiger Chai .

Buddhapalita, the business’ founder, says - “Our chai first came to life in our vegetarian café in Montana, where it grew in popularity until it was known throughout the region. Tipu’s Tiger Chai is a complex blend of sweet spices, complemented with a strong, organic, Indian black tea with a satisfying spicy finish. This is how real chai tastes! Made with non-radiated fresh spices, fresh ginger root, Montana-grown beet sugar and waters from the Mission Mountains”. And he concludes - “We are sure it will please your customers as much as it does ours!”

It’s not easy starting a business these days, but things look good - They’ve won two gold awards already at the 2008 World Tea Championships.

Buddhapalita, founder of Tipu’s Tiger and the driving force behind their new Chai range, was recently interviewed on Montana Public Radio, and you can listen to him here - . Scroll forwards to the 11-minute mark (unless you want to hear about Montana's recent problems with grizzly bears!)

And the spirit of Right Livelihood and dana (generosity) lives on - Tipu's Chai have already started to donate some of their profits. Their first choice, interestingly, was not an FWBO Buddhist Centre but to a mine detector program operating in Darfur. Somewhere in Darfur, they say, is a mine detector with our name on! The donation was made through a company called Schonstedt that Thiradhamma, another US Order Member, works for. Tipu’s have received letters of thanks from the State Dept and UN as well as Schonstedt.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

News from FWBO Boston: new paintwork; new energy; new people…

Sunada from the FWBO's Boston Center writes -

"Our little sangha here in Boston recently got together to paint and spiff up our tiny meeting room. It used to be this rather dark and dingy room, and well ... the transformation has been more than just in the physical appearance of the space. In fact we transformed our dark and dingy one-room meeting space into a wonderfully warm blue-and-gold Milarepa’s Cave!

"It was our first major project we undertook as a sangha, and the effect it had on us as a sangha community has been wonderful. Interestingly, we've also gotten a sudden spurt of new people join us. And these are people who asked to come without seeing our space at all. Funny how positive energy has a way of feeding on itself.

"We have Steve Wade to thank for pulling this project together -- and he still has more ideas up his sleeve. Our space is located at the far end of a long, sterile-looking hallway in the basement of an office building. Steve’s vision is that when someone walks into our door, they’re suddenly greeted with a beautiful, colorful shrine room. Since his recent trip to visit FWBO Centers in the UK, he’s gotten inspired to really do something in style.

"So this is just Phase One for now, and more improvements will no doubt come over time. We’ll probably get some built-in shelving for our zafus, and perhaps build up the shrine table so it more grandly fills the space. It’s all pretty exciting -- especially since the atmosphere already feels so changed with what we’ve done so far.

"A special thank you goes to all the sangha members who chipped in: Steve Wade, Glenn McKay, Rita Rocha, Stan Dankoski, Wyatt Greene, Doug Fosdick, and Martha Penzenik".

FWBO Boston's website is at

The photograph shows some of the Boston FWBO Sangha, with Sunada herself just to the right of the Buddha.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Jai Bhim International reports...

Jai Bhim International is an innovative FWBO project based in San Francisco.  “Caste Free Generation” is their slogan: Ann Dennehy, Jai Bhim’s Director, describes their mission as “providing Indian Buddhist youth with the spiritual, educational, and emotional tools to create personal and social change, for a culture freed of caste prejudice and discrimination”.

They’ve had a busy few months, as Ann reports -

“jai bhim friends and family, near and far. i hope this message finds you all well. thanks to all of you for your support, creative support, financial support, moral support, as we launched our non-profit last year. things are going really well.
India trip
i returned from my third india trip in january, and am planning projects for this year in my new homebase, the bamboo garden here in san francisco.  lots of support building here in sf for our work. hosting a monthly happy hour the last friday of every month. and facebook has been great..

“in india i spent time with our board members kumarjeev, kamalshree and nagarjuna, and re-connected with many of the youth leaders i'd met at the nnby conference last year. i spent time again in central india, in nagpur, where i piloted our teacher training workshops for indian english teachers. i also went north to delhi and to some smaller villages in rajasthan.
community english project

“in the year ahead i will be brainstorming with our indian board members and with indian youth leaders, as well as our american board members and english advisory board, about a community english project, which will be our main focus for 2009. our vision so far is to bring a buddhist-based esl curriculum to smaller dalit communities, and to work intensively with local indian english teachers to lead interactive, communicative student-centered english sessions that will empower language learning in their communities.

