Friday, October 05, 2007

First steps towards an FWBO centre in Beijing...

For several years, Dhammaloka, a German Order Member, has been visiting China. Here is his account of his relationship with the country –and his assessment of the FWBO’s prospects there.

“I love China in a way that I find difficult to understand – and don’t really need to. I love the people, the extraordinary culture, the landscape, the smells and even the noise (sometimes!). I tend to believe that the Dharma and certainly the FWBO haven't fully arrived on our planet as long as they aren’t well established in China. In my modest way, I wish to contribute to the meeting of Western and Chinese cultures and I wish to share my life-changing experience of Dharma with my friends in China.

Very gradually, I’ve been forming some friendships, most notably with Ruan Yinhua, whom I first met at Wutai Shan (Manjusri’s sacred mountains) in 1995. Over the years, our friendship grew in depth and, three or four years ago — at Tiantai — he became a mitra. If you want to find out a little more about him and his views on Buddhism in China, please read his article on the Free Buddhist Audio website. It’s well worth reading.

My last visit included 10 days of intensive ‘teaching’ in Malacca and a number of events in Beijing. During that time, Yinhua arranged for two non-residential weekend seminars and a talk in Beijing. One of these seminars, it must be said, was a little bit of a flop as it turned out that the people attending were mainly interested in practicing their still basic English without really being aware of what the subject was going to be! That was different with the second seminar (in which we explored principles of skilful communication with reference to NVC) and it was even more different with the talk. These last two events were held in a semi-public setting, the seminar having 12, the talk perhaps 25 people attending. Many of them ‘knew’ each other — but only under pen-names, through a web-based discussion forum on ‘spirituality’. Here they met face-to-face for the first time. I spoke on mindfulness practices and meditation, with short periods of silent sitting, interspersed with lively and well-appreciated discussion. Yinhua has maintained contact with those interested – and new people have come into the orbit since.

During that last visit, as previously, Yinhua and my conversations explored our mutual wish to establish what might develop into an FWBO centre in Beijing. For the time being, we are still playing with various options ranging from a small flat to be used for informal, ‘private’ meetings to a secular organisation promoting awareness-based life skills.

Very likely, an online 'virtual Buddhist Centre' will be the first major step in that direction. A few more people are being included in our discussions and time seems definitely ripe to move activities to a new level. Not the least, with the Olympic Games drawing close, there is a liberal wind blowing through Beijing and it would seem foolish not to align ourselves with the new dynamic of exploration and experimentation in this huge city. Continuous access to our ‘own’ premises in Beijing would certainly make it easier and more attractive for other order members, friends and mitras to actually visit China and contribute to our evolving Sangha.

In December 2006, Yinhua was able to visit India for the first time. For much of his time, he stayed with our friends from TBMSG in Pune and he was deeply moved by the way they looked after him. He had long wanted to get a first-hand experience of our movement in India. This visit was made possible as he was partly funded to attend an NVC seminar with Marshal Rosenberg. After his return to Beijing, he wrote:

“I started believing that I can do something greater than myself, not only to meet my needs for meaning and livelihood at the same time, but also do something meaningful for many people. Now I am considering much more seriously creating an awareness centre or a training company in Beijing, inviting people to teach Buddhism, NVC, etc. As it is a wish now coming more out of a desire to care for the welfare of the majority rather than solving personal problems, I feel much more inspired, confident, relaxed and energized to go ahead. Yes, I need some funds to start it but I trust I can get the funds by talking to some friends. I believe that what I am going to do is very important and have a lot of merits. May Tara prepare me for that!”

If you wish to contact Yinhua, or to be involved in future activities in China or Malaysia, write to me here. Please also read Yinhua's article 'My Perspective on the Revival of Buddhism and Spirituality in China' on Free Buddhist Audio.

Thanks to Yinhua, Wildmind has a Chinese section, and there is also a Chinese section ready and waiting on Free Buddhist Audio - though we do not yet have many Dharma talks in Chinese!

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