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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Jyotivana Women's Community in Manchester Unveils Beautiful New Shrine Cabin

Dayanandi writes from Manchester with news of the women community's new shrine cabin. She says -

“15 months ago it was the dream of the Jyotivana women's community here in Manchester to have a shrineroom where the community could meditate together. Our previous meditation space was an unheated attic accessible only via a loft ladder which ruled out Vidyamala from joining the others due to her back injuries and was unsuitable for Amitasuri in cold weather due to her kidney condition. (In fact several of the rest of us found it rather gruelling in the winter months!) The dripping & splashing from the water tanks in the roofspace was another issue - arguably a spur to deeper concentration but one I wouldn't be sorry to leave behind!

“The house was being used to maximum capacity with 7 in the community so the only solution seemed to be an outdoor shrine room in some sort of log cabin - probably too expensive for us to afford we thought.... But enthusiasm grew for the cabin and we decided to go for it, enlisting the help of the Sangha through fundraising. Munisha had the idea to hold Fundraising Buddhist Film Nights for the Women's Sangha .....and the rest is history... as they say! The first night we ate a delicious curry, dhal & rice and settled down to watch what turned out to be the first of many inspiring and enjoyable films. The majority of the £6500 that we raised to pay for the cabin came via these film evenings through the small and large donations that were received. But as a community we gained far more than the money for the shrineroom as the evenings were so enjoyable and the sense of support for us and our project so dynamic. We enjoyed welcoming everyone to our community and the ensuing 'explosion' of Sangha was quite amazing with between 20 - 30 women chatting away over dinner and settling down on our sofas for the film. The rumour had got about that we had a big screen for the films - which we did - a large white sheet pinned to the curtains, with a PowerPoint projector! It's amazing how we all fitted into the lounge.

“There were a worrying few months when, with the credit crunch, cabin prices soared but as Autumn came the cabins we'd been looking at on the Internet went on Sale and we decided to buy then even though we hadn't raised the whole amount. We picked the fully insulated version of a timber cabin, with double doors and a window....looking very like a Swiss chalet! (see photo!) Sona and Moksapriya quoted us for installing it. They had a free week in December - and up it went! They both worked long, hard and well as did various members of the community & friends in preparing the site and applying stain and varnish to the finished shed. Amitasuri provided the workers with coffee and bagels. She & Dayanandi also took photos from which Vidyamala has made a great film - soon to be available on You Tube!

“I should mention that we received a great boost to our fundraising when Vidyamala and Amitasuri were granted £750 between them from the Abhayaratna Trust to help fund their use of the cabin. This is a new Charity, set up to support Order Members to live a full life in the Sangha in the face of difficulty due to old age, disability and sickness.

“And so, on the 3rd January, four of us, including Vidyamala, set up a simple shrine and meditated in the cabin for the first time. It was such a lovely, clear space to meditate in, just bare wooden floors and walls with views out across the snowy garden to the woods of the Kersal Dale Nature Reserve. It was pretty quiet; a woodpecker knocking loudly on braches above us, some birdsong, a few cars on the road nearby. Later that day, with six of the seven community members able to be present, we performed a dedication ceremony to ritually inaugurate this beautiful new cabin and with it, I think, a new era in the life of Jyotivana Community!”

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

December in South India: news from a Dharma tour

As Christmas approaches, spare a thought for Shakyajata and Priyadaka,  two Order Members from the UK, both currently touring India and visiting many of TBMSG’s most remote ‘Dhamma outposts’, small projects in remote areas, mostly initiated by gradates from Nagaloka.

She says -

“Well, where to begin? We have been travelling for nearly five weeks now, and every day is packed with impressions, a rollercoaster of unfamiliar experiences. Both of us are showing symptoms of overload (poor sleep, strange dreams, loss of short-term memory etc) so have decided to spend a few days here in Kerala, meditating and chilling out - we have just spent an entire day at the beach!

Before that we were in Hyderabad, where we arrived having survived a rather trying train journey from Bhubaneshwar in Orissa... there were MICE! The situation in Hyderabad could not be more different from Orissa, a remote place where there are a bunch of young mitras full of enthusiasm and inspiration; here TBMSG is much more established.

We visited a very famous site, Nagarjunakonda, an amazing place. Up to about the 5th century CE, this remote, peaceful valley of the ancient river Krishna, was a huge Buddhist monastic settlement, with many monasteries, stupas, viharas etc; then as everywhere in India, Buddhism became overlaid by Brahmanism and eventually disappeared. Then in the 1950s it was decided to build a huge dam, for much-needed irrigation for the peasant farmers of a huge area of Andhra Pradesh. The whole valley was set to be drowned; but a remarkable Indian archaeologist completed an excavation of the whole huge area, in just 6 years. Now the site is a vast lake (the dam is staggeringly huge) with an island where all the artefacts are displayed in a museum, among beautiful gardens and a setting like a Japanese ink-painting.

The Buddhist artefacts are amazing, not quite like anything I have seen before; including large standing and sitting Buddhas with strong faces of a different ethnic appearance from northern Buddhas, and unusual mudras (hand gestures). The site finds go back to the Old Stone Age, so much to take in...and we only had an hour!

The heroine of this stage of our journey is Jnanajyoti, who is making great efforts to connect and reconnect with women she knows in the Sangha here. I do hope they will continue to be supported in future, by TBMSG and the FWBO as a whole. Also great thanks are due to Padmavir who is trying to organise good things for us and, it seems, lots of other visitors at the same time! It's great to witness a revival of the ancient Buddhist traditions in Hyderabad, in a new form which will transform the lives of people here.

Kerala, on the western coast of South India, is hot and humid, quite tropical, and very beautiful, generally cleaner and more sorted than other parts of India.

Today, meditating on the beach, it came clear that there are women here I especially want to help.
In fact we have lots of ideas for projects we want to pursue. We have had a number of successful (if rather stressful) 'programmes' and there is so much interest in people, in what we have to offer. Spending a day or 2 as a 'tourist' has made me realise what it is I love about being here - it is a sort of glow on people's faces when they realise what their potential is for a different way of looking at their lives - that brilliant gleam of human potential, it's the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

And people are so friendly and responsive - a few days ago I found myself talking (to about 100 people) about my brother Asangasila's death (it was the anniversary) in just a natural way...they are so open and uninhibited. In Kerala we have spent a lot of the time with Ratnasiddhi, an Indian Order Member from Nagpur who is very impressive. He connects with people in a way we never could - I said something that inadvertently offended someone very politically militant at a meeting, and he fielded it so expertly. We are learning so much - Priyadaka is revealing a particular talent for teaching meditation, making it simple and appealing and very effective - to a group of 150 people including lots of babies, on one occasion!

Return to Nagpur
On Saturday morning we are going about 150 km north to stay with one of the Indian Dhammamitras in Kerala, who is going to show us some historic sites and put us on the train on Monday morning, to go back to Nagpur in central India, where we shall be based for most of the rest of the time here. This is a bit of a cliff-hanger as we do not have a confirmed reservation yet....our previous experience of this was not positive, we had no space to sleep...the journey takes 2 days and a night, so wish us luck...but it should be an exciting journey, through half of India....time to go now.