“we will be drawing on dr. ambedkar's vision, and on the vision of his mentor at columbia university, john dewey, as well as the revolutionary brazilian educator paolo freire. in addition to creating a curriculum, we are developing a manifesto for the project, so that everyone involved is clear on the project's goals. all this will  be posted as updates on our website.
local events

"locally we have been hosting events to bring people together. we are having a monthly happy hour, the last friday of every month. and this summer our board member maw, our artist friends and i will coordinate a bigger local arts event. in january i was asked to make a presentation about my trip to my department at the city college downtown campus. i received a very friendly reception and was asked to present further at other campuses, which we are now coordinating. and connecticut college, my alma mater, has asked me to write an article for the alumni magazine, a beautiful glossy publication that has won several awards.
"also i wanted to tell you about our big project for the fall - jai bhim international is going to declare october as AMBEDKAR MONTH!  the two goals of the project are #1 to bring people from the san francisco area into the jai bhim community through fun, and #2 to educate folks here about dr. ambedkar and the dalit buddhist movement. we are coordinating with the san francisco center, and reaching out to other buddhist centers in other traditions, as a way of spreading the word about our movement in india.

“we are scheduling a bunch of events that could lead up to a puja/kirtan on october 14th, which is a wednesday - as you know well, october 14th is the anniversary of the great mass conversion- the official start of the dalit buddhist movement.

“before then, in august and september,  we're going to make as many presentations as possible all over the city/bay area, at libraries, bookstores, university and high school classes, other buddhist centers, with the theme of "who is dr. ambedkar?" i imagine plastering the city with simple posters with an image of dr. ambedkar and that line ("who is dr. ambedkar?"), and a link to the jai bhim website. a guerilla campaign! i am coordinating with friends of the public library, my colleagues at city college, and others.

“more prosaically, lots of paperwork to keep up on as we get the non-profit established. board member sarah brown has been helping me do our books and we ended 2008 with a surplus of $278.15! now we are getting ready to file additional paperwork with the i.r.s. in order for them to approve our 501c3 status.  We’re still busy fundraising – please visit our page
“in closing i'd like to again express my gratitude for sharing the vision for our work. thank you for all your gestures of encouragement and support. jai bhim. love, ann”

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Youth of India Roars in 2nd National Convention of NNBY

The FWBO/TBMSG is an international Buddhist Sangha, with Buddhist Centres in over 20 countries. This internationality is never more evident than when people from opposite sides of the world come together for our big sangha events.

NNBY’s recent annual conference was an example, bringing together people from many communities across India (a major achievement in itself) – and beyond. NNBY is India’s ‘National Network of Buddhist Youth’, a major initiative started some five years ago under the auspices of TBMSG, as the FWBO is known in India.

We’re proud to bring you two reports from the Conference, one from two Indian participants – a colourful and moving photo-journal – and one from Ann Dennehy, a mitra from San Francisco who’s founded ‘Jai Bhim International, an American not-for-profit. Her aim is to “Connect spiritual communities, social change groups, and educators worldwide with Buddhist youth projects in India”.

You can read Deepa and Amrita's account here, boldly entitled “YOUTH OF INDIA ROARS IN 2nd NATIONAL CONVENTION OF NNBY

and Ann’s wide-ranging account of her travels here.

NNBY is still fundraising for its 2009 budget, contributions are invited and can be made online on their Justgiving page

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Wildmind on spiritual rebirth, materialism, solitude, warriorhood, and more...

Wildmind logoWildmind is the FWBO’s US-based website dedicated to teaching meditation.

Besides offering an easy and free way to
learn meditation on-line, their site hosts a vast library of meditation-related articles from a wide range of sources.

Every month they issue their meditation newsletter, each one dedicated to one or another theme connected in some way to meditation.

We've neglected to keep you up to date with these as they've come out, but here they are now -

· January 2009: Spiritual rebirth
· December 2008: Spiritual materialism
· November: Solitude
· October: Warriorhood
You can either browse these on their enormous website or subscribe here.

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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

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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.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Razor-Wire Dharma: in prison in America

Razor-Wire Dharma, a book by long-time Buddhist prisoner Calvin Malone, just released by Wisdom Publications Priyamitra, an Order Member from Spokane, Washington, USA, has written to FWBO News to say –

“One of the prisoners I've had the pleasure of practicing with for a number of years has just had a book published.

