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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Opportunity at EcoDharma in Spain

Maitrisara writes with news of an opportunity for anyone over50 looking for a stay in the Pyrenees this autumn. She says -

“Grant funding enables us to offer 6 expenses paid places on a volunteering project at the EcoDharma centre between 1 and 2 months in September and October 2010. (

"EcoDharma is a Buddhist based community living in a remote valley in the Catalan Pyrenees. The wild beauty is incredible as are the ideas talked about over supper! The influences on the centre’s philosophy include radical ecology, The Work that Reconnects, engaged Buddhism, systems theory and holistic experiential learning.

“You need to be over 50 (yes we know that’s a bit strange but that is what the funding is for!) and reasonably fit. Living as part of the community, you will be involved in the garden and building projects. If you know a bit about permaculture, building or capentry, food preserving - this might particularly suit you. Get in touch with Maitrisara - if you want to know more about it and are interested.

“Please pass on to anyone you think would be interested (in the right age bracket!!)

With warm wishes

The retreat centre is just visible as the tiny white dot on the plateau in the centre-left of the photograph.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Buddhist reports from Copenhagen

Today’s post is from Yogaratna, an Order Member and environmentalist from Cambridge UK, recently returned from the climate change conference in Copenhagen. We’re hoping to bring further reports later in the week from the FWBO’s EcoDharma centre in Spain, many of whose community also attended.

Yogaratna writes -
“From London it was £485 by rail, and about £18 to fly. Luckily I have the money, and I like train journeys.

“A blue sky, a big main square stuffed with thousands of people, clever banners, funny costumes, performances, dance music: a party atmosphere. I met up with some Gaia House Buddhists, and marched with their banner, which said: “what we do to the planet we do to ourselves”.

“I found it moving to be around thousands of people, all passionately wanting a positive response to climate change. A few hours later there were some angry speeches, lots of police started blocking off streets where I was; and I ran away to get my train home.

“Many people (including myself) think nowadays that it seems unlikely that we can avoid runaway climate change. So why did I bother doing 44 hours of train travel, to be in Copenhagen for 8 hours? And what has all this frankly very political stuff got to do with Buddhism?

non-harming, and not taking the not-given
“For me it comes down to the first 2 precepts. Non-harming; but in particular not taking the not-given. I think it is in principle unethical to deprive any human of the basic necessities of life, especially in terms of food, water and shelter - but also education and healthcare. Ethically speaking, I don't think that we in the West have a right to our higher standard of living, which depends on a greater share of the world's natural resources. Our relative wealth (in global terms) depends on economic and military power, not metta or wisdom.

“It's increasingly obvious that the world's resources are very limited, that we rich are maintaining our lifestyle at the expense of the poor - and that climate change will make this dynamic much worse. Reading about the Copenhagen climate negotiations, I'm struck by the extent to which the wealthy countries have given up humanist posturing, and got down to power politics. The rich countries seem to be saying to the developing countries: we accept that we are on course for runaway climate change (which was caused mainly by ourselves), we are prepared to do almost nothing to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we believe you will die in very large numbers; here's a bit of money.

a time of great reality - and great surreality
“Copenhagen seems to have been a time of great reality, to the extent that people from all over the world did meet each other and talk on this issue, even (perhaps especially) at complete cross-purposes. But also a time of great surreality. The policing mirrored the talks, targeting official delegations inside the conference centre as well as demonstrators outside. At the same time, I would guess the politicians themselves are probably more genuinely concerned about (and knowledgeable about) climate change than the general public. They know that Copenhagen was probably the best chance of avoiding runaway climate change, and they don't dare to support measures which the science demands, but which would be unpopular.

Hopenhagen - or a corporate-sponsored narcotic?

“And in the streets of Copenhagen, the Hopenhagen posters. An advertising campaign instigated by the United Nations, essentially a positive idea (build hope for the Copenhagen conference) - but what about the corporate sponsors? One of them is Coca-Cola; a role model for doing virtually nothing on climate change. So the real message of Hopenhagen advertising is narcotic: we're nice people because we hope, it's OK to carry on sleeping and doing nothing; have a coke.

what would the Buddha say?
“So how about Buddhism? What would the Buddha say about all this? I'd love to know. I can't help thinking that he'd be surprised at the lifestyles and carbon footprints of most of his Western followers. Surely we'd seem incredibly wasteful and materialistic to him - and selfish too? Or would he say: don't bother your head with global politics, the best thing you can do is get on with your meditation and teaching at local level.