Any support you can give will be most welcome, on ... and thanks to you all.

love to all,
Shakyajata and Priyadaka

The map above shows most of TBMSG's groups across India; their website is at

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Dhamma travels in India

Shakyajata is a woman Order Member from Manchester, turned India traveller and supporter of the many graduates of TBMSG’s Dhamma and Social training programme at Nagaloka in central India. Since the programme started 8 years ago some 400 young men and women from all over India have graduated; many have returned home to begin Dhamma groups where they live. She and Priyadaka, also from the UK, are currently on an extended tour visiting many of them in their home towns and villages. She’s fundraising as she goes, and FWBO News readers are warmly invited to contribute to her fundraising page

She writes -

Dear all,

Here is an update of what I shall be doing in India this winter, all being well. The best news of the lot, is that I shall be travelling most of the time with Priyadaka, an old friend, India returnee, energetic idealist and very experienced fundraiser, to name but a few of his auspicious is that?

Our plan, in roughly chronological order, is:

Nagpur, central India: Aryaloka Animation students, 2nd - 7th November
We hope to be able to assess the success of this experiment in giving this training to 10 ex-Nagaloka Training Institute trainees, 6 of whom are fully supported by our fundraising efforts.

Orissa, north-eastern India - Dhamma Work, 8th - 22nd Nov.
We shall be travelling round this state where there is a lot of poverty and very little in the way of specifically Buddhist activity; the ex-NTI trainees here are focusing on social work, and we hope to devise strategies to support them in future. and raise their profile. Jnanajyoti and Tejadhamma will be with us, plus Utpal, Trinath and Nagavajra and others, who are doing the work on the ground.

Hyderabad, south India - 23rd - 28th Nov.
We hope to be able to meet up with Padmavir, late of NTI. Also I hope to pick up on some of the women who were contacted on previous outreach projects to Hyderabad. And do a bit of chilling-out in fascinating places!

Thiruvanathapuram and Kollam, Kerala, south India - 30th Nov - 11th Dec.
A short, but rather full programme of activities in Trivandrum with Nagaratna and others, joined by Ratnasiddhi for some of the time. We hope to spend time at Abhayaloka in Kollam, with Binoj Babu and others, and give everyone help where we can, with fundraising and publicity, for example.

Nagaloka, Nagpur, 14th Dec. - 13th Jan.
This part of the programme is still under negotiation, but will definitely include the 'launch' of the Buddhist Comic produced by the Animation course students, which we hope will be a successful fundraiser and focus for their first self-supporting efforts. We hope to do some teaching, myself on the mainstream curriculum at Nagaloka, and Priyadaka probably teaching English at Aryaloka Computer Education (where the A.C. course is being taught.)

Wardha, 14th - 21st Jan
We will both be on the team of a BIG retreat, maybe 1000 people, for 'Dalit' (marginalised) people, led by Saddharaja. Two-thirds of the retreatants are expected to be women. Check their fundraising page at

Our aims
This rather diffuse-looking programme will be unified, we hope, by the following long-term aims; "to support young people from disadvantaged ('low-caste') communities throughout India, so that they will have the skills and confidence to bring about radical positive change for their communities: overcoming poverty, prejudice and ignorance by peaceful means."

Your support will be most welcome, financial but also encouragement, thank you. Our fundraising page is at

Just to bring you up to date - I’m writing this from extremely hot and steamy Orissa. It actually rains from time to time, then it gets hotter and steamier - but I'm not complaining, Orissa is very beautiful, and we are doing things I love, with lovely people.

For example, this afternoon we visited the State Museum, Bhubaneswar, mainly to view local Buddhist artefacts; and maybe predictably, that section of the museum was closed for renovation. And in that Indian way, they let us look at the stuff anyway. There were some amazing images, - including a terrifying Tantric one of a kind of gruesome animated corpse holding a severed head - but many of them appeared to have been quite brutally defaced by some past holocaust. Orissa is strongly orthodox Hindu, and our friends here work against a lot of resistance to their Buddhist values. They are mostly young and inexperienced, and we are here to find out what sort of support network can be given to them.

In the museum, I wandered into the 'tribal section' with Trinath, who is our main organiser here, and it was absolutely delightful. He comes from a village family in Western Orissa, and was brought up in quite a traditional way; and many of the objects on display, were just like things used by his family. His grandfather made this sort of basket net to catch fish, he used to wear this sort of hat woven of leaves; and best of all, he is very interested in music, and a very good mimic, and he imitated the sounds of all the strange instruments we saw, and even knew how to make them; like a personal audio show, and it was so good to see how he came alive, in contact with his own history. I felt so privileged to share that.

Spending time with these young people who are so dedicated and kind, despite their struggles, is a sheer delight; and my Order member friends too. Tejadhamma (from Nagpur) is full of energy and enthusiasm, seems to be able to handle any situation, and is full of good ideas to support the mitras in future. Jnanjyoti (also from Nagpur) is a rock, a terrifically strong woman and a great role model for the girls and women we are meeting here. I shall miss them so much when we part (quite shortly), and I am so grateful that Priyadaka (from east London) will still be with me. He is so supportive and thoughtful, and gaining in confidence (eg in public speaking) all the time, and forming good friendships with the young guys here; they tease each other unmercifully, a very good sign.

There is so much I could write about, but this may have to do for now....we are all pretty well, I am fine, and just very happy to be here. At the weekend we will have a two-day retreat for the mitras, to try and give them some tools for their work here. Then we are off to Hyderabad, next Monday; more from there later.

best wishes to all,

Shakyajata and Priyadaka

PS - do check our  fundraising page!

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Friday, November 27, 2009

News from Akasavana

Vijayasri writes with news from Akashavana - the FWBO women's ordination retreat centre high in the Spanish mountains near Teruel . She reports-

“Akshavana is now in its third year of providing ordination retreats for women from all over the world. The third three-month-long retreat took place earlier this year, and we’ve recently completed the second two-week retreat for women unable to manage a long retreat, in the course of which four new Dharmacharinis entered the Order: Jayakara, Aryashila, Candrika and Sanghamani.

“This autumn's retreat was blessed by glorious sunny weather and a series of spectacular sunsets. It was a small retreat, but all present felt the benefit of the beauty, wildness and elemental quality of the Spanish mountains where Akashavana is set.


“Following on from the retreat this autumn we held an Open Day for local people to visit. Six people from the Valencia Buddhist Centre came to help with the occasion, in addition to five Dharmacharinis - Vikasini who is coordinating retreat support at the moment, Padmadharini, who lives in the area, as well as myself, Vijayasri, Siddhimala and Siddhishvari who were there to support the ordination retreat.

“Akashavana is sited 8 kilometers up a rough and rocky track, so we were not sure how many people would actually make it to the retreat centre! We thought maybe 50 at the most? So it was with mounting delight we saw one 4x4 after another arrive, disgorging many people from the nearby village of Penarroya de Tastavins, who have long been curious about the Buddhist women on retreat up in the mountains.

“Various local friends and helpers - plumbers, builders, bakers, hairdressers, even the man who runs Valderrobres great pizzeria - in fact everyone we've had any help from or contact with over the last five years were all invited and most came. Also a local Spanish Tibetan monk called Vicente, or Ngawang, visited and expressed much admiration for the environment for practice we had created, being himself at the start of a project to renovate an old house as a meditation centre in a nearby village.

“When we realised that numbers were mounting to around 150 people there was a bit of worry that we had enough vegetarian tapas to feed them all, but Siddhishvari's and Siddhimala's great work in the kitchen proved to be plenty for all.

“Giuliana and Stephanie from the Valencia Sangha led sessions giving a brief introduction to the FWBO in the shrineroom, and then led everyone in a short taste of meditation. The shrine room was full for three consecutive sessions. I for one found it very moving to look around the room and see many people who have been helpful and hospitable to us enjoying and appreciating what we have created. It was great to be able to show them something of what our movement is about, directly by demonstration rather than just trying to explain.