“Calvin Malone practiced for more than a dozen years with the "Gateless Sangha", a Buddhist practice group at Airway Heights Corrections Center, the largest prison in the Washington penitentiary system. Razor-Wire Dharma recounts Calvin's life in prison, his turning to the Buddha-Dharma, and ways that his life, and the lives of those around him, have changed through his going for refuge to the Three Jewels.

“Each chapter tells of an event common to life in prison life; each illustrates how his practice has been challenged and grown through living out the Buddha's teaching. These are very personal tales he tells, full of real suffering, real people, and real transformation.

“Until this past June Calvin was a cornerstone of the Gateless Sangha. He was then transferred to another prison, initially leaving the Sangha somewhat at a loss - over the years he had encouraged, guided, coaxed, and supported a huge number of inmates as they struggled to find some peace in the hell-realm that prison can seem.

“Prison is a fearful place. Shakyamuni's exclamation that 'Friendship is the whole of the spiritual life' rings true in Razor-Wire Dharma. Calvin learned the power of friendship from his teachers, one of whom was Aryadaka – another Order Member, who died five years ago. My entry into prison Dharma teaching was similarly through a friendship with Aryadaka.

“Both Calvin and Aryadaka have gone; I'm left to practice with the Gateless Sangha in their absence, and every week I practice with them I experience this friendship with my razor-wire Dharma brothers. As the Gateless Sangha continues without Calvin, its members are finding that they are able to pass on to new-comers the guidance and friendship that they received from him”.

Razor-Wire Dharma has just been released by Wisdom Publications.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Appeal for a 'caste-free generation'

Ann Dennehy and friends at the Indian Buddhist Youth conference in India in 2007Ann Dennehy, a mitra from the FWBO’s San Francisco center, is launching an appeal for Jai Bhim International. All readers of FWBO News are invited to respond. She says -

"Dear Buddhist Friends - I would like to tell you about a project I have been working on for the past few months. It is a non-profit I have created, Jai Bhim International, registered in the US, to support the social justice work of Dalit (ex-untouchable) Buddhist youth in India. There is detailed information about this community, and about the caste system as an urgent human rights issue, on our website:

"The Dalits, considered "untouchable" in the Hindu caste system (now officially called "ex-untouchable" but still considered low-caste inpractice) have faced oppression in India for centuries. Things have been slowly changing for the past 50 years, thanks to the work and inspiration of the great Human Rights Leader Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, the chief architect of Independent India's constitution. Our organization is named in his honor. JAI BHIM, means "Long live Bhim/Dr. Ambedkar", and is a common greeting between Dalit Indians. Dr. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism 52 years ago in October, as a way of stepping out of the oppressive caste system. His conversion, or "diksha", set off a mass conversion movement which continues to this day, and which has been supported by Bhante Sangharakshita.

"In the past year I have been to India twice, and will return in December for a month to work on JBI projects. I have been so inspired by the Dalit students I have met, their open-heartedness, their creativity, their motivation, and their commitment to justice for their community. It is because of them that I have created our non-profit, in order to encourage and support the projects they are creating themselves. In December we will be providing scholarships for 20 students to attend a national youth conference in Bor Dharan, central India. I will also be leading a teacher training workshop in the city of Nagpur for Indian English teachers, which is the beginning of a long-term ESL teacher mentoring project.

"Sadly, I have just received an email from our Board Member in India saying that recently university students from a Dalit background haveb een violently attacked in cities across India, and that their communities have been prevented by the police from peacefully protesting. There is more on our blog: This news makes the work I am doing in India feel all the more urgent and important, and is a reminder of how caste oppression is a serious, and overlooked, human rights issue.

"I am appealing for your support of our projects. We are currently accepting donations on our website, and your donation of $25 will allow a Dalit student to travel across India and be on retreat at the upcoming National Buddhist Youth conference in Bor Dharan in December. Please consider sponsoring a young member of our sangha in this way, investing in the next generation of Buddhists, a caste-free generation.

"It is the Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S., and this Thanksgiving I am reflecting on how thankful I am for Buddhism and for all of you in the sangha, bringing the dharma out into the world.

"Happy Thanksgiving to you, wherever you might be.

"Jai Bhim , Ann Dennehy,
Creative Director Jai Bhim International
San Francisco Buddhist Center

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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...

