Monday, October 30, 2006


We are sorry to report that Dharmacarani Shraddhi died on Friday 27 October. At present we have no more information.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Engaged Buddhism breaking out across FWBO...?

FWBO News has noticed more and more groups around the FWBO exploring and experimenting with environmentally and socially engaged Buddhism. This report aims to introduce you to the ones we’ve heard of - in the hope some of them might inspire, provoke, or cajole you too… Please let us know of others doing similar things, especially outside Britain.

The North London Buddhist Centre have a long-standing group called ESA (‘Environmental and Social Action’) with its associated newsletter ‘Buddhist Action’. At the start of November they will be participating in the UK’s national climate change march, organizing around it a weekend of discussion, meditation and reflection under the banner of ‘conditioned CO2production’. They get the Best Event Title award… In the new year one of their founder members is off to Israel/Palestine to work for six months with the EAPPI (‘Ecumenical Accompanier Programme in Palestine & Israel’) programme escorting children to school through sniper zones, settler harassment, and other trouble spots.

The Glasgow Buddhist Centre has a thriving group, the ‘Shambolic Warriors’ who recently participated in the Long Walk from Faslane to Edinburgh and as part of ‘Faslane365’ last week hosted a two-day ‘Sitting in Peace’ protest at the gates of Faslane Naval Base – home of Trident, Britain’s nuclear submarines. They naturally walk away with the Best Group Name award. Another group of engaged Buddhists from the FWBO will be there in November – contact Maitrisara for details.

The Birmingham Buddhist Centre recently started a Buddhist Amnesty group – apparently, and surprisingly, the first Buddhist group formally affiliated to Amnesty. Amnesty provide them with relevant appeals, they write letters and work in other ways to raise awareness of the plight of Amnesty’s cases.

The London Buddhist Centre has for ten years been involved in local grass-roots campaigns as an active member of TELCO (‘The East London Communities Organisation’) and more recently, exploring issues around race and Sangha in their ‘people of colour’ group – a challenging and transformative place to be, by all accounts. Readers of FWBO News will also remember their street meditations in support of ‘Peace One Day’ last month.

The Dhammakranti Team in India are pioneering a unique and bold move to establish a true ‘casteless society’ in Buddhist India. To do this they have to spread the Dhamma to other castes and other regions of India, to do that demands from them extraordinary courage, involving as it does breaking all bounds of ingrained conditioning and external prejudice, not to mention shouldering considerable financial risks. Current readers of FWBO News will be aware of the great progress they have made in recent months.

The P.S…Eco-Buddhist Practice network is dormant at present but in the past has been a lively forum and source of three Movement-wide campaigns (Switching To Renewable Electricity, Going Carbon-Neutral, and promoting the Mandala of Food Awareness) Details are still on the website at

The Redwoods are an informal group of Order Members in the UK and beyond with strong links to Buddhafield. They have come together to explore and articulate an ecological/activist perspective on the Dharma. Three of them will be leading the upcoming Engaged Buddhism retreat at Padmaloka in early November. Dhanakosa and Taraloka have also both hosted ‘Deep Ecology’ retreats this year, drawing on the work and exercises of Joanna Macy. Taraloka’s was attended by over 40 people and became known as the ‘no-Jo’ retreat as Joanna Macy was meant to lead it but didn’t due to ill-health. Many of the above initiatives came out of the no-Jo retreat, including reports just in of a new group around the Manchester Buddhist Centre, known as M4Action.

FWBO News would be delighted to hear of other groups or individuals associated with the FWBO who are exploring ‘Engaged Buddhism’ in these or other ways.


Friday, October 27, 2006

TBMSG Maharasthra

Dharmacari Kumarjeev sends this distach from India.

On the 24th Oct in Satara district of Maharastra, Sagar Bhagat and Dh. Padmaratna organised a retreat on behalf of Dhammakranti, for newly converted Buddhists and those desiring to become Buddhist in the future. With the help of funding from Karuna trust we could provide free lodging and boarding for retreatants and travel costs for retreat leaders. Sagar went to Tandas (a huntment area where homeless tibals live) and encouraged young tribal men to attend this retreat.

At the end if this retreat which went on for 5 days a conversion ceremony was organised where 40 tribals became Buddhist. Dhammacharini Vimalsuri gave refuges and precepts and Dhammachari Surangam gave a talk on significance of Dr. Ambedkar's vision and Buddhist life.

