free counters

Saturday, February 13, 2010

introducing Karunamati and the Green Tara Trust

Today’s ‘FWBO People’ profile is of Karunamati, a UK Order Member and medical doctor, who’s worked for many years in Nepal, as founder and director of the Green Tara Trust.

Here’s what she says about her work -

“I have been working in Nepal for 15 years now and it is my second home. Nepal is a vibrant country where the people are very welcoming. The terrain is very tough, with poor communication routes due to the Himalayas; most people to the north of Kathmandu are nowhere near a motorable road so access is on foot.

“There has been a civil war in Nepal for a few years now; although there is now an “elected” government (the Maoists) the law and order is still poor. As a tourist it is fine to visit but for us on the ground, our work is hard due to fuel strikes and road blocks. This can hold us up considerably but we work around this, sometimes by working at night! The war has also seen huge internal migration, with a ten- fold increase in sexually transmitted infections, an increase in sexual violence towards women and the destruction of health facilities.

“Our charity works in the field trying to improve lives of the poorest people through direct action. However, in order to be more effective we also work at national level with the Government. For example, we are assisting them in re-writing the national curriculum for all Nepali health staff in preventative health measures and health communication as they currently have none. Our techniques and experience in the field inform this process. In this way we are able to improve many more lives through the health system.

OUR PROGRAMMES
1. Preventing maternal and child deaths through health promotion. Specifically we:
* Work in groups to ENCOURAGE POSITIVE BEHAVIOURS: particularly with husbands and mother in laws who control women’s access to good nutrition and medical care.
* BUILD CAPACITY in the community, particularly women’s ability to save money for their delivery, make choices and help them have a voice in society.
* IMPROVE THE MEDICAL CARE THAT IS ALREADY AVAILABLE so Government workers can deliver a World Health Organisation standard antenatal appointment.
We are into the second year of the programme now; we have many active groups and over 50 project volunteers.

2. National Lesbian Society- Mitini Nepal
We work with Mitini to provide education, counselling, support and direct legal action where human right violations have occurred as a result of discrimination. The photos shows Mitini supporters at a peaceful demonstration in Kathmandu.

“The Green Tara Trust has a new website at http://www.greentaratrust.com.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Karuna and ClearVision collaborate to promote awareness of Buddhist-led development work and social action in Asia

Maitrisara, a member of the Western Buddhist Order based in Oxford, UK, writes with news of a major survey of UK Buddhists’ interest in and knowledge about Buddhist-inspired and Buddhist-led development work and social action in Asia.

The initiative came from a shared realisation that although there is a great deal of such work, spread across Asia and involving many different Buddhist Sanghas, much of it is hardly known about.

She says -

“A recent online survey completed by 295 Buddhists (77% from the FWBO!) aimed to find out more about UK Buddhists' interest in and knowledge about Buddhist-inspired and Buddhist-led development work and social action in Asia; also to find out how they understood the relationship between personal and social transformation.

“To see a summary of the results, and respondents’ reflections on the question "Personal and social transformation are indivisible - do you agree?” – click here. The reflections especially are extremely interesting!

“The outcome of this process is that a project application has been submitted to the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) by Karuna www.karuna.org in partnership with Clear Vision www.clear-vision.org.

“Original study materials will be created including video footage of projects in the global South. This will be accessed on an online learning hub. There will also be exchange and networking spaces such as inter-group meetings, retreats and conferences. We wait to see if the application has been successful.

“We would like to thank all those who contributed to the survey. We were impressed with the responses, both in the thought given to them and the number completed in such a short time. The information will have value beyond this project as we think it's the biggest survey ever completed on Engaged Buddhism and certainly the most current”.

Maitrisara (Oxford, UK)

Labels: , ,

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Karuna Mexico acts in response to Haiti emergency

Upeksamati, chairman of the FWBO’s Mexico City Buddhist Centre, writes with news of Mexican Buddhists response to the recent tragic earthquake in Haiti. He says -

“Haiti needs help. And
Karuna Mexico, along with other Mexican Buddhist Centres, are responding.


“After a quick appeal by Karuna Mexico a lot of people delivered all sort of goods to them: bottled water, medicines and foods.

“Two days later, the Mexico City Buddhist Centre van went twice fully loaded to the Cruz Roja (the Red Cross) to deliver what they had collected. The MCBC van had to queue for 15 minutes before it could enter the plaza where donations were being received. There we found hundreds of volunteers, from all quarters, hard at work. When the van arrived it was surrounded by 5 Boy Scouts who took no longer than 7 minutes to unload the van carefully and effectively. After we were gone our space was taken by yet a different car delivering.

“At the moment we are in the second phase of the appeal gathering more things. The boxes at the reception of our Buddhist centres are quickly filling up again.

“In this moment there is no difference between people, nations, or anything. Here is where we experience the true meaning of "Karuna": a force that drives us to help without expecting anything in return.

“That is why the people of Mexico in general, and the Buddhists at our Centres, are creating support networks to reach as soon as possible the people of Haiti and to ease the suffering and problems that have arisen.

“This assistance has been channelled to the Cruz Roja from Mexico who are in charge of sending the appeals to Haiti. The Collection at the Buddhist centres will continue a few weeks, We hope residents in Haiti will get better.

“Sabbe Satta Sukhi Hontu - May All Beings be Well

Karuna Appeal Mexico www.karuna.mx

Labels: ,

Thursday, January 07, 2010

An invitation - and a challenge - from the Karuna Trust fundraising team

Khemajala, a fundraiser at the Karuna Trust, writes with an invitation - and a challenge - for all men reading FWBO News. He says -

"Would you like to live a truly meaningful and memorable year as part of a Karuna Men's Fundraising Community?

"On 29 September 2006, in Khairlanji village, central India, Surekha Bhotmange, her daughter Priyanka and her two sons, Roshan and Sudhir were dragged from their home by a mob, stripped naked, paraded through their village, beaten to death, and their bodied dumped in a nearby canal.

 Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange, the father of the family (photo opposite), escaped by lucky chance. The details of this caste-based crime are sickening, and the hatred behind it is difficult to comprehend but the viciousness is typical of many crimes committed against lower caste people in India every day.

"Most of these crimes are invisible, but this atrocity came to light through Dalit campaigns and became an international news story. The Manuski project, led by members of TBMSG (the Indian equivalent of the FWBO), and supported by Karuna, played an important part in making that happen.

