Sunday, February 28, 2010

Jai Bhim International tours India

Starting today FWBO News is featuring a week of stories from India and some of the many FWBO/TBMSG projects there. We start with a report from Ann Dennehy from San Francisco, founder and director of Jai Bhim International. She’s been touring Buddhist youth projects all over India. Here’s what she says -

“Dear Friends - I am writing from Bodh Gaya, about halfway through the current Jai Bhim International tour, connecting with the Jai Bhim community and implementing our new projects. Here are a few highlights.

“Currently I am staying on the land of The 3 Jewels Center, where several hundred Tibetan monks and nuns are camped out, for The Dalai Lama's visit. Today the sangha team and I sat together meditating under The Bodhi Tree. Such an experience!

“I began my India visit in Delhi, visiting our sangha friends at The Dhammachakra Center, practicing together, meeting with Board members to discuss our projects, and spending lovely time in one another's company.

|”From Delhi I headed south for our first retreat with the Kerala sangha, where we practiced conversational English within the context of a Buddhist retreat; studying Buddhist Dhamma and meditation along with the teachings of Dr. Ambedkar. It was a small retreat, all men except for me! Our last activity was creating team-based 5-year plans, and we all left inspired and invigorated. The retreatants have since formed JAI BHIM KERALA, to continue meeting together for Dhamma study, to create community projects, and to plan for our next retreat December 2010. They have even set as their own goal for there to be 50% women in attendance.

“From Kerala I headed East to Chennai and up to The Sakya Hostel, with its 49 young students and its committed team of graduates from The Nagarjuna Training Institute in Nagpur. I practiced English with the children, as well as meditation and puja, and spent time with the wonderful team. When I asked one team member what most inspires him about their project, he replied, "This is not a project. It is our dream world." I felt very lucky to be part of their dream world; a place of love, creativity and possibility. I delighted as the children prepared for New Year's Eve, decorating the hostel, reflecting on their confessions from the past year, and their aspirations for the year ahead, writing them carefully down, and then offering them in the puja to the shrine.

“From Chennai I returned to Delhi and, by lucky coincidence, connected with Tempel Smith from San Francisco, on tour through Asia with a group of American Buddhist youth. Tempel and Maitriveer Nagarjuna had met in Thailand, and their two Sanghas spent time together in Delhi practicing meditation, socializing, and learning about Dr. Ambedkar's vision for a truly democratic society based on Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Jai Bhim International!

“And finally, after a few days, I headed to Varanasi to visit the "Cry for Change" project, which works with the scavenging community, the most oppressed of the ex-Untouchable communities. The project offers after-school classes in computers and English to girls, and gives micro-loans to people in village communities so that they may leave their traditional, dangerous and degrading jobs.

“It has been an incredible trip, full of possibility, full of joy. I have posted a few albums of pictures on our facebook page - or check our website -

“I'd welcome your thoughts on our projects and invite you to join our community, the "caste-free generation".

“Jai Bhim!”

Ann Dennehy, San Francisco Buddhist Center

Ann Dennehy, Creative Director
Jai Bhim International -caste-free generation-

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

News from Visible Mantra - and an appeal

Visible Mantra is a website dedicated to the calligraphy of Buddhist mantras and seed-syllables. It’s become very popular, with nearly half a million page views last year - and yet Jayarava, its creator has even bigger plans for it. He writes -

“Visible Mantra is part of a bigger plan to create resources for Buddhists who use mantra as part of their practice. My aim is that Visible Mantra will also become a publishing house and will attract manuscripts from authors from a range of traditions on the subject of Buddhist mantra. I also regularly help individuals who want inscriptions transcribed and identified, or calligraphy of mantras (though I seldom do tattoos).

“I hope to bring out the book of the website in 2010 - with high definition images of all the mantras on the site and a few more - and to eventually bring the website up to the same standard: e.g. to have all mantras and bījas in four scripts: Siddham, Devanāgarī, Tibetan (dbu-can) and Lantsa.

“I also have planned a Siddhaṃ primer and have made a start on a history of mantra in Buddhism".

What he needs now is a bit of money to enable him to put in the necessary hours. He says -

“This year I'm asking each person who visits the site for a one off donation of 50p (about US$0.80) to the website. This would provide me with enough income to work on the Visible Mantra project full-time.

“Over the years I've made a trickle of money from Amazon ads (about £50 a year). I'm still waiting to hit the threshold for a Google ads payout. But I've continued to put in as many hours as I could to create this resource and write my blog - sometimes to the detriment of my health”.

Click on the button to donate 50p to Visible Mantra

Jayarava has also made some videos of his work - see for instance him writing the Avalokitesvara Mantra on YouTube - 


Friday, February 26, 2010

BODHI goes digital - in Sweden

Rounding off a very international week for FWBO News, Viryabodhi writes from Sweden to say -

"BODHI goes digital!"

Bodhi is the Newsletter published since the late 1990's by the Swedish FWBO (or VBV as we are and have been known in Sweden). They’ve recently decided to go digital and only publish it as a pdf (with both a high quality and a low quality edition) on their website -

Viryabodhi goes on to say - “Even if you don't understand Swedish you can enjoy the pictures and layout, and wonder at the reality that the FWBO flourishes in many countries and in languages that – well, what do you say? – are not easily understood, or sound like gobbledegook.

“Issue no. 21 of BODHI contains the beautiful story (in translation) of Srivati's experience of her attendance of the Order Convention in Bodh Gaya, India, and the pilgrimage that followed, with the stunning photos of Padmadhara. It also takes a look into the distant past of Dharmagiri Retreat center, when it was a school – with a lovely photo from the early 1900's. One added bonus of being on-line is that we can have active hyperlinks to websites, e-mail addresses etc.

“We hope to bring out BODHI a little more often, but it is certainly a test, so let us see. And we will send out a message that one can download it from our Swedish website. The photo you see is the cover, adapted from a template in Pages, an apple program.

“Here is also a direct link to the high def. of BODHI, no 21, January 2010:

“With metta, Viryabodhi”

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

A new stupa in Mexico

Following yesterday’s story from Australia, we zoom across the Pacific to the FWBO/AOBO Buddhist Sangha in Mexico, where they’re building a new stupa at Chintámani, their two-year-old retreat centre. Saddhajoti writes to say -

Chintámani Retreat Centre, in Yautepec, Mexico, has now a new stupa. Two years after having been born, Chintámani is now up and running, housing retreats for our sangha (as well as for other groups) since October 2007.

