Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Karuna women's appeal in local paper

A women's Karuna appeal is in full swing in Bristol, UK - and was recently interviewed for a local Bristol paper. Under the heading 'DEVOTING ALL THEIR TIME TO FIGHTING PREJUDICE', the paper recounted how the women "spend their days praying, meditating and fund-raising" and quoted Amitasuri as saying "If my heart is open, we can meet with one another. Last night I was very moved by people's kindness, with people's honesty with me". It's a little unusual for Karuna's appeals to 'go public' in this way, but the reporter was clearly moved by what she saw.

Karuna's door-knocking appeals raise just over UK 1 million pounds/year for Dhamma and social work in India, and are a unique way to combine spiritual practice with effective and meaningful work for the benefit of others - Buddhist Right Livelihood in the very best sense.

Karuna's appeal dates for 2008 have been released and are on the Karuna Appeals website.

Meanwhile the Karuna Trust itself has a brand-new website, and very handsome it is too!

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ordinations at Tiratanaloka

On Wednesday 1 August, in the context of a Going for Refuge retreat, the following ordinations took place at Tiratanaloka (all names Sanskrit except where indicated):

Public Preceptor Parami:

Fiona Doolan becomes ACHALAMAYI (Pali, long 'I'). 'She whose nature is steadfast, reliant, resolute, unswaying'; (private preceptor

Caroline Glanville becomes SAMADEVI (long 'i'). 'She who is a Goddess of Equanimity'; (private preceptor Ratnavandana).

Su Angel becomes AKASHACHITTA. 'She whose heart is luminous like space'; (private preceptor Ratnavandana).

Margit Vidakovic-Whitton becomes DHARMAJIVANA (long 'i 'and final 'a'). 'She whose vitality, or life-breath, is the Dharma'; (private preceptor Maitreyi).

Maria Jose Mics becomes DHARMANISHTA (long final 'a'). 'She who is grounded on, and devoted to, Dharma'; (private preceptor Paramachitta).

Public Preceptor Ratnadharini:

Susanne Traud-Dubois becomes AMOGHAMATI. 'She whose mind is intent on unerring success'; (private preceptor Kulanandi).

Christina Ganslev becomes ADVAYASIDDHI. 'She who has the accomplishment, fulfilment, satisfaction, complete happiness of seeing that, in essence, things are not different or separate from each other'; (private preceptor Vajrapushpa).

Public Preceptor Maitreyi:

Karin Bluemke becomes DRIDHADEVI (long final 'i'). 'Steady, resolute, persevering goddess'; (private preceptor Kulanandi).


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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Dhammacharini Ordinations in India

FWBO News is happy to announce the latest in a long series of ordinations this year - of men and women in the UK, America, Spain, New Zealand, and India. We believe this brings the total size of the Order to just over 1,500, with approximately 340 living in India. We also believe this marks the first time in our Order - and perhaps the first time ever in India - that Indian women have acted as Preceptors, witnessing the Going for Refuge of other women.

On 16th July 2007 the following women were ordained at the Hsuan-Tsang retreat centre, Bor Dharan, India.

Karunamaya was the public preceptor.

>From Nagpur
1 Kamalasr
Ex Pratibha Moon . She who has the beauty, grace, splendour and radiance of a lotus. Private Preceptor Srimala.

2 Jayaloka
Ex Sitabai Dhavle. She whose light is victory. Private Preceptor Karunamaya

3 Saddhaja
Ex Jamgade Bai. She who is born of faith. Private Preceptor Karunamaya.

4 Sumegha.
Ex Usha Kamble. She who has a good cloud of qualities. Private Preceptor Jnanasuri.

5 Suprabha
Ex Kamal Nagrale. She who is very bright/splendid/glorious. Private Preceptor Jnanasuri

>From Wardha

6 Gunachandra
Ex Chitra Javale. She who is a moon of virtue. Private Preceptor Karunamaya.

>From Amaravati

7 Sujaya
Ex Maya Sukhdeve. She who has a good victory. Private Preceptor Jnanasuri.

8 Suruci (pronounced Suruchi)
Ex Karuna Sonule. She who has great delight (in the Dhamma). Private Preceptor Jnanasuri.

>From Goa

9 Yasomati (pronounced Yashomati)
Ex Archna Sherlekar she who has a beautiful, glorious, renowned mind. Private Preceptor Jnanasuri.

With metta Karunamaya
21 July 2007


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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Buddhist parenting - interview on the BBC

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

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Vimalasara and her forthcoming book Broken Voices

Vimalasara has sent us this report and request for help. We're pleased to pass it on in case there's anyone out there...