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Friday, October 31, 2008

New premises for the FWBO in Maine, USA

The entrance of the new Nagaloka Buddhist Center in downtown Portland, Maine - with our buddha in the windowDharmasuri, Chair of 'Nagaloka', the FWBO's center in Portland, Maine, USA, writes -

"We've moved! After 3 1/2 years on the outskirts of town in a small space adjacent to a beauty salon with limited (if any) walk-in traffic, Nagaloka Buddhist Center has signed a lease on a store front space in downtown Portland.

"On the day of the move we started out with a seven-fold puja with words of rejoicing for how the sangha has grown and praises of gratitude for the use of the space we were leaving.

"We ritualistically dissolved the shrine at the end of the puja and then worked quietly and harmoniously to pack up our center. When we arrived at 81 Oak Street - our new address - we placed our new standing Buddha on the side walk, which the kids enjoyed playing with, and which passing-by traffic stopped to appreciate.

"The new space is light and spacious with high ceilings and original wooden rafters. We will have a small book store in the front windows and have planned a fall program to include public talks, intro to Buddhism classes and a noon-time meditation course.

"We look forward to growing into our new home!"

You can find details of Nagaloka's classes on their website

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sand Mandalas at Aryaloka

FWBO News is happy to pass on a report from New Hampshire's 'Seacoast online' magazine detailing the recent visit of Tibetan monks to Aryaloka, the FWBO retreat centre in New Hampshire, USA.

"This week, four monks from the Gaden Jangste Monastery in India will spend days hunched over a board creating the intricate and colorful drawing at the FWBO's Aryaloka Buddhist Center in New Hampshire, USA. At the end of the week, after long hours of work, the monks will teach the lesson of the transitory nature of all things by systematically destroying what it took them so long to create.

"This mandala is being dedicated to the deity of compassion (Chenrezig in Tibetan, Avalokiteshva in Sanskrit)," said Nima Neduro, the group's coordinator and translator. "It shows his celestial mansion, and it will take all week to finish."

The process of creating the mandala is intricate and time-consuming. Long metal funnels with tiny holes in the ends are filled with colored sand. The funnels are ribbed, and the monks use metal sticks to rub the funnels, releasing the sand grain by grain.

"We have been criss-crossing the country for the past nine months to show our culture and, at the same time, raise money for our monastery in India," Neduro said.

The Gaden Jangste Monastery, was originally built to house 300 monks who had fled Tibet when the Chinese invaded in 1959. The continuing limits placed on the ability of Tibetans to practice their culture and religion freely has prompted a major migration of Tibetan Buddhists to India, and now the monastery is home to more than 2,600 refugees looking for religious and educational freedom, the coordinator said.

"Tibetans in India right now are free to practice their culture and religion," Neduro said. "The problem is with those still in Tibet.

"While the Chinese have allowed the communities to rebuild the thousands of temples destroyed when the Chinese invaded, Tibetan practices are limited by the government," he said. "Many are still trying to flee."

"Our purpose in inviting the monks here is a gesture of good will and support," said Amala, Aryaloka's director. "We heard that they were looking for venues in which to show their traditions, and we are extending the hand of friendship to other Buddhists", she said.

You can read Seacoast's full report here.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

News from the American Order Convention

The FWBO's San Francisco Buddhist Center hosted the North American Order Convention this year in July, at Jikoji, a retreat center in the Santa Cruz Mountains, a short distance south of San Francisco. Suvarnaprabha, the SFBC's Director, has sent FWBO News this report -

"We began with a ceremony marking the entry of three new Order Members, Saricitta ("Heart/Mind Like a Waterfall"), Vihanasari ("Thrush at Dawn"), and Danakamala ("Lotus of Generosity") into the Western Buddhist Order. The ceremony was beautifully and jointly led by public preceptors Dhammarati and Dayanandi.

"The Convention was attended by about 25 or so Order Members, who traveled from the far flung corners of the contintent: from Washington State, Vancouver (Canada), Montana, Maine, New Hampshire, Boston, and New York City, plus two from the UK, and the delightful Saddhajoti from Mexico. For 5 days we met, caught up with each other, and focused on meditation, especially practices specific to the Order, such as the Mula Yogas (including the Bodhicitta practice). Khajit also got some of us to give our kesas a much needed wash!