“On the 9th of January, in the context of a women GFR retreat, Paramachitta, who is in charge of the women’s Ordination process in Mexico, conducted a moving ritual in which the stupa was dedicated to the Three Jewels.

“The symbolism behind the simple structure of a stupa is incredibly rich. Originally regarded as burial mounds, stupas became the first architectonic representations of the Buddha’s body sitting in the meditation. The base of the stupa represents the throne, his crossed legs the first step, his body the cubic structure in the middle, while his eyes are at the base of the cone over which rests the crown. A stupa also represents the correspondence between the five elements and the five spiritual qualities of the awakened mind. The cubic structure at the base represents the earth element, which symbolizes equanimity; the semi-sphere represents the element water which stands for the mirror-like wisdom; the cone represents the element fire which refers to compassion; above the cone lies a half moon representing the element air which symbolizes accomplished actions; and the little flame above the half moon is the element consciousness, which stands for the wisdom that sees Reality. In this way, the stupa is a tridimensional mandala.

“The inside of the stupa is still frequently used as “reliquary”. Its opening represents the Buddha’s heart, an open heart. Inside the Chintámani stupa we placed a beautiful Shakyamuni rupa, hand-made by our friend Juan Antonio. In addition, each of the women attending the retreat laid their offerings. During the dedication ceremony, we also placed a flower, a vajra, and a candle near the stupa’s door, to symbolize the surrounding lotuses, vajras and flames protecting mandalas referred to in our dedication ceremony. Paramachitta invoked the Buddhas in the four directions and ended the ritual chanting the traditional blessings.

“It is said that a stupa has the power to remove obstacles, promote peace and harmonize with the environment, which is why they were known as sacred mountains. From a Buddhist perspective, such sacred sites are not places to escape the world, but to enter it more deeply. The qualities they embody reveal the interconnectedness of all life and deepen awareness of hidden regions of mind and spirit. It was with this purpose in mind that the stupa at Chintámani was designed and constructed.

“Chintámani is run by Saddhajoti and Gisela, who started the project more than six years ago. At first it seemed a remote idea, but little by little the project took form and, with the generous participation of many members of our sangha, it has become a dream come true.

“It was recently the setting for the private ordination of Padmabandhu, and has housed several GFR retreats and Order weekends. We hope that Chintámani will keep on growing while offering people a quiet, relatively secluded, and inspiring spot in which to deepen their meditation and Dharma practice, as well as functioning as a context for sangha building.

“Thus, we hope that the blessing and dedication of the new stupa will help all who visit it to awaken within themselves its qualities and energies, which ultimately lie within our minds, and to discover the inner realms within which our own deepest nature lies hidden.

“If you look closely at the photos you will see that the stupa is not finished yet. It still needs it´s crown or pinnacle. But it already looks like a proper stupa, doesn´t it?”

Chintámani Retreat Centre is online at

Sadhu Chintámani!

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sydney Buddhist Centre:wheelchairs are go!

Nalaka Nick Maddocks writes from the FWBO’s Sydney Buddhist Centre with a rare bit of news from the Sangha ‘down under’ - the first of a number of stories from them, we’re promised...

He says - “Let's roll! Wheelchairs are a go!

“Fabulous news! The Sydney Buddhist Centre (SBC) has received funding to upgrade its building as part of the New South Wales Government's Community Building Partnership. The SBC was one of 13 local community organisations to receive funding and has been awarded $10,000. Winning the grant was the result of a group effort by Order Members, Mitras and friends who completed the application forms and encouraged others to vote for the SBC's application in an online poll.

“The SBC plans to use the $10, 000 funding from the grant to upgrade the building so that it is more wheelchair accessible. The modifications required to make the SBC more wheelchair friendly include:

– Installation of wheelchair access ramps to permit wheelchair movement into and within the SBC
– Widening and replacing internal doorways
– The installation of disabled grab rails in one of the centre toilets
– Repairs and upgrade to damaged tiles on the steps leading to the front entrance

“So where do we go from here? Once the upgrade has been completed at the Sydney Buddhist Centre (SBC) we will begin to promote it as a wheelchair-accessible Buddhist centre. This means that all ongoing meditation courses and Sangha nights will be available to people in a wheelchair. The SBC already caters for about 160 people who attend regular weekly classes, and about 300 people who undertake beginners meditation or Buddhism courses for the first time every year. We are very pleased that our centre will become more accessible to a broader population of people after these renovations. There will also be the option in the near future, if the need arises, for meditation courses for people experiencing chronic pain, illness or a disability. This is very positive news for the SBC.

“To find out more about the SBC and to see our upcoming courses, please visit:

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Health scare for Sangharakshita

Vidyaruci, Sangharakshita's secretary, writes with news of a recent health scare. He says -

"As Bhante was having lunch on Saturday 20th February he experienced a sudden, very painful attack of angina pectoris. In response to his emergency call Sagaramati came, administered two drops of the GTN spray to relieve the pain, dialled for an ambulance and after the paramedics had examined Bhante, accompanied him to the to the Selly Oak hospital. There Bhante underwent various tests and was kept in overnight for more tests.

"While in hospital he was visited by Subhuti, Mahamati, and Ashvajit. Bhante was discharged on Sunday morning and driven back to Madhyamaloka by Paramartha.

"He appears to have recovered, but will obviously now have to be even more careful what he does. Several interviews have already been cancelled, and Bhante may not be able to do much travelling this year, if any".



Sunday, February 21, 2010

Transforming Self and World — the New Society, 40 Years On

Dhammaloka writes from the FWBO’s Dharmapala College, based in Birmingham UK, with news of an important seminar they’re planning for early April. They’ll be exploring the theme of ‘Transforming Self and World — the New Society, 40 Years On’.

The FWBO was founded in the 1960s with the creation of a ‘New Society’ as one of its founding ideals. 40 years on, it’s an international, vibrant, and diverse community of practitioners - but it hasn’t been an easy ride! Hence the subtitle to the event - “The Vision — The Lessons — The Challenge”.

