Rohan Chahande, a mitra from Nagpur, writes with news of the second annual Children’s Retreat run by TBMSG’s ‘Little Buddha Children Club’ - plus an update on their plans for 2010.
He says - “I am sending report of Little Buddha Children’s Club for publishing on FWBO/TBMSG news site.
“Over the Xmas period we held our second annual retreat for children from all over Nagpur. Over a hundred participated in this three-day event held at Nagaloka. They enjoyed Puja, meditation, play, songs, yoga, Karate, painting & games. On the last day children performed in groups and individually. We showed a movie on the life of the Buddha, which the children enjoyed very much - and wished to watch similar movies in future. We also conducted a workshop for parents; they wished to help LBCC and asked to have more programmes for children and parents this year.
“We ended with a resolution to develop more Friendship in 2010 - this was voted to be the main theme for Little Buddha Children’s Club activities in this New Year. This will inspire us therefore to reach more children in Nagpur’s rural areas and slum areas in other cities.
“We have been organizing activities for children throughout the year and now we have centres in Pune (Western India) and Varodaya in Gujarat (North India). In fact more than a thousand children are members of LBCC and we are still growing.
Vajragupta, from the FWBO's Development Team, writes with news of the second International FWBO retreat - and an invitation to you all...
He says -
"I'm being cheeky and writing to everyone I can think of, to invite you to take part in the second FWBO International Retreat. It'll run from Friday 28th May to Tuesday 1st June 2010.
"400 of you attended the first retreat in 2008 and the feedback from the event was tremendously positive: people loved the opportunity to hear talks and be taught by some of our most experienced teachers, they loved taking part in large, magical rituals, and they loved taking part in the teamwork organised by Buddhafield to help keep the event running smoothly.
"This year the retreat will again be held at Taraloka, it will be suitable for people of all levels of involvement in the FWBO, it will be family-friendly, and there will be groups of people coming from FWBO Centres across Europe. It will be another great opportunity to be inspired by the sangha gathering in large numbers.
"We learnt a lot about the practicalities of running the event last time - we are teaming up with Buddhafield and Taraloka again - and this time and it will be even better!
"The retreat starts on the full-moon night of Wesak; so this is our chance for a big, collective celebration of the Buddha’s Enlightenment in the FWBO this year. The theme will be “Turning Arrows into Flowers” – looking at the story of the Buddha’s transformation of Mara’s arrows into flowers. We’ll also be exploring the equivalent of that for us today – the transformation of our own selves and our world.
"More details can also be found on the website, which is now live.
"If you want to book (and we'd encourage you to book early), there are three ways to book: posting us the booking form in the brochure (which you should find at all FWBO Centres), or by downloading it from the website and sending it by post, or by booking directly on-line using pay-pal.
FWBO News brings you two stories today from India, both about children.
Prompted by our September story of the London Buddhist Centre’s ‘Buddhist Sunday School’, Amitayus writes from Amaravati telling of their long-standing children's activities there ; and in the larger central India city of Nagpur Tejadhamma has been bringing together children and animated Dharma: surely a winning combination!
He says - “I recently showed the animated movie on Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha’s life to 50-60 children at Nagpur. Many children and parents appreciated the movie and some of the children expressed that they have watched the animated movie of Krishna, Hanuman, Ganesh and other Hindu god/goddesses on TV or cable channels but this was their first opportunity to see a Buddhist animated movie which was so inspiring and they liked it to watch and practice like the Buddhist great people.
“I have seen in many cities in India that the children are spending lots of time watching TV channels but they are not getting any Buddhist culture through the animated movies shown on TV. I realised they need to be shown attractive ways to learn some Buddhist teaching, which is very valuable for human life. I have found that if we talk about what Buddha said, children neglect to listen, so when I was discussing with my colleague about children’s activities and the Buddhist culture for the next generation; we found that animated movies on Buddhism would be an easy way to communicate the teachings and this was our first attempt to show the movie on big screen by projector which was so appreciated and helpful .’