"Could you tell Bhaiyyalal’s story? You could give Dalit people such as Bhaiyyalal a voice and help them escape the suffering caused by caste discrimination.

"How? Live a truly meaningful and memorable year as part of a Karuna Men’s Fundraising Community

"From September 2010 to August 2011, Karuna will be pioneering the first team of Karuna Appeal fundraisers who will come together for a year to live and work together as a community of fundraisers.

"We need a team of four or more men.

"What we’re offering:

• Community living based in London
• Blocks of 6 weeks fundraising followed by at least one week off
• A total of 10 weeks leaves including a trip to India and time for retreats
• Training in Fundraising as a spiritual practice
• A comprehensive support package
• Led by Jayaraja

"For more information -
Contact Khemajala
Phone 0207 697 3004
Email khemajala@karuna.org
Web www.appeals.karuna.org

Labels: , , ,

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. (www.ecodharma.com)

"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 - maitrisara@tiscali.co.uk 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
Maitrisara


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

Labels: , ,

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

Labels: ,

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) celebrates 20th anniversary


The International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) recently celebrated its 20th anniversary at Chiang Mai, Thailand, in the course of which Lokamitra led a retreat for over 100 participants from all over the Buddhist world. Priyadarshi Telang, from TBMSG's Jambudvipa project, sends us his report. He says -

"The International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) celebrated its 20th anniversary November 9th-17th at the at Chiang Mai, Thailand, November 9th-16th with a variety of activities. Over the last few years links with INEB have grown; Lokamitra is at present a member of their advisory committee, while Mangesh Dahiwale is a member of their executive committee. INEB was founded by Sulak Sivaraksa, who at the age of 76, is beginning to withdraw from the front line of INEB activities.

"The conference therefore also marked this period of transition with the formation of larger and more diverse advisory and executive committees, as well as a secretariat more able to coordinate the fast growing network.

Sangha and Kalyanamitra

"The celebrations started with a three day retreat led by Dhammachari Lokamitra. This was attended by about 100 participants from 16 different countries. The participants included almost 30 bhikshus and bhikshunis from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, Ladakh, and Bhutan. Indian participants included Maitrivir Nagarjuna from the New Delhi centre, Pradeep Bansode, Priyadarshi Telang and Mangesh Dahiwale from Jambudvipa Trust, Deepak and Manish from Nagarjuna Training Institute, Anand Shakya from Karuna Vihar Hostel, Gujarat, and Anurag Meshram and Sumedh Sthool, social activists connected with The Jambudvipa Trust. Ratnadharini, from Tiratanaloka, UK, also attended.

"The idea of the retreat was to provide a situation in which people could experience deeper communication on the basis of going for refuge to Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, as a prelude to the four days of discussions that followed. The theme was “Sangha and Kalyanamitra”. INEB is trying to operate according to the principles of Sangha, while Sulak Sivaraksa has always emphasised that it is the spirit of kalyanamitrata that breathes life into the network. On the first day Jonathan Watts, Jill Jameson and Ven Kalupahana explored the question of Sangha in the modern world. On the second day, Ven Khenpo, and Tempel looked at the principle of Kalyanamitra. On the last day, Anchalee Kurutach, Dhammacharini Ratnadharini and Harsha Navaratne talked about work as spiritual practice from their own experience.

"Given the diverse traditions which the retreatants came from, Lokamitra tried to make it as inclusive as possible. Apart from the short talks and discussion groups following them, the day consisted of a number of periods of meditation, including special emphasis on the metta bhavana. The days started with traditional salutations from Theravada and Mahayana monks and nuns, as well as from the Japanese “priests”. It concluded with the Seven Fold Puja, or the Pali Puja led by Indian friends.

"The retreat was followed by the 3-day conference, the mornings of which included four sessions of talks and symposia, while the afternoon sessions were meant for group discussions based on country and general issues. On the first day Mangesh Dahiwale made a presentation on “Critical reflections on Engaged Buddhism” with Jonathan Watts. On the third Ratnadharini gave a presentation on the future of the Sangha, along with the Thai bhikshu, Ven Phaisan, who preceded her, and in calling for a thorough review of approach to Sangha, paved the way for her by indicating that more serious attention needs to be given to the approach the Western Buddhist Order. Ratnadharini approached the question by looking at her work and life as a preceptor based at Tiratanaloka, the women’s retreat centre in UK dedicated to helping women prepare for ordination. Later in the morning Lokamitra led a discussion on “Coming Home – the implications of the Revival of Buddhism in India” in which Dhammachari Viradhamma, Dhammachari Maitriveer Nagarjuna and Dr. H.C. Yo participated. The last day was taken up with a meeting of the advisory and executive bodies. The whole programme was interspersed with other talks and cultural events, some of them spontaneous.

"Most of us felt, at the end of the retreat and conference, that we had been able to communicate something of the enormous significance of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism, as well as of the relevance of the approach of the FWBO/TBMSG in the modern world.

"But we all went away inspired by the efforts of so many Buddhists to put apply their practice of Buddhism to the social issues confronting the modern world, by their receptivity, friendliness, and by the trans-cultural situation we found ourselves in.

"It is a great tribute Sulak Sivaraksa that he has been able to cultivate this network of very dedicated but diverse number of Buddhists. INEB has grown considerably in the last 20 years and hopefully will have an increasingly positive influence on the world over the next few years".

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Ambedkar in Hungary - a report from India

Pardeep Jade, a journalist and blogger from TBMSG in India, writes with news of his recent fact-finding mission to the new Ambedkarite Buddhists of the Roma community in Hungary. His article has been published in The Hindu, one of India’s largest English-medium newspapers, plus Countercurrents, a major on-line alternative media site.

He tells the story of how he came into contact with two Roma leaders, Derdák Tibor and Orsós János, as they were discovering Buddhism and the inspiring example of Dr. Ambedkar, India’s great Buddhist leader - and how this led to his own visit to Hungary this Autumn. And how he discovered during his visit the deep parallels between the prejudice experienced over centuries by the Dalits, or Untouchables, of India, and the Roma, or Gypsies, of Europe.

He writes - “Jai Bhim, Namo Buddhay!  “Please read my article on "Ambedkar in Hungary" in The Hindu newspaper at www.hindu.com/mag/2009/11/22.