Mr Mane (75yrs, father of Laxman Mane, a great leader of Tribals in Maharastra state) became Buddhist. He said afterwards in his little speach, "I am free! I am free! at least before I die, I will die with peace and my heart filled with gratitude for Dr. Ambedkar." this brought tears in the eyes of everybody present. Most of the tribals attended this retreat will be given further training to become Dhammateachers, so that they can teach basic Dhamma to their families ad friends.


Ordination at Padmaloka

Marco Silva Baron, who lives in Mexico, was ordained on Thursday 26th October 2006 at Padmaloka Retreat Centre, Norfolk, UK. Moksananda was his public preceptor and his private preceptor was Nandavajra who gave him the name Aryaprabha (long first a), "He who has the radiance (or splendour) of the Noble Ones", "El que tiene el brillo (o esplendor) de los nobles".

Sadhu! sahhu! sadhu!


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Ambedkar anniversary in India - reports from Vishvapani

October 14th saw the 50th anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar's conversion to Buddhism. Vishvapani was in India and has sent these two reports - a fascinating insight into how the media can make a story - but also, into how too much focus on the media by the organisers can undercut the very event they are trying to promote. The conversion movement in India is clearly gathering steam, but it will follow its own course in its own time. The picture shows some of the crowds at the Diksa-Bhumi in Nagpur.

Vishvapani, October 14th. "Search Google News for 'Ambedkar' and you'll be surprised - suddenly, the conversions in India are a world-wide story. You never know exactly how these things get picked up by the media, but the coverage sems to have started in the UK, and then spread to India and worldwide as people picked up the story. I like to think that the efforts of my UK friends and I may have helped this along.

The first major coverage came in The Guardian - I spoke to their International Newsdesk a few days previously and they forwarded the story to their Delhi correspondent. He was here in Hyderabad on the evening of 13th and filed his copy in advance. The BBC World Service people I have been working with are also in Hyderabad making a documentary, and in the afternoon Dan Isaacs, the reporter working on the documentary, started to get calls following their morning editorial meeting: having read the Guardian piece, they decided to carry it themselves. He was filing reports all day and my friend and companion here, Manidhamma (a dalit Buddhist from Nagpur, currently living in the UK) was interviewed for the news programe Newshour - which has an audience in the tens of milions.

The report also appeared on the website and even now it is ranking as the fourth most read story. Along with guardian unlimited this is one of the most read English language news channels. Then it apeared on Reuters, and a flood of international coverage has followed. There's not much US coverage yet that I can see: that may change.

Yet he also reports from Hyderabad, where vast crowds were expected on 14th -

"The much-hyped Hyderabad conversions have proved a damp squib. The ceremony I attended today where the organisers had claimed 100,000 would convert attracted perhaps one percent of that number. The day started badly when the stage supporting the assembled VIPs (including me!) collapsed beneath us - none hurt.

As it became clear that the numbers would be low and that the event would start several hours late patience started to fray, and the Taiwanese nuns and monks who had flown over with the Ven Hsing Yun were murmuring about the organisation and being there on false pretences. Hsing Yun is a major figure in Taiwan and TV crews followed his every step - but the event hardly lived up to his stature.

The simple, moving diksha ceremony went off smoothly, and a series of speeches started. Just as I came to the microphone to make my own the organisers announced that their time was up, and the police had told them they needed to reopen the road.

It is so hard to tell the reality of what is happening here from the rhetoric and the posturing. Various theories are circulating about the small size of the success, but a key issue seems to be that the organisers focused on getting high-profile guests to attend rather than mobilising ordinary people from the villages.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Update from India - more conversions, 'Dhamma Yatra' in remote areas...

Kumarajiv, an Order Member from Nagpur and leader of TBMSG's 'Dhammakranti' (Dhamma Revolution) project has sent us this update. As soon as it finishes massive crowds are expected at Buddhist sites across India for the October 14th aniversary date of Dr. Ambedkar's conversion.

Dear Lokabandhu,

I am in Chattisgarh State at present. I have been travelling into the rural areas of Bilaspur and Janjgir districts for last three days making sure about arrangements of the Dhamma Yatra - mainly giving clarity and confidence to people who are working for it. I met more that 100 people who are preparing for the Dhammayatra. The Dhammakranti team has been working hard for some time to set this up!

