Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Working with other Buddhists

NBO logoAccording to the Census, there were nearly 150,000 Buddhists in the UK in 2001. Considering that we are the smallest of the six major world faiths represented in this country, we have a quite disproportionate voice in public affairs: the UK government consults with faith groups on everything, from organ transplantation to London Underground timetabling!

So, who do public bodies approach when they want a Buddhist voice? Traditionally, Buddhism was represented by the Buddhist Society, the oldest Buddhist organisation in the UK. However, the Buddhist Society is itself a member of the Network of Buddhist Organisations UK (NBO), founded 10 years ago to bring disparate Buddhist groups together and to provide a public Buddhist voice.

At the NBO, the FWBO is represented by Lokabandhu, and by Dhammarati, our Liaison Officer, also very active in the European Buddhist Union. I represent Clear Vision, the FWBO's audio-visual project based here at the Manchester FWBO Centre. I also look after the NBO's tiny education sub group: Buddhist educationalists who provide government, local and national, with a Buddhist voice in Religious Education.

Whilst the NBO's membership does not include all Buddhist organisations in the UK, it does cover an extremely wide range of traditions, including the Nichiren Buddhists of the Soka Gakkai UK (popularly known for chanting Nam Renge Myoho Kyo), Japanese Pure Land, Thai, Burmese, Nepalese and a number of traditions mostly favoured by western converts.

Business meetings take place about three times a year, hosted by members around the country. In between there are open meetings with short talks and discussion on topics such as Ordination, or the Position of Women in Buddhism. (These talks often appear on the website afterwards.) I find our meetings fun and friendly; maintaining personal relationships with a number of very different and yet sincerely practising Buddhists has made a huge difference to my understanding of Buddhism.


This article originally appeared in the January 2007 newsletter of the Manchester Buddhist Centre.


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