She says "Earlier this year I was in India for four months, writing a book on the situation of Dalit women for the FWBO/TBMSG’s ‘Arya Tara Mahila Trust’ - a Buddhist organization working for the empowerment of Dalit women. Initially we’d thought ATMT would try to raise the money to publish it, but after doing the research and writing it up, I felt strongly the book was so important it deserved to be published by an established publisher. Hence my hunt began for the publication of 'Broken Voices - Ex-Untouchable Women Speak Out’.

"Of course I went to Windhorse first as everyone in the Sangha seemed to think they were the appropriate publisher, but alas they are focusing on purely Buddhist books, and felt unable to market the book. I then tried some mainstream publishers, and the following is typical of the letters I got back,

`Dear Valerie,
We discussed your proposal at our editorial meeting on Wednesday and my colleagues were very impressed both by the depth of your research into the normally overlooked lives of ex-Untouchable women in India and by the strength of these stories. This is a really important topic and it's wonderful that people outside the immediate community are beginning to examine these women's lives. But although it's interesting and worthwhile I'm concerned about how we could publish it effectively here. I agree that there is a growing awareness of the Dalit experience and very much admire your attempt to let the women whom you have interviewed speak in their own voice as far as possible but I am concerned that the audience for a general book of this kind would be very limited and with regret we have decided to pass. I'm sorry and wish you every success on publication elsewhere.’

"Four publishers said almost the same thing, so what to do? We tried the FWBO Growth Fund who felt that Windhorse were the people we should be approaching, and some even felt a charity like Karuna should be the ones to publish. But they too were unable to help us. So we are back to square one. The book is with a couple of publishers in India- but if they go ahead this will only be for India, and so we still need to raise the money to publish in the UK.

"This is where self-publishing is a brilliant resource but of course we still need the funds to do this. Everyone who has worked on the manuscript has done it for nothing – which has been an inspiration – and Bhante Sangharakshita has also read it, and agreed to give his endorsement.

"So I’m trying to find away to finance the actual printing of the book, then ways of distributing it. I have some big news which I’m unable to announce till December and therefore in terms of a media campaign that would be a great time to bring the book out."

Please contact her if you think you can help at vimalasara [at]

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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Sangharakshita dedicates new Tara Shrine Room at Taraloka

At the end of May, the International Sangha Gathering was held at Taraloka - an annual event for women who have asked for Ordination and run by women from Buddhafield, Tiratanaloka and Taraloka.

The event was called: ‘Entering the Tiger’s Cave’ and was based on the theme of renunciation. Throughout the weekend we listened to talks, studied words from Padmasambhava, participated in special pujas and finished with a talk from Parami about the connection between renunciation, Ordination and the Bodhisattva Ideal. And somehow, within all of that, we managed to fit in a visit from Sangharakshita.

He arrived on the second day, beginning with lunch with the Taraloka Community and a couple of guests. Then, after a short rest, he gave a talk on his connection with Tara – highlighting the importance of metta and vegetarianism. Then everyone followed Sangharakshita, as he made his way to the new Tara shrine-room, all of us chanting the Tara mantra. Surprisingly, all 70 of us managed to fit into the new shrine-room – either standing or sitting – and a poem written by Sangharakshita called ‘White Tara’ was read by Saddhanandi. This was followed by the Dedication Ceremony (also written by Sangharakshita) and the White Tara long life Mantra.

Then it was time for a cup of tea. Sangharakshita sat in the lounge and, as more and more women joined him, a very informal ‘question and answer’ session developed, with a spontaneous photo-call in which Bhante held on his lap the two 5 month old babies that were attending the event with their mothers. Sangharakshita then had supper with a group of Dharmacharinis and Mitras, after which Dhammamati drove him back to Madhyamaloka.

It had been a very beautiful and moving day, and when the Sangha Gathering was over many of us left Taraloka with a strong sense of Bhante’s presence and the blessing of having spent some time around him in such relaxed and easy circumstances. The Tara Shrine Room now stands quietly at Taraloka, fully dedicated and already containing a strong atmosphere of meditation and devotion; a new focus to this Realm of Tara.

See here for more photos of the event, and here for photos of Taraloka in general.

White Tara
Appearing from the depths of heaven
The white robed goddess calm and light
Sheds moon-like on this lower world
The blessing of her silver light.

Seven eyes she has all open wide
In face and forehead and hands and feet
For she of Pure Awareness is
Embodiment and paraclete.

One hand in teaching gesture raised
Imports a wisdom thrice profound T
he other open on her knee
For endless giving is renowned.

A lotus at her shoulder grows
Complete with flower and bud and fruit
Her form is straight and still,
For she Is grounded on the Absolute.