‘We would like this to show in every Buddha Vihar in Nagpur and the Buddhist centres in India. But this animated movie is in Chinese language; when we showed it, it was translated in Hindi by myself on microphone.
“Now we need to translate in Hindi and make more copies of it. To make this a success I am trying to get an expert translator and raising some funds for screen and projector, making/copying more DVDs with Hindi translation, voice experts to add the Hindi language, animation worker’s expenses, studio charges etc.’ I would be so delighted to see some interested people in this project who can help financially and through their personal contribution. They can contact me on my email firstname.lastname@example.org
Over in Amaravati, Amitayus writes with news of their Buddhist children’s activities. He says -
“To the editor FWBO-TBMSG news, Jaibhim!
“We are happy to know that the London Buddhist Centre has started a Buddhist Sunday school focusing on children and their development. I heartily appreciate the activities the LBC team are arranging especially the stories and crafts which are the very effective way of nurturing the child’s mind. Also it is great to have the Little Buddha Children’s Club at Nagpur.
“We want to let you know that we at TBMSG Amravati in central India have a history of running successful children’s classes since 1994. The outcome of these are that we had many young men and women from that becoming Dhammamitras and many are now working for TBMSG in various places. They strongly appreciate how these children’s activities have helped them to understand Buddhism and meditation, and how the ethical practices of Buddhism have helped them to develop their personality.
"It is also prideful for us that we have regular Children’s classes in many slums around Amaravati, places like Mahadeo Khori, Panchashil Nagar, and the village Anjangao Bari.
"This class especially has become known to many people in India because the villagers boycotted the local school when it admitted 22 HIV positive children. At that time our Sukhavati women’s and children empowerment project (funded by Karuna Trust UK) successfully intervened in the issue and initiated a children’s class in this village too.
"Altogether it is clear to us that in all the FWBO –TBMSG there are INCREASING children’s projects which are not known to all Sangha members. We are happy to inform you of our activities in Amaravati. I hope you will publish the same through FWBO –TBMSG NEWS , all the news on FWBO-TBMSG is inspiring and experience the sangha success.
Jnanacandra, Chair of the FWBO's Centre in Essen, Germany, writes -
"On May 1st four teenagers celebrated an important day in their lives at the Essen Buddhist Centre. In the company of family and many friends they celebrated the fact that they had left childhood behind them and were now embarking on the exciting and challenging path to adulthood.
"This was the second time that such a rite of passage was held at an fwbo Centre. Prasadavati led the ritual very beautifully and reminded both the teenagers and the parents of the deeper meaning of this step.
"Both the parents and adolescents ritually invoked the powerful forces involved in the process of growing up. They remembered the good times that they had spent together and expressed their mutual gratitude, appreciation and respect by bowing to each other and exchanging a symbolic gift.
Then the parents enacted the process of letting go by cutting off a strand of their children‘s hair which they later cast into a river. For the adolescents this also symbolized their growing independence of their parents - and Prasadavati reminded them of the fact that growing freedom also entails growing responsibility. Finally each of the teenagers listened to a moving „rejoicing in merits“ that reminded them of the many wonderful qualities that each of them possesses and encouraged them to make the best use of them.
"Two professional musicians, the grandparents of one of the girls, played wonderful music on cello and german flute - this helped create a very special and moving atmosphere around the ritual. The pieces they had chosen conveyed the distinct flavour of the different phases of the ceremony. The ritual ended with the singing of the blessings and a loud and heartfelt threefold „sadhu“ from all present.
"Dana, Derya, Gina and Ella are all 13 or 14 years old and daughters of members of the Essen Sangha. They themselves don‘t necessarily consider themselves buddhist and the ceremony didn‘t involve any commitment to buddhism on their side – but it certainly reflected buddhist values like gratitude, respect, appreciation, personal responsibility and the possibilities of conscious development.