The Yatra will go on for five days from 8th to 13th Oct. While it is on we will be out of contact because of the remote areas we will be in, however we will report in full after it ends. On 14th there is a mass rally and conversion in Hyderabad, 400,000 people are expected with many thousands converting to Buddhism.

The purpose of this Yatra is to reach out to the depressed communities in this state, who are named as Ramnamis, Satnamis, Suryvanshis, Baya-Mahars. Around 10 percent of this community is Buddhist, others are influenced by Dr. Ambedkar but not Buddhists.

This international community travelling 250 km distance in five days will give a sense of belonging, confidence and learning about Buddhism and especially a visible experience of three different caste communities working together for the Dhamma. This will greatly affect the minds of all people including Hindus in this region, They will see a casteless community in action.

There will be talks every afternoon and evenings for all five days. The Women's Ashvaghosa team from Nagpur [Ashvaghosa runs cultural activities such as story-telling and singing – ed.] is also participating , they will be an inspiration to the women in these communities, who are much more depressed than women in other communities in India. The participation of nearly equal numbers of women in the Yatra is a deliberate effort to set an example in front of women here, as well as to create an atmosphere where women feel safe to attend the talks in the Yatra.

We are starting from Raipur in the afternoon at 1:00 pm today. Our next destination will be Bilaspur which is 100 km from Raipur. In the evening there will be grand welcome of all the Dhammadhutas taking part in the Yatra. Participants are from India and the UK, from the UK are Subhuti, Lokeshvara, Vishvapani, and the Dhammadhuta training team from Madhyamaloka. From India we have Amoghasiddhi, Amrutsiddhi, Jayamani, Jnanajyoti and other 10 Indian Order members. 30 mitras from Chattisgarh will also be participating.

I am also writing this to add to the news: yesterday on 7th Oct 2006 evening, on the auspicious occasion of Purnima 2000 people converted to Buddhism. People from three caste-communities participated in this conversion - . Mahars, Satnamis and other Backward communities. 4000 people participated the ceremony. It took place in Dongargaon Chillti, Rajnngaon District, Chattisgarh state. Please add this to the news.


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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

New Podcast from Free Buddhist Audio - Simplicity by Kamalashila

Just to let you know Dharmachakra has posted a new episode of its podcast - a monthly, free series of talks from

You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes by clicking here.

Or copy this feed address into the podcast application of your choice:

Here are the details and a direct download link for this month's talk:

Kamalashila has spent a lot of his adult life exploring meditation - and this talk is a lovely little foray into the whole subject as a crucial aspect in life and practice, with special consideration given to reflection on the six elements. Oh, and look out for Brian the meditating dog...


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Dispatches from India: history in the making - and an appeal for help...

FWBO News is pleased to publish the follow open letter from Vishvapani, an Order Member currently in India and witnessing the celebrations surrounding the 50th anniversary of Dr. Ambekdar's conversion to Budhdism. As you will see, it is also an appeal for help...

Dear friends

I’m currently in India, staying in Nagpur, on assignment from Tricyle to cover events around the 50th anniversary of Dr Ambedkar’s conversion and the foundation of the Ambedkarite Buddhist movement. As well as this there is huge second wave of conversions underway.

Until now the Ambedkarites Buddhists have largely been from Dr Ambedkar’s own community: the ‘Mahar’ sub-caste of Maharashtra. The movement is now expanding dramatically to include other communities in Maharashtra, notably the Matungs – a second group of ex-‘untouchables’ – and the ‘criminal and nomadic tribes’. On Monday I was at Diksabhumi, the conversion ground in Nagpur where Dr Ambedkars own conversion took place. I have never seen so many people gathered together before: 1-2 million people, including many becoming Buddhists for the first time and leaders of communities which will be becoming Buddhist en masse over the next few weeks.

Buddhism is also being adopted by groups in many other Indian states. On October 14th I will be in Hydrabad in Andra Pradesh, where 2-400,000 will become Buddhists. On the same day and on other significant dates in the next two months there will be large ceremonies in Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Punjab, and many other states, in which I think it is reasonable to say that millions of people will become Buddhists for the first time.

A common response to such news is skepticism: how can mass conversion be meaningful, and is this not just politics masquerading as Buddhism. I can only say in response that my impressions of Ambedkarite Buddhists in Maharashtra are that they are sincere, many are practicing effectively and the movement has considerable depth –compared with its origins in the 1950s, the community has come a long way both spiritually and materially.