Awake! Arise!
She seems to say
Leave dreams, leave sloth, leave passions vile!
Oh may we, seeing her, go forth
Encouraged by her perfect smile.

Sangharakshita (‘Call of the Forest and Other Poems’ Windhorse Publications)

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Thursday, June 14, 2007


On Tuesday 12th June, in the context of a three-month retreat, the first ordinations took place at Akashavana - the FWBO's new retreat centre dedicated to the ordination of women, in the Spanish mountains.

Public preceptor Parami:

Ethel Findlay becomes AMBARANTA (long third 'a'); literally 'sky-limit'; horizon;'she who is unbounded like the sky' (sanskrit); private preceptor Dhammadassin.

Patricia Jeffrey becomes JAYAVARDHANI (long 'i'); 'she who increases, strengthens, augments her victories' (sanskrit); private preceptor Kalyanasri.

Enid Park becomes SARANAJAYA (long last 'a'); 'she whose victory comes from the Refuges' or 'she who wins liberation through the Refuges' (pali); private preceptor Kulaprabha.

Fionna Yule becomes AMITASHURI (long 'u' and last 'i'); 'boundless, limitless heroine' (sanskrit); private preceptor Maitreyi.

Jo Howes becomes SAMASHURI (long 'u' and last 'i'); 'impartial, equanimous heroine' (sanskrit)' private preceptor Maitreyi.

Sonia Rodriquez becomes ABHAYAGITA (long 'i' and last 'a'); 'she whose song is fearlessness' (sanskrit)' private preceptor Paramachitta.

Public preceptor Ratnadharini:

Judi Simons becomes MANIGARBHA (long last 'a'); 'she who has an inner jewel', or 'matrix of gems' (sanskrit) private preceptor Padmasuri.

Caroline Martin becomes ATAPINI (long first and second 'a', and last 'i'); she who is diligent, ardent and zealous' (pali); private preceptor Kalyanasri.

Public preceptor Maitreyi:

Sabine Lentz becomes SANGHADARSHINI (long last 'i'); 'she who sees the Sangha', 'she who has a vision of the Sangha' in the sense of knowing and understanding (sanskrit); private preceptor Kulanandi.

Pippa Andrewes becomes NAGARAKSHITA (long first and last 'a'); 'she who is guarded, protected by the Nagas' (sanskrit); private preceptor Muditasri.

Carol Bois becomes MAITRIPUSHPA (long second 'i' and last 'a'); 'she who has the flower of benevolence' (sanskrit); private preceptor Ratnadharini.

Emma Styles becomes AMBARAVAJRI (long 'i'); 'sky vajra', 'she who is a vajra like the sky' (sanskrit); private preceptor Dhammadassin.

Public preceptor Padmasuri:

Bianca Boterhoek becomes AMARASHRADDHA (long last 'a'); 'immortal / undying faith' (sanskrit); private preceptor Ratnadharini.

Leonie Luterman becomes SAMAYADEVI (long 'i'); 'luminous one of the vow or bond - the bond of inner relationship with the Three Jewels and her yidam' (sanskrit); private preceptor Karunadevi.


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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Intrepid women #2 - AIDS work in Uganda

Loren Treisman is a mitra from the Cambridge and Buddhafield centres. She’s been in Africa for the past eight months working first on AIDS-related projects in Uganda with an NBO called Tasaaga, latterly in Malawi in an orphanage. This is a report from her. She says -

“So I thought I would start with a brief low down on the general situation out here and then go on to the specifics.

AIDS is affecting EVERYONE. It's not as simple as treating patients. Every family I have met has either lost a member or is caring for orphans which few can afford, communities are losing health workers, teachers, basically all skilled workers to this devastating disease. It's an endless cycle where poverty increases the risks of becoming infected with HIV and being infected leads to greater poverty. I've been reading so much literature out here and I could tell you so much more, it's verging on impossible to describe quite what it is like out here where few people have access to basic needs such as clean drinking water, education and health care and where ignorance is killing people.

At the start of this year, I was working on Jana island, which is 1 of the Ssese islands on Uganda’s Lake Victoria (which is so large it looks like an ocean). The only access to the island is on a rickety boat which only goes once every 2 days (and that's in theory, in practice it goes less often). There's no electricity, no water other than the lake (or bottles which noone but me can afford), no permanent structures (mud huts only), no secondary school, no nurses or Drs, I could go on but I am sure you get the picture. There are approximately 1500 people on the island, excluding children and the HIV infection rate is estimated to be around 29%, though it is impossible to know as few people have managed to get tested. Women have a really hard time and since I have been here in Uganda (about 2 months) I have only managed to make one female friend but many males.