"Many of the buddhist and non-buddhist guests present expressed their appreciation of this event. Any centre that might be interested in offering their young people such a rite of passage is very welcome to contact Jnanacandra at the Essen Buddhist Centre for details: email@example.com.
Nagaketu writes from Nagpur, TBMSG's largest centre in India, with news of a new project. He says -
"The Little Buddha Children Club (LBCC) is a new project of Dhammakranti and TBMSG. It was launched in December last year when Dhammachari Subhuti inaugurated it.
It is a club for children in Nagpur and already we have a branch in Vadodara in Gujerat. So far we have four hundred members and are still growing.
In this modern age to educate children is a very big responsibility, we have to teach them human values and provide them with positive conditioning. This is our one of our aims while forming the children's club. Through games, stories, plays, songs and information we try to help them develop their confidence, concentration, sensitivity for others and friendship. We work with children through small retreats, workshops and celebrating Buddhist festivals.
"Recently we celebrated with them Dr. Ambedkar's birthday. On 14 April at around 7.30 in the morning nearly a hundred children and the same number of parents, mitras and order members gathered at the Dikshabhoomi (the 'Ground of Conversion') in Nagpur to pay homage to Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and celebrate his 118th Birth Anniversary in a fitting style. At the beginning we chanted the refuges and precepts in front of Dr. Ambedkar’s statue and then walked nearly two kilometres around the Dikshabhoomi. It was a peace march, children and parents were holding flags on which were written Dr. Ambedkar's thoughts.
"We ended a programme with a song about Babasaheb by one of the members of the Little Buddha Children Club and then Ritayus spoke about Dr. Ambedkar's life followed by Mrs. Shubhangi Wanik.
"Nagaketu conducted the programme and at the end gave information about forthcoming Little Buddha Programmes, we ended with some snakes [possible typo here - though maybe not? - who knows? - ed] and ice cream".
The Karuna Trust, an FWBO charity working with marginalised communities in South Asia, has been running door to door fundraising appeals for nearly 30 years. Hundreds of people from the FWBO sangha have recruited thousands of UK householders who give £1.1million to Karuna each year.
Jo Goldsmid from Karuna says:
“According to research, a lot of our current supporters would be happy to give more; we just need to ask them. So that’s what we are going to do! We will be running a telephone fundraising campaign this summer from our office in London. This means we will be phoning hundreds of our loyal supporters and asking them to give a bit more. We will run the appeal in the same spirit as our door-to-door appeals: as an opportunity to deepen awareness of ourselves and our communication with others, with a strong sense of team. So each day before beginning phoning we will meet at the Karuna office, share our experience and then eat an early dinner together. Each evening will come to a close with a rejoicing in merits.
Telephone fundraising has a lot in common with door-to-door fundraising; it develops your communication skills and you can end up having some very meaningful conversations with people. It’s possible to raise even more money than you would knocking on people’s doors, so this means we will be able to reach out to even more vulnerable children, women and men across South Asia.
So if you live in London, are available on weekday evenings between 1st June and 11th July and would like to contribute, we’d love to hear from you! Full training will be given and financial support can be negotiated.”
The photographs show two girls, Maya and Mandodhri, going to work in the brick kiln at dawn…and later on their way to their Karuna-funded school. Education helps people more than anything else to take control of their lives and break out of the poverty cycle.
What would the Buddha have said if he'd known schools would be studying his life 2,500 years later - using online interactive media?
The ‘Life of the Buddha Interactive’ is an exciting new resource for 8-12 year-olds in Religious Education.
Clear Vision, the FWBO’s educational charity based in Manchester UK, have a reputation for lively, informative, video-based materials for Buddhism in RE. With their first interactive resource, they've become possibly the UK's first faith group to embrace the new opportunities offered by online learning in RE.
The Life of the Buddha Interactive features 7 video clips with questions, activities, extra information, teacher's notes and a friendly help-lion called Bodhi. (See if you recognise his voice!) Later in the year a home-use version will be available – there’s already a sample section available here.