“I like to think that if the Buddha were alive today he would be concerned about global politics, because of their effect on human suffering - and even that maybe he'd be a figure somewhat like Dr Ambedkar. Of course, in his own lifetime, the Buddha talked to everyone; to beggars, but also to kings and their ministers. Arguably, the Buddha was very influential and probably wanted to be, both socially and politically.

“Of course, I'm neither the Buddha nor Dr Ambedkar; I'm just a pebble on the beach. But I want to live ethically; which is why I work to reduce my personal carbon footprint, and give some time to promoting awareness of this issue. Maybe we tend to underestimate the consequences of our actions. I think, or maybe feel, that our actions spread a long way into the future. Particularly at a time when so little is being done, every action against climate change now might be surprisingly and materially important to people in the future”.

“Overall, Copenhagen seems to me very poignant. It's as if the West would love to persuade itself that it does care, but knows it doesn't really. Like an alcoholic who thinks he should give up, but knows he won't. But even that's just one part of the story: personally I came home feeling very inspired by the people I'd met. And each year the anti-climate change movement is growing, all over the world. Within the FWBO there is much excellent work being done towards a more sustainable world; the EcoDharma retreat centre and living situation in Spain particularly stands out for me.

Yogaratna, December 2009

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Taraloka launches Sustainable Energy Project

Kulaprabha writes from the FWBO's Taraloka Women's Retreat Centre with news of their sustainable energy project. On her Taraloka blog she says -

“So this is the third and last post about our sustainable energy project… well, last one for the moment.

“If you’ve read the first post, you’ll know that we’re in the middle of a project to move to wood pellet boiler and solar thermal heating for our space heating and hot water. I submitted two grants / loans proposals today. So either cross your fingers or chant mantras on our behalf - or both!

“If you’ve read the second post, you’ll know that even with our current very old and inefficient oil-fired boilers, our carbon footprint in the community is half the UK average. Which is great to know and what I was hoping would emerge from the carbon calculations I’ve been doing. Definitely a benefit from nine of us sharing our living space in a community together.

“What you don’t know yet is how much better our carbon footprint will be if we can get the funding to help cover a proportion of the wood pellet boiler and solar thermal system installation costs. So now I’ve used the footprint software to calculate what our footprint would have been in 2008 if we’d had had the renewable sources in place.

Read on here for her results...

She ends with a little story -

“I was on a seminar last month where the head of the Sustainable Energy Division of E-on UK Ltd was one of the speakers. One of his remarks has really stuck with me. He said - with regard to changing our behaviour in the UK :

If everyone does a little …….

And then he paused. You’ve probably finished the sentence. But maybe not the way he finished it ….
If everyone does a little, we’ll only achieve a little.

To minimise the impact of climate change, we need to reduce UK carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. And that means 80% from every one of us.”

Think about it”.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Buddhafield: tree-planting in the snow

As many of us will know, Britain has been shivering this week under a carpet of thick snow. It’s not been all misery though – there’s a real pleasure in curling up in bed with a book, or sitting by the fire as the cold wind whistles outside..

Spare a thought then, for the hardy folk of Buddhafield, nine of whom have been bravely proceeding with their planned Tree-Planting Retreat on the Buddhafield land down in Devon. Camping, of course.

Abhayajit, the retreat leader, told us –

“We’re still here, though its not been easy. A couple had to leave due to illness, but there’s still nine of us here now – and we have been managing to plant some trees! It was a bit mad one day, as there was a blizzard. To be honest I think we have felt hit by the weather. Probably the hardest thing has been vehicle problems, which of course we depend upon absolutely for bringing in supplies. We’ve had some bad luck there - two punctures and some flat batteries. But we’re in good spirits.”

The retreat is on their land at Broadhembury, which they are increasingly using as a showcase for permaculture techniques. Later this year (hopefully in better weather!) they’ll be returning to the land to offer a 72-hour permaculture Design Course, which will be co-led by the well-known permaculture teacher Steve Read and Dharmamrta, one of Buddhafields land managers and responsible for growing much of their vegetables through the year.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Transforming Self, Transforming World in Birmingham

The giant Buddha mural in the Birmingham Buddhist Centre's cafe areaThe FWBO's Birmingham Buddhist Centre recently teamed up with local environmental-awareness groups to put on an event entitled ‘Transforming Self, Transforming World’.