Dhammaloka says -

“The Triratna Buddhist Community today wouldn’t exist in its richness, diversity and unity without the people who — from its very early days until now — have given themselves to the realization of Sangharakshita’s vision of a New Society. This vision of a society radically focused on spiritual growth and compassionate activity lies at the heart of our activities in the world. It is an incredibly challenging and inspiring project, working out in practice one of Bhante’s central teachings. In relation to it, people have found themselves full of hope and close to despair. We have much reason to celebrate our achievements and we must humbly acknowledge that all these are no more than a beginning.

“What is the vision — what were the lessons learnt — what are the challenges today? We invite you to find out with us. Through talks, discussion and questions & answer sessions, we will explore the vision and the challenges of transforming self and world in the 21st century.

“We hope to have Bhante with us for a morning or afternoon session”.

Here’s some more details -

April 1 (6pm) to 7 (2pm), Dharmapala College, Birmingham— open to all.

Speakers and themes:
o Subhuti: The Vision of the New Society and its Challenge Today
o Dhammarati: The Order — Individuals in Community
o Parami: The Nucleus — a Global Net of Friends
o Vajragupta: Messengers of the Dharma – the Gift of the Triratna Community
o Ratnaghosha: The Tantric Guru — Bhante’s Vision of Right Livelihood
o Keturaja: Work in Progress — the Windhorse Experience
o Subhadramati: Living in a Mandala — LBC and More
o Maitrisara: Meeting the Suffering of the World — Compassion in Action

Each speaker will be available for a separate question-and-answer session with participants of the seminar that is being offered in conjunction with the talks. There will be study and discussion groups to further explore the themes. The talks will be open to the public. The seminar, including the question and answer sessions will be for participants of the full event only.

All Dharmapala’s seminars are offered in the spirit of dana. They suggest a donation of £210 for this seminar — but add that if that is too much, please don’t hesitate to book. For accommodation however, they must separately charge £15/10 per night.

To book, send your details with a non-refundable deposit of £50 (cheques made out for Dharmapala College). To contact them, please send an email to or phone +44 (0)121 4493700. Their website is

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Inter-Buddhist Pilgrimage to Kashmir and Ladakh

Jayacitta, an Order Member from the London Buddhist Centre, writes with news of an inter-Buddhist pilgrimage she's organising this Autumn. In September 2010 the party will be visiting the Buddhist Holy Places in Kashmir and Ladakh. She says -

"Calling on Buddhists from all different traditions, this will be a journey to the magical area of Ladakh, in the Northwest of India, near the Tibetan border. Travelling through the beautiful scenery of Kashmir we will come to Ladakh, where Tibetan Buddhism is still preserved in a form that one cannot found anywhere else in the world.

"The journey will lead through magical open landscape, clear air and to mountain lakes. There will be the possibilitiy to visit monasteries and to take part in people's everyday life. It is organised by Jayachitta who is reaching out to Buddhists from different schools to meet together, to share their experience and practice.

"This trip will be an adventure in a breathtaking setting which we will be in the middle of, whether driving, trekking or meditating".

For more detail please visit her website

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Windhorse: Evolution’s month-long Working Retreat - part II

Sugarbha writes from Windhorse: Evolution with news of their month-long Working Retreat. They’re making a video diary of the event - they plan to tell FWBO News readers and the wider Buddhist Sangha more about themselves and they see their work - and the business itself - as a really effective means of practicing Right Livelihood.

He says -

“Windhorse: Evolution is a successful business, trading ethically in giftware. It’s the largest team based right livelihood business in the Triratna Buddhist Community/FWBO.

“We employ approximately 250 people in total - about 100 people in Cambridge and a further 150 who work in the 18 Evolution shops around the UK and Ireland.

“Right now we’re running a month-long working retreat in the warehouse. Here in part two of our video diary of the event, Satyaketu (our Warehouse Manager) outlines the scale of the operation and explains why we are now in a position to focus more on exploring work as a spiritual practice.

“The link is to view the video is



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Friday, February 19, 2010

Lama’s Pyjamas are go!

Padmalila writes from the FWBO’s London Buddhist Centre with news of the opening of their new Right Livelihood business - the Lama’s Pyjamas. Which is a charity shop, in case you were wondering. And you’re invited...! She says -

“The new charity shop for the London Buddhist Centre will be opened officially on Saturday 20th February at 2pm by Jnanavaca, the chairman of the London Buddhist Centre. There will be live music and a special window display of garments designed by Holly. We sell clothes and bric-a-brac and plan to have workshops for the local community teaching basic sewing skills and crafts. We have a mixture of affordable clothing and better quality garments at reasonable prices.

“Holly who is designing garments and doing our window display for the opening has just finished filming a programme for BBC2 , part of the ” Mastercraft” series about traditional British crafts which will be shown in February. She has just finished designing the launch collection for a new shop in the Brick Lane area called "123, Bethnal Green Road" which will be opening later in February. She is interested in sustainability. Her garments are made with care and attention to detail and made to be worn over and over again, known as slow fashion, as opposed to much of the cheaper mass produced fast fashion today which is made to be briefly used and then replaced.

“Please come and see us anytime we're open. Opening hours 12-6pm Monday-Friday and 10.30am-6pm Saturday. Please bring us donations of clothes and bric-a-brac during opening hours and help to keep the LBC providing Meditation and Buddhism teaching, MBCT courses, TBRL and communities which together create the "Buddhist village" of Bethnal Green.

“Lamas Pyjamas is at 83, Roman Road London E2. Tel: 020 8980 1843. Web site:

Thanks Padmalila

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sangharakshita's Diary

Vidyaruci, Sangharakshita's secretary, writes with some of his latest news over the winter months.  He says -

“Bhante has been continuing to eschew travel, but has nonetheless been kept busy by his daily meetings with visitors, as well as correspondence, which he has been giving more attention to, despite his finding dictating letters difficult.

