Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Subhuti and Vidyaruci in Hungary

Vidyaruci, an Order Member based in Birmingham UK, who currently works as Sangharakshita’s secretary, writes to say -

“In the last week of January I accompanied Subhuti to Hungary to visit our friends from the gypsy Buddhist community, with whom Subhuti has been in contact for some five or six years. It was my fourth trip to Hungary, and I was very glad to see my friends there, especially Janosh and Tibor, who form the core of the Jai Bhim Network, a small, but growing, Buddhist organisation, which takes as its inspiration Dr Ambedkar’s vision of social change through the practise and propagation of the Dhamma. From the Dr Ambedkar High School in Northern Hungary, where we stayed, Subhuti met with students and teachers from that school and others nearby, and taught them about Buddhism and Dr Ambedkar.

Members of the Jai Bhim network in Hungary
“Hungary is a deeply divided country. The gypsies are the largest minority in the population, and are subject to widespread prejudice and discrimination. Though I had learned this much, and seen evidence of it, on previous visits, there was one particular incident on this trip which brought this home with particular force. In recent years there has been a worrying growth in the popularity of an extreme right wing political party, which is explicitly racist, known as Yobbik. Yobbik had recently been campaigning in a town near to Sojokaza, where the Dr Ambedkar High School is situated, and there had been trouble between gypsies and Yobbik thugs, resulting in the arrest of some gypsies.

"While we were there it transpired that Yobbik were planning to come to Sojokaza. Understandably the gypsies were very worried, even frightened. A meeting was arranged between the gypsy community and the mayor of Sojakaza and police chief, which Subhuti and I were able to attend. The tension and fear in the room was palpable while the anxious looking mayor told the gypsies that Yobbik were a legal political party exercising their democratic rights, and that there was to be no trouble from the gypsies. Though clearly frightened, the gypsies generally expressed themselves with admirable restraint, which may in part be due to the influence of the Jai Bhim Network, and the sense of empowerment that it has given them.

“One example of this is empowerment is the ‘women’s sangha’, which is a group of gypsy women who have weekly meetings to try to find solutions to some of their difficulties. We were able to attend one such meeting, which included what was in many ways the highlight of the trip, which was a ceremony to mark the conversion to Buddhism of one of the young gypsy boys. ‘Cubu’, as he is nicknamed, has been a presence on each of my trips to Hungary, and it was a real pleasure to see this delightful young man make his first formal commitment to the practise of the Dhamma, and to see the positive pride it gave him afterwards to repeatedly state ‘I am a Buddhist!’.

“I feel greatly privileged to be able to witness the activities of the Jai Bhim network in Hungary. Tibor and Janosh, and all those dedicated to the same cause, deserve our admiration and support.”


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