Friday, November 30, 2007

Bhante in Germany - part II

FWBO News is happy to present some more details of Sangharakshita’s recent visit to the FWBO’s centres in Germany. Thanks to Lalitaratna for sending them.

On the first Saturday morning of this November, Bhante, accompanied by Nityabandhu, flew from Birmingham to Düsseldorf airport in Germany.

Bhante's first stop was Vimaladhatu retreat centre where the public Ordination of Anissita was just taking place. Bhante did not join the throng - later in his trip he would be delivering a public talk and so would meet the Essen Sangha - but kept in the background where he later joined the new ordinand and his two preceptors: Bodhimitra and Surata, for a cup of tea.

Bhante had made it clear that, with a pretty full travel itinerary, it would be best if those who wanted to see him shared his mealtimes with him. The first of these meals took place that Saturday evening at Vimaladhatu when twenty-one men, made up of Order members and GFR mitras, sat down to an excellent meal which was eaten in silence followed by a delightful period of wit and conversation with Bhante.

The next morning Bhante was driven back to Essen - a 110 km trip - to the men's community where he had a short break before meeting Prasadavati and thirteen other women who made up the group of German ‘outlying GFR mitras’.

Apart from breakfast time, Bhante shared his mealtimes with gatherings from the Sangha. He dined with the women's community with invited friends; the Karuna group; a men's study group, and finally members of the Essen FWBO council. Bhante offered a question and answer session to the Order members on the Sunday evening and delivered a public talk at the Essen Buddhist Centre to 130 visitors on the Tuesday evening. The theme of the talk was his precious teachers, and Bhante later signed copies of his book with the same title.

The day after Bhante's visit, one of the yoga teachers came into the centre and commented on how everybody looked very bright. Bhante Urgyen Sangharakshita's visit was a true gift to the Essen Sangha and it has been, and remains, deeply appreciated.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ordinations at the Manchester Buddhist Centre

The following men had their Public Ordination on Saturday, 24th November:

Mike Slattery becomes NISHPARA = ‘He who is unbounded/boundless’. For pronunciation, the weight falls on the first 'a' (the long 'a').

Steve Johnson becomes NARAPA = 'He who is a protector of men'. For pronunciation, the weight falls on the first 'a'.

In both cases the Private Preceptor was Mokshapriya and the Public Preceptor Sona.


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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

More Buddhists on the radio...

Kavyasiddhi is presenting five night-time Pause for Thoughts which will go out on BBC Radio 2 this week Monday – Friday, beginning November 26th.

She says "If anyone wants to hear my latest two minute dharma talks for non-Buddhist shift workers & insomniacs, I invite you to tune to the Janice Long Show at 1.30 and 3.30am - yes, that is the middle of the night, ie very, very early a.m!"

If you don't get up in time you can listen to her again by clicking here and then selecting the day of the week.

Vishvapani is doing BBC Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’ on the Tuesday 27th November, and the following two Tuesdays ie Dec 4 & 11 , all
at 7.50 am. Listen to him again here.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Six ordinations at Padmaloka

The following men had their Public Ordinations at Padmaloka Retreat Centre on Thursday, 22nd November:

Stephen White becomes MAITRIYOGIN = "The spiritual practitioner who is full of loving - kindness" (Private Preceptor Satyaraja)

Stephen Roe becomes DHARMAPALITA = "He who is protected, guarded, cherished, nourished by the Dharma" (Private Preceptor Satyaraja)

Michael Evans becomes DAYABANDHU = "Kind, compassionate brother, kinsman or friend", or just "kind friend" (Private Preceptor Satyaraja)

Stu Orvis becomes CHANDANA = Lit. "Sandalwood". The name reflects Chandana´s ability to positively affect those around him through the qualities of his practice. Also the name of a Buddha. (Private Preceptor Mokshapriya)

Tim Davis becomes SAHAJASIDDHI = "He whose attainment is innate" (Private Preceptor Tejananda)

Howard Dyer becomes HRIDAYAMATI = "He whose heart and mind are unified" (Private Preceptor Ashvajit)

The Public Preceptor for all was Saddhaloka.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Sangharakshita visits FWBO Düsseldorf

Paul Mcloughlin from FWBO Düsseldorf has sent us a short report on Sangharakshita (Bhante)'s recent visit to their sangha there. Sangharakshita only appears rarely on FWBO News these days and we’re very happy to reproduce his report here.