“We had many favourable comments, about the beauty of the location, the quality of the work on the house, the well-thought-out solar electric and water pumping system, and our openness in inviting them into the retreat centre.

“Thanks to all who made it such a great day”.


More photos of Akasavana are available on FWBO Photos.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Letting go of letting go: a report from Sudakini and Vajralila

11 months ago Sudakini and Vajralila, two women Order Members from the FWBO’s Norwich Buddhist Centre, sold all their possessions and went forth into the homeless life. Their travels have taken them across the UK, to India, back, and over to America - from where they’ve posted a last report on their blog ‘The Cosmic Adventure’ .

We reproduce below some excerpts, focusing on the reflections that have arisen for them as they contemplate leaving the homeless life (despite their love of it) and returning to a more ‘conventional’ existence. For the full story, check their blog…

They write -

Letting go of letting go!
“We are in the end phase of the homeless life as we have known it for the last year now.

“… So now the trip is nearly over and we look back and think: how did we have the courage to take such a risk in selling everything and thinking the money we got (only 12,000 pounds in total) could take us very far. We never could have imagined we would have such a generous response that has enabled us to do what we have done "and yet..."(as Khajit would say). We saw a card the other day that said: "Take the leap and the net will come" ... maybe that says it all: a leap of faith.

“… So, as it has been such a rich time and Bhante seemed so interested in what we are doing, pleased with us even, we thought maybe we can continue this way of life in the UK. But it soon became clear that this was not to be. There would be no way of creating Dana in the UK and so we are having to think...what now? It has highlighted how there is no system or structure in the WBO to help practitioners try the homeless life, even for slots of time.

“… How does one deeply go forth, continuing to be a renunciant in the world? We are faced with the practice of letting go of being homeless wanderers, experimenting with a modern western version of the outer renunciant, and now considering what work and living situation will next best support practice... moving back to a life where the inner renunciant becomes more of the practice. Amongst other things, we have a wish to start FWBO activities where there aren't currently any, and Cornwall is a possibility. We also want to develop a livelihood doing workshops for women”

“… An area of contemplation here is how useful is it to call ourselves "teachers". We have heard the term used quite often here in the States to describe people offering classes in meditation and Buddhism... also the phrase "teachings" used quite a lot... there are a number of experienced and senior practitioners of Buddhism here, within a variety of traditions, who are leading retreats and offering courses and classes. But we have both felt uncomfortable with calling ourselves "teachers" in the Buddhist context, feeling it's a bit grandiose when applied to ourselves, and that "sharing practice" is a better term for describing our experience of leading events at Buddhist centres... but then again, if one has things to teach isn't it a fact that to share this with others is teaching! Semantics or stepping into what one does with authenticity?

Contact them (if you wish to) via the Comments feature on this site.

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

MBE for London Order Member

FWBO News has just received a tipoff from our Taraloka mole, who says -

“Just discovered that Sraddhapushpa has just collected her MBE at Buckingham Palace!”

Thanks, mole…! It’s true - Debrett’s says so, where we learn that the Queen has been graciously pleased, on the occasion of the Celebration of Her Majesty's Birthday, to give orders for the following appointments to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire...

Sraddhapushpa (whose English name is Suzy Powesland) is a 79-year-old Order Member living in an FWBO women’s community around the London Buddhist Centre, and was for many years a teacher in some of East London’s roughest schools. She was nominated for the award (a Member of the British Empire)by her community, which was awarded for “voluntary service to Black and Minority Ethnic People in East London”.

Sraddhapushpa featured prominently in Ed Husain's 2008 book ‘The Islamist: Why I Joined Radical Islam in Britain, What I Saw Inside and Why I Left’, shortlisted for both the Book Prize and Orwell Prize 2008.

To quote from Chapter 1, Ed Husain says  - “Sir William Burrough primary school in Limehouse was almost an extension of my home. The teachers would often visit my parents and I remember going to Ms Powlesland’s house to pick cherries in her garden. She loved her pupils so much that even her social life revolved around us. At weekends she often took us to theatres in the West End, where many of the stories we read in class came alive on stage. My particular favourite was Peter Pan. I liked his ability to do the undoable: to fly.

“Growing up in Britain in the 1980s was not easy. Looking back, I think Ms Powlesland was trying to create her own little world of goodwill and kindness for the children in her care. We grew up oblivious of the fact that large numbers of us were somehow different – we were ‘Asian’.

"‘Pakis! Pakis! F— off back home!’ the hoodlums would shout. The National Front was at its peak in the 1980s. I can still see a gang of shaven-headed tattooed thugs standing tall above us, hurling abuse as we walked to the local library to return our books. Ms Powlesland and the other teachers raced to us, held our hands firmly, and roared at the hate-filled bigots.

"‘Go away! Leave us alone,’ they would bellow to taunts of ‘Paki lovers’ from the thugs. Little did I know then that one day I, too, would be filled with abhorrence of others..."   (click here to read the rest of the first chapter online).

Sadhu Sraddhapushpa!

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Four women ordained in Spain

Four women were welcomed into the Western Buddhist Order on Tuesday 27th October 2009 at Akashavana, the WBO’s Women’s retreat centre in the Spanish mountains.

Gillian Enlund becomes Aryashila (long first and last 'a', and long 'i'): 'She who has noble conduct or character'. (Private Preceptor: Vijayasri)

Beverley Ellis becomes Jayakara (long second and last 'a'): 'She who has a multitude, or mine, of victories'. (Private Preceptor: Paramachitta)

Seg Gaskill becomes Chandrika (long final 'a'): 'She who has the moon / moonlight' (poetic description: 'she who resembles moonlight; who sheds light on things'). (Private Preceptor: Parami)

Georgie Reiser becomes Sanghamani: 'She who is a jewel (lodestone) of the Sangha' as well as 'she to whom the Sangha is a jewel'. (Private Preceptor: Kalyanasri)

Ratnadharini and Parami were the Public Preceptors


Those interested in statistics might like to know that women’s ordinations into the Western Buddhist Order (outside India) have out-numbered men’s for four of the past five years, 2005-2009. On Sunday we’ll publish some statistics illustrating this and other demographic trends in the Order.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Youth Retreat in Bodh Gaya, part II

Here's a follow-up to yesterday's brief report on the recent NNBY Youth retreat at Bodh Gaya.

Aruna Kornana from NNBY reports -

The National Network of Buddhist Youth (NNBY) organized their first regional gathering at Bodhgaya, in Bihar.

It was a great challenge - the first time for this event with an entirely new group of people, working in a new place - but so successful.

Before the retreat the team went from one village to another, house to house, with the aim of educating the local people in the benefits of attending. Some places they could only reach on foot (almost 8-10 KM) and some on tractor.

The greatest challenge we expected was to get the Bihari girls out to come on this retreat as many had never before been away from their family. The local people proved our misconceptions wrong by sending their daughters to the retreat. In fact our efforts resulted in 35 enrollments, which is a big achievement as the tradition doesn’t allow girls to come out and participate in any such activities. This clearly shows how enthusiastic the people of Bihar are.

Dhammachari Subhuti led the retreat educating all present in the importance of Babasaheb Ambedkar ’s great Mantra “EDUCATE, AGITATE AND ORGANIZE”, dealing each of them separately. He mainly focused on how great a difference it makes when we form a proper Sangha: how much more we can contribute to each others’ growth, leading to development of ourselves and the society.