We quote an excerpt -

“After discovering Ambedkar, Tibor and János visited Maharashtra in 2005 and 2007. They felt a deep connection with the Dalits of India and with Dr. Ambedkar's emancipatory agenda. After returning to Hungary, in 2007, they founded the Jai Bhim Network, embraced Buddhism and opened three high schools named after Dr. Ambedkar in Sajókaza, Ózd and Hegymeg for Roma children. One of the activities of the Network is to invite young Dalit activists to Hungary and provide them with opportunities to interact with the Roma community. Recently, I was part of one such three-member delegation and lived with the Roma community in the village Sajókaza for almost a month…

Read more on The Hindu newspaper website or in Countercurrents.

You can contact Pardeep on pardeep.jade@gmail.com.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On-line survey - your help please!

Maitrisara writes from Oxford with a reqeust for all FWBO News readers -

"The FWBO's Karuna Trust and Clear Vision are working together to develop a project
about Buddhist-inspired social action in Asia (eg Tibet, India, Cambodia,
Sri Lanka)

"The idea of the project is to support Buddhists in the UK to explore their
own practice in terms of the relationship between personal and social
transformation. Part of it will involve the development of online video
clips and study materials available through the Clear Vision website.

"It would help us if you would complete this survey - it only takes FIVE
MINUTES at most. Your answers will help us to design the project and give
evidence for any interest in what we are proposing to do. You don't have to
BE interested in the idea to do the survey - its all useful information to us.

www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=IhDzMWjc_2b0RirTpSJOBWlQ_3d_3d


"NOTE: The deadline is 24th November. This is because of the deadline of the fund we are applying for.

"Thanks!"

Labels:

Friday, November 06, 2009

Windhorse Publications launch new book series 'A Buddhist View'

Sarah Ryan from the FWBO’s publishing house ‘Windhorse Publications’ (www.windhorsepublications.com) writes -

“I’ve got some news from WP for you!

“First of all, the first three books in our new series ‘A Buddhist View’ are now available – we’re really thrilled with how they’ve turned out. They are -

Meaning in Life by Sarvananda
Saving the Earth by Akuppa and
Vegetarianism by Bodhipaksa.

This brand new series from Windhorse Publications examines key issues in life from a Buddhist perspective, offering practical points on living in the 21st Century. The three books available so far deal with our relationships with the environment, food and our perception of life.

There’s various book launches going on - Sarvananda has been to the Cambridge and Ipswich Buddhist Centres.

Less conventionally Bodhipaksa is going to be launching Vegetarianism online on Friday 13th with a marathon 12-hour drop in discussion on his blog , Twitter and Facebook. We’re hoping FWBO News readers will drop in - I’ll write again with more details nearer the time.

Thank you very much for all of your help,
Best wishes,
Sarah Ryan
Windhorse Publications Ltd
t: 01223 911997

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Jambudvipa reports on hard-hitting anti-caste work


Many readers of FWBO News will be aware that at the twelfth session of its Human Rights Council, the UN moved to declare discrimination based on the Indian caste system to be a human rights abuse.

TBMSG - as the FWBO is known in India - is a grass-roots Buddhist community which has been working for 30 years to spread the ‘Dhamma Revolution’ in India.  Creating a caste-free society open to all Indians has long been central to their vision, and besides their long-running Dhamma teaching and extensive social projects they have more recently moved into advocacy work. The Jambudvipa Trust, based in Pune, is their most active ‘advocacy’ project; their work is an inspiration.

We’re proud to reproduce here this editorial from ‘Padmapani’, Jambudvipa's annual report and magazine.

Lokamitra, their president, writes -

“The Jambudvipa Trust, under its Manuski project is at present targeting five of the most disadvantaged communities in Maharashtra. One of these, the Paradhi community, along with other similar communities, has been cruelly dismissed and marginalised by being termed a Criminal Tribe. The result is that as well as having to live in unimaginably appalling conditions, they are subjected to arbitrary killings by the police and administration. Jambudvipa is working with such communities to make known their plight and help them develop their own leadership.

“Dr. Ambedkar urged Dalits in the strongest terms to leave behind their traditional degrading work and live a life of dignity. And yet millions of people born into the Mehetar and other sweeper castes think they are destined to do only this work. Scattered in all the towns in India, they are still obliged to work in the most inhuman conditions and carry human excreta, despite the denials of the administration and government. Indeed the latter maintain this system. They need people to clean all the filth and sewers, and, given the caste-contaminated mindset of most people in India, can only turn to these people. To make sure these people do not try and break out of the caste mould, the government hands out sops like housing and a steady wage to the Mehetar community. But without education, and social support and stimulation, these result in little, if any, progress. [see photo on right]

“Manuski has been producing field reports to bring these denied facts out in the open, and working with other like-minded organisations to campaign to end these inhuman practices. Out of these activities Manuski has been encouraging the development of networks of activists from these exploited communities who can take this forward. At the same time it has continued to develop Its advocacy work with regard to the frequent atrocities these people are subjected to. Finally Manuski has been supporting the emergence of a strong network of Dalit women leaders, activists, educators and social workers in Maharashtra which has now developed its own momentum'.

“While our approach in social work is entirely secular, most of the Jambudvipa and Manuski team have become Buddhists, inspired by Dr. Ambedkar, who realised that only a complete change in mindset or attitude will bring about the social change required to destroy the extremely deep roots of caste and untouchability. To this end Jambudvipa works with the Nagarjuna Institute, TBMSG and other similarly inspired Buddhist organisations to teach people how Buddhist practice can bring about the transformation of mental attitudes. In March 2009 a three day retreat was held in Tamil Nadu, organised jointly by Jambudvipa and the Nagarjuna Institute. It was attended by members of the three most exploited Scheduled Castes in Tamil Nadu - quite an achievement in itself in that, as stated above, people from different castes rarely co-operate. The enthusiasm and determination of the participants to leave behind the shackles of their old designation and all that goes with it, is developing all over the country.

“India is entering into a period of the deepest and most extensive social transformation it has ever experienced, and we feel proud to be able to contribute to this. In the following pages you will be able to see some of the work we are engaged in to this effect. We would like to take this opportunity to appreciate all the support we get from all those who in one way or another have helped to make this contribution possible.

“Lokamitra
“Founder President, Jambudvipa Trust”

For more information check their website www.jambudvipa.org.

 In the UK, the FWBO’s Karuna Trust fundraises to support many TBMSG projects - you can contribute financially or by taking part in an appeal. It’s a great way to get your Dharma practice off the cushion and out into the world!

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Second helpings at Bristol's 'Compassion in the Kitchen' project

Jane Easton from the FWBO’s Bristol Buddhist Centre writes to say -

“We just had our 2nd "Compassion in the Kitchen" ethical eating retreat, led by Achintya and myself, and thought readers of FWBO News would be interested.