“His only trip out of Birmingham in December was to Worcester, to meet sangha members at their new centre, where they had a discussion mainly on the topic of Team Based Right Livelihood. He has enjoyed meeting with two groups of men at Madhyamaloka, one from Croydon, and another all the way from Dublin. Conversation with the latter group centered largely around Bhante's article The Path of Regular and Irregular Steps, which they had come over to study with Dhammaloka and Abhaya. [available as an audio download from FreeBuddhistAudio]

“Bhante has continued to have me read to him. We finished Nagapriya's Visions of the Mahayana, which Bhante enjoyed, describing it as 'a well researched, sympathetic, but not uncritical account of the Mahayana in India and the Far East'. [available from Windhorse Publications] I also read him an article by Bernard Stevens, a mitra from Belgium, which explored the Japanese philosopher Nishida's thought in relation to the Abhidharma. Bhante enjoys hearing reportings- in from Shabda, and we get through as much as we can of each issue.

“The RNIB audio book service that Bhante has recently joined seems to be working out well, and he has particularly appreciated two of its offerings recently. Firstly The Last Days of the Raj by Trevor Royle, which describes the political and economic background of Bhante's early years in India. Of course he knew much of it already, but he also learned things that were new to him. The second audio book was Peter the Great, by Derek Wilson, which Bhante described as giving a 'thorough and interesting, if lurid light on Russia past and present'.

“Bhante's health has been stable, and has not been too badly affected by the transition to winter. On Wednesday 16th December he had another lucentis injection into his eye, which is the last planned for the time being. Other than this his health has been good, despite the wintry weather.

“January was even more quiet than the last. Vidyadevi has visited a few of times, in order to interview Bhante about some of his favourite poetry. Bhante has received visitors most days, though even this tailed off a bit over Christmas and New Year. For a week of this period I was away visiting family, so Dharmamati stepped back into his old role, for which thanks to him. Bhante's own Christmas celebrations extended no further than having a meal with the Madhyamaloka community, followed by a chat round the open log fire. The snowy weather, as well as disrupting the travel plans of some if his visitors, has precluded his daily walks for a number of weeks.

“Bhante has had a number of friends read to him from various books. Paramartha read him Porphory's The Cave of the Nymphs, a neo-Platonic allegory of the soul's descent into the world of space and time. Devamitra read him extracts from A God Who Hates, in which Wafa Sultan describes the effect of Islam on her early life in Syria. I have read him the beginning of Francis Brassard's The Concept of Bodhicitta in Santideva's Bodhicaryavatara, the new introduction to The Religion of Art, by Dhivan, and we have recently started The Book of Kadam, a new translation of an important text from Tibetan Buddhism.

"Bhante has also listened to a few interesting audio books. These include To The Navel of the World by Peter Somerville-Large, the navel in question being the region around Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarova in Western Tibet; A Nation of Trees by Rosemary Millington, an account of the author's two and a half years in the Australian outback, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel by Adrian Vaughan, a biography of the famous nineteenth century engineer”.

Madhyamaloka, Birmingham, UK

FWBO News can also add that in October Sangharakshita wrote to all Order Members asking them to cease using the terms ‘untouchable’ and ‘ex-untouchable’. His letter is copied below as it is of course applicable to all members of the Sangha.

Dear Dharmacharis and Dharmacharinis,

I have recently received a letter signed by 11 Indian Order members and mitras, all of whom are at present living in Cambridge. They have asked me to request Western Order members not to use the expression ‘ex-untouchable’ as they do not feel comfortable with it. They rightly say they are Buddhists, not untouchables, having left the caste system behind them. I very much sympathise with their feelings, and I am therefore happy to second their request and to urge all Western Order members who are still using the terms ‘untouchable’ and ‘ex-untouchable’, whether in speech or writing, to cease doing so forthwith.

Urgyen Sangharakshita

Sangharakshita's website,, continues to host many of his books in a free downloadable pdf format, as well as his recent 'Conversations' and a collection of his poetry.


Monday, February 15, 2010

second FWBO International Retreat - update

fwbo  international  retreat  2010
‘Turning Arrows into Flowers’
Friday 28th May to Tuesday 1st June 2010

Vajragupta writes with an update for FWBO News readers on the second FWBO International Retreat -  a big family-friendly event run by the FWBO Chairs Assembly in conjunction with Buddhafield and Taraloka.

He says - 

"It's shaping up to be another huge opportunity for a very imaginative collective celebration of Buddha Day (Wesak) - the festival of the Buddha's Enlightenment. 

"It'll also be a great way to experience the depth and breadth of our international Sangha, and to get a taste of just how satisfying it can be to live together for a short time immersed in a Buddhist context - practicing together, working together in teams, and so on.

"Here's some of what we've arranged so far -  

Story-telling, chanting and ritual: to create an atmosphere of magic and beauty, re-enacting the story of the Buddha’s Enlightenment.
Meditation: teaching and time to practice how can we see-through negativity and free our own hearts and minds.
Talks and discussion: looking at the society we live in and what helps and what hinders our attempts to move towards Enlightenment. How can we help turn “arrows into flowers”?
Sangha: an experience of the breadth and depth of the FWBO with hundreds of us from all over Europe living, practising, and creating sangha together over a long weekend.
Family Friendly: facilities and activities for children and teenagers.

"Places are limited so book soon!

"The event commences on the Friday evening and goes through to Tuesday lunchtime. There will be a full programme of talks, meditations, storytelling, and rituals, plus free time for meeting up with friends or going for a walk. Some of the FWBO’s most experienced teachers will be there, including Jnanavaca, Maitreyabandhu, Padmavajra, Saddhanandi, Sona, Tejananda, Vajradarshini, Vidyamala, with more to be confirmed…

"There will be two childcare sessions each day when those with children can bring them along to be looked after,allowing them to go to the talks, meditations and so on. Also, in the evening we'll have storytelling that they  can come to, sometimes join in with, and sometimes stay for part of the ritual/puja that follows on from it... Children aged 3 or under can come for free, and 4 to 16 year olds half price".

For the latest updates - and to book - please check the retreat website

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Death in the Order

Akasasuri writes from Holland with news of the death of Vajrayogini, one of the Order's oldest members.  She says -

"Dear friends,

"Vajrayogini died on the morning of Monday February 8th, at home very peacefully, without illness or pain, with two nurses present.  At the age of nearly 94, her life came naturally to an end. The last two days she had difficulties recognizing people.  The funeral was on Friday 12 February at 2pm in Rotterdam, Holland.