“As a relatively new (3 years) member of the FWBO and background team member in our new center in Düsseldorf, I was honoured at the chance of meeting Bhante in a small circle of people. As the weeks and days flew by, my anticipation grew. On the big day I had to laugh as we were still so involved "making everything perfect" that we almost missed greeting our distinguished guest at the door!

"Suddenly Bhante was among us and so normal and human. He was accompanied by his friend and companion Nityabandhu. Very soon it was clear that his frailness was only bodily and that below the surface was a very sharp, wise, loving spirit. Nine of us sat together two hours, laughed and discussed subjects as varied as psychotherapy, the Brahma Viharas, the importance of harmony between team members, Ayya Khema, marriage and Angela Merkel (the last two being separate subjects, smile). Bhante encouraged us, especially through his interest for new, small sangha groups to just keep going. All too soon the visit neared an end, but not before Bhante agreed with pleasure to chant a blessing in our shrine room. Those moments so intense will fire us on for a long long time, to continue to work as a "small team closely knit together by Metta" in Düsseldorf.

"As we stood together in front of our center saying goodbye it really felt as if we were saying goodbye to an old dear friend. THANK YOU BHANTE!!!"

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Karuna windfall gratefully received

The FWBO's Karuna Trust have received an anonymous donation of US $97,000 for the SAATHI Street children's project in Mumbai (Bombay). Saathi is one of Karuna’s non-Buddhist partners, but one with whom they have a long-standing and positive relationship. As part of this they have for some time been funding Saathi’s ‘Invisible Girl’ project. This is a response to the widespread phenomenon in India of ‘railway children’. The windfall donation coincided with a visit to Mumbai and the railway projects by London's mayor Ken Livingston, click here for some press reports.

The following is taken from a report by Adarsha, one of Karuna’s fundraisers, on a visit there last year.

“In Bombay we visited Saathi. We went to Bombay Central station where the young people and girls turn up in the city. The task of the project workers is to get to them before the agents of the brothels and the domestic work networks do. Impressively they have done a lot of outreach work with station staff, police, stall holders, platform kids and groups who live in the station, explaining the situation facing the children who turn up alone at the station, and getting them to help. Whereas before the police were completely unhelpful they have now had trainings about their responsibilities under the Juvenile Justice Act 2000, and whilst the relationship is variable the police are more supportive than they were. The other groups mentioned used to prey on the girls themselves, and the awareness work has helped to encourage them to bring the girls to Saathi.

“We also visited the day centre Saathi runs where the girls get education and vocational skills. I was very impressed by their confidence and articulacy - the dedicated efforts of the team, including a psychotherapist, who have been focusing on building the girls' confidence seems to be working. It surprised me how clear the girls were about what they wanted to be - doctor, soldier, social worker - and more so that it didn't seem to be just pipe-dreams, but they realised some of what they needed to do to get there. I subsequently found out that this is an area the Saathi team particularly focus upon.

“As my Hindi has just about reached a semi-fluent level I could talk to the girls directly - as I could with the platform kids and station police and staff in Bihar (where Karuna fund a similar project called Gaya Rescue Junction, run by People First) . This has made such a huge difference to getting a felt sense of the work and building a connection and rapport with the project staff and beneficiaries. And also means that I can tell whether the translator is doing a spin - for example in Bihar when we talked to the station staff several of them clearly didn't know anything about the project, which we might have missed if I hadn't been talking to them directly!”

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Buddhafield expands into cyberspace...

Rupadarshin of Buddhafield has contacted FWBO News to inform us -

Buddhafield has a new way into cyberspace - there is now a Myspace contact point for 'fans' of Buddhafield and of our particular take on spreading the Dharma. The Myspace format allows for fast updates about us to be sent out to our friends, and it also gives a flavour of Buddhafield to the Myspace network, through photos and slideshows, mantras, comments, and more. Just go to and have a look...

The more friends Buddhafield has on Myspace, the better - for both Buddhafield and the FWBO generally, so please get into MySpace, become our 'friend', and boost our profile. As my skills in this strange world improve I hope to add further links and features as seems appropriate. Any advice is more than welcome.