"Last year saw our first vegan cooking retreat ‘seasoned with Buddhist meditation and study’, and the second in the series was equally successful. Run by Jane and Achintya in a way that challenged preconceptions but didn’t moralise, we had huge fun. Everyone left with new skills and recipes as well as information about the issues.

"We hope to take the idea forward next year, so watch this space and keep an eye on our website www.compassion-in-the-kitchen.org.uk".

Jane Easton is a mitra at the Bristol Buddhist Centre and South Bristol Meditation Group, who works as Food and Cookery Consultant for Viva! and the Vegetarian Foundation. She has a wide experience of cooking and writing about vegan food.

Achintya has been a Buddhist since 1980 and was ordained into the Western Buddhist Order in 2000. He teaches at the South Bristol Meditation group. He is also a practicing Counsellor. Achintya has studied Mindfulness with Bangor University and is involved in Non-Violent Communication (NVC) training events across the UK.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Karuna Trust promotes 'Ambedkar Day' on 14 October


Two weeks today, on October 14th, is the anniversary of the mass conversions in India when in 1956 Dr. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism along with over 400,000 of his followers - perhaps the greatest mass conversion the world has ever seen. Every year on this day in Nagpur up to a million people gather: it’s a remarkable occasion as the photograph opposite amply demonstrates.

The FWBO has had strong links with the Ambedkarite movement in India since it was formed. Firstly, Dr Ambedkar consulted with Sangharakshita prior to his conversion, and when Dr Ambedkar died only 6 weeks afterwards Bhante stepped into the breach by consoling Ambedkar's bereft followers in the newly formed movement.

In celebration of this we’ll be exploring its significance through a number of articles on FWBO News, starting with two resource packs recently produced by the FWBO’s fundraising charity the Karuna Trust www.karuna.org .

The first gives a general overview of who Dr. Ambedkar was and his significance both in India and the West. It includes advice on organising an Ambedkar Day event and (on the last page) a list of resources for further study – including a link to download the English-language version of the movie ‘Ambedkar’, which is a brilliant account of his life and struggles.  It's downloadable here.

The second is a visual introduction to some of Karuna's work in India and is downloadable here.

Karuna was formed nearly 30 years ago in response to the suffering of the Dalit (ex-untouchable) community, and today sends well over £1 million per year to a wide variety of projects in South Asia.

The majority of fundraising is generated by volunteer fundraisers who sign up individual supporters during 6-week door-to-door fundraising appeals: as a result, it has over 7,000 regular supporters!

Karuna have asked us to draw readers’ attention to a list of ways people can contribute to their work –

• Join a 6-week Karuna door-to-door Appeal in 2010 - Signing up new supporters on the doors raising funds to support projects in South Asia
• Participate in a Phone Campaign – Phoning existing supporters to communicate the benefits of Karuna’s work in South Asia with a view to them increasing their regular donation
• Join the Karuna Fundraising Community House - live, eat and breath fundraising with others in community for a whole year!

If you’re feeling inspired or curious to find out more about how you can help Karuna’s work in South Asia, call Jo, Pete or Khemajala on 0207 697 3026; or email them at appeals[at]karuna.org - or check out the website www.appeals.karuna.org

Labels: , , ,

Monday, August 17, 2009

Buddhafield Cafe win Greenpeace's 'Silver Trader' award


In the UK the alternative festival season is rapidly passing, with Buddhafield, Glastonbury, the Big Green Gathering, and Sunrise already memories - muddy or otherwise!

The FWBO’s Buddhafield Cafe has for many years been a prominent part of these events, and as time passes it prides itself more and more on it’s ethical approach to food and the sourcing of the food it uses.

This has been recognised with the news that they are the ‘Silver Award’ winners in the food category of the third Glastonbury Festival Green Trader Awards, awarded by Greenpeace. These awards aim to recognise those food and non-food traders who have done the most to give their businesses a low environmental impact.

Sadhu Buddhafield!

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Buddhists engage with climate change: part I


Starting today we've a few posts on environmental issues and how some Buddhists are engaging with them. Susie, a mitra with the FWBO's Buddhafield sangha, writes to say -

"Hi all, I made this vid to advertise our upcoming Energy Union show in Slovakia: it features Petra (comic actress) and Vec (rapper); it's at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_50GYtNksg

"If you happen to have contacts in Slovakia, or the Czech Republic, maybe you could forward this on to them! thanks, x Sooz"

The video is a glimpse of a much bigger project that Susie has been working with, in fact working so hard that she turned down the chance to get ordained this year in order to see the project brought to completion!

This is the Europe-wide ENERGY UNION tour: of themselves they say -

"Environmental damage, climate change, renewable energy, intelligent energy … buzzwords from media and TV. Often heard and easily forgotten about. Our mission: to illuminate, inform and animate; to think and act. Energy Union is a campaign, music tour, party, art and discussion all in one, and it comes together with information, tips & tricks on how to save the planet!

"The Energy Union show is about transmitting the topic of ‘Intelligent Energy’ in an unconventional way, a ground-breaking piece of live cinema. The music is a 'Journeys by DJ' style approach: a montage of contemporary music both familiar and obscure, drawn from many genres, woven together by the acknowledged Grandmasters of the eclectic electric mash-up. The music is also planned to feature an orchestral element, a score performed by a live string section, adding a human dimension to the digital.

"The visuals - a mix of borrowed, contributed footage and custom animation - use the music mix as a foundation to build a narrative in 4 sections:

Celebration
Caution
Solutions
Action

"The aim is to directly change the consciousness of the audience by an overwhelmingly positive and inspirational new approach to eco-politics using dance music and visual innovation as a way to connect with the youth audience.

More on their website - http://energyunion.eu/

The tour starts on July 18th in Munich, Germany, heading from there all over Eastern Europe.

Labels: ,

Monday, February 23, 2009

Money Matters

This week FWBO News publishes three major articles about money by Siddhisambhava.

Although the Buddha certainly had things to say about money, money matters far more now than in the Buddha’s time. It has the potential to do more harm – or good – than ever before. Given the current financial crisis it’s all the more urgent that our understanding about this crucial area of our lives is relevant to what is happening, shows kindness and can help people.

First, published today, is a long and thoughtful article called ‘Understanding money, understanding ourselves, and bringing money into our practice’. Tomorrow there’s an interview with Sangharakshita on his financial life-story. An article on dana economies in the FWBO follows later in the week.