"She was ready to die. Last Thursday when I asked her whether there was anything she still wanted, she said to me: 'It's been enough. Life is very tiring these days. I'm going to the Buddha'. When I asked her whether she thought we would meet again (we've known each other closely for 24 years) she said: 'Of course'! She said it in English, despite not having spoken English for years!

"Vajrayogini came into contact with the Order and movement through Vajradaka, whom she met in the context of a psychosynthesis weekend in the UK in the early seventies. She started the first FWBO retreats in Holland around that time supported by various Order members from the UK and Sangharakshita.

"Vajrayogini was ordained 35 years ago and at her ordination she received the Gate Gate mantra from Bhante.
Her main meditation practice all those years has been the mettabhavana. Over the last ten years or so the Abhaya mudra of Amoghasiddhi had also become a 'constant' companion for her, giving her faith and trust that in the end 'all will be well'.

"She had a long and eventful life, with strong dakini-like qualities (not surprisingly with a name like hers!) which she used very skillfully in her work as a Gestalt and Psychosynthesis therapist. She stopped working and leading a yearly retreat at the age of 84! Even then she carried on with a meditation group at her home.

"She had great faith and trust in Bhante Sangharakshita. And I've been moved several times by their connection and friendship. Though she wasn't involved in the institutions and life of the Order and movement very much, she showed her loyalty and commitment in other ways. She was extremely generous to 3 retreat centre projects (Guyhaloka, Akashavana, Metta Vihara), donating large sums of money to them. She also gave financial support to quite a few Order members so that they could spend their time spreading the Dharma.

"May she be well and happy.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

introducing Karunamati and the Green Tara Trust

Today’s ‘FWBO People’ profile is of Karunamati, a UK Order Member and medical doctor, who’s worked for many years in Nepal, as founder and director of the Green Tara Trust.

Here’s what she says about her work -

“I have been working in Nepal for 15 years now and it is my second home. Nepal is a vibrant country where the people are very welcoming. The terrain is very tough, with poor communication routes due to the Himalayas; most people to the north of Kathmandu are nowhere near a motorable road so access is on foot.

“There has been a civil war in Nepal for a few years now; although there is now an “elected” government (the Maoists) the law and order is still poor. As a tourist it is fine to visit but for us on the ground, our work is hard due to fuel strikes and road blocks. This can hold us up considerably but we work around this, sometimes by working at night! The war has also seen huge internal migration, with a ten- fold increase in sexually transmitted infections, an increase in sexual violence towards women and the destruction of health facilities.

“Our charity works in the field trying to improve lives of the poorest people through direct action. However, in order to be more effective we also work at national level with the Government. For example, we are assisting them in re-writing the national curriculum for all Nepali health staff in preventative health measures and health communication as they currently have none. Our techniques and experience in the field inform this process. In this way we are able to improve many more lives through the health system.

1. Preventing maternal and child deaths through health promotion. Specifically we:
* Work in groups to ENCOURAGE POSITIVE BEHAVIOURS: particularly with husbands and mother in laws who control women’s access to good nutrition and medical care.
* BUILD CAPACITY in the community, particularly women’s ability to save money for their delivery, make choices and help them have a voice in society.
* IMPROVE THE MEDICAL CARE THAT IS ALREADY AVAILABLE so Government workers can deliver a World Health Organisation standard antenatal appointment.
We are into the second year of the programme now; we have many active groups and over 50 project volunteers.

2. National Lesbian Society- Mitini Nepal
We work with Mitini to provide education, counselling, support and direct legal action where human right violations have occurred as a result of discrimination. The photos shows Mitini supporters at a peaceful demonstration in Kathmandu.

“The Green Tara Trust has a new website at

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

A flood in Paris

Vassika sends us this report from the small FWBO Centre in Paris - it seems they're inundated and in need of assistance...  Any French speakers out there...?  She says -

"Sadly, since last September the Paris FWBO Centre is having to turn away many people wanting to attend meditation and Buddhism classes. At the first beginners’ evening in September about 70 people turned up, far more than the Centre can accommodate, and every day since then, the Centre has received at least one request to attend classes.

"Why this sudden surge? We have no definite answer – though some ideas come to mind, and the answer is probably a mix of them.

• Buddhism is better understood and becoming better accepted in France. When the Centre was established 13 years ago there was still ignorance and even suspicion in the general population with regard to Buddhism. Many people had little idea what it was, those who came to the Centre would often not talk about it with their families and colleagues and people often feared that we might be a cult. Nowadays, hardly a week goes by without something about Buddhism in the media, Buddhas are appearing everywhere, in shop windows and interior decoration shops, propping up beauty products, spectacle, CDs, lamps, taking a bizarrely prominent place in the world of consumerism, and the word “zen” is in vogue, meaning cool, laid back, relaxed, unflustered… even though most of this may not be the kind of development we Buddhists might hope for…

• People are increasingly using the internet as a means of looking for information, and our web site is extremely visible – always one of the first ones when one looks for “Bouddha”, “bouddhisme” or “méditation” in Google, and even more so if one adds “Paris” as a search criterion; this is mainly the result of the dedicated work of Suvannavira when he created our web site.

• In addition, our feeling is that people are attracted by the clear presentation on our web site of how they can start and progress with us and how they can learn meditation and the Dharma and put them into practice in their daily lives.

And why do we say “sadly”?
"The reality is that the Centre is fairly small, 25 being the maximum number of people that the shrine room can reasonably accommodate. Even if the Centre were bigger, there is currently only one Order Member, Vassika, who is already doing as much as she can to teach beginners, friends and mitras as well as overseeing all the Centre’s activities and administration.

"So even though we are delighted that interest in meditation and Buddhism is growing, even though Vassika has gathered a team of mitras to support her, and even though we’re fortunate that some Order Members are giving her a hand here and there (Padmaketu and Dhridamati recently came over from Cambridge to lead a 3-day retreat, and Jayamuni runs a small group via Skype from China), until we have some more Order Members we will have to keep turning people away.

"We are hopeful, even confident, that help will eventually come. This year, Barbara-Laure Desplats will become our first fully home grown Order Member, though she lives some three hours south of Paris in Chambéry.

"In the meantime, turning away so many interested people will continue to be a source of frustration and sadness to us. If you feel moved to help in any way, do not hesitate to contact us!

