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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Thought for the Day with Vishvapani - tomorrow

FWBO News readers are invited to tune in to BBC Radio 4 tomorrow (Weds 1 July) for another instalment of Vishvapani's 'Thought for the Day'.

He will be on at 7.50am, perhaps a couple of minutes earlier, on the very popular Today programme. The talk will be available soon after that on the BBC website:; and if you want more; there'll be another chance on the morning of Fri 17 July.

In addition, all previous contributions are available here.

The Today programme is one of the BBC's most-listened-to programmes, with a daily audience of over 5 million people. His previous contribution, in the wake of the UK's parliamentary expenses scandal, began "Perhaps it's the end of the culture of deference…"

Vishvapani's website is at

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Events in Mumbai: reflections by Vishvapani

“Compassion requires the courage to face suffering steadily with an open, kindly heart. That brings understanding, and that rouses us to action. The intended product of terrorism, by contrast, is 'terror'. Declaring a 'war' on that terror won't show the way out of cycles of violence and reprisal. We can only find a path beyond terror by facing it directly.”

To all afflicted by suffering we would add, in the words of Shantideva –

“May all sentient beings possess happiness
And the causes of happiness;
May they be separated from suffering,
And the causes of suffering;

May they never be separated
From the happiness that knows no suffering;
May they abide in equanimity,
Free from attachment and aversion”.

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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Ambedkar Day in north London - coming up soon...

An early portrait of Dr. Ambedkar, probably taken in the 1940sThe second annual Ambedkar Day at the FWBO’s North London Buddhist Centre is coming up on Saturday 13th September 2008,.

It’s been created to celebrate the life, work, and legacy of Dr. Ambedkar, who died in 1956 but is still the inspiration to millions upon millions of India’s new Buddhists. More than almost anyone else, he demonstrated the need for Dhamma practice to address both the individual and the world – inspiring Sangharakshita, and though him, the whole FWBO/TBMSG with this vision.

It’s looking to be a rich and full day, running from 10 am – 10 pm, offering a feast of events and information put on by a wide variety of groups, both FWBO and other. There’ll be talks by Vishvapani on ‘Indian Buddhism now’ and Tejadarshan on Ambedkar’s Dhamma Revolution; a display by the Dalit Solidarity Network on their campaign against manual scavenging (still endemic in India) two showings of ‘Recurring Dreams’ (Suryaprabha’s new film on TBMSG and Indian Dhamma. There’ll be a selection of workshops and presentations, including Saul Deason will be reporting on his recent visits to India and to followers of Dr. Ambedkar in Hungary. There’ll be Bollywood Dance by Ramesh; Hindi chanting, and DVDs and books on Caste on sale in the foyer – and even, for those needing a bit of peace and quiet, meditation workshops!

It’s been timed to coincide with the local borough Islington’s InterFaith Peace Week and local councillors are expected to attend.

Saul Deason, the organiser, describes his mission being “to encourage active support for Ambedkarite projects and to broaden the support for them among Buddhists and others”.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Wheels Turning in Sarnath

Each of the pilgrimage places associated with the life of the Buddha has its own atmosphere. Bodh Gaya, where the Buddha gained enlightenment, is a vibrant focus for practice and devotion for Buddhists from around the world; Vultures Peak, the site of many important discourses, remains a remote and beautiful spot; and Sarnath, where he first shared his teaching, has an atmosphere of quiet concentration. Several ancient stupas mark the spots where his former disciples first saw him approaching; where he gave his first discourse; and where he later taught others who had come from the nearby Hindu holy city of Varanasi.

Across the road from the main site and set back a little is land belonging to the FWBO/TBMSG. To date, only a small building has been erected on here, but it hasn’t been unused and plans are afoot to create an international study centre. There’s another, separately administered, plot of land in Bodh Gaya.

On February 3rd Vishvapani gave a talk on the land on ‘The Unity of Buddhism’, which was attended by around fifty people. Most were dalit followers of Dr Ambedkar, tens of thousand of whom became Buddhists in the 1960s. However, there has been little follow-up in the following years, despite the presence of many Buddhist teachers in Sarnath. Two years ago Dhammachari Shantighosha moved from Pune (in the TBMSG heartland, many miles to the south) to look after the land and work with local Buddhists. The people attending Vishvapani’s talk had gathered as a result of Shantighosha’s work, and over the next three days Vishvapani and Kamalagita led a retreat for ten local dhamma-mitras.

Vishvapani reports: ‘I was very impressed by their appreciation of Shantighosha and by their enthusiasm for he Dharma. Asit, one of the mitras on the retreat, collects scrap metal, and whenever he visits a locality he gathers people around and he tells them whatever he has just learned about Dr Ambedkar and Buddhism.’

The retreat came at the end of a pilgrimage in which Vishvapani, Kamalagita, Vidyadaka and Phil Daley were taken around the Buddhist holy places by Manidhamma and his wife, Samantha. Manidhamma has recently returned to India after six years study and training in the UK, and the pilgrimage benefited from his deep knowledge of the Buddha’s life and considerable experience of pilgrimages. He plans to lead many more in the coming years.

Manidhamma is working with Manidhamma is working with the Dhammaloka Trust, which intends to develop the Sarnath study centre. Their ambitious plans include a pilgrim’s guest house, a shrine room and an library and study centre that will host courses and retreats for people around the world. He also hopes to develop contacts between Sarnath’s cosmopolitan Buddhist community and the local Ambedkarite Buddhists.