Following interviewing, I realised that the most vital necessities on the island were education and income generation. I devised an education program and gave daily seminars ranging from lectures to informal gatherings in the various villages on topics including nutrition, family planning, child abuse and labour. The receptivity was incredible and I was astonished at how much people listened. I have had villagers flocking to me for free condoms and femidoms which oddly enough they really like out here, telling me how much energy they’ve got having drunk more water, telling each other off if they saw child violence, it brings tears to my eyes to see the difference.

4 people died on the island while fishing (the only way to make a living in Jana), all in their 20's, which really got to me due to being unable to swim so I arranged swimming lessons in the lake. It was fairly tough teaching adults but some of them were getting there and I have encouraged them to train others.

My main work on the island involved setting up income generating schemes. I don't believe in hand outs, and people expect them here from people in the west so I thought the best solution was to start some project which helped the villagers help themselves. After many meetings, establishing viability of different projects, the fertility of soil, the skills available, etc, 2 projects were decided on-pineapple growing and pig rearing. By the time I left, with the help of many inspiring villagers land was cleared for 300 pineapples and there are 400 more to go and the pig house had started to be built and piglets secured from the mainland. A committee was established comprised of trustworthy community members who will decided how to distribute the money, based on those who work hardest and those who are unable to work due to old age or bad health The aim is for the profits to largely contribute towards supporting orphans, school fees and health care as well as to expand the projects to generate more income. People are so incredibly grateful.

Since then it's been Malawi and the city of Blantyre where I've worked in a very cool orphanage, the contagious smiles of African kids never cease to make my heart go gooey inside, I can't wait to teach some of them in August! My meditation has gone to new levels which is most exciting too. So much inspiration out here! Miss you all more than you know, it gets painful sometimes but I can't help following my dreams, Africa rocks my world!

SADHU Loren...!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Three remarkable women...

The last few months have seen three remarkable women from the FWBO taking their practice way off the cushion and out into the world. FWBO News hopes to do short reports on each over the next couple of weeks.

First is Zee-Zee Heine, a mitra (and long-time peace activist) from the North London Buddhist Centre. She was active in the North London centre's 'ESA'(Environmental and Social Action) group and before that in the FWBO's 'P.S... ecopractice network'. For the past two months she's been in Palestine working with EAPPI, the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel. Her work has been a varied mixture of personal training, checkpoint watches, accompanying children to school past violent Israeli settlers, interviewing victims of military or settler violence, and sending news of what is happening to friends and contacts in the West.

Here is an excerpt from her latest report -

"...we went to a two-day conference on Popular Resistance in a village called Bil'in. On the third day was to be a peaceful demo, however it is a village which has a demonstrations every week about the fact that the wall goes through the land of the village and denies them access. The organisers said the demo was always peaceful but sometimes youths of the village when they saw Israeli soldiers on their families land would feel they had a right to throw stones at them, and the soldiers would respond violently.

Part of the conference included what in Britain is called pre action training. For example we were told that if the youths were seen to be collecting stones one could go over and talk to them, if the soldiers started firing rubber bullets the safest thing to do is to sit down, allow things to calm down and then slowly get up and drift forward whereas if they fire tear gas it is better to disperse up-wind and then regroup. But because of the big conference there would be many extra people including many internationals, so the organisers thought it unlikely that the demo would become violent the next day.

In the event we gathered in the centre of the village and walked down the road towards the separation barrier. Just as we reached the outskirts of the village, when we were still about half a mile from the barrier and still all on the public highway, the Israeli solders started firing tear gas without any provocation. I was amazed. Some of the other EAPPI volunteers and I went back to the house where we had gathered and watched from the roof. Two others ran over the pastures and got up wind of the tear gas and stayed much closer and took lots of photos. The solders followed the tear gas with plastic coated metal bullets and water cannon. Very different from any British demo I have been on."

She will be back in early July and concludes her report by saying "When I return I want to do speaking engagements to let people know about the conditions in Palestine." If you can help arrange any in the UK (or beyond!) please let her know directly on zeezeeh [at]

Next in this series - Loren Treisman from Cambridge/Buddhafield. Suggestions for other entries welcome...

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

FWBO Taraloka

Taraloka Main HouseTaraloka Retreat Centre recently featured on BBC Radio 4's Women's Hour program. The program is available on the BBC website via the Women's Hour Homepage, and includes extracts of interviews with Kavyasiddhi, and Saddhanandi who lives at Taraloka.

The BBC website also boasts two videos of Taraloka - Inside a Buddhist retreat centre, and Take a Tour of a Buddhist Retreat. The first was one of a series of films made by BBC Shropshire examining faith and religion in modern society.

The Good Retreat Guide says of Taraloka: "One of our most favourite places... Highly Recommended"

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