Siddhisambhava works as a fundraiser in the FWBO Development Team. She acts as a consultant to FWBO centres and projects and runs movement-wide fundraising campaigns

Today, in ‘Understanding money, understanding ourselves and bringing money into our practice’, Siddhisambhava encourages us to talk about money more and suggests reasons why we often find that so hard to do. She outlines the Buddha’s approach to money and encourages us become clearer and more confident in that. She also touches on how the economy of the FWBO is changing and how we too may need to change to ensure the survival and growth of the FWBO.

The emphasis of the article though is on our individual relationship with money. It looks at what money is and what it can symbolise for us. What do we truly value? And are we able to fund those things? While the practice for all of us is skilful mental states whatever our circumstances, she emphasises that there is no one way ‘to be’ with money and shares some tips and tools on how we can become more money mature.

We will simply feel better when we are financially wise, assertive and generous, rather than financially stupid, victimised and selfish. Siddhisambhava ends by saying “Each of us has the opportunity in our own lives to steward the flow of money; whatever level comes our way. I hope this article helps you do that. May you fully enjoy all the benefits that brings to yourself and others.”

Click here: http://www.fwbo-news.org/features/Siddhisambhava%20-%20money%20-%20bringing%20it%20into%20our%20practice.pdf to read her article on the Features section of FWBO News.

Siddhisambhava gave a version of this article as a talk at Manchester Buddhist Centre on 16 February which you can (soon) listen to at www.freebuddhistaudio.com.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

News from India: Dhamma talks and tours with Subhuti

These days there are major changes afoot in India, and in our movement in India as well. Subhuti’s been visiting for the past 20 years and is there now – we’re delighted to be able to bring you this report of what he’s up to, from Dharmashalin, his secretary and travelling companion. Read on for news of Pune, Nagpur, Mumbai, NNBY, and North India…

In addition to the text-based report below, Dharmashalin has posted the first of a series of video diaries on YouTube.

Subhuti in India November and December 2008
Subhuti has been visiting India regularly since 1985. Initially he and Suvajra were overseeing the Men's Ordination Process, during that time he ordained well over a hundred men. Then as International Order Convenor he led retreats for Order Members, trying to bring a greater depth of understanding and experience to members of our Order. Many of them lead extremely busy lives due to work and family commitments. In the last few years he has been more involved in reaching out into new areas: geographically, in terms of new states; community-wise, in terms of different castes; and generationally, supporting initiatives to bring more young people into the Dhamma.

We are in a phase of exciting opportunities, with the socio-economic face of India changing, this has an impact on how and where the Dhamma can be communicated. What follows is a summary of his activities:

Pune
The gardens of the Mahavihara, TBMSG's largest centre in PuneHis first week was spent in Pune, heart-land of the TBMSG, where he gave a series of talks at the Mahavihara. The Mahavihara was the first big centre we had in India, it serves as a Dhamma centre, and also a base for a number of our charities and some educational activities. Over three nights he gave a very inspiring series of talks, drawing a lot from his experiences during his long solitary retreat. The over-whelming message coming from those talks was; take Karma seriously. What we say, do and think leaves an imprint on your mind which will stay there. This of course is a central application of Pratitya Samutpada, the implication of this is the importance of being skilful and cultivating positive mental states. Over the following days Subhuti met with groups and individuals and the same theme kept returning. He was particularly keen to emphasis that whilst long retreats are of course immensely beneficial we can all practice effectively in our own situations. A particularly important message in India, where most people have responsibilities that mean long retreats are virtually impossible.

Nagpur
A glimpse of the massive Nagpur crowds at the anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar's conversionWe then went to Nagpur, the city where Dr Ambedkar converted. Although TBMSG has more institutions in Pune, Nagpur is the actual centre of Ambedkarite Buddhism in India - and the home of Nagaloka, our largest centre in India. Some estimations place the percentage of Buddhists as high as 30%, of course many of them are 'Ethnic' Buddhists. Yet even that results in a greater sense of ethics and personal responsibility. This is particularly brought out by the huge level of social improvement the Buddhist community has achieved in the 50 years since conversion. At that time they were almost all bonded labourers and the vast majority were illiterate, today we regularly meet doctors, lawyers and engineers. No other community in India has improved so much since Independence. This is an important point, it shows that conversion to Buddhism has a direct effect on people's lives, because of it's message of personal responsibility and transformation.

Mumbai
During our time here Subhuti has been meeting with his many friends and contacts, providing support and guidance. He of course he given several public talks, several responding to the terrible events in Mumbai. He has been particularly speaking on how we can respond to violence. Of course this boils down to practising the Dhamma ourselves and helping those who are in down-trodden states to improve themselves. Dr Ambedkar was a deep political thinker as well as a Buddhist and he foresaw the difficulties India would face. His analysis, which Subhuti drew upon, was the need to ensure Human dignity and opportunities to all. It is when people feel they have no other option that they turn to violence.

Manjushri
Subhuti at the Mahabodhi Temple in bodh GayaHe has also led several retreats, one for Dhammacharis exploring the Manjushri Stuti Sadhana. There was an extremely good atmosphere with lots of silence and meditation, many of the participants said it was the most significant retreat of their lives. In early December we went to Chhattisgarh where we had a general retreat with somewhere between one and two hundred participants. Here Subhuti went through the Tiratna Vandana, people responded well. A particular point of success was taking some of the more experienced students from the Nagarjuna Training Institute and using them as group leaders. This gave them an opportunity to test and develop their skills and meant there was enough of a Sangha present for the new-comers to get a direct experience of Sangha rather than simply having it explained to them. This seemed to be particularly inspiring for the participants, so we hope they will start meeting in small groups and carry the inspiration of the retreat into their lives.

National Network of Buddhist Youth
On the 12th of December Subhuti started the NNBY Full Moon Meditation event with a talk about the importance of supporting Youth and possibility of communication and harmony that transcends words. Between two and three hundred people attended and there was an extremely positive atmosphere in the shrine area.

Click to watch a YouTube video of the opening of the event.

For the next ten days Subhuti was engaged in a workshop looking at how training is conducted in India. The conversation soon broadened out to look at how we can make the TBMSG much more effective and spiritually alive, so that we can more adequately respond to the huge potential for spreading the Dhamma that exists here.