Dhammachari Maitriveer Nagarjuna from U.P. (Uttar Pradesh) led the team with morning Meditation and a talk followed by Group Discussion. We had Personality Development sessions in the afternoon - NVC (Non Violence Communication), English, information about RTI (Right to Information), Career Counseling, Play for Peace, and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), all led by different organizers. At night before we dispersed to bed we had daily Vandana (Puja). We also had a temple visit where we were guided around the sites where the Buddha spent 7 weeks after attaining enlightenment.

One could clearly see what difference the retreat had made on the young citizens. We encouraged them to put forward their concerns which brought into focus the lack of proper resources in the villages and the many obstacles they face in their way to growth.

Greatest of all was the need for girl’s education. The girls present were so happy that they could make it to the retreat. Most of them went back with a positive energy to do something for the other village girls, to motivate them, educate them and take this further. By the end of the retreat we had NNBY task groups (Sangha) one each for different regions. Dhammachari Subhuti in the concluding session said “Before I came to India I told my people in England that there wouldn’t be any girls on the retreat. But I can see that you had made a big difference, a great contribution.”

So a big applause to the whole team of organizers: Sailesh, Sachin, Sujivak (Govind), Suchit, Sujit, Seema, Sandhya, Preeti, Keerti, Aruna, Praneet and Ratnesh.

The whole team contributed in fulfilling the purpose of the Retreat: bringing awareness to the Youth, spreading the message of Buddha and Babasaheb Dr. Ambedkar, also personality development, career counseling, guidance, and play!

With Lots of Metta,
Aruna Kornana

If you'd like to contribute to NNBY's work in India please visit their fundraising website (In the US, we recommend

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Shakyajata and Priyadaka set off to support ex-Nagaloka trainees

Priyadaka reports -

"We will be visiting several states in India over the next three months to follow up these young men and women, all graduates of TBMSG’s Nagarjuna Training Institute, helping them put their Dhamma and other skills training to full use in their communities. You can catch a fuller picture of this exciting project at:

"We intend to help them establish Dhamma teaching; to learn fundraising; to improve their English and even set up a Buddhist materials shop, all in three months! This is ambitious, but we want to aim high and build this project over several years.

"We thought a good way to mark it would be to reproduce here her final blog post, written immediately after her return last March - it captures very evocatively the joys and struggles of working in India, the idealism, the rewards and the frustrations…

She says -
“Thank you Lokabandhu, I'd be very pleased indeed to have my blog report reproduced on FWBO news. Maybe you could say too, that I am fundraising for the future skills training of these prospective young Dhamma workers - see my new webpage 'YoungIndianFutures'.

“Hope you are very well.
“much metta, Shakyajata

Blog March '09 – Shakyajata

“Hello from Shakyajata. I am writing this in the women's community in Manchester, where I have been kindly invited to stay for a while, to recover from the physical and emotional shocks which I experienced on leaving India and returning to the UK. A combination of a nasty bug, jetlag, and the pain of parting from people and projects which had become very dear to me, combined in a devastating way, and I lost about a stone in weight in the first 24 hours after arriving in Manchester.

“However, I am now recovering rapidly (more rapidly than I did when I returned from India in January 2008) and keen to re-engage at a distance with those projects and those people. I feel thankful to the gods of the IT realm, that my little laptop seems to have survived the travelling of 1000s of miles, and the terrible spikes and surges of the Nagaloka electricity supply. It seems ready to carry me into the work of following-up the deeply inspiring initiatives that I have seen developing in India, towards a better future for the young heroines and heroes to whom we have been teaching English, and through them, for hundreds or even thousands more people from poor backgrounds.

“Let me say here a big THANK YOU, to all the people who participated in the English teaching project at Nagaloka. Thank you Jess, Julie, Ken, Jenny, Sue, and Nealey, and especially Aryagita and Achala who are keeping the project going on a permanent basis. I think we can congratulate ourselves that we have made a great difference to the lives of the students of the Nagarjuna Training Institute. At the very least they have gained greatly in confidence; those with reasonable English have become much more fluent, those even with a little have made some progress, and the majority have a sound basis for improvement now and in future, in their fluency and their life-chances. Well done us, team! We gave it our best, and I personally feel I have gained greatly from the experience (or will when I have picked up the pieces!).

“THANK YOU also to all you out there who sponsored us. As well as ourselves and 3 - 4 months of teaching, we gave to the Nagaloka students (who have so little) books, stationery, a PowerPoint projector and laptop, and ongoing financial support for this year's project and the next one. (Also a lot of laughs, and sometimes oranges). You were so generous, and what you gave has gone a long, long way.

“The next big THANK YOU, is to the people who made it possible for us to do our work at NTI; to Padmavir and Vivekaratna, Nagamitra and Tejadhamma, Aryaketu, all the staff at Nagaloka and the girls' hostel, all our wonderful Guest-masters and porridge-cooks, and especially the students themselves, who threw themselves in with such enthusiasm and gratitude, who sang and danced and wrote poetry and drew pictures and mimed for us, made us laugh and cry, who bring the place alive in such a heart-opening way. A huge garland for each of you, of jasmine roses and blue lotuses. I will never forget you, you will always have friends in the West.

“Phew. What a life-changing experience it has been. If any of you out there, would like to participate in future, please let me know...”

Their plans for 2009 include an ambitious travel program visiting many Nagaloka graduates, who are scattered all over India. They’re off to Orissa, Hyderabad, Kerala, Chennai, Wardha, and Pune - India veterans will know just how much travelling this means! We hope to be reporting on some of their adventures in due course…

To contribute to their work, and to the Nagaloka Futures support fund, please visit

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Female Buddhas celebrated at London Buddhist Centre

Maitrivajri writes with news of a cycle of celebration at the FWBO’s London Buddhist Centre: an honouring of the little-known Five Prajnas, the ‘female’ counterparts of the Five Buddhas in the well-known Five-Buddha Mandala.

She says - “This year we are ritually celebrating the female Buddhas, or Prajnas, on the day and time of the year associated with each of them. We began the cycle with the Summer Solstice and female Buddha Mamaki. We are performing outdoor rituals.

“The rituals are open to those who know both our meditation practices and have some experience of Buddhist ritual. It would be great if the Prajnas received more attention! The Mandala of the Five Prajnas is a symbol and image for the wisdom of the Buddhas.”

Next up, on September 20th, the Autumn Equinox, is a ceremony dedicated to Pandaravasini, the female Buddha of the Western direction associated with dusk and the wisdom of uniqueness.

Later in the year it is the turn of Samayatara, the female Buddha of the Northern direction associated with midnight and the wisdom of action (to be held over the weekend of Halloween/Samhain); and Akasadhatesvari, the female Buddha at the centre of the Mandala beyond time and space. She is associated with the ineffable wisdom of the Transcendental. Her ceremony will take place at the time of the Winter Solstice, Sunday Dec 21st.

For more details check the London Buddhist Centre website.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Neo Natal Ambulance is donated by Rotary Club, Pune to TBMSG Pune’s Jeevak Medical Project

Milind Shakya, an Order Member from the Mahavihara, TBMSG’s large centre in Pune, India, writes with news of a generous donation to Jeevak, the long-running women’s social project. 

He writes -

"The Gandhi Bhavan Rotary Club of Pune recently donated a Neo-Natal Ambulance with Ventilator and Portable incubator to TBMSG Pune’s Jeevak Medical Project in Mahavihar.

"In this program the Rotary Club’s President Mr. Shrikant Mahajan, Vilas Jagtapji , Dr. Sudhir Rashingkar, Dr. Govind Datar, and Atul Joshi were present. They met with Yashosagar, TBMSG Chairman, and Karunadeepa, Director of Jeevak.