Seeing what is happening here in India I feel I am watching history in the making. These are huge events, and yet they are unknown in the West and almost entirely unreported. If you type any conversion of conversions, India, diksabhumi, Buddhist and so on into google, you will find almost no coverage in either the Western or the Indian media. It is a deafening silence.

I am writing to appeal for your help in telling the world what is happening. These people are among the most disadvantaged in the world, and their choice to seek a new identity in a path that offers non-violence and spiritual depth is truly significant. It is also an important episode in the history of India and of Buddhism as a whole. When there is so much meaningless reportage in the world, it seems important that events like these, which are genuinely significant and a cause for optimism are going unreported. And these events are the best opportunity to get coverage in the mainstream media that we will find for many years.

To address the lack of information I have started a blog: Each day I am writing a full article including interviews, personal accounts, news, information, background and accounts of the progress the Buddhist movement has made so far. Because I am working for Tricycle and also doing some work for the BBC world service I have access to major figures in this movement, and through my Buddhist friends in India I have opportunities to travel and meet people in many situations here: I will be visiting remote untouchable villages, traveling to Hydrabad and Tamil Nadu, and meeting community leaders. Here are some suggestions for how you might help:

Read the blog to find out more about what is happening. You can also post comments.

Pass on this email to others who may be interested and ask them to do the same

Feel free to copy or reprint any of my articles online or in print magazines: I am an experienced writer and they are produced to a publishable standard.. I would only ask that you credit me as author and include a link to the blog site. I am not asking for any payment, though donations to help me cover my costs are welcome.

Make a link to my blog from any websites you yourself run.

Follow up any contacts in the mainstream media who might cover the story themselves (or ask me or someone else here to do so).

If you have reliable news of events in India over the coming weeks, or contacts who could help me to gather that, please let me know.

You can contact me at



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Monday, October 02, 2006

More conversions in India...

Another report has just come in of further conversions in India, this time at TBMSG's Nagaloka centre.

Lokesvara writes:

Another group conversion took place later today back at Nagaloka, the FWBO/TBMSG retreat centre out on the Kamptee road to the north of the city.

Around 100 men and women from Tamil Nadu - south eastern India - converted. Last night in the cultural programme at the end of the Ambedkar conference they had blown the evening away with some incredible drumming on their simple buffalo skin drums. I sat there thinking "I want to go to their party - wherever it is!" Today they stood in the centre of the marquee and went for refuge, witnessed from the main stage by Buddhists from all over the world and many different traditions, who all gave their blessing. It was really a very moving event, not just their conversion but this witnessing of it by all these different schools and traditions, Theravada, Tibetan, Chinese, Korean . . .


Celebration of the Anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar's conversion - and new conversions in Nagpur

Vishvapani reports from Nagpur on the eve of Dr. Ambedkar's 50th anniversary to Buddhism.

For the few days before the big event in Nagpur, I have been attending a conference for Buddhists from around the world at Nagaloka, a large and well-equipped centre on the outskirts of Nagpur. 150 monks, activists, Ambedkarites and other Buddhists have gathered in advance of the diksa (conversion) on Monday. It is a little incongruous to be in such secluded surroundings while there is such ferment around us, but the event is a powerful convergence of ideas on the relevance of Buddhism to society in India, East Asia and the West. Attendees included Christopher Queen of Harvard University - the leading western scholar of the Ambedkarite movement.

The keynote talk was by Subhuti, a leading member of the Western Buddhist Order who argued that Dr Ambedkar, the great dalit politician activist and thinker who started the conversion movement 50 years ago, is an important figure for all Buddhists who has made a unique contribution to the tradition. He declared: ‘I now consider myself a follower of Dr Ambedkar.’

Today in Nagpur Diksabhumi – the vast piece of land in the center of the city where Dr Ambedkar adopted Buddhism with millions of his followers in 1956 – was thronged with millions of dalit and other Buddhists as well as representatives of other communities involved in the new wave of conversions that is taking place across India over the next few weeks. I watched as a great incessant stream of people flooded into the ground all day long – while another stream headed in the other direction. When the numbers involved are so vast one can only guess at their true extent, but conservative estimates before the event were that a million people would attend, more likely two million, and there may well have been many more.