From the 25th til the 1st we attended the National Network of Buddhist Youth Conference. This was a very positive and enjoyable event. Subhuti gave a series of talks about Dr Ambedkar's message for the youth of today. NNBY has been in the 'News' quite a bit recently, it certainly is an exciting new area of opportunity. Many young people are responding very positively to the combination of fun, friendship, meaning and autonomy. The convention itself was mainly run by the Youths, with guidance and teaching from Order members but a lot of the rest being led by the youths themselves. Of course in some cases the lines blur (for example I count as a Youth at the tender age of 30, whilst also being an Order member.)

North India
Over the next two months we will be travelling around North India. Leading retreats, giving talks and continuing to deepen connections with local people working to spread the Dhamma. It is a very different situation compared to the relatively well established Buddhists in Maharastra, Casteism in stronger and people are generally still working to gain education and good livelihoods. Despite that, or even because of that, people are very keen to learn more about Buddhism.

Much metta,

Dharmashalin
(Subhuti's Secretary)

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Where have all your savings gone - and where could they be going?


This week’s Economist magazine carries the headline “Where have all your savings gone?”

If any UK or European readers of FWBO News are wondering the same, they might like to consider joining the ‘Dana Partnership’ the FWBO has had for many years now with the Triodos Bank .
Triodos describe themselves as “the UK’s most actively ethical bank”, and FWBO members in the UK have over three-quarters of a million pounds depositied with them. They pride themselves on their transparency, and it’s a delight to read their annual reports - which largely feature project after project in fields as diverse as nature, the environment, culture, social business, the arts, housing, and much more.
You can see their current list of borrowers at www.triodos.co.uk/uk/who_we_finance. They have for many years been the lender of choice for new FWBO projects, financing many of the FWBO’s communities and Right Livelihood businesses.

Triodos has been conducting research among members of the UK public, asking how the recent banking crises have affected their relationship with their money. They report: “Following the Northern Rock crisis, 61% of those interviewed who have a banking product, said that they now wanted to know more about how their bank invests their money”.

Triodos have recently launched a new range of savings accounts - and there’s a free copy of the popular ‘Go Slow England’ book on offer to new customers. If you’d like to know where your savings are going, try looking into Triodos...! When you join there's an option to donate some of the interest payable to one or another charity - including the FWBO.

Although small compared to the high street giants, Triodos are a fully-fledged bank, describing themselves as “a fully independent bank and a pioneer of sustainable and transparent banking”. They say “Our mission is to make money work for positive social, environmental and cultural change. For Triodos Bank, banking has always been a matter of trust, transparency and a long-term relationship with our savers and borrowers...”

Anyone interested to read more around the mysterious topic of money is invited to read the fascinating ‘Mindfulness and Money’, written by two Order Members, Kulananda and Mahaprabha. Kulananda founded Windhorse Trading, the FWBO’s largest and most successful Right Livelihood business, and is now an honorary research fellow at Bangor University, where he teaches a module on Buddhist Psychology, while Mahaprabha lectures in Strategic and International Management at Britain's prestigious London Business School.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Introducing NNBY - India's National Network of Buddhist Youth

Dharmashalin, a newly ordained Order Member from the UK, is visiting TBMSG and other projects in India. He’s recently been with the NNBY – a new national network of Indian Buddhist Youth. He sends us this report, very timely in view of their upcoming worldwide fundraising benefit www.justgiving.com/fullmoonmeditation planned for NNBY. See details at the end of this report.

Dharmashalin writes -

“Over the last few years in India a network called NNBY has emerged. It stands for the National Network of Buddhist Youth.

“NNBY is based on the ideals of the Buddha and Dr . Ambedkar and is supported by members of the FWBO/TBMSG – although it’s not controlled by them. Its catch-phrase is 'Of the youth, for the youth, by the youth.' Not surprisingly, NNBY members emphasise the supportive nature of the work they are doing and the intention that the network itself is a self-organising platform for young people (15-35) themselves to develop their skills and confidence.

“Over the past three years it has been working to encourage disadvantaged young people in India to develop themselves. There’s three main aspects to their activity - education, spiritual practice and directly helping others in society. One can see this as growing directly out of what Dr Ambedkar originally wanted for his people, and I’m sure it works better than if adults simply tell them what to do!

“I have spent the last week visiting groups in and around Vidarbha (in Central India) hoping to see for myself how they are organising themselves. One thing that can be said for sure is that I have come away Inspired!

“I was deeply impressed by what I saw on so many different levels, I'd like to tell you just a few of these... Firstly the whole tour was coordinated and organised by the Youths themselves, this included my translator, Arhant, who is only 23 yet did an outstanding job of looking after me, translating and providing more detailed information of how NNBY operates.

“Then in Yavatmal where there is a group which is primarily organised by a 23-year-old girl, many of the other members of that group are in their teens. Not only do they support each other with their studies (there is huge exam pressure in the Indian Education system), there is also inspiration to practise Dharma and also real friendship. I was particularly moved when a young girl from a different caste (inter-caste friendships are still quite unusual in India) spoke about having a death in the family only a week before, saying she’d found support from her friends within NNBY - so they don’t just talk about Bollywood and cricket stars!

“Young people in India are under so much pressure; examinations, family responsibilities, casteism, romance in a traditional society, and the ever-present pressures of money. One of the major challenges facing any Youth-based organisation is how to respond to all this - particularly the need for money, resources and leadership. For NNBY there are encouraging signs - in Wardha we met in an office the local group had found. This is a very positive sign because so often elsewhere in my travels I’ve met passivity and a desire for others to provide everything.

“I'm happy to say that for them I counted as a Youth, despite my lack of hair! A fact which, when referred to, brought much delight to my audiences. What is really impressive is the lead being taken by the young Indians themselves. Their need for material resources remains however.

“If you have found this account inspiring there is a worldwide fundraising meditation event being held on the full-moon night of 13th December. People around the world will be taking part in sponsored night-time meditations to raise funds for them. Please look at www.justgiving.com/fullmoonmeditation and consider taking part or sponsoring someone - you can sponsor me if you like! As well as this ‘special event page’ there’s a great introduction to them on their main fundraising page www.justgiving.com/indianbuddhistyouth.


They also have their own website at www.NNBY.org.

“So, to finish with. In the last town we visited, there is no local group yet, though a few people had attended previous events and one young lady (another one!) had organised our program. A Headmaster of a local school provided the venue. At one point he became somewhat insistent on the lack of initiative among the young people and doubtful of any possibility of progress. At this point he issued a challenge; 'Who will form such a group here? Alone and without resources...'