"And at the cultural evening on the last night, we outdid ourselves! We witnessed Karunadakini tranform into a diner waitress falling in love with a logger, and with our own eyes we saw Vajramati and Naganatika's heads on a plates in a fit of hilarious Beckett-esque high drama in the dining room. Not to mention poems and stories, an acapella song, Argentinian guitar, an original blues song, and a cello solo.

"It was beautiful and I felt such a strong connection to the Order, such a strong sense of sangha. Many thanks to Sangharakshita for making that connection possible. May he and his Order thrive for many years to come".


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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Public Ordinations in California

On 27th JULY three Ordinations took place at the start of the North American Order Convention at Jikoji Retreat Center with 28 Order Members present.

Rita Holmes of Aryaloka Buddhist Center becomes: Saricitta (pronounced Sarichittaa; stress falls on the "i" in citta), meaning: she who has a heart/mind like a waterfall (She who has a loving/kind heart/mind overflowing with metta and compassion that is cascading like a waterfall to all beings.

Sandy Bonin of Aryaloka Buddhist Center becomes: Vihanasari (pronounced Vihaanasaari; sress falls on the "a" in sari, meaning: Thrush at the dawn ( Thrush with a beautiful song singing with joy at dawn as the light of the Dharma enters the world. In both cases the Public Preceptor was Dayanandi and the Private Preceptor Dayalocana.

Dino Papavasiliou of Aryaloka Buddhist Center becomes: Danakamala (pronounced Daanakamala. Stress on Daa and ka, meaning: Lotus of Generosity. The Public Preceptor was Dhammarati and the Private Preceptor Vajramati.


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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Forthcoming Ordinations in the US

FWBO News is very pleased to announce the forthcoming Ordinations of two women, Rita Homes and Sandy Bonin, both from the Aryaloka Buddhist Center, New Hampshire USA.

Their Private Ordinations will be on Wednesday 23rd July during a week long Ordination cum Order retreat in California and the Public Ordinations will be at Jikoji Zen Retreat Center on the evening of Sunday 27th July. Their Private Preceptor will be Dayalocana and Dayanandi is the Public Preceptor.


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Saturday, May 10, 2008

In search of a meaningful way of life...

Earth Rising, Heaven Descending’ is the name given by Order Member Suryaprabha to his latest series of five films charting the evolution of the FWBO – and, more generally, of Sangha in the West - over the past 40 years. His ‘Lights in the Sky’ imprint has already given the FWBO some of its evocative images of its’ past, especially through the much-loved ‘History series - or click here for some trailers.

Suryaprabha sees his films as a “search for a meaningful way of life” and, on the eve of the release of the third in the series, he has sent FWBO News this summary of what he's trying to do in the present series. He says –

“THE IDEA was to collect stories from around the world of people who have some connection to the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order and, with some reflection, to come to appreciate this hard to describe ‘spirit’. A five part series has evolved, with Part 5 becoming that original film with four preceding films setting the scene. So the series, after a statement of the ideals and principles goes, in the middle films, fairly deeply into messy worldly existence and (it is predicted) end calmly and contemplatively. People were chosen for variety of lifestyle and environment and only secondarily for their level of ‘practice’. In parts 2 to 4 the social context of their lives is explored, including the balance between personal and public concerns. In the words of Vishvapani, the series maintains a ‘sideways look’ by ‘sitting in’ on conversations rather than employing an ‘authoritarian’ narrator-interviewer approach.

"Part 1 BACKGROUND (42 mins, August ’08 release) recalls an earlier era of the Buddhist transmission to the West when FWBO founder Sangharakshita was befriended and taught in Kalimpong by Indian and Tibetan Buddhist teachers.

Now, three of his disciples undertake a pilgrimage to the Himalayas to connect with their and his spiritual roots.

"Part 2 ONCE FREE (63 mins, now released) is an ironic, tender portrait set in a place (USA) where the ratio of personal persona to public persona is perhaps 9:1. And in a place where bounty or impoverishment are seen as just rewards for an individual’s effort, a handful of Buddhists find ways of ameliorating institutional harshness through work in health, education and prisons: an example of quiet, hopeful lives within a dominant culture.