"We don’t have a photo of floods of people at the Paris Buddhist Centre, so at the top of this report is one of the flood in Paris nearly exactly 100 years ago, and at the bottom, one of the queue we saw outside the Moulin Rouge as we cycled home from a night dealing with the queue at the Buddhist Centre!"

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Karuna: 30 years of compassion in action

Karuna was formed in 1980 as Aid for India, the movement's response to the suffering of India's Dalit community. For 30 years, Karuna has worked with some of South Asia's most disadvantaged people, sending over £1 million every year to support low-caste and tribal communities, street children and refugees fulfill their potential through our social and Dharma projects.

Over the course of 2010, we will be featuring a series of articles highlighting Karuna's achievements over the last 30 years. We start with Kulamitra, founder of Aid for India, and a Karuna trustee relating his experience of how the trust came into being:
"In the late 1970's I was a young order member and had recently moved into a community near the London Buddhist Centre as I wanted to help the burgeoning movement and participate in right livelihood. The LBC had just opened and I was helping with some building work around the centre.
One day, Subhuti (Chair of the LBC) invited me to go for a walk with him. He told me he was looking for someone who was able to take on the challenge of a big fundraising project; someone who would take responsibility for raising £50,000 for Dharma and social projects for the Indian Dalit community. This was an enormous amount of money in those days!

Lokamitra, had been in India since 1978 teaching the Dharma to the Dalit community. In a short space of time he had realised that alongside the need for the Dharma, this community faced serious difficulties caused by caste discrimination, alongside, limited, if non-existent access to health care and education.

In 1979, I visited India for the first time. One particular experience stuck me. I was trying to sleep one evening in the small hut where I was staying, when I became aware of a small dog being attacked by a pack of wild dogs on a patch of wasteland opposite the hut where I was staying. I lay there listening to the whining of the savaged animal, and said to my companions, "Can't we do anything?". In that moment, I realised what life was life for Dalits living in these conditions. That like the wild dogs roaming the wasteland, they were born into a life that was unsafe and lacking in compassion.

At that time, the team in India were operating on a shoestring. For example, Dharma activities were conducted in a rudimentary garage (little more than a ramshackle tin hut), as well as corridors of flats with makeshift shrines.

When I returned from my trip, I eagerly got to work by trying to translate my experiences of the projects and conditions I had witnessed into fundraising copy that would motivate people to give to the Dharma and social projects that were coming into being.

I had no fundraising skills or experience and worked out of a small room in the community where I lived, typing with my gloves on with only a small paraffin heater for warmth!

I also consulted 'Who's Who' looking for anyone with a connection or sympathy with India. In 6 months, my only response was from a couple in Hampstead. I eagerly went to the appointment and thought it had gone well. Afterwards, I was asked by Tim Lilley, my fundraising mentor, 'Did you close?' - I had forgotten to make the all important 'ask'. I was on a fast learning curve.

Those first six months were tough but I was motivated by my experiences of the Dalit's conditions in India. I was eventually able to convince Tim to take on a role for a years salary and Karuna door-to-door appeals were born."

Out of such humble beginnings, Karuna now supports hundreds of thousands of people across South Asia supporting projects that are building dignity, challenging discrimination and supporting people's practice of Buddhism.

80% of Karuna's work is supported by thousands of individuals across the UK who, having met with a Karuna fundraiser on a door-to-door appeal, has decided to make a regular contribution to the social and Dharma work in South Asia.
You too can help South Asia's Dalit community by giving your time 2010 in one of the three ways:
  1. Help out on a telephone fundraising campaign in London
  2. Join a residential door-to-door fundraising appeal
  3. Live in pioneering men's fundraising community for a year

To find out more:

Contact: Jo Goldsmid, Pete Hannah, Khemajala or Amalavajra

Phone: 0207 697 3026



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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

International Buddhist Youth Exchange program in Malaysia

Today’s story on FWBO News comes from India’s National Network of Buddhist Youth (NNBY) - just back from participating in the 2010 International Buddhist Youth Exchange program, held in Malaysia.

Chetan Meshram from Nagpur, central India, attended along with Vasitkumar from Pune. They say-

“Last week we have been in the Asean Youth Exchange at Malaysia. The WORLD FELLOWSHIP OF BUDDHIST YOUTH  (WFBY) organized the ASEAN INTERNATIONAL BUDDHIST YOUTH EXCHANGE (IBYE) 2010 which was hosted by the YOUNG BUDDHIST ASSOCIATION OF MALAYSIA (YBAM).

"We were representing the National Network of Buddhist Youth (NNBY) from India. Other countries which participated included Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, and South Korea.

"The main object of the programme was to promote development of leadership qualities among Buddhist Youth and also to strengthen Buddhist Networking across South East Asia.  The program was held in the Fo Guang Shan monastery. The theme of the event was “Joy, Fellowship and friendship.

"The 10 day programme was divided into four parts:

1) Home Stay Program
"International delegates were staying with Buddhist foster families for the first three days of the programme. Coinciding with the New Year and weekends, they had the opportunity to start 2010 in Malaysia, and also to feel and experience Malaysian lifestyle of living culture, food, sights and sound.

2) ASEAN IBYE leadership and Training Workshops:
"A series of sessions catering for the learning, contributing and tackling of current situations faced among youths in the Buddhist society, both local and international.

3) Malacca and Kuala Lumpur tour
4) ASEAN IBYE JFL Concert 2010

"We were able to make the other delegates aware about the concerns of Buddhist youth in India. Their social, economic and educational situations were discussed. Most importantly we communicated the revival of Buddhism and dynamics of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s movement. We both explained the aims, objectives, and mission of NNBY -

"The event created strong connections between those who attended. We hope these connections will contribute to the betterment of the youths in ASEAN and especially more widely in India.

"For more information and picture follow ASEAN IBYE 2010 in facebook.

"Thanking you".

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Two stories from Malaysia

Today and tomorrow we've two stories from Malaysia - independent visits by FWBO members from the UK and India, to different Buddhist groups.

Dhammaloka, a regular visitor to China, Singapore, and Malaysia, writes to say -

"I've just finished a series of talks followed by a practice weekend on karma for the Than Hsiang Foundation in Penang, Northern Malaysia.