“A pause, and then the girl who had organised the program stood up and said 'I will!' and then in short succession the others rose up as well and said 'I too will form a group, for my own benefit and that of others!' I have to say I found it extremely moving. I was reminded of Dr Ambedkar's conviction that true uplift would only come from his own people, others can help, but ultimately we must transform ourselves.

“This is the message of the Dharma and that is what I found inspiring in the youths I visited. Their desire to come together and organise themselves to assist their own education, spiritually develop and help others is an expression of this principle and I feel honoured and inspired to have witnessed their valiant efforts to establish this organisation.

“Do Please look at www.justgiving.com/fullmoonmeditation and consider taking part or sponsoring someone if you would like to support them.

“With Metta

“Dharmashalin

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Engaged Buddhism in the FWBO

Indra's Net, magazine of the Network of Engaged BuddhistsThe Network of Engaged Buddhists (NEB) is the UK’s main forum for what has become known as ‘Engaged Buddhism’. For them, Engaged Buddhism is “engagement in caring and service, in social and environmental protest and analysis, in non-violence as a creative way of overcoming conflicts, and in 'right livelihood' and other initiatives which prefigure a society of the future”.

They go on to say “It also engages with a variety of contemporary and often controversial concerns of relevance to an evolving Buddhism. Engaged Buddhism combines the cultivation of inner peace with active social compassion in a mutually supportive and enriching practice”.

Indra's Net, their magazine (available both in paper and on the web), has in recent issues carried quite a number of articles by members of the F/WBO.


You can read Saul Deeson and Suddhaka on the Dhamma Revolunion in India; Rowan Tilly on Spiritual Activism; Sophia Young (now ordained as Kuladharini) on Gie’s Peace – a lively introduction to Glasgow’s ‘Shambolic Warriors’. The LBC's ground-breaking Breathing Space project is profiled in Health and Wellbeing for All; and there’s an excellent introduction to the significance of Dr. Ambedkar for engaged Buddhists (indeed, for all Buddhists) in Jai Bhim, by Khemasuri.


There’s other articles too, but not yet on the internet – for them you’ll have to join NEB - which is a bargain at £10/year - or £8 for concessions!

In the FWBO itself, besides Gie’s Peace, there’s other ‘engaged Buddhism’ projects, some connected to ‘The Redwoods’. These are an ad-hoc group of Order Members with a shared commitment to engaged Buddhism and social change, who meet once a year, for a week, in a retreat setting, with no agenda other than waiting to see what emerges.

Strongly linked to the Redwoods is the FWBO’s new ‘EcoDharma’ retreat centre , situated in a beautiful and wild part of the Catalan Pyrenees. Guhyapati, it’s founder, says “We offer courses, events and retreats which support the realisation of our human potential and the development of an ecological consciousness honouring our mutual belonging within the web of life – drawing on the Buddhist Dharma and the emerging ecological paradigms of our time

“Our courses and retreats take place in a context of sustainable low-impact living, closely woven within the web of elemental nature. These meditation retreats, study seminars and training camps are intended to help people to empower themselves to make changes in themselves and the world consistent with a life-affirming vision”.

Ecodharma has two retreats coming up later this year – ‘Evolution, Ecology, and Enlightenment’ in November, and ‘Exploring EcoDharma’ in December.

EcoDharma is probably the FWBO’s most remote retreat centre and you’ll have to be determined if you want to find your way there…


By chance FWBO News came across Jo Nean’s blog ‘A Long Way From Eden’, where she describes hitch-hiking there all the way from London. She concludes -

“G (Guhyapati) arrives and greets me like an old friend, although we only met once before for a brief ten minute chat at the Buddhafield Festival. He has exactly the white landrover I imagined he would. I get in and we wind our way up an ever remoter road that turns into a track at steeper and steeper angles. G tells me a little about the centre and points out landscape features as we pass. He also tells me who else is on the retreat and it turns out I know one of them - he will be surprised to see me! There are only 8 of us, but another 3 will arrive over the next few days. My sense of excitement is growing...”

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Offering hope to India’s Farmers

October 14th is the anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism 52 years ago. Although much has changed in India since then, many things have not – among them the economic struggles faced daily by many of India’s ‘low-caste’ and ‘ex-untouchable’ people.

Dr Samantha Bhaware, a Dhammamitra from the FWBO’s Llangollen Sangha, has spent the last 9 months out in India. During this time, she has come face-to-face with a difficult national crisis – vast numbers of farmer suicides due to problems with Genetically Modified crops and chemical agriculture.

She reports –

“These are creating debt, crop failures and environmental damage in an already harsh farming environment. Between 2001 and 2005, it was estimated that over 32,000 farmers committed suicide in India for these reasons and it continues every day.

“When faced with such a difficult situation, it could have been easy to turn away and think it simply “isn’t my problem”. Seeing these suicides happening, with government aid not reaching these desperate farmers, I couldn’t ignore such suffering, so I decided to help them in whatever way that I could.

“So, my husband, Manidhamma, and I visited Mohadi, his ancestral village in rural Vidarbha, an area of Maharashtra worst hit by the suicides. We spoke to his childhood friends who have very little farmland – mostly no more than 10 acres – to support their whole family. They spoke of fear and confusion following pressure by foreign multinational companies to buy seeds and chemicals to grow crops that are failing. They can see that these methods are killing the land, but feel they have little option but to farm in this way.

“I offered to come and talk about my interests – Permaculture (a sustainable agriculture design method), natural farming (inspired by Masanobu Fukuoka’s work) and organic farming – to help them find an alternative to methods that are clearly not working. Masanobu Fukuoka was a Japanese Zen Buddhist and his methods closely follow Buddhist ethics, especially of non-harm. I am therefore very inspired by his work.

“On 14th September, we held a workshop in Mohadi, which was attended by over 60 locals. Many farmers were sceptical, which we expected, and were worried about losing whatever little income they have. However, by the end of the day, 15 farmers were keen to experiment on a part of their land. We held a follow-up workshop on 28th of September to provide much needed initial support. Many more farmers are now hoping to try these methods too.

“Adopting these methods will help farmers gain independence and self-respect. I am confident that the methods will work and that they will soon reap the benefits of an enriched, living soil and freedom from debt. This view is also held by the Maharashtra Organic Farming Federation, with whom I am working for support and inspiration. I am continuing to work with this village and hope to extend out to other villages. Everywhere we go, farmers want to learn about these techniques; we already have two more villages waiting for workshops. I feel very inspired by this work as it will give these people immediate benefits and is giving them hope in a situation which is worsening by the day”.