For those who prefer Facebook for online networking, Buddhafield events will be announced here too as the dates come clear. In fact there is already a Facebook ‘Event’ for the Buddhafield Festival 2008.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Buddhists on the Radio...

Sarvananda has for many years practiced as a playwright. On Wednesday 28 November between 2.15-3.00pm BBC Radio 4 will be broadcasting his latest play, " The Sensitive: the Hanged Man".

This is a sequel to his 'The Sensitive', also broadcast on Radio 4, where it was described as an 'offbeat thriller', in which police call in a psychic to help find a missing woman. Thomas Soutar is adept at solving crimes - but is his extraordinary gift a blessing or a curse?

Sarvananda has been developing his own website, still very much under construction but available to browse here.

On Saturday December 8th between 9-12am, Sunday 9th 1-4pm, and Tuesday 11th 1-4am (all UK time), Lokabandhu will be on the internet-only Glastonbury Radio discussing the progress of the Transition Town initiative in his home town of Glastonbury.

Transition Towns are a network of communities of all sizes, across the UK and beyond, that are looking the BIG questions of Peak Oil and Climate Change squarely in the eye with the intention of discovering and implementing ways to manage the coming changes including the necessary shift away from fossil fuels. He will be apprearing with Patrick Whitefield, Glastonbury resident and acclaimed permaculture teacher and author, and Linda Hull, a Glastonbury town Councillor.

Glastonbury Radio is an internet radio station but available to all with broadband.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ongoing actions in support of Burma…

Events across the FWBO continue to be held to draw attention to the situation in Burma and build support for peaceful change there.

In Birmingham, around 70 people from the Birmingham Buddhist Centre – and others from Birmingham’s Inter-Faith Network - walked in a silent ‘yatra’ from the Town Hall along the main shopping street on a crowded Sunday. They gave out several hundred leaflets, explaining the situation in Burma and suggesting actions people could take in support of the Burmese people.

In Edinburgh, a group led by Kalyanavaca, the Centre’s Chairwoman, meditated in the City Centre, and gave out leaflets passing on Aung San Suu Kyi’s famous request to “use your liberty to promote ours”.

In Delhi, Maitriveer Nagarjun, an Indian Order Member, who is one of the core team for TBMSG’s Dhammakranti Project, helped organised a large public meeting at the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University where he is a post-graduate student. This was attended by Burmese survivors of the last military crackdown in Burma, and a signature campaign was organised calling on the Indian Government (one of Burma’s chief supporters) to cease investment until democracy and human rights have been restored to Burma.

In Poona, India, the Jambudvipa Trust, an FWBO/TBMSG ‘outreach’ project is contributing to discussions with the aim of organising a visit to Burma by senior Buddhist peacemakers.

Finally, Dayaratna, in Cambridge UK, would like to hear from anyone wanting to continue to support Burma, specifically by putting pressure on China, via the 2008 Olympics, to change its ‘hands-off’ policy towards the regime in Burma. Contact him if you would like to be part of this.

As Cait, organiser of the Birmingham Yatra, said, “We cannot know the outcome of our actions, but we hope that we have helped to keep the issue alive in the minds of those who saw us.”

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

VideoSangha and ClearVision – two brilliant resources

Videosangha is the FWBO’s video website. Here you can find short movies on a very wide range of FWBO-related topics. The site has expanded dramatically in recent weeks and now boasts sections on FWBO History, Questions, Centres, Retreats, Meditation, Dharma, Social Work, Activism, and the Arts – to name but some. It's easy to contribute to - the creators say "Feel free to submit any video related to your involvement with Buddhism and the FWBO - however tenuous! Just upload your video to YouTube (for example), give it a tag of FWBO and we will import it automatically". You can also register on the Videosangha website and then review videos submitted by others - most recently, Ramesh teaching Bollywood dance at the Buddhafield Festival, Jayamati directing Sangharakshita's 'Going Forth' on the recent Order Convention, and a series of videos from our FWBO centres in Finland - rarely seen on these pages - such as the fast-moving, beautiful, and curious Kamnitsanmatka minuutissa .