The project has Sangharakshita’s blessing, but it will depend on donations from outside India. If you would like to learn more about the project or help support it, contact The Dhammaloka Trust.

Text by Vishvapani

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

More Buddhists on the radio...

Kavyasiddhi is presenting five night-time Pause for Thoughts which will go out on BBC Radio 2 this week Monday – Friday, beginning November 26th.

She says "If anyone wants to hear my latest two minute dharma talks for non-Buddhist shift workers & insomniacs, I invite you to tune to the Janice Long Show at 1.30 and 3.30am - yes, that is the middle of the night, ie very, very early a.m!"

If you don't get up in time you can listen to her again by clicking here and then selecting the day of the week.

Vishvapani is doing BBC Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’ on the Tuesday 27th November, and the following two Tuesdays ie Dec 4 & 11 , all
at 7.50 am. Listen to him again here.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Mindfulness for everything?

Click here to read Vishvapani’s survey of the growing field of mindfulness-based therapies and the place of the FWBO therein.

He sets the scene by saying “The faculty of mindfulness—broadly defined as non-judgmental present-moment awareness—has always been a key element of the Buddhist path; and in recent years psychologists and healthcare professionals have been recognizing its value for people experiencing conditions ranging from stress and depression to addiction, chronic pain and ill health. A natural crossover exists between this growing medical interest in mindfulness and the skills that FWBO meditators and teachers have developed in their years of practice.”

And he asks – “So how are people from the FWBO engaging with MBTs, and what issues are emerging as they do so?”

A fascinating and inspiring read – one of the many facets of the great adventure that is the Dharma coming to the West.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

FWBO Discussion website launched

A new website, 'FWBO Discussion' (, has recently been launched. Building on work done by Vishvapani, it’s a collection of articles by members of the Order, with the aim of presenting some of its more internal reflections and discussions, plus various accounts of the main changes in the FWBO and Order over the past decade or so. Vishvapani introduces the site by saying "The Friends of the Western Buddhist Order is a diverse and thoughtful community, whose members frequently debate matters of teaching and issues affecting the FWBO, its history and its future. This debate has often been invisible to non-members, and this site aims to open that debate and reflection to a wider audience."

The site is divided into various sections – ‘The Order’, ‘Changes’, ‘Controversy’, ‘Sangharakshita’, ‘Gender’, and ‘Academic’ (a bibliography of academic articles on us).

Lokabandhu, the current editor of the site, says "I'm very pleased with it, I think it’d be impossible to read it and not conclude that we (the FWBO) is a serious, open-minded, self-aware buddhist community with genuine independence of mind and interest in the truth. Comments welcome of course! I'd like to add to it, so if you have any suggestions please let me know."

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Two regular guests on BBC Radio...

FWBO News has come to learn that two members of the Western Buddhist Order are regular guests on BBC Radio.

Nagaraja from the Glasgow Buddhist Centre is a long-standing regular on the ‘Pause for Thought’ slot on the Terry Wogan show. You can listen to his latest reflections (arising from his 46th birthday), broadcast this week, by clicking
here for the transcript or here for the audio.

You can hear Vishvapani, also a regular contributor, on Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’, part of the peak-time ‘Today’ program, by clicking here for the last episode, or here for the archives.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

FWBO Authors

Tricyle Cover ImageYou might want to read the Summer 2007 edition of Tricycle magazine which features three FWBO Authors. Bodhipaksa's exposition on the six-element practice is an "editors pick" and therefore on the website. He introduces the practice which he describes as both highly analytical, and intensely poetic. Vishvapani who is becoming a regular in Tricycle wonders whether our new Buddhists in India hold the key to ending Sri Lanka's decades-long civil war. And finally Montreal based mitra Vanessa Sasson writes about conflict and the images we have of foreigners. The articles by Vanessa and Vishvapani are only available online to subscribers.

The issue also includes an article about Michael Dillon who was possibly the first person in the UK to have gender reassignment surgey from female to male. He studied medicine and became a medical doctor. Seeking to escape the glare of publicity Michael fled to India with the intention of becoming a Buddhist Monk. He headed for a monastery in Kalimpong run by an Englishman known as Sangharakshita who gave him the Buddhist name Jivaka. Jivaka lived with Sangharakshita for a time and acted as his secretary. He actively opposed Dillon's ordination on the basis that he was born female and was therefore not eligible. Jivaka died in India in 1962.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Death of Maha Ghosananda

Maha Ghosananda The Guardian Newspaper recently published an obituary written by Vishvapani for Maha Ghosananda the Cambodian Buddhist leader and peace activist.

He was a leading figure in the revival of Buddhism in Cambodia following the period of the Khmer Rouge killing fields. Vishvapani comments, 'I approached The Guardian about writing obituaries of Buddhist figures just before Maha Ghosananda died. I knew a little about his work and his reputation as a very saintly and compassionate man, but I was moved to learn more in writing this piece. He deserves to be as well known as figures like Thich Nhat Hanh, but he never taught in the West and wasn't a writer.'

Maha Ghosananda was also the spiritual head of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists

article on Dr Ambedkar and recent dalit conversions to Buddhism is published in the most recent issue of Tricycle magazine. An article on Buddhism in Tamil Nadu will be in the next issue. He will be broadcasting on BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day on Wednesday 11 April at 07.45, and will be doing three more broadcasts on 2, 9 and 16 June.

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