"Dr. Rashingkar said they approached Jeevak for this donation because of the credibility of the TBMSG and Jeevak’s medical projects in India and particularly in the Pune area. He expressed confidence that the new facility will allow the Trust to save many newborn lives. Dr. Datar expressed in his speech the importance of childcare and reducing the child mortality rate.

"Many Rotarians were present for this Program and they all appreciated the work Trust is doing. And extended their wish for further help".
Readers of FWBO News may remember the fire that gutted the building in March; we are delighted to report this improvement in their fortunes.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Women's Ordinations in Dehra Dun, northern India

On Saturday 13 Jun 2009 two women had their public ordinations during the course of a women's mitra retreat at the Gorkha Military School, Dehra Dun.

These are the first women's ordinations in India outside of the state of Maharashtra. Sadhu!

Dhammamitra Sumitra from Dehra Dun becomes Dhammacharini Suvinaya – she of good, honest conduct/ethics. Her private preceptor was Jnanasuri, also from India

Dhammamitra Suman Lata from Dehra Dun becomes Dhammacharini Mettavadita -- she with speech full of Metta. Her private Preceptor was Karunamaya, who has lived in India for many years.

The Public preceptor was Karunamaya. The names were checked by Professors Sushila Muljadhav and C.R. Ingale from the Pali Department of Marathawada Dr Ambedkar University, Aurangabad.

The photograph shows Mettavadita just after her ordination.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ordinations at Akashavana and forthcoming ordinations at Guhyaloka

The Three Jewels of Buddhism, displayed on the Kesa received by members of the Western Buddhist Order on their ordination
This is to joyfully announce the ordinations of seventeen women, of seven nationalities, during the three-month women's ordination retreat at Akashavana.

Public preceptor: Maitreyi

Jan Birbeck becomes Silanandi (Pali) (both ‘i’s long, long first ‘a’) She who delights in ethics. Private preceptor: Vajragita

Stephanie Betschart becomes Padmadrishti, She having/taking a lotus view.

Private preceptor: Ratnavandana

Julia Kurcin becomes Abhayadhi (long ‘i’) Fearless wisdom. Private preceptor: Ratnadharini

Anona Bhambral becomes Karunadhi (long second ‘a’, long ‘i’) She whose wisdom is compassion. Private preceptor: Ratnadharini

Pia Tapio becomes Liladhi (all vowels long). She whose wisdom is the play (of the bodhisattvas). Private preceptor: Ratnadharini

Claire Owen becomes Padmagita (long ‘i’, long last ‘a’) She who is a song of the lotus. Private preceptor: Srivati

Public preceptor: Parami

Fran Neal becomes Pasannamati (Pali) She who has a bright, clear, virtuous and happy mind. Private preceptor: Samacitta

Linda Hanson becomes Vidyasara (all ‘a’s long) She having (liberative) knowledge as her core or strength. Private preceptor: Ratnavandana

Sharon Mercer becomes Nanasiri (Pali) (first ‘n’ pronounced ‘jn’, long first ‘a’, long last ‘i’) She who has the radiance of knowledge. Private preceptor: Dayanandi

Betsy Stirling Benjamin becomes Kiranada (long last ‘a’) She who gives beams of moonlight (of the moon of the Bodhicitta). Private preceptor: Dayanandi

Public preceptor: Padmasuri

Zoe Stephenson becomes Saravantu (Pali) (long first ‘a’) Valuable (like heartwood) She who values what has true meaning. Private preceptor: Dhammadassin

Hedwig Frerich becomes Jayalalita (long last ‘a’) As beautiful as victory, the goddess of victory. Private preceptor: Kulanandi

Angeli van den Berg becomes Parina (all vowels long) She who crosses to the further shore, she who transcends all duality. Private preceptor: Akasasuri

Public preceptor: Ratnadharini

Mari Brothers becomes Dhiragita (both ‘i’s long, long second ‘a’) Firm, steady song. Private preceptor: Punyamala

Helena Treiberg Claeson becomes Dayadharani (long second and third ‘a’, long ‘i’) Bearing, holding, possessing compassion. Private preceptor: Kulanandi

Public preceptor: Dayanandi

Cheryl McMillan becomes Tejavani (long second ‘a’, long ‘i’) Sound, voice or praise of splendour, brilliance, energy. Private preceptor: Karunadevi

Rachel Kahn becomes Dhivajri (both ‘i’s long) She who has the diamond of wisdom. Private preceptor: Viryaprabha

In addition we're delighted to announce the following 19 men will be receiving their private ordinations at Guhyaloka at an unspecified time between now and June 14th. Their Public Ordination will be at Guhyaloka on June 15th at 12:00 (Spanish time - 10:00 GMT):

Ken Pearson, Murray Sansom, Peter Hunt, Rob Thurlow, Simon Lovat, Simon Thunder, Frank Spitzauer, John Denton, Carl Hutchinson, Simon Okotie, Paco Guillermo, Andrew Harman, Nick Ross, Robert Evans, David Beard, Rob Gibbs, Richard Norris, Matthew Burgess and Patrick Baigent.


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Monday, May 11, 2009

Taraloka's 'Great Gathering'

It seems the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are gathering this month in Shropshire, UK - in readiness for Taraloka's annual Great Gathering, to be held over the late May Bank Holiday weekend, ie May 21st - 25th.

Taraloka ( being, of course, the FWBO's women's retreat centre in Shropshire, UK - and the proud holders of two "Retreat Centre of the Year" awards from the Good Retreat Guide.

They say -

"The programme this time will be based on Tsongkapa's Three Principle Paths : Renunciation, Bodhicitta and Wisdom. The weekend includes a talk on each of the three paths; led reflections; discussion groups; pujas; and conversation cafes. This last being a conversational process that Parami and Kuladharini have been using successively in various situations - on the women's day of the Indian convention was one occasion, for those of you who were there. See for details".

All women Order Members and Mitras are welcome, please see their website for details and booking.

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Friday, May 01, 2009

A Green Elephant in Sydney: fundraising for India

Last summer after feverish weeks of preparation, the Green Elephant Buddhist charity shop opened in Sydney, Australia, close to the FWBO's Sydney Buddhist Centre.

Varada reports - 

"The project is the brainchild of two women Dhammamitras, both of whom have asked for ordination. They have since been joined by a third women mitra, who also has asked for ordination. She gave up her well paid, part-time job in IT to become the shop manager, which is the only paid position in the shop.

"The profits from the shop, once they are fully established and have paid off the loans taken out for set-up expenses will be divided 60% to the projects for women and children in India, such as those run by Arya Tara Mahila Trust, and 40% to the Sydney Buddhist Centre. The public has responded warmly and strongly to the shop, and are very interested in the Indian women's projects being supported.

"Already in only a few months of operation the shop is breaking even and should soon be able to start paying off the loans taken out. We hope to make a profit distribution this financial year.

"An enormous amount of vision, planning, enthusiasm and hard work is going into this project to provide money that will benefit women and children in India.

"Sadhu, Sadhu, Sadhu"

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

New issue of Varada: women's social projects in India

The Arya Tara Mahila Trust (ATMT) is an all-women's project in India run by Order Members and Mitras from TBMSG. They've just released the second edition of their newsletter Varada. You'll find it on-line here.