"Part 3 RECURRING DREAM (64 mins) Set in India, where the ratio of personal persona to public concern is perhaps 1:9. The iconic Dr Ambedkar ensured the Constitution outlawed caste-based discrimination and dreamt of further changes coming through the adoption of Buddhism. 50 years after he and millions of his caste-based followers converted, Hindus still see ‘Old Untouchables’ rather than ‘New Buddhists’. Why? The gains in social welfare and self confidence are indisputable. But prejudice and distrust flare up easily on all sides, amongst even Buddhists. And caste-based marriage, Subhuti argues, ensures the scope of the Dhamma Revolution remains limited. Amongst the many stories, dreams come true at one inter-caste wedding. (June 08 release)

"Part 4 UNTITLED - Set in the middle ground, in societies with a social contract. Here the FWBO is involved in many aspects of mundane life involving a range of folk. But how well can it combine going ‘outwards’ to work with culture / environment / society with the ‘inner’ work on the self? Is it easier or harder to reconcile these given that a cushy life may be spiritually impoverished one?? Stories are set in UK, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Catalonia, Ukraine, Germany and France – many filmed in the speakers’ native languages. (Dec. 08 release)

"Part 5 UNTITLED - an open-minded focus, which hopes to capture that elusive quality of 'spiritual communication'. It's not yet been made; watch this space…"

Any of the above, including the original ‘History’ movies, are available from Suryaprabha’s shop in DVD format.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Wildmind: Waking Up...

Wildmind's on-line meditation newsletter has a new edition out. The theme is

'Waking Up'.

It's what practising the Dharma is all about!

There's articles by Sunada, one of Wildmind's principal teachers; Vimalasara, currently on tour in India; Vajradaka, long-time chairman of Vajraloka (the FWBO's meditation retreat centre in Wales); the multi-facetted Parami; and Suvarnaprabha, Director of the San Franscisco Buddhist Centre - as well as Bodhipaksa himself, Wildmind's founder and director.

Besides their on-line teaching courses and free meditation instruction, Wildmind's site hosts a variety of different blogs - you might like to try Ask Auntie Suvanna for some less serious but still deeply profound advice on meditation and much, much more...

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Families Overnight at Aryaloka

Megrette Fletcher has sent us this report from Aryaloka, the FWBO's snow-bound retreat centre in New Hampshire, USA -

"From Saturday evening to Sunday noontime during the recent school vacation, a small group of children aged 5-11 were formally introduced to the Dharma at the Aryaloka Buddhist Retreat Center. Entering the shrine room, these curious youngsters started to explore the purpose of meditation, different sitting positions, making offerings, and sharing Buddhist stories.

"Each parent had a chance to connect with all of the children, sharing with them how the Dharma has opened the parents' thoughts and hearts. Other activities included visiting outside shrines, yoga, coloring Buddhist images, and reading stories. These were woven into more traditional kid play like coloring, sledding, and sharing a snack. The parents also had a chance to talk with each other about how they would like to share the Buddha's teachings with their children. Parents acknowledge that there isn't any one way to introduce the Dharma to youngsters, but whatever way is used - including incorporating curiosity - creativity and fun are important strategies to include.

"The emphasis on spiritual friendship that is central to the FWBO was also considered when planning this mini-retreat. The overall structure was purposely left flexible in order to encourage the growth and development of free play and connections among the children.

"After the event, each youngster was given an opportunity to offer feedback. The older children were interested in more formal instruction in meditation and more chances to work together. Parents thought a walking meditation with chanting might be good for the younger kids. All the children wanted to return to Aryaloka. When asked why, the answer was an enthusiastic: 'It is just really fun to be here!'"

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Carer's Retreat at Aryaloka, USA

Anastra Madden, from the FWBO’s Aryaloka Buddhist Retreat Center in New Hampshire, USA, has sent FWBO News this report of their recent ‘Caregivers’ Retreat’. There are a number of similar FWBO projects in the UK, some details follow after the Aryaloka report. This is clearly an area where Buddhist meditation techniques - and friendliness - can provide great benefit to many people.

“Members of the Aryaloka community, in collaboration with Seacoast Hospice staff and other healing practitioners from New Hampshire, recently provided a weekend retreat for family and professional caregivers. These individuals were in need of respite from their ongoing work of providing care for individuals living with chronic, life-threatening, or life-limiting illness.

“Aryaloka’s comfortable residential setting surrounded by the quiet of 13 wooded acres provided ideal conditions for the caregivers to be cared for by staff and retreat leaders. Nutritious vegetarian meals plus a "High Tea" topped off the educational/experiential activities that were facilitated by the retreat team and ten volunteer massage, reiki, and yoga practitioners. The weekend was threaded with meditation for relaxation; massage and reiki bodywork; restorative body movement; group processing through art, music, and journaling; exploring the importance of humor; and sharing personal stories with other caregivers. Participants were also given personal binders containing "take home" skills and strategies for self-care and stress management.