Samantha is setting up a Centre for Non-Violent Farming to help facilitate such projects and to carry out research to further help the farmers. Initially, she is creating a travelling library to help farmers educate themselves about sustainable farming alternatives. She is also arranging visits for the farmers to farms that have successfully used these methods. She hopes that people can come to help teach and empower villagers, as well as to help on practical projects, such as tree planting and farm work. If you are interested in this work, she would very much like to hear from you. Samantha can be contacted by email.

Links:

Vidarbha Suicides: http://www.thesouthasian.org/archives/2007/70_farmer_suicides_in_vidarbha_1.html
http://www.dnaindia.com/report.asp?NewsID=1049554
Government Report on Suicides:
http://www.yashada.org/organisation/FarmersSuicideExcerpts.pdf

The Centre for Non-Violent Farming - note that this website is still under construction. Bookmark it now, visit later!

Labels: , , ,

Monday, September 29, 2008

New Students arrive at Nagaloka in India

The VIIth batch of students as they begin their studies at Nagaloka
Nagaloka is TBMSG’s training centre on the outskirts of Nagpur, in Central India. Every year it takes a batch of young Buddhist men and women from all over India and gives them a year-long intensive training in both the Dhamma and basic social work – plus marketable skills such as NVC (Non-Violent Communication). After completing the course, some stay for further training while the majority return home and begin to do what they can for the Dhamma in their local areas. In this way a network of over 200 has built up, an India-wide network that is gathering strength every year.

Vivekaratna, Nagaloka’s Director, has written to FWBO News to say –

“The Inauguration Ceremony of the VIIth batch was held at Nagaloka on 6th July 2008. This year we have 67 Trainees, it is a special year for us because so many of them are female – in total we have 23 Female & 44 Male. They come from 14 states of India – this is great news. In addition 6 Trainees from 6th Batch have stayed on and joined the community in Nagaloka.

You can see photographs of Nagaloka on the FWBO Photos site here, and a detailed map, produced in 2007, of all TBMSG groups across India here.

Labels: , , , , ,

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”.

Labels: , , , ,

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.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lokamitra awarded the Manhae Grand Prize for Peace in Korea

FWBO News is delighted to report that Lokamitra, one of the seniormost members of the Western Buddhist Order, and long resident in India, has been awarded the Manhae Grand Prize for Peace 2008 in a ceremony held by Manhae Foundation in South Korea.

The Manhae Grand Prize, one of the most prestigious prizes in Korea, is given annually to commemorate Han Yong-woon (1879-1944), known by the pen name ‘Manhae’. Han was a Buddhist monk, poet and thinker, as well as a great hero of the anti-imperialist movement. Previous recipients include the Dalai Lama (2005), Nelson Mandela (2004), and, last year, President Bongo of Gabon.

This report is from Mangesh Dahiwale, who has been in Korea with Lokamitra -

“In the ceremony, held on 12th August 2008, the President of Jogye Order awarded Lokamitra the Grand Prize for his 30 years of contribution to the understanding and practice of Buddhism in India amongst the followers of Dr. Ambedkar (most of whom were previously known and treated as untouchables). After moving to India, on Sangharakshita’s encouragement, in 1978, he helped initiate the Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha Sahayaka Gana (TBMSG) which now has many Dhamma teaching centres throughout India, a publications wing, and three retreat centres. Soon afterwards Bahujan Hitay was started which runs many social works for the deprived and discriminated, including 80 community centres and more than 20 educational hostels.

“Lokamitra's work is a continuation of Sangharakshita's work and vision, emphasising the possibilities of social transformation through Buddhist practice. Although Sangharakshita returned to England in 1960s in order to develop the FWBO, he never lost his connection with his Buddhist friends in India, and Lokamitra was able to follow up his very strong and deep contacts amongst the Buddhists in Maharastra, especially in Pune and Nagpur, developed through Sangharakshita’s extensive teaching tours in the slums and villages of India during the 1950s.

“Now the work we are doing in India has begun to appeal to the Buddhists all over the world and is being recognised as a very special example of socially engaged Buddhism in the modern world. Through his friendships in the Buddhist East, and involvement with organisations like the World Fellowship of Buddhists and the International Network of Engaged Buddhists, Lokamitra has helped to bring the attention and appreciation of many in the Buddhist East to the newly converted Buddhists of India. As a result many of them have now visited Nagpur and seen our work at first hand.

“Recently he has been concentrating his efforts on the establishment of the Nagarjuna Training Institute at Nagpur, where in 1956 Dr. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism along with half a million followers. There are perhaps 30 million Buddhists in India today all from the Scheduled Caste communities (Scheduled Caste being the official term for people designated as untouchables in the Hindu caste system), and over 200 million Indians who are open to Buddhism because of the influence of Dr. Ambedkar. While TBMSG does not have the manpower to start centres in every one of the thousands of towns in India (which is what is really required!), it helps to train new Buddhists from all over India at the Nagarjuna Training Institute, where it runs a one year introductory, residential training course in Buddhist teaching and practices, as well as basic social work skills. In fact the Nagarjuna Training Institute has been instrumental in training 495 men and women from 19 states in India since its inception in 2002.

“The people from the Scheduled Castes still face immense difficulties in realising their constitutional rights. Many are working to end suffering due to the caste system, but, at times, lack confidence, a sense of solidarity, and basic training in running organizations. The Jambudvipa Trust, founded by Lokamitra in 1998, encourages individuals and organisations from the disadvantaged sections of society to take initiative and responsibility for their situation. It has been able to assist in natural calamities (eg the Gujarat earthquake, the Tsunami and the Bombay floods) when the Scheduled Castes suffered terrible discrimination in relief and rehabilitation work. Furthermore, under the Manuski Project (Manuski being a beautiful word meaning respect, humanity, compassion) Lokamitra and his team have created a network of over 150 organisations across India for whom it has conducted hundreds of training sessions. The Manuski project is also doing human rights' advocacy work especially related to atrocities (of which there are many) and cases of discrimination.

“In his acceptance speech, Lokamitra appreciated the life and work of Venerable Manhae and expressed the hope that this award will bring much needed attention to the plights of the almost 200 million Scheduled Caste and the glorious non-violent struggle for liberation and social transformation of about 30 million of them through Buddhism”.

Sadhu Lokamitra!

There's a short video of Lokamitra speaking after the award on Tagstory.

Labels: , , ,