“As things turned out, I was the first person to teach at their newly established centre for English speaking Sangha members. Located in a very spacious ex-residential house in central Penang, the new place is at daytime used as a Buddhist kindergarten.

“As in my experience has often been the case with an ethnically Chinese audience, in the first meeting it was difficult for me to assess what the group made of the input. Yet, with numbers of participants rising from day to day and there being increasingly lively discussions, I guess they found it interesting and fruitful. Furthermore, at the end of the practice weekend, even those who in the beginning had been rather solitary and perhaps somewhat distant, were happily engaged in our various group explorations and discussions.

“It was a pleasure to see a sense of Sangha grow between all of us. Our explorations covered a vast ground - from the religiously Brahminical and Shramaneric background at the Buddha's time right down to the turning of karma into a commodity owing to the historical emphasis on karmic results, merit-making and to the notion of collective karma which are so prominent in Asian societies. Again and again, we came back to the Buddha's revolutionary insight into intention (cetana) as the essence of karma, and accordingly we explored both skilful and unskilful mental states and the path to move beyond karma in quite some detail.

“Meanwhile, I've moved on to Melaka in the South of Malaysia where Samamati will be joining me shortly. Another series of 5 talks with a weekend preceding them lies ahead of us. Already, more than thirty people have booked ... which seems a pretty sure sign that more are likely to participate. Great to be here --- and away from the European winter!"

“Take care and good wishes,


Sunday, February 07, 2010

Interview with Subhuti: Ambedkar, Buddhism, and the world today

Insight Young Voices is an on-line Dalit Youth Magazine currently featuring an interview with Subhuti, a long-standing member of the Western Buddhist Order and leading light in TBMSG’s Dhamma work in India.

Anoop Kumar, the interviewer, explores with Subhuti the specific difficulties - and opportunities - faced by Buddhism in the world today - in fact in the ‘three worlds’ of the old Buddhist world, the new Buddhist world of the West, and the revived Buddhist world of India.

The interview can be found online at

To quote two of their exchanges -

Buddhism being reduced just to a new caste is indeed a great danger and we clearly witness this happening around us. How do we overcome this?

Subhuti: "We must overcome this danger of the marginalisation of Buddhism, referring back to Dr Ambedkar’s thoughts on conversion: Why did he choose Buddha Dhamma? According to him, liberty, equality and fraternity can only be attained when there is a completely different set of ethical attitudes in Indian society. In a caste-based society one does not see another person in terms of duties towards him or her as a human being, but as a member of a particular caste that stands in a particular relation to one’s own caste. Babasaheb says that this is not really ethics at all. Dr Ambedkar’s great insight was that society has to be based on some genuine ethical principles, not the pseudo-ethics of caste duty".

Buddhism is one of the world’s major religious traditions and therefore building linkages with wider Buddhist world was one of the main concerns of Babasaheb Ambedkar. As a practising Buddhist who is deeply involved with Buddhism as defined by Babasaheb, what are your observations on the wider Buddhist world?

Subhuti: "Buddhism generally covers three worlds today: the old Buddhist world, the new Buddhist world of the West, and the revived Buddhist world of India.

"The old Buddhist world of the East is not in good shape. There are signs of revival here and there, but it is severely battered by modernity and is often not impressive today as an example of a living faith, related to the modern situation. There are impressive people and impressive movements, but Buddhism overall is not that impressive in its old heartlands. The example before us at present is, of course, Sri Lankan Buddhism, a significant and leading proportion of whose followers are, frankly speaking, racists and have used Buddhism as a weapon of cultural dominance.

"Then, you have got the new Buddhist world of the West that has emerged from what has been called the ‘Me generation’, which I myself in fact came from – spoilt children of the post-colonial west who have lived with silver spoons in their mouths and face quite different sets of problems from their brothers and sisters elsewhere in the world, problems more of personal meaning and happiness. There is a strong tendency to individualism among western Buddhists and the Dhamma is often interpreted in quite narrow personal terms.

"Then you have got Buddhist India, which I think is a very interesting intersection of the other two. For me, India is the key to the revival of Buddhism worldwide, because here the Buddhist movement is uncompromisingly modern and has a social conscience, as well.

"This happened because Babasaheb, at least from one side, was the child of the European enlightenment, with its critical intellectual tradition, and at the same time he was also the child of the best of Indian culture: of the whole non-brahmanical shramanic traditions, of the Sant traditions represented by such as Kabir and so on, and above all of the Buddha.

"So the movement initiated by him has the intellectually critical approach - if you like, the scientific approach - that is a principal feature of the modern world. Indian Buddhism is modern in this sense; on the other hand it is functioning in a traditional society with intact family structures, which we have lost to a considerable extent in much of the west, and it has a very strong commitment to social transformation.

"In some ways, our Western Buddhist world shares more in common with India than the old Buddhist world of the East, because in our case we also started from a critical perspective. We in the west feel ourselves very much Buddhist, very much part of the Buddhist tradition, but we are not going to accept all aspects of it uncritically, and that is the position you take in India, following Babasaheb.

"However, although there are similarities between Indian Buddhism today and western Buddhism, there are also discontinuities and some of these we should be careful to maintain. I don’t want to see western individualistic attitudes imported into India – although that is already happening, of course".

There's other introductions to Ambedkar and Buddhism in India in the writing of Vishvapani and Lokamitra

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Friday, February 05, 2010

The FWBO and the 'New Monasticism'

Munisha, Director of ClearVision - the FWBO's audio-visual centre - writes to say:

"I was on the BBC Radio Four programme 'Beyond Belief' on Monday, in a programme looking at something called The New Monasticism.

"This is a movement within modern Christianity to set up residential quasi-monastic communities, very much like those we are used to in the FWBO.

"I wasn't very happy with the way it went in the studio but it's been well edited and I think the result is pretty good. Judge for yourself if you wish; listen to it online here" - it'll be available to listen to until Sunday".

Community living seems to be somewhat out of fashion in the FWBO these days, but there are still over 40 residential communities listed in the official FWBO Address List, mostly single-sex ie just men or just women in residence.

Another exploration of FWBO experience in this area can be found in 'Living Together', by Sanghadevi - you'll find this reviewed on the Windhorse Publications website.