They say -

"Welcome to the second edition of our newsletter and another chance to catch up on developments in women’s projects in India. Full details are on our website

"Despite the heat of early April, another new project successfully was launched in Pune. It is a community-based social project for girls and young women living in slums. We have started work in five slums in the Vishrantwadi area, Pune. The project is for teenage girls from 11 to 20 years of age who either go to school or have dropped out for some reason. We are including aspects of personality development, helping to develop self-confidence, negotiation skills, communication skills and also vocational courses so that the young women will be able to earn something and develop confidence about life. Another new Right Livelihood venture we have helped with is Mudita Screen Printers in Nagpur".

Karunaprabha, the team leader of this new venture explains why these projects are needed: "In the news almost every day we hear about India's rapid economic growth. While increasing prosperity is happening for some people, this development is exacerbating the divide between rich and poor. In a recent Pune University survey, 89% of girls/young women were found to be suffering from anaemia. We arrange anaemia detection camps for the girls and then provide the treatment they need".

They continue -

"ATMT is steadily building international links and a network of supporters - in Germany, Karuna Deutchland has successfully raised an impressive Euro 6000 for ATMT projects. Amoghamati's hard work and the commitment of her team will enable new initiatives to support women’s development.

"Two of ATMT’s Trustees, Karunadeepa and Jayamani were funded to visit Europe in the summer. They gave talks and took part in retreats in UK, Germany and Holland, raising awareness about ATMT’s work and collecting some extra funding too!

"Shakyajata from Manchester, UK, took up the challenge and is now fundraising to sponsor an Indian woman Dhamma teacher to travel with Dhammajyoti team support. Indian women from many backgrounds tell us they benefit from learning to meditate and studying the Buddha’s teaching. They feel more confident and happy in their families and their working lives.

"And in Croydon, south of London, Sue Bolton has started a cushion making enterprise which will fund poor women to escape the pressure of their family situations by going on retreat where they can rest, study the Dhamma, meet other kindly women, eat good food and meditate. Even the $2 per day retreat cost is too much for these women to afford despite the benefits of retreat life".

"If you're interested to support us, please see our website where's there's forms to make a regular donation. There's also our JustGiving page at

"VARADA celebrates the generosity of ATMT’s friends across the world".

Tomorrow FWBO News looks at another fundraising project raising money for Dhamma and social work in India, using a green elephant in Sydney...

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fire in India: Jeevak social work building badly damaged

Karunadipa, Director of Jeevak, TBMSG's woman's social project in Dapodi, India, has sent us this report -

"For twenty years I have been working for Jeevak - we are a team of women doing social and educational work in the slums of Pune. We serve the needs of 200,000 women and their families, providing basic healthcare, life-skills training, legal support and a thriving micro-credit scheme.

"By now you must have heard that fire broke out last month in Jeevak building and the medical and creche in Jeevak has been burnt down because of a short circuit, especially the medical project has been completely destroyed, 5 fire brigade came for help.

"We are fortunate that the whole building did not catch fire or else it would have been a great loss. The fire broke out in the early hours in the morning about 4am on 16th March, since then we have been very busy clearing up the burnt heap. The ground floor looks terrible hence the medical unit has been closed down.

"WE NEED HELP to set up the ground floor for painting, fixing new doors, windows, grills, complete new wiring, electrification etc, which will cost at least 5 lac (about UK £7,000) for renovation of the building, it will be good if you will be able to give this news in the FWBO news letter.

We have a fundraising page at

Thank you."

"With Metta Karunadeepa"

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

FWBO People: introducing Vajradarshini

This Saturday’s ‘FWBO People’ post features Vajradarshini. 

Until recently she was Chair of Tiratanaloka – the FWBO’s retreat centre dedicated to helping women prepare for ordination – and now – she’s an itinerant Dharma teacher, moving between Spain, the UK – and anywhere!

She says – “as of this year i am spending my time as a dharma teacher on the move, communicating sangharakshita's teachings in different venues around the FWBO. i'll be doing retreats, urban retreats, weekends and talks in various places around the uk and europe concentrating on some of my favorite dharma themes.  when not on the road i'll be living in a very simple life in spain where my cost of living will be low and i hope that this will enable me to have some quiet time to do my own study and reflection.


Vajradarshini has always been a bit of a techno-whizz, and she runs her own website, blog, and on-line photo archive to help people get to know her in her new incarnation. 

The website is full of gems, reflecting Vajradarshini’s many interests, especially wabi sabi, and the yogacara – plus, of course, her upcoming retreat schedule for 2009.

In a bold step into the unknown, she’s decided to rely wholly on dana, or generosity, to support herself – you can read her dana statement on her website.  To make this easier for would-be patrons, she has a page on the popular ‘JustGiving’  fundraising website – check  All contributions gratefully received!

She describes her blog as a “diary of ordinary life, of things close to home, close to the heart”.  Most recently she’s been covering her move from the busy life of a retreat centre to a new country and a far more solitary life in the mountains.  She writes –

 I do feel rather that I have disappeared, temporarily, into the mountains. I haven’t felt all that communicative and am rather more out of touch than I used to be with what is going on in the world. I am making the most of this opportunity as I will be emerging, all being well, in March and from then until the end of October I have a pretty full schedule of retreats, weekends and events all around Europe. Feels like a slightly scary thought given that these days I hardly see a soul, oh well I’ve always enjoyed extremes”.

 She continues – “Another project that I have on the go is learning CSS, which is the ‘language’ that you design websites in. I seem to have got that hang of html enough to have made my very simple website, I enjoyed it so much that I thought I would like to learn a bit more so I am in the process of learning CSS and of redesigning my website with it. It is like a rollercoaster of despair and euphoria!

 A little, perhaps, like life itself…

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Fifteen women ordained in India: a record

A group photo of the fifteen women ordained in India in January 2009On January 11, 2009 the following 15 women were ordained at Bhaja, Maharashtra India. This is a record number for Indian women’s ordinations at any one time, and takes the women’s Order in Indsia to a remarkable 88.

The new names are:-

Private preceptor Vajrasuri.
1.Nalini Chabukswar (Yerawada, Pune) becomes Achalasraddha -- she who has immovable faith.
2. Anita Gaikwad (Dapodi, Pune) becomes Maitriratna -- she who has a jewel of friendship.
3. Savita Gautam - (Modinager,Uttar Pradesh) becomes Sraddhavajri -- she who has a vajra of confidence.

Private preceptor Jnanasuri (an Indian Dhammacharini)
4. Vishakha Mane (Pimpri, Pune) becomes Aryachandra -- noble moon
5. Pratibha Shende (Amravati) becomes Danapadma -- Lotus of generosity
6. Shaila Ilamkar (Aurangabad) becomes Kshantichitta -- she whose heart is patience
7. Shushila Ingle (Aurangabad) becomes Kshantimati -- she whose mind is patience
8. Durga Devore (Amravati) becomes Danamati -- she whose mind is full of giving
9. Lata Patil (Nagpur) becomes Jnanasakhi -- friend of knowledge
10.Yashodhara Narvade (Aurangabad) becomes Kshantikirti -- she whose renowned for patience.
11. Shalu Meshram (Wardha) becomes Dipavati -- she who is full of light.

Private preceptor Karunamaya
12. Indubai Shardul (Ghatkoper ,Mumbai) becomes Sanghaprabha --Light of the sangha
13.Rajani Barate (Dapodi , Pune) becomes Mettika (Pali)-- She who has metta
14. Alka Manwatkar (Yerawada, Pune) becomes Bodhisakhi -- friend of awakening
15. Kamal Gaikwad (Dapodi , Pune) becomes Shàntida -- Giver or bestower of peace

The public preceptor was Karunamaya.