The day included meditation, a workshop by Friends of the Earth on bio-fuels, composting for kids, lunch courtesy of the Birmingham chapter of ‘Food not Bombs’, recycled arts and crafts, Rob’s smoothie-bike, a showing of ‘The Power of Community’, a film & discussion based upon Cuba's creative response to having its oil imports cut. Padmakumara also led a workshop exploring Joanna Macy's ‘Work that Re-connects’.

As well as being a great opportunity for people who perhaps wouldn’t normally attend a Buddhist Centre to come along and get a feel for the place, it also helped to emphasise how Buddhist practice can give rise to a natural and spontaneous aspiration to contribute to the welfare of the world, an aspiration not characterised by fear and apathy but rooted in loving-kindness.

“It’s always so inspiring to meet people who work for our shared planet! A positive way to learn from one another and cooperate for a more peaceful and sustainable world!” Rianne Veen.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Environmental Audit and action plan at the London Buddhist Centre

In 2007 the FWBO's London Buddhist Centre celebrated the year of Amoghasiddhi, the Green Buddha of Action and Fearlessness.

As part of this they focussed attention on taking practical action to address environmental issues, exploring how Buddhism teaches us to lead a more simple and less wasteful life, more in harmony with the environment.

And as part of that, over the last few months a series of ‘environmental audits’ have
been carried out in and around the LBC’s ‘Buddhist Village’, covering many of the businesses and
communities that are linked to the LBC as well as the centre itself. They have now produced a report summarising the main findings of those environmental audits – all of which include commitments to action, whether reducing direct environmental impacts, working in partnership with others on environmental issues, or by raising awareness of why and how we can all take action on the environment.

The report can be read in full here. Thanks to the LBC for permission to reproduce

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Right-Livelihood Land Project in the North East (UK)

An aerial photo of Buddhafield's new land at Frog Mill, in the Dartmoor National ParkA group is forming in the FWBO's Newcastle Sangha to explore the development of a new land-based community and work project informed by the Dharma. The instigator of this group, Andy Parkes, writes:

“What do I mean by ‘A Right-Livelihood Land Project’? And he answers –

“A group of people brought together by specific common ideals, particularly:
• Dharma (movement towards an integrated lifestyle with more harmony between livelihood, community and Buddhist practice)
• Environmental Ethics (movement towards increased ecological sustainability)
• A wish to develop the above, by living and/or working on some land together

“A project like this is group-led and for that reason it is not possible to be specific about its nature. For example, we might buy, borrow or rent land. We might set up a charity, a co-operative or many varying businesses on the land. We may or may not live on the land, and we may each have different levels of input into this project. Personally, I would like to give my attention to the Dharma, growing trees, organic food, greenwood working, music, teaching, building a low-impact dwelling for myself and others, and being part of a community I can give to and receive from. We have different skills and will each bring our own emphasis.

Why ‘A Right-Livelihood Land Project’
“Dharma is precious! It feeds us, and points the way to spiritual freedom. Spiritual development and ecological sustainability require a sustained commitment that is often not understood and resisted by our society. Keeping our ethical precepts, preparing ourselves for practice is more challenging when the way in which we support ourselves is replete with subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) contradictions to our beliefs. Land is precious in as much as, it feeds us and unobstructed access to it can lead to a high degree of practical freedom, resulting in less consumerism, more sharing and a responsible relationship to the earth. With practical freedom comes the ability to develop an integrated lifestyle, in which all of our activities can be conducive to spiritual development (Dharma), supporting ourselves in an ecologically sustainable way, and supporting our Buddhist (Sangha) and local community.

“Initially the group will be about getting to know each other and our interests in light of this project, and to see if and how we want to work together as a group. The timescale for developing this project is over months and years. Consolidating the group may take a long time, so don’t be immediately discouraged if you are interested but feel unprepared.”

If you are interested in the project but live outside Newcastle, please feel free to contact Andy at:

The photograph shows Buddhafield's new land at Frog Mill, in the Dartmoor National Park.

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