“In the short space between Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, the transformation in each participant was breathtaking. They became animated and vibrant, as if new life were poured into them. The feeling throughout the weekend was one of openness and joy, with multiple expressions of kindness, and laughter - much laughter ! As one participant expressed it , "This weekend has been phenomenal...the only word I can think of is seamless...." Participant evaluations confirmed that our goals for the retreat were fulfilled far beyond our original expectations. Also, an unexpected benefit also emerged : the atmosphere of total, unconditional care created for the participants spread back to the team, and facilitators also became participants!”

Sadhu, Aryaloka!

In the UK, several centres have been running weekends and other events for carers for some years. The Brighton Buddhist Centre runs the ‘Carer’s Breaks’ project; the London Buddhist Centre are converting their basement to house their major ‘Breathing Space’ project; which will host events for carers, plus mediation for depression, addiction, and stress. Manchester is home to the FWBO’s popular and successful pain management programme ‘Breathworks’, and earlier this month the UK’s Guardian newspaper ran an article exploring the LBC’s retreats for carers – click here to read it.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Celebrating Wildmind

We'd like to celebrate Wildmind. It describes itself as “online guide to meditation”. That sounds very simple – but actually, it’s much more than that...

If you dig a bit deeper into their extensive website you’ll find they go on to say “Our mission is to benefit the world by promoting awareness and compassion through the practice of Buddhist meditation”. Wildmind is a huge resource for anyone with an interest in contemporary Buddhist meditation, specifically as practiced and taught by the FWBO. Created by Bodhipaksa, a member of the Western Buddhist Order, in the year 2000, it is run by him and a small team out of their offices in Newmarket, New Hampshire.

There’s jewels scattered throughout their site, and FWBO News would like to highlight just three of these – as well as let you know one way you can support them.

First is their wonderful series of ‘Quotes of the Month’ – this month’s being Esther Lederer’s “Hanging onto resentment is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head.”

Second is the Wildmind Newsletter, just reaching its fifth anniversary - a treasure trove of insight, teaching, and tit-bits…! You can subscribe and have it delivered monthly to your inbox, or browse their extensive archives.

Third is their archive of over 2000 meditation-related news stories from around the world – fully searchable of course. A one-stop-shop which, in effect, catalogues how meditation is influencing more and more people’s lives across the Westen world.

If you’d like to get involved, besides the obvious possibility of taking one of their courses, they have an active translation program, and already have most of the site available in five languages besides English – Chinese, Spanish, French, Russian, and Polish.

Next comes Portuguese, already part-completed - but they would welcome your donations to assist them in this, and also extending the Chinese section of the site.


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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Three ordinations in Berlin and America

In the course of a women's Going for Refuge retreat amidst the pine forests at Vimaladhatu retreat centre, on Thursday 4th October, MARLENE ELTSCHIG from Berlin was ordained and given the name DHARMADAKINI (meaning 'Dakini of the Dharma') by her private preceptor Prasadavati. Padmasuri was the public preceptor.

The public ceremony took place on a glorious autumnal day, and, in addition to sangha friends - some of whom had travelled for many hours to attend - her father, her partner and their 4-year old son joined in the celebrations.

Just before that, on Saturday, September 29, two public ordinations took place at Aryaloka Buddhist Center in Newmarket, New Hampshire, USA.

Buddy Vaughan became ARJAVA (Aarjava), which is a Sanskrit name meaning direct, sincere, truthful, straight toward a goal, as an arrow in flight.

Dave Carr became BODHANA (no diacritics), a Sanskrit name meaning causing to awaken, arousing (as from sleep), bringing to fullness (as a flower to blossom).

Nagabodhi was Public Preceptor for both and Vidhuma the Private Preceptor.

Peace and good wishes.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ordination at Aryaloka

On June 24 at Aryaloka, in front of a large crowd of friends, family, and Order members, Marilyn Dyer was ordained into the Western Buddhist Order as Viriyagita, "Song of energy in pursuit of the good." Her private preceptor was Sanghadevi and the ceremony was conducted by her public preceptor Parami.

