Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lokamitra awarded the Manhae Grand Prize for Peace in Korea

FWBO News is delighted to report that Lokamitra, one of the seniormost members of the Western Buddhist Order, and long resident in India, has been awarded the Manhae Grand Prize for Peace 2008 in a ceremony held by Manhae Foundation in South Korea.

The Manhae Grand Prize, one of the most prestigious prizes in Korea, is given annually to commemorate Han Yong-woon (1879-1944), known by the pen name ‘Manhae’. Han was a Buddhist monk, poet and thinker, as well as a great hero of the anti-imperialist movement. Previous recipients include the Dalai Lama (2005), Nelson Mandela (2004), and, last year, President Bongo of Gabon.

This report is from Mangesh Dahiwale, who has been in Korea with Lokamitra -

“In the ceremony, held on 12th August 2008, the President of Jogye Order awarded Lokamitra the Grand Prize for his 30 years of contribution to the understanding and practice of Buddhism in India amongst the followers of Dr. Ambedkar (most of whom were previously known and treated as untouchables). After moving to India, on Sangharakshita’s encouragement, in 1978, he helped initiate the Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha Sahayaka Gana (TBMSG) which now has many Dhamma teaching centres throughout India, a publications wing, and three retreat centres. Soon afterwards Bahujan Hitay was started which runs many social works for the deprived and discriminated, including 80 community centres and more than 20 educational hostels.

“Lokamitra's work is a continuation of Sangharakshita's work and vision, emphasising the possibilities of social transformation through Buddhist practice. Although Sangharakshita returned to England in 1960s in order to develop the FWBO, he never lost his connection with his Buddhist friends in India, and Lokamitra was able to follow up his very strong and deep contacts amongst the Buddhists in Maharastra, especially in Pune and Nagpur, developed through Sangharakshita’s extensive teaching tours in the slums and villages of India during the 1950s.

“Now the work we are doing in India has begun to appeal to the Buddhists all over the world and is being recognised as a very special example of socially engaged Buddhism in the modern world. Through his friendships in the Buddhist East, and involvement with organisations like the World Fellowship of Buddhists and the International Network of Engaged Buddhists, Lokamitra has helped to bring the attention and appreciation of many in the Buddhist East to the newly converted Buddhists of India. As a result many of them have now visited Nagpur and seen our work at first hand.

“Recently he has been concentrating his efforts on the establishment of the Nagarjuna Training Institute at Nagpur, where in 1956 Dr. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism along with half a million followers. There are perhaps 30 million Buddhists in India today all from the Scheduled Caste communities (Scheduled Caste being the official term for people designated as untouchables in the Hindu caste system), and over 200 million Indians who are open to Buddhism because of the influence of Dr. Ambedkar. While TBMSG does not have the manpower to start centres in every one of the thousands of towns in India (which is what is really required!), it helps to train new Buddhists from all over India at the Nagarjuna Training Institute, where it runs a one year introductory, residential training course in Buddhist teaching and practices, as well as basic social work skills. In fact the Nagarjuna Training Institute has been instrumental in training 495 men and women from 19 states in India since its inception in 2002.

“The people from the Scheduled Castes still face immense difficulties in realising their constitutional rights. Many are working to end suffering due to the caste system, but, at times, lack confidence, a sense of solidarity, and basic training in running organizations. The Jambudvipa Trust, founded by Lokamitra in 1998, encourages individuals and organisations from the disadvantaged sections of society to take initiative and responsibility for their situation. It has been able to assist in natural calamities (eg the Gujarat earthquake, the Tsunami and the Bombay floods) when the Scheduled Castes suffered terrible discrimination in relief and rehabilitation work. Furthermore, under the Manuski Project (Manuski being a beautiful word meaning respect, humanity, compassion) Lokamitra and his team have created a network of over 150 organisations across India for whom it has conducted hundreds of training sessions. The Manuski project is also doing human rights' advocacy work especially related to atrocities (of which there are many) and cases of discrimination.

“In his acceptance speech, Lokamitra appreciated the life and work of Venerable Manhae and expressed the hope that this award will bring much needed attention to the plights of the almost 200 million Scheduled Caste and the glorious non-violent struggle for liberation and social transformation of about 30 million of them through Buddhism”.

Sadhu Lokamitra!

There's a short video of Lokamitra speaking after the award on Tagstory.

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Blogger Munisha said...

Sadhu! I feel proud; and what a great recognition of your life's work, and Sangharakshita's.



Blogger Upekshapriya said...

My sentiments entirely. :-)

And now we can see the clip on VideoSangha at!


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