Munisha, education officer at Clear Vision told FWBO News - "It's very exciting finding new ways of stimulating young people to examine their experience in the light of the Buddha's teaching. These new materials are really distinctive: we believe that new kinds of activities, involving carefully guided use of the internet, can offer schools unprecedented access to the contemporary Buddhist world."
The move from DVD to interactive online materials has been made possible through the generosity of a Manchester Friend who specialises in Flash software.
The FWBO’s Buddhafield project has been running retreats and festivals for over 15 years now, with around a dozen retreats of all shapes and sizes offered every year – but all in fields, and mostly in the West Country of England.
Their largest has always been the annual ‘Child-Friendly’ retreat, which aims to be exactly what it says – friendly to children (and parents and all, of course!) This year’s was the largest-ever, with some 250 people attending – including, of course, lots and lots of children! It was the second time they’d held the retreat on their new land at Frog Mill, 18 beautiful acres in the Dartmoor National Park.
It being Devon, and the British summer, they knew the weather was always going to be uncertain – but they’d never had such a downpour as they did on the first days of the retreat! Devapriya, its leader, had his caravan on site and reported the land around him became a lake, a lake so deep that it flooded over the tops of people’s Wellington boots!
He went on to say the children hardly seemed to notice anything was wrong – “yippee, it’s a flood”, they said, and off they went paddling but that it was more challenging for the team and many of the less experienced campers - but they rapidly regrouped and got on with it. The ‘tea tent’ and kids areas were also totally flooded, as were many individual people’s tents. Padmapani, one of the meditation teachers, returned to find his airbed FLOATING inside his tent – by great good fortune his cameras and a selection of hand-painted Tibetan thankhas has been left on TOP of the bed and survived! Happily the shrine room itself was not flooded and Devapriya also reported they’d never had such high attendance at the meditations!
With a month of the Buddhafield retreat season still to go they are hoping for better weather in September. If you fancy a retreat who not consider coming – and, if you don't want to chance the weather, check the FWBO website www.goingonretreat.com which carries details of all FWBO retreats in the UK.
The FWBO’s largest event outside India is the annual Buddhafield Festival, now in its 13th year and going strong. From 350 in 1996 it’s grown to around 2,500 people – small enough to retain the intimacy that’s one of its hallmarks, yet large enough to contain an extraordinary diversity of, well, everything!!!
This year they’re moving to a beautiful new site just a few miles from the old one on the Devon-Somerset border. They’ve written to FWBO News to say –“The new site is secluded and peaceful, away from roads, with coppice woodland, and plenty of space. We’ve been hard at work preparing for this year’s Festival – and it’s coming up soon! We warmly invite you to join us – and please do tell your friends. It’s a great way for them to meet a bunch of Buddhists and get a taste of what we’re about”.
Here is a sneak preview of some of this year's programme (all included in the ticket price!!):
Kids Area: AMAZING and varied range of activities for kids - trampolines, dressing up, carnival processing, crafts, bushcraft and nature awareness, storytelling, toddlers' space, daily theatre extravaganza; Teens Space.
Bands: Gadjo Club (superb Gypsy Balkan Jazz); Seize the Day (protest folk stalwarts); Green Angels (upbeat Breton dance); Vogue Gyratory (Brighton faves, 7 piece funk-reggae); Manjinga 7; Toggy Mess (upbeat Irish folk); Manos Puestas (super-spicy flamenco jazz); a variety of fantastic DJs, including Matt Black of Coldcut (Thurs pm), followed by Cinema
Poetry and art: Inter-Ference; open mike poetry evening; Poetry Slam; 'The Big Q' play written specially for Buddhafield!; The Buddhafield 'Artery'; carnival costume-making from found natural materials; creativity and poetry-writing; Mr Be, mime, clown and family show; Stilted butterfly walkabout; Marionettas giant puppets.