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Saturday, January 17, 2009

FWBO People: 'Hen's Solitary Retreat'

This Saturday’s ‘FWBO People’ post features a lady known only (on-line at least) as ‘Hen’. She’s a “Singer, permaculture designer, basket maker, aspiring children's story writer and illustrator, bivouac-er, hill walker - and Buddhist”.

Hen lives and practices somewhere between the Cotswolds and Exmoor, in England – and last Autumn went on her first two-week solitary retreat, having been to a number of FWBO retreats and centres over the years. On retreat she kept a journal and afterwards turned it into a blog, which we’re delighted to feature here.

She writes –

“Many people have said to me that they wish they could do a solitary retreat, because 'they really need one'. That's why I decided to share my experience, to hopefully make going on retreat alone, a bit less mysterious and a bit more 'doable'. “Offered with much love for your continued happiness!”

Hen’s blog is at

Just to whet your appetite, she begins –

“The journey here was long, but totally uneventful and when I pulled into the last bit of track to take me up the hill to the cottage I was relieved not to feel stressed out from driving.

“Well, that was until my car broke down half way up a very steep stony bit of the track. The little computer on my dashboard told me that it was the alternator and that I should take it to a workshop. EEEEEK!”


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Saturday, December 27, 2008

FWBO People: Karunamaya - womens ordinations in India, good news, and an appeal!

This week, in our Saturday ‘People slot’, FWBO News features Karunamaya, a Western Order Member who’s visited India and supported women's activities there for many years. Her name means 'Embodiment of Compassion'; she's a key figure in the Ordination process for Indian women.

Karunamaya's a naturally retiring person, so we don't actually have a 'big picture' of her. Fittingly, however, you’ll find her embedded in the centre of the photograph opposite, or on the Order Mosaic (five people to the right of Avalokitesvara’s elbows!), though there is a close-up here, as part of the Order Mosaic.

We’re especially pleased to feature her because she’s written to FWBO News to say –

We need more Dhammacharinis in India.
Can you help us?

• In September 2008, 11 new women joined the Western Buddhist Order/TBM (in India). The largest number of women ordained in India ever!

• But in January there’ll be even more – 15 women – being ordained. The ordinations will be held at the Bhaja retreat centre 29 December to 11 January. The public ordinations will be January 11, 2009. This is an historic occasion - such a large group of Indian women being ordained at one time. All their names are listed below.

• Also we will be welcoming the first new Dhammacharini from the state of Uttar Pradesh who is resident in the state.

• 700 Indian women + want to train as Dhammacharinis. That’s more than in the whole of the rest of the world!

• There are thousands of women in India who need trained Dharma teachers (Dhammacharinis) to learn the dhamma.

• Our main difficulty is the absence of funds.
• We have just £600/1200 US$ per year for our project. Enough for one team member and a few other expenses.
• We had serious difficulties finding the money to pay for women to attend the two-week ordination retreat.
• And have ongoing difficulties to fund women to come on retreats and to support team members to take the Dhamma out to women in the cities and villages.

• It costs 490 Rupees (£6, 12 US$) for one Indian woman to go on a 1 week retreat.
• A woman in a low income job might earn 400-500 Rupees in a month!
• Or they are dependent on husbands who are not always ready or able to give them the fee.

Could you afford to give £6, (US$12) a month? The cost of 4 cups of coffee? Or could all the members of your group make a 50p, (US$1) donation each week when you meet?

It would all help.

You can help Indian women to help themselves and other women by visiting

Regular donations by direct debit help us plan our work.
For details see or you can e-mail us.

Please state that your donation is for the Arya Tara Mahila Trust Ordination process.

Thank you.

Women's Ordinations in India

Dear Friends
We are pleased to announce the forthcoming ordinations of the following 15 women in India.

The women to be ordained are:-

] Rajani Barate - Pune, Dapodi [2] Anita Gaikwad - Pune, Dapodi [3] Kamal Gaikwad - Pune, Dapodi [4] Alka Manwatkar - Pune,Yerawada [5] Nalini Chabukswar - Pune,Yerawada [6] Vishakha Mane - Pune, Pimpri [7] Shaila Ilamkar - Aurangabad [8] Shushila Ingle - Aurangabad [9] Yashodhara Narvade - Aurangabad [10] Pratibha Shende - Amravati [11] Durga Devore - Amravati [12] Shalu Meshram - Wardha [13] Lata Patil - Nagpur [14] Indubai Shardul - Ghatkoper ,Mumbai [15] Savita Gautam - Modinagar(Uttar Pradesh)

with Metta Karunamaya

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Buddhism in Mongolia: FWBO meets Lamaism meets Christianity

Oyuna Tgr, an FWBO Mitra who has started a buddhist Centre in Erdenet, MongoliaFollowing yesterday’s report on the new FWBO classes in Denmark, today we have news of another new Buddhist Centre linked to the FWBO, also started by a woman – this one in Mongolia!

The Centre is in Erdenet, some 300 kilometres from the capital city Ulaan Bataar, and was founded by a mitra, Oyuna Tgr, who still runs it. Oyuna contacted the FWBO via the West London Buddhist Centre.

Karunamaya, who recently visited en route to the biannual Sakyadhita International Buddhist women's conference (which happened to be held this year in Ulaan Bataar!), sends this report -

“Oyuna has done amazingly well to set up her small centre. When she returned from the UK, she bought a one-bedroom flat which she has converted and decorated into a Buddhist Centre, even down to the details of having dimmer switches for the lights.

“It costs something like 20 US dollars/month (I think) to keep the centre running. Often she pays this from her own money - my impression is that it's not always easy to fund oneself in Mongolia. Oyuna earns a living by tutoring students in Russian. But Russian is less in demand these days than English. So she has just started a one-year English course in Ulaan Bataar - this will cost her 500 US dollars for the year; it will also of course limit her ability to earn an income and to keep the Buddhist Centre going.

“She has nearly completed the Mongolian translation of “What is the Dharma?" by Sangharakshita, and hopes to publish it soon.

“Tarahridaya (an Indian Dhammacharini travelling with me to the Sakyadhita conference) and I visited Erdenet twice, both times staying with Oyuna and her daughter. The two of us, with Oyuna's support and translation, offered a regular twice-daily programme of meditation instruction and small dharma talks/discussion; also on the second visit we held a day retreat.

“At the time of our arrival, the Buddhist group had shrunk to a very few people attending. The enthusiasm and impetus generated by Shuddhabha's visit last year had decreased. My impression was that if I or others visited again a public talk might help generate interest. In fact I recommended this to Mahananda who was due to visit in September. (He subsequently did this)”

The story continues with Oyuna’s next visit, by Mahananda and his friends David and Joanna from the London Buddhist Centre.

David writes -
The twenty-foot high poster advertising Mahananda's talk in the Palace of Culture“We arrived with our wonderful host Oyuna who looked after us so well despite study and work commitments. We were assured that the talk on 'Buddhism in England' which we had agreed to give at Oyuna's request would be a small affair - maybe ten people. However, as the taxi took us past the town hall we gaped in disbelief at a twenty-foot high poster outlining our rosy cheeks with names transcribed intoMongolian. Oyuna had left the local Gelugpa monastery in charge of publicity and they had ramped the affair up by hiring the Palace of Culture! The next day we were whisked to a TV studio for a half-hour live interview. We came on in-between re-runs of Nu Pagadzi - Joanna's favourite Soviet era cartoon! We ended up giving a talk in a University as well and Mahananda kept everyone amused leading some idiosyncratic stretching exercises and simple meditation”.