Viriyagita currently lives with her husband Kevin in Cape Neddick, Maine and works as a nurse with intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals. She has a son, Sean, from a previous marriage, who lives in Seattle with his wife and three children. In 1985 Viriyagita started practicing Buddhism with a Tibetan sangha in Vermont. In 1986 she encountered the FWBO and was particularly drawn to Sangharakshita's clear exposition of the Dharma, the emphasis on the primacy of Going for Refuge, and the practice of spiritual friendship.

Viriyagita started out by attending several retreats as well as the regulars' class, which was very small at the time. Very early on in her involvement she made a trip to the UK to have a broader experience of the FWBO. She eventually became a mitra, started the first women's community at Aryaloka, and requested ordination into the WBO. She attended several more retreats in the UK and Scotland, one of which was a month-long Going for Refuge retreat.

In 1995 she was ordained along with Varasuri of Montana and Dayalocana of Aryaloka. A little over one year later she left the Order to pursue another spiritual path (Sufi). Within a short period of time she realized that no matter how much spiritual beauty and similarity of practice existed in this other tradition, she was at heart a Buddhist. She returned to Aryaloka, never really having lost contact with her spiritual friends and her private preceptor, Sanghadevi.

After many years of living with the aspiration to rejoin the Order, she made that request in June of 2005 and on June 24, 2007 she was given back her original Order name of Viriyagita.

The photo shows Viriyagita (right) with Dayalocana, current Chair of Aryaloka, with whom she was originally ordained in 1995.


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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Jambudvipa team visits America

Jambudvipa is an FWBO/TBMSG project based in Pune, India, which - among other things - aims to internationalise the plight of India's vast ex-untouchable 'Dalit' community, from which come most of India's new Buddhists. Besides this they play a crucial role in disaster relief work with this community (see for example the report on their work after the Tsunami) - at such times India's age-old caste system rears its head with full force.

Mangesh Dahiwale, Jambudvipa's publicity officer, recently sent us this report on their recent - and ground-breaking - trip to the USA:

"As a part of Jambudvipa's vision to reach out to the world community and transcend barriers, and to generate international support for peaceful social revolution that Dr. Ambedkar launched, a visit to US was planned.

"Maitreyanath and Mangesh Dahiwale visited US during April 19-May 28, 2007. In the span of over 35 days, they moved from one city to another to give talks on evils of caste system in India, Dr. Ambedkar, revival of Buddhism in India and work of TBMSG. This visit was aimed at dissemination of information, raise support for the revival of Buddhism in India and develop alliances.

"During this visit, people from all different background co-operated, which included followers of Dr. Ambedkar living in US, social activists, academicians, black activists and Order Members of FWBO/TBMSG."

In the short time they were there they managed to meet a remarkable range of individuals and groups - from Tricycle Buddhist magazine and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship to the US State Department and five different universities and colleges, plus of course several FWBO centres, criss-crossing the country beween San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Cincinnati, San Diego, Washington, Indianapolis and elsewhere.

There are encouraging signs that caste prejudice and discrimination is increasingly being seen internationally not simply as an Indian social issue but a gross violation of human rights - see, for instance, recent references to this both in the UK's House of Commons and House of Lords where the UK Government minister is quoted as saying "My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord and with the Prime Minister of India —[Untouchability] is indeed a blot on humanity. Discrimination on the basis of caste identity constrains the human rights, livelihoods and life chances of millions of men, women and children. It is a systematic injustice and a routine violation of the most basic human rights..."

We are proud that the FWBO and TBMSG is able to play a part in making this more widely known and indeed in eradicating it.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

FWBO Aryaloka

Aryaloka mitras off to be ordained into the WBONews from Dayalocana, Chair, Aryaloka Buddhist Retreat Center, Newmarket, NH, USA

At Aryaloka we have the good fortune this spring to send our good wishes with three mitras as they go forth to be ordained into the WBO. Bill Horton (centre) from Maine will be leaving in late March for a four-month ordination retreat in Spain at Guhyaloka, an ordination retreat center for men. Leonie Luterman (left) from Massachusetts follows a few weeks later to attend a three-month retreat, also in Spain, at Akashavana, the ordination retreat center for women. Marilyn Dyer (right) from Maine will be ordained in June right here at Aryaloka where the first ordinations in America were conducted by Sangharakshita in 1993.

Our good wishes go with all of them, and to all those who will join them, as they dedicate their lives to the Three Jewels.

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