ClearVision provides educational audio-visual resources for students and teachers to explore Buddhism. This site too has become a rich treasure trove of material – besides selling DVDs for teachers the ‘Students’ section contains a mass of free material for children of all ages – all carefully graded to match children’s needs and interests plus the UK RE syllabi. There are four sections, one each for children aged 5-11 (with some wonderful stores from the Jataka tales), 11-14 (with an interactive Wheel of Life), 15-16 (with sections on religious authority, and citizenship, and finally 17-18 A-level students (where there's sections on human rights and responsibilities, also sex and relationships).

For teachers, and adults generally, there is their new audio CD of non-religious ‘stilling exercises’ and a fascinating collection of on-line art by Western Buddhists.

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Windhorse:Evolution supports new social projects

Windhorse's warehouse in Cambridge, UKWindhorse:Evolution is the largest and most profitable of the FWBO’s many Right Livelihood businesses, with a turnover of some £10 million and employing over 200 people – 100 at their main warehouse, ‘Uddiyana’ in Cambridge UK, and another 100 in a chain of ‘Evolution’ shops around the UK and elsewhere.

Besides practicing Right Livelihood, as chronicled by Padmasuri in her book ‘Transforming Work’, they have always aimed to make a profit and to give that profit away as dana. At first they simply asked Sangharakshita for direction in this; in recent years they have donated it to the ‘Windhorse Trust’ which has in turn created five independent funds and distributes the available dana among them.

Initially all available dana was given to FWBO projects; but in a new departure, one of the new funds created was the Windhorse Social Fund. This aims to invest in social projects close to Windhorse’s main suppliers, and they now contribute around £20,000/year to this as part of their ‘Trade for Aid’ initiative.

In a new feature on FWBO News, Samata writes about two new social projects supported by Windhorse - The Wheatfield Plan in China and The Kupu-Kupu Foundation in Bali. Click here to read it.

Alongside this they have been taking active steps to ensure their goods come from ethical sources, so far as this is practicable. You can read more about this on their Evolution shops website here, which includes the reply given by the Tibetan Government-in-Exile when asked if Windhorse should be trading with China at all, given its poor human-rights record.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ordinations at the London Buddhist Centre

On Thursday 8th November, at the London Buddhist Centre, two ordinations took place, in a ceremony attended by family and many friends.

Julie Rankin became Kamalini (Pali, with a long second i), meaning (She who is) Rich in the qualities of the Lotus Family, or Like a pool covered with lotuses. Her private preceptor was Dhammadassin.

Diana Cliff became Kamalasiddhi (Sanskrit & Pali), meaning She who is successful, like a lotus. Her private preceptor was Srivati.

The public preceptor in both cases was Parami.


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Friday, November 09, 2007

Celebrating Dr. Ambedkar in India and UK

October 14th is the anniversary of the conversion to Buddhism of Dr. Ambedkar, and is a major event for all our centres in India. They celebrate his conversion to Buddhism in 1956, together with 400,000 of his followers, and his few short weeks as a Buddhist before his death on December 6th of that year. It is very much a bitter-sweet time for them.

This year they were joined by the North London Buddhist Centre who hosted an 'Ambedkar Festival' which they hope may become an annual event. Entitled 'Celebrating the New Dawn of Indian Buddhism', the day set out to educate, inspire, and celebrate - and succeeded handsomely in all three. Some 200 people attended some or all of the day, and were treated to a programme of talks, a wide selection of workshops including practical information on how to get involved (both in the UK and in India), and to both Indian and Western music which went on into the evening.

Sangharakshita had been due to give the keynote speech but sadly had to cancel at the very last minute due to his poor health. Happily, due to the foresight of Saul Deason, the organiser, Lokabandhu was primed to step in, and among other things offered his reflection that the future of the new Buddhist movement in India was very much up to us, at least up to our generation, since the great leaders of the past were no longer with us - the Buddha, Ambedkar himself, and now Sangharakshita.

By coincidence, FWBO News came to know that at the same time, far away in Bodh Gaya, in the north-eastern Indian state of Bihar, the community living on FWBO/TBMSG's land there were conducting a small programme of their own in honour of Dr. Ambedkar, attended by some 50 local residents including Theravadin monks with whom they have become friendly. The programme took place in the earth-brick huts recently constructed by Nissoka, and was felt by those present to be a small but significant step in establishing ourselves on our land at Bodh Gaya. There are now some 10 mitras in and around Bodh Gaya.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Berlin - Paris Sangha friendship weekend

At the very end of October, on Halloween, five men and women from the Paris sangha set off by train from the Paris 'Gare du Nord' on the night train to Berlin's Ostbahnhof station. On arrival they were put up by different members of the Berlin Sangha and a long weekend followed of rich and interesting meetings and exchanges, including activities at Buddhistisches Tor Berlin (the Berlin Buddhist Centre) and sightseeing in this most historic city.