Karunamaya concludes –

A traditional Mongolian buddhbist dancer“There’s a long history of Mongolian society and Buddhism. In 1921 the Russians helped the Mongolians free the country from Chinese occupation. Around that time it became the Mongolian People's Republic. In the 1930s Stalin told the Mongolians that they had two masters, Buddhism and communism. He said that until they only had one master it would never truly be a Communist state. Subsequently, the Mongolians themselves destroyed Buddhism. Monasteries were ransacked, monks/nuns were disrobed, forced to marry or killed. Buddhism was very much equated with superstition. From what I can understand, there was some truth in this. The Buddhist monastic system did promote superstitious belief and was the source of some corruption and moral laxity.

“Currently, there is still some suspicion about Buddhism in areas that I mentioned above - eg, superstition, that it's incompatible with modern science, and allegations of immoral behaviour on the part of the monastics. Interestingly, on the Sakyadhita conference there was a talk entitled ‘Democratic changes and the conversion to Christianity’ by Narantuya Danzan, exploring a lot of the background and suggesting reasons why some modern Mongols have become Christians. It'll hopefully be published in a forthcoming book based on papers presented to the Sakyadhita conference.

“I wish to thank the FWBO Growth Fund and other donors for helping us with this trip.

We are exploring the possibility of setting up a Translation Fund to help with the publication of basic Dharma materials in Mongolian – and of course other languages. Please contact FWBO News if you are interested.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

FWBO Websites V: Buddhist Pictures

This week’s featured website on FWBO News is Buddhist Pictures, It’s the showcase for artwork created by Visuddhimati, Chairwoman of the FWBO’s North London Buddhist Centre.

The site includes several collections of beautiful and evocative female Buddhist figures – Tara, the ‘ Prajnas’ (the consorts of the Five-Buddha Mandala); Mamaki; Dakinis; and Prajnaparamita.

There’s finished work and work-in-progress - which Visuddhimati calls ‘Buddha Jottings’. Among these is the enigmatic African Tara, drawn in 1999, of which she writes “the idea for an African Tara hinted at in the above sketch has yet to work its way into a more developed painting...”

Alongside Visuddhimati’s Buddhist images there’s more personal work – the ‘Bestiary’ and ‘Handmade Books’. Of these she writes “To fully appreciate these works the viewer needs to hold them and carefully turn the pages of the exquisite papers. What lies within is gradually revealed. That may include carefully constructed sculptural elements. The time it takes to discover the contents is part of the experience of the work, as is touching and enjoying the texture of each page. There is an inherent contradiction in engaging with this work in glimpsing it on your computer screen!”

Finally, there’s links to a Commissions page and places to buy or download her work – ClearVision have a special page for this at

Next week will feature Red Noses Unlimited – Jayacitta’s exploration of the world of the clown – a being who "steps into the world afresh"…

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Calling Buddhist women in the UK...

Sakyadhita, the name of the International Association of Buddhist Women, means "Daughters of the Buddha." The objectives of Sakyadhita include:

To create a network of communications for Buddhist women throughout the world
To provide improved facilities for women to study and practice the teachings

Beatrice Gassner, who represents Sakyadhita UK at the UK’s Network of Buddhist Organizations (NBO), is researching the current state of women Buddhists in the UK. She has devised a questionnaire, which women Buddhists practicing in the UK are invited to complete and return. If you would like to reply, please do so direct to her at

Yasodhara – Buddhist Women in the UK” – Questionnaire
She says - Please only write what you are happy with, to be used in the article. I may quote you or just summaries – please use only the name/initial which I may use. Thank you.

Buddhist since:
Previous Religion/Spiritual Practice:
Ordained – do you live in a Centre, Nunnery/Monastery, or on your own – do you have to work: Lay – Occupation:

Why Buddhism?

Can you say something about your Practice?

What supports you in your Training?

What helps you to keep your Commitments/Vows?

Do you go on Retreats?

How does your Practice work in your daily life?

What inspires you?

Anything else you would like to say about being a Buddhist Woman in the UK:


Thank you very much, and I will send you a copy of the article .

May this be for the benefit of all living beings.

Beatrice Jutta Gassner
(Sakyadhita UK)

Send to: or: 77 Earlham Road, Earlham Street, Norwich NR2 3PF

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

An Appeal from Karuna Germany

Amoghamati, chairwoman of Karuna Germany Amoghamati, their chairwoman, has contacted us with this appeal on behalf of the FWBO’s Karuna Germany. She says -

“Karuna Germany was set up in 2006 by a group of German Buddhists associated with the FWBO Centres there, to support projects run in India and Nepal. We were inspired to do so by the example of our friend Kulanandi who works with Arya Tara Mahila Trust in Pune for half of the year. And also by the example of Karuna Trust in London with whom we co-operate.“

Now we have got the opportunity to post a project on the international funding website GlobalGiving. This is a great chance to raise funds in a broader public outside the Sangha. In fact, we are now participating in a challenge to win a permanent spot on GlobalGiving – but we need your help!. To succeed, we have to raise a minimum sum of 3.000 USD donated by 75 individual donors within the next three weeks.

“Therefore I would like to ask you to consider a donation. It's very easily done online, by PayPal or credit card. It's crucial for us to clear that hurdle of the first 3.000 USD. It’s a win-win situation of course because we will get the place on GlobalGiving and all the money will go to our project partners in India! We’ve very excited about this because the Karuna Trust's experience with GlobalGiving has been very promising and this could therefore open up a precious source of income for our project.

“All details of our project planning and implementation are co-ordinated with Karuna Trust and their capacity building team.“If you’d like to find out more, or donate, please visit: our GlobalGiving page -

Capacity building for women NGOs in India

A short summary follows -
“In this project we support grassroots NGOs run by Indian Buddhist women. The women are almost all from the Dalit, or ex-untouchable, communities of India. They do a great job in their work with deprived women and children in the slums. Their aim is to alleviate poverty in the social, medical, educational and economic fields for women and their families.

“However, due to a lack of formal education a capacity building program in professional skills and project management will highly add to their competence and efficiency”.

Click the link above to find out more - and to contribute.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

English Teaching Project in India is ready to roll

Shakyajata sends us this update on upcoming plans to teach English in India. She says -

“A project has been set in motion to teach English to the students of FWBO/TBMSG's Nagarjuna Training Institute (NTI) in Nagpur, India. And its really happening!

“The students are from some of the most marginalised communities all over India; they’re highly motivated to develop themselves and their communities through the practice of ethics and personal growth. They’ve gone to the NTI for a year’s intensive training in the basics of dhamma and social work – and now English.

“Over 60 students have been recruited this year, and more of them than ever before – about a third – are women. No less than nine Western Order Members and mitras have volunteered to teach them English, knowledge of which is a high-value skill that will enhance their effectiveness and life-chances in a number of ways.

“This group of teachers (armed with a readymade programme developed by Adiccabandhu of Clear Vision fame, a powerpoint projector, and other materials) are ready to go - most of us have bought our tickets! At a recent meeting in Birmingham Bhante gave us his blessing and a message for the students: 'Study hard now, reap the fruits later'. He also encouraged us to focus particularly on the needs of women.

“We hope this will be the start of an ongoing project to provide English teaching in India to people from our Movement.

“For the past few months we’ve been fundraising using a special page on JustGiving; we’ve raised over £1,500 for materials and expenses but more is needed - any help we get from people now will go a long, long way.

"Please see our fundraising page for more details about the project and to contribute”.

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