.Dharma Parlour and meditation: talks and discussions on Buddhism, speakers from the Western Buddhist Order and other traditions, including Christopher Titmuss. Meditation teaching from FWBO teachers and others. Ceremonies and devotional practice. Network of Engaged Buddhists; Amida Trust, and others.
Workshops: MASSES of all-day yoga, Tai Chi and Chi Gung. Healing Area, great range of alternative therapies, pay by donation. Dozens of workshops to die for, including Ecstatic Dance with Jewls; 5 Rhythms with Jo Hardy; Brazilian Forro; Indian Classical Dance with yoga/visualisation; Shamanic Trance Dance with Zilia; many more dance workshops; 'Soulful Singing' with Mahasukha; 'Voice as Sacred Instrument'; Tibetan singing bowls; tin whistle, bodhran, drumming; daily Buddhafield Community Rhythm event; 'Work that Reconnects'; Transition Towns; big debate on Climate; Palestine Peace Campaign; Non-violent Communication; Skilful Flirting; Heart-to-Heart tantric workshops; Green babycare on a budget; Shamanic Journeying from Northern Drum….
Special Spaces: the 12 Step Dome; Women's Space; Land and Permaculture; Radical Midwives Space for pregnant women and new mothers; Queer Spirit Space; Crafts Area; Wildheart Medicine Wheel Space; Dzogchen and Big Mind teachings; bushcraft; tracking; fire making; sky-gazing meditation.
Saunas including Lost Horizon, featuring chillout space and cabaret; cafes including the Buddhafield Café with strolling musicians. And last but not least, wood-fired showers and compost toilets; all power on site from the sun and wind.
The 2008 Festival runs from Weds 16th to Sun 20th July. The site has good public transport links; nearest train and coach station is Taunton (direct trains from many towns); there are a couple of local buses each day from Taunton direct to the site. There's also special festival mini-buses going direct to the site and back from Bristol, Brighton and London. See the Buddhafield Festival website for details. Don't be put off by the rather severe website by the way - look at the pictures to get a sense of what it's really like!
But PS - don't forget to book soon! See you there! ;-)
'Buddha at Bedtime' is a new book written by Nagaraja, a member of the Western Buddhist Order living in Glasgow, Scotland. It's sub-titled "Tales of Love and Wisdom for You to Read with Your Child to Enchant, Enlighten, and Inspire".
Nagaraja goes on to say "Growing up in the modern world, our children have to cope with an ever-increasing amount of stress, which can have a negative impact on their development. The ancient wisdom of Buddhism, with its emphasis on peace, mindfulness and compassion, is the ideal basis for helping any child to face these challenges with inner confidence and calm. Building on the age-old art of storytelling, this beautiful book re-tells 20 ancient Buddhist tales in a way that is thoroughly fun and accessible to children.
"Featuring superb, full-page illustrations the stories will transport children into an imaginary world of enlightenment and discovery where they will meet delightful characters and discover an easy-to-understand Buddhist message, which will help them think about how they can apply values such as patience, perseverance, honesty and generosity to their own lives. Designed to either be read aloud by parents or by children on their own, these compelling narratives focus the mind and provide a soothing transition into sleep."
This is Nagaraja's first book - he's probably better-known to FWBO News' readers for his long-standing appearances on Terry Wogan's 'Pause for Thought' slots on BBC Radio Two.
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!'"
Here's a short update on arrangements for the upcoming FWBO International Retreat - May 22-26th, at Taraloka, in Shropshire, UK. Vajragupta, the main organiser, has sent FWBO News this report -
"The bookings for the FWBO International Retreat are now flowing in. We’ve just booked the local village hall in order to be able to provide more accomodation, and we’ve also heard that one group are going to arrive by barge, and moor it on the canalside near to Taraloka!