Standing in the huge crowd, looking down on it from a neighbouring building, and joining the throng that processed through the stupa – or huge temple – that dominates the site, I was deeply moved by the power of the occasion. Many of those attending had walked for days or traveled across India to be there; their faces as they entered the stupa were intent, serious and filled with devotion for their revered hero, Dr Ambedkar; and there was a palpable sense that history was being made. For the last fifty years since Dr Ambedkar converted himself the movement he started has been dominated by people born into the Maharashtra dalit sub-caste, the Mahars. Now the movement is being embraced by large numbers from other caste backgrounds and from across India. A number of conversion ceremonies took place today that included representatives of such communities: these were the first steps in a wave of conversions that will be taking place over the next few weeks.

This morning several hundred members of the tribal communities led by the writer, Lakshman Mane, embraced Buddhism in a ceremony at Dhiksabhumi. Mane’s followers number in the millions and in the coming weeks there will be at least half-a-million further conversions from this group, and up to five or six million. I will be meeting Laksman Mane tomorrow and will have more information as well as comment by him in tomorrow’s blog.
The tribals have a similar status under the Hindu caste system to those considered ‘untouchable’, now referred to as Dalits. Across India there are around 50 million tribals and this is the first large-scale mass conversion of tribals to Buddhism.

In a ceremony this morning at Nagaloka, the center on the Nagur outskirts where I have been staying, 200 men and women from Tamil-Nadu became Buddhists in a ceremony led by Dhammachari Vivekaratna. They had traveled across India to attend, and will return to initiate the conversions of tens of thousands of others in their native state. They are led by a remarkable woman called P. Lalida who I will be meeting in the next few days – I’ll post a report.

Also this morning, Dhammachari Subhuti conducted a ceremony in Nagpur for 50 representatives of the Matang sub-caste. This community accounts for many of the non-Mahar Dalits in Maharashtra. Over the next six weeks there will be conversion ceremonies for 50,000 Matangs across the central Indian state.

For those interested in following events more closely, check Vishvapani's blog of the occasion -


Sunday, October 01, 2006

Towards a virtual Buddhist centre…

Over the past months the FWBO’s presence on the internet has expanded and diversified, to the point where there is talk of linking some of our sites up to form a ‘virtual centre’. For the benefit of readers of FWBO News, here’s a brief summary of the ingredients of such a site that are already in place. Comments on what else YOU’D like to see or how it could be organized are welcome, please post them here… Offers of help likewise!

· A general introduction to the FWBO, with links to all our centres:

· News items from around the FWBO: This site here! More contributors urgently needed, please send us news of FWBO events and developments in our area. There’s sections for job adverts, reviews, and feature articles too…

· An introduction to the diverse range of people involved in the FWBO, especially those with their own websites: More FWBO People welcome, contact Jayarava.

· A collection of photo albums from FWBO centres: More needed, if you’re based at an FWBO centre and would like to contribute please speak to someone at your centre then contact Lokabandhu. We have unlimited upload bandwidth and can create an unlimited number of albums…

· FWBO Dharma – a library of articles written over the years by Order Members and others:

· On-line meditation and dharma teaching is available from Wildmind:; coming soon is a vast library of free online Dharma talks courtesy of Dharmachakra:

· FWBO Events – see each centre’s website, but for retreats in UK, there is a new website summarizing all 8 UK FWBO Retreat Centres:

· If you’re looking for books, videos, or images, don’t go to Amazon or eBay, check us direct: for books; for videos; and for rupas and thankhas.

This is only a tiny selection of what’s out there; however if you go to any of the sites mentioned you’ll find a multitude of links to other parts of the FWBO and TBMSG.

Happy browsing!

‘Peace One Day’ meditations at the LBC

21st September was adopted by the United Nations as ‘World Peace Day’ following a campaign by East Londoner Jeremy Gilley. All nations are asked to observe an annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence on this day - the UN International Day of Peace, fixed in the global calendar on 21 September.

For the second year running the London Buddhist Centre marked it with a day of street meditation – a row of meditators constantly sitting in meditation on the pavement of the busy streets outside the LBC, with a banner explaining what was happening. Passers-by were given leaflets with text from the Dhammapada, the local papers were in attendance. Who knows what the consequences of such actions are - perhaps the strongest effects of the day were experienced by the meditators themselves, who reported strong meditations despite the noise and chaos all around. Participants spoke of feeling unusually strong metta, also of being unusually concentrated despite the 'unsupportive' conditions.

Check the ‘Peace One Day’ website on for more background.