The highlight of their visit was undoubtedly the Berlin–Paris friendship day on Saturday, at Buddhistisches Tor. The day was led by Amogharatna, chairman of Buddhistisches Tor Berlin, and included meditations, meals and short talks on the theme of ‘Going Forth’ from Kalyanaprabha and Akasaraja from Berlin, and Danièle Adam and Pierrick Parigot from Paris. For Pierrick it was a last opportunity to visit as he has been invited to be ordained in New Zealand early in 2008. There was also a longer talk on ‘Internationality as Practice’ from Suvannavira from Paris. The day concluded with a French–German sevenfold puja with alternating verses - first one in French and then one in German, and so on.

“The weekend was very inspiring, international and spiritual; our German hosts were creative, friendly, fascinating and gemütlich (which means something like cosy, pleasant and comfortable in German)” - Sandra.

The Berlin sangha are already invited to visit Paris the same time next year. Some photos of their visit have been posted on the Berlin portion of the Flickr FWBO Photos site.

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Ask a Buddhist...

Clearvision launches their new ‘Ask a Buddhist’ service for students.

Clearvision, an FWBO educational charity that provides audio-visual teaching material on Buddhism to schools, has launched its new on-line video service called ‘Ask a Buddhist’. Buddhist teachers from the FWBO (and, they plan, from other Sanghas too) give personal answers to all sorts of difficult questions posed by the many students who've visited Clearvision and the Manchester Buddhist Centre over the years. Several questions have multiple replies, indicating that Buddhists sometimes have different points of view and there is no one ‘right answer’ in the Buddhist tradition.

So far they’ve uploaded some 24 video clips in seven categories, covering such questions as -
What's the hardest thing about being a Buddhist?”;
"Is it OK for Buddhists to have same-sex relationships?";
"What's your view on abortion?"
and even
"Why does the Buddha have long ears?"!

They are inviting students to pose more questions and teachers from other Buddhist groups to submit answers. Click here to contact them.

This looks like a great resourse and an excellent use of the internet. Thank you Clearvision.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Ordination in Germany

On Saturday November 3rd, Leo J. Zeef was publicly ordinated in the context of a Going for Refuge Retreat in Vimaladhatu, the FWBO's retreat centre near Essen in Germany. He became ANISSITA, a Pali name meaning 'He who is independent, unattached, and free'. The Private Preceptor was Bodhimitra, and the Public Preceptor Surata.


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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Breathing Space - the LBC’s Compassion in Action project - wins major grant

The London Buddhist Centre (LBC) has been awarded a £50,000 grant by the City Bridge Trust, which gives money from the City of London to charitable projects benefiting the inhabitants of Greater London.

This grant is for accessibility works in the basement, where the LBC will run its Breathing Space health and wellbeing programme. Specifically, this will include a lift going from the ground floor and a disabled toilet in the basement. This is – as far as the LBC is aware – the biggest single grant it has ever received. The work will create a beautiful new venue for courses that help people who've struggled with depression, addiction, stress and chronic pain to look after their own mental health. This will also give them the opportunity of making the LBC much more flexible – so they can attract a more diverse range of people.

Maitreyabandhu, Breathing Space Project Director, said: “It’s a fantastic endorsement from a very well respected grant-making body for what we are trying to achieve with our Breathing Space programme – helping prevent people from relapsing into depression and addiction, and reaching out to more people in East London.”

The creation of the new Breathing Space in the basement of the LBC is just one part of the programme of building works taking place next year, ahead of the LBC’s 30th anniversary.

The LBC team is currently having intensive fortnightly progress meetings with its architect and team of building experts. It is also carrying out extensive health and safety planning. The target for the building work to start is Spring 2008, with completion by the end of that year.

The LBC will be holding a Mandala Evening on Thursday 6 December at 7.15pm, which will be a chance for people to see all the finalised plans – including drawings and computer generated photos – for the building programme.

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