The programme is continuing to come together with talks, groups, workshops, and rituals led by Dhammarati, Kamalasila, Padmavajra, Parami, Maitreyi, Ratnadharini, Ratnaguna, Sona, Vessantara, and Vidyamala - with more to be announced nearer the time…
Children most welcome! There will also be facilities for children and families, and special facilities for those travelling from beyond the UK.
The event is sure to be an inspiration for someone on his or her first retreat. Likewise, for those who’ve already been on many retreats, this will be a great opportunity to experience the magic of practising together in large numbers and to experience the greater FWBO Sangha.
Translations and non-UK Visitors We’ll be able to provide some simple translation facilities for those who don’t speak English. During the big talks we will have headphones on which people will be able to listen to simultaneous translations in Dutch, German, Spanish, and possibly other European languages (depending on the numbers in each language group).
Some of the study groups and workshops will also be run in two languages e.g. English and German, or English and Spanish. So, although this means that non-English speakers will have less of a choice of groups and activities to attend, there will always be at least be one group in their language.
Rituals will mainly be in English, but we will be bearing non-English speakers in mind, and will sometimes have sections in other languages. Hearing the Dharma in many languages during rituals can actually be very inspiring!
Lastly, we can also offer first priority for dormitory accommodation to those who’ve travelled from abroad, provided they book before 22nd April. If you could book even earlier, this will help us with planning.
Ty Brethyn – the "House of Cloth" - is a large old wool mill set in the hills behind the Welsh town of Llangollen. The old mill wheel was partly destroyed in the Second World War by a bomb, and since then it has hosted many people and many businesses. There is one large house, part of which was the weaving mill, and several outbuildings with lots of potential for future development.
Now it has been purchased and is being renovated by a group of Order Members, and has become a new type of FWBO community. The house lends itself to being divided up into separate units but with connecting doors and some communal space. The property feels secluded, though it's only a 10 minute walk into Llangollen, which is on the A5 almost equidistant between the two FWBO retreat centres Vajraloka and Taraloka.
It is new for at least two reasons. First, it is a new style of FWBO community, with families and single people living together with a mixed population of men, women, and children – seven people in all so far, with more still to arrive. Given that everyone has had to move, sometimes hundreds of miles, to Ty Brehin, the residents have had to consider carefully how to earn their livelihoods – and have come up with some innovative solutions. Tejapushpa, mother of Jaya, is an acupuncturist, still practicing part-time in Manchester and she has just set up a new practice in Llangollen; Satyavadita (Jaya's dad) is busy renovating the property (the cost of this was built-in to their initial budget); Kalyacitta has recently qualified in garden design and has set up a new gardening business; Kathryn and Vibhuti are parents of Phoebe, and Kathryn is a Career Coach, working mainly by phone and Vibhuti a mental health nurse.
Second, it is new becasue it has a well thought-out ownership structure based on standard co-operative rules - which have, however, been carefully modified to suit their particular needs. They hope this may become a template for other similar groups around the FWBO. Legally it is known as the ‘Ty Brethyn Housing Coop’, but enshrined in the constitution is a short ‘mission statement’ and some ‘secondary rules’ which aim to ensure that the ethos and values remain Buddhist in the years to come. This has required some careful thinking-through of rights and responsibilities, with many complex issues having to be considered, eg what happens when children grow up or if one or more residents cease to be Buddhists. One ingredient in their formula is the role of ‘mentors’, or ‘Guardian Members', who are people who will be non-resident guardians of the ethos of Ty Brethyn.
The property, and the five acres of land surrounding it, has been purchased using a mixture of capital contributed in the form of loanstock by the residents and a short term loan from a friend (or supporter) which will be repaid after 18 months by taking out a mortgage. This too has necessitated careful consideration, in particular considering how people might get their money back should they wish to leave.