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First Mitra ceremonies for East Kent Buddhist Group

Danapriya writes from the FWBO’s ‘East Kent Buddhist Group’ with news of their first Mitra Ceremonies - perhaps, he says, even the first in the Triratna Buddhist Order! He says -

“The East Kent Buddhist Group has just had Mitra Ceremonies for Hannah Youngs and Sally Birch. Hannah is 18yrs old and is daughter of Karunajala - and has been going on retreat since she was 4 yrs old! Sally has been on the LBC's winter retreat the last 2 yrs and hardly misses a class.

“27 people attended - we just about packed them into our shrineroom which is only 11 x 13 feet! It was a wonderful evening and Sally and Hannah may even be the first Mitras of the Triratna Buddhist Order! We had three visiting Order Members Subhadramati, Karunajala and Vajrashraddha among the guests.

“Love from Danapriya

Founded in Deal, Kent, in 2007, the group found it attracted people from all over East Kent, and changed its name to suit. For more information check their website.

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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Copenhagen hosts joint first Danish-Swedish day retreat

Advayasiddhi writes from the FWBO’s small Danish Sangha with news of the first joint Danish -Swedish day retreat. She says -

“This Sunday saw the first event for people from both sides of Øresund - the small stretch of sea that divides Denmark and Southern Sweden. The day was held in Copenhagen where the (very small) Danish Sangha had invited people from Skåne to come and join them for a day of practice.

“Even if the numbers ended up low, the quality was high and we had a great day led by Advayasiddhi, meditating together and talking about the three jewels and about how we are part of a long lineage and a much bigger community.

"We ended the day with a small ritual offering our aspirations to the Buddha and sharing our merits with all beings.

“We hope to do another day soon, so let us know if you want to join”.

Check their Facebook group Buddhistisk Meditation to stay in touch.  There’s a more general introduction to Buddhism and meditation in Danish on their website

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Karuna and ClearVision collaborate to promote awareness of Buddhist-led development work and social action in Asia

Maitrisara, a member of the Western Buddhist Order based in Oxford, UK, writes with news of a major survey of UK Buddhists’ interest in and knowledge about Buddhist-inspired and Buddhist-led development work and social action in Asia.

The initiative came from a shared realisation that although there is a great deal of such work, spread across Asia and involving many different Buddhist Sanghas, much of it is hardly known about.

She says -

“A recent online survey completed by 295 Buddhists (77% from the FWBO!) aimed to find out more about UK Buddhists' interest in and knowledge about Buddhist-inspired and Buddhist-led development work and social action in Asia; also to find out how they understood the relationship between personal and social transformation.

“To see a summary of the results, and respondents’ reflections on the question "Personal and social transformation are indivisible - do you agree?” – click here. The reflections especially are extremely interesting!

“The outcome of this process is that a project application has been submitted to the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) by Karuna in partnership with Clear Vision

“Original study materials will be created including video footage of projects in the global South. This will be accessed on an online learning hub. There will also be exchange and networking spaces such as inter-group meetings, retreats and conferences. We wait to see if the application has been successful.

“We would like to thank all those who contributed to the survey. We were impressed with the responses, both in the thought given to them and the number completed in such a short time. The information will have value beyond this project as we think it's the biggest survey ever completed on Engaged Buddhism and certainly the most current”.

Maitrisara (Oxford, UK)

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Little Buddha Children's Club attracts over 1000 members in India

Rohan Chahande, a mitra from Nagpur, writes with news of the second annual Children’s Retreat run by TBMSG’s ‘Little Buddha Children Club’ - plus an update on their plans for 2010.

He says - “I am sending report of Little Buddha Children’s Club for publishing on FWBO/TBMSG news site.

“Over the Xmas period we held our second annual retreat for children from all over Nagpur. Over a hundred participated in this three-day event held at Nagaloka. They enjoyed Puja, meditation, play, songs, yoga, Karate, painting & games. On the last day children performed in groups and individually. We showed a movie on the life of the Buddha, which the children enjoyed very much - and wished to watch similar movies in future. We also conducted a workshop for parents; they wished to help LBCC and asked to have more programmes for children and parents this year.

“We ended with a resolution to develop more Friendship in 2010 - this was voted to be the main theme for Little Buddha Children’s Club activities in this New Year. This will inspire us therefore to reach more children in Nagpur’s rural areas and slum areas in other cities.

“We have been organizing activities for children throughout the year and now we have centres in Pune (Western India) and Varodaya in Gujarat (North India). In fact more than a thousand children are members of LBCC and we are still growing.

“With metta, Rohan Chahande

For contact details and updates check the Little Buddha Children’s Club website.

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Monday, February 01, 2010

Charlie Chaplain teaches Metta Bhavana in India

Varaprabha is an Indian Order Member who has for some years now been training as a mime artist, with his chosen character being the late great Charlie Chaplain.

He has been active in using his new-found skills to communicate with a wide range of Indians on topics such as debt, alcoholism, craving, and domestic violence. He also conducts workshops teaching mime to children living in TBMSG’s hostels and elsewhere.

Recently FWBO News came across this report of one of his recent workshops in the Indian Express, a major Indian newspaper, under the heading of ‘Charlie regales orphan kids’; and we’re pleased to share it with you. They say -

“The Mukta-Avishkar cultural unit, which works under the auspices of Trailokya Baudhya Maha Sangha (TBMSG), conducted a programme at its orphanage at Pimple Gurav, in Pune, recently. ‘The Change of Mind of Thief Charlie & Arley,’ a mime in which the role of Charlie Chaplin was played by Dhammachari Varaprabha regaled the children.

“The orphanage which has 64 children, is run by a group including Dr. Dinesh Metallu, Prakash Pagnis, and Arun Ovhal. ‘The effort was to create awareness among these children about the vices corrupting the society and how to stay away from them,’ said Dr Metallu.

"‘We teach them Buddha’s way of loving-kindness meditation, maitri bhavana, which means friendship in three stages — self- friendship, friendship towards unknown and friendship towards enemy, and finally on the lines of universal brotherhood, friendship towards the whole world’".

Sadhu Varaprabha!

He is fundraising to continue with his training; if you would like to make a donation please visit his fundraising site - where you can also see a video of one of his performances at TBMSG's Bor Dharan retreat centre.

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