After much discussion the ‘exit terms’ have been clarified - members wishing to leave will get their capital back plus appreciation at a level set by the UK’s RHPI (Retail House Price Index) but capped at 8%. This and many other details took extensive homework and meetings spread over many months, the final details are still be thrashed out even though the property has now been bought and occupied. An important ingredient in their success was five days consultancy, paid for by a grant they obtained, from UpStart, a cooperative based in Somerset, who provided invaluable advice on how to modify the standard coop rules. They would be happy to provide further details of their legal structure - please contact FWBO News if you are interested.
FWBO News wishes them every success in their new life.
In April this year we were successful in being awarded £4,400 from the UK government’s Faith Communities Capacity Building fund. This was to enable us to contribute to the development of a culture of tolerance and mutual respect through outreach work to schools and the wider community
I was appointed as Schools Outreach Development Worker for the Buddhist Centre later in the month and have since been thoroughly enjoying co-ordinating schools work. My main priority has been to make contact with schools, so that they know what’s available to them in terms of visiting the Centre and having visitors to their schools. To give you an idea of what the schools work covers, please read on!
One of my first assignments was hosting a visit from Chew Valley School. This was particularly significant for me, as Chew Valley is the secondary school I attended! We’ve developed a ‘School Visiting Kula’, my hope is that this will build sangha friendships, as well as provide a great capacity for schools – it’s a multi faceted and talented team.
In terms of local networking, I’ve found it very interesting to meet with Bristol City Council’s Social Inclusion Officer, the Interfaith Consultant, local SACRE representatives and members of the Bristol Diocese, to find out what’s already going on in and around Bristol. Bristol schools face significant challenges, with one of the highest rates of exclusion of pupils from schools in the country, and ongoing tensions between some ethnic groups. It seems that the need for interfaith and social inclusion work is greater than ever, to support schools and the wider community.
Earlier in the summer I was a facilitator at the Childrens’ Interfaith conference, run by Bristol City Council. This was a really interesting day and I was particularly struck by hearing children talk so openly about the similarities and differences between their faiths. It was very moving and heartening. I hope this event will become a regular fixture in Bristol’s calendar.
The Future There is a huge amount of scope for the Buddhist Centre to continue to develop its schools and educational work, and I imagine that this area will blossom and grow over the next few years. It would be great to have ongoing partnerships with a high percentage of schools across the city. Potentially, this work also goes beyond schools work, into broader interfaith work, community cohesion and meditation in schools, to mention but a few.
So I thought I would finish with a few of the questions and comments from some of the children I’ve met and enjoyed working with so far, given that they are by far and away the most important focus of this project…
“When you’ve been enlightened, can you become unenlightened?” “Are the three jewels to do with each of the elements?” “Will the Buddhist lady be black?” (question to a teacher before my visit, from a Muslim girl) “Do you still cry when you’re a Buddhist?” “Does Buddhism stop crime?” “Will you be reborn as a Buddhist if you’ve been a Buddhist this lifetime?” “We’re like flowers miss aren’t we? Cos we die too…”
The BBC's flagship program 'Woman's Hour' has recorded and aired a program featuring an interview with Karunagita, author of 'A Path for Parents'. Click here to listen to the program, you will need Realplayer which can be downloaded for free here.
The BBC's blurb asks "How difficult is it to bring up children in a religious tradition, in an age where we increasingly talk about the importance of giving them the opportunity to make their own decisions? Sara Burns, author of ‘A Path for Parents’ and Carol Clewlow, author of 'Keeping the Faith', join Miriam to discuss the pleasures and pitfalls of handing down your spiritual beliefs. Sara is known in the Order as Karunagita, while Carol was raised in the 'Plymouth Bretheren'.
‘A Path for Parents’ by Sarah Burns is published by Windhorse Publications £11.99 ISBN 9781899579709
The Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO) was founded in 1967 by Sangharakshita. It is now an international movement with activities in more than 20 countries, including India, where it is known as the TBMSG, the 'Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha Sahayaka Gana'. The FWBO/TBMSG is a non-sectarian Buddhist movement which seeks promote the practice of Buddhism in a form appropriate to the modern world.