Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Angels in the morning, Dragons in the evening: fund-raising for Karuna

Bodhiketu writes from London with news of Karuna's 'One-Year Appeal', now over half way though.  He says - "In September 2010 Triratna's Karuna Trust started an ambitious project to establish a year-long men's door-knocking community in London Buddhist centre mandala, which Bhante named Viramandala, 'Circle of Heroes'. The team was led by Jayaraja and included Priyadaka, Silajala, Sanghanath, Paul Crosland and Bodhiketu.  So how has it been going?

"Those who have done appeals will know that the cocktail of spiritual practice and door-knocking is a particularly potent mix and we quickly formed very strong friendships between us, astonishingly fast in fact, through this intensity.  The first two appeals from September into December took us from delightful, balmy Autumn evenings into dark, freezing nights. That was hard – Sanghanath would often head out with three fleeces and two pairs of thermal long johns under his normal clothes.

"The thing that really surprised me was quite how willing many, many people were to stand at the door and chat with you though, about anything, really intimately. Someone you had never met before wanting to connect with you. I remember one mum pulling a face as she slipped out of the door to confide how she had one very grouchy teenager in the house ... then we talked for half an hour.

"For three weeks over Christmas we headed out to India to see some of the projects for ourselves. For me, many highlights - meeting my old friend Ratnadeep again after many years, the wonderful Ajanta caves, watching Jayaraja take on the Maharashtran boxing team at arm wrestling on an overnight train, seeing Sanghanath in his homeland, realising the revolutionary effect of micro-finance groups in the Pune slums, and then returning to an incredibly peaceful, clean and spacious sense of Bethnal Green!

"Beyond that was a real spirit of brotherhood that existed between us, real community.  On our return we were soon into door-knocking again. Still cold in January but Spring came, with more light in the evenings. There was always someone in the team who was on fire – bringing in lots of direct debits – always someone in a rut. It was never the same. The practice was to try and rejoice in the overall success.

"In March Paul decided to leave us – he felt he'd gone as far as he could this time. In May my own door-knocking ground to a halt, but I'm staying on to support the others and work at Karuna until August. Hey, it was always going to be a tough call ... so no regrets ... proudly we bear the scars of great battles.

"Anyway, despite this it has been a great success, raising over £400,000 so far for Karuna’s work in India. So much so that we decided to extend it into a second year and are currently looking for men to join us for six weeks, three months or longer, from now onwards.

"It's a great community and we'd make you very welcome. Door-knocking is a way of making a real difference in the world as well as a powerful means of self-awareness and personal transformation. You don't need any prior experience of fund-raising to give it a go, just a willingness to learn and engage with the process. If you're interested there's an advert in the jobs section (click here). Why not give us a call and find out more?

With metta, Bodhiketu"

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Friday, May 27, 2011

India and Sri Lanka exchange Dharma teachers

Ujukarin, from Sri Lanka
Prajnajit, from India
Ujukarin, a Dutch Order Member who’s a regular visitor and Dharma teacher in Sri Lanka, writes with news of an ongoing India - Sri Lanka collaboration. He says - “Some years back myself and my friend Prajnajit from India made a vow: we each would spend 25% of our annual Dharmaduta (Dharma teaching) time to assist one another in the neighbouring country. Prajnajit did his part during three months in Autumn 2009, which was described in detail in this blog http://fwbo-news.blogspot.com/2009/09/ujukarin-dutch-order-member-who-is.html . And now, I who am only able to give part-time to my Dharma teaching work, spent 10 days in India to ‘pay back the debt’.

“Our tour was mainly around Umarga town, with a population of 30,000 in the south-eastern tip of Maharashtra state; it has a Bahujan Hitay boys hostel and a Buddhist meeting hall (vihara) in town. Basically what we were aiming to do during my visit was to enhance the regular Dhamma talk schedule of Prajnajit, plus those of visiting Order Members like Abhayabhadra from Pune. We visited two rural towns nearby, the larger city of Osmanabad 100 km to the west and of course Umarga vihara; overall attendance over five nights must have been in the range of 500-700 people. Also during transit in Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh), 200 km to the east, we had an inspiring evening with the local sangha in their vihara. The talks were successful, and made it on to the pages of at least four local newspapers; the topics we spoke on often linked Buddhism to practical family life in Asia, e.g. parenting, politics, and how to avoid astrology and the dowry system!

Chanting mantras at the start of the Osmanabad event,
with Prajnajit and Ujukarin upfront
“What impressed me most, as well as the usual exemplary hospitality of the Indian Buddhists and the dedication of Order Members and Dhammamitras of course, were the more and more varying circumstances in which we were working, compared to Holland and Sri Lanka. The traditional pattern of oppressed ex-untouchables certainly still exists, as we found for instance in Betjawalaga village close to Umarga. Not only did we need to hold a small ‘procession’ prior to the meeting to demonstrate that all parts of town, including the high-caste ones, weren’t off-limits to the Dalits; we were also told it was better to avoid directly attacking Hindu gods and goddesses in the talk (though this was something Buddha often did) as this could lead to future repercussions on our friends. One very interesting occurrence, on the other hand, was that when we held Triratna day in Umarga we had a smaller audience than we expected. On making enquiries, we found a main reason was that on the same day a popular Hindu temple had held a festival which also attracted quite a few Dalits. That situation sounds positive to me: not so much in terms of ‘more spiritual competition’ but in terms of a new generation of Hindu temples starting to arise which don’t care anymore about the caste of a visitor, or even whether they call themselves Hindu at all!

“Overall it was a very inspiring trip; the Umarga sangha hopes for many more volunteer visitors from the West, whether Order Members or groups of mitras!'

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Click to Listen" from Free Buddhist Audio

Free Buddhist Audio

Spreading the Dharma

Sharing our Practice

Connecting our
Community Worldwide

Free Buddhist Audio is the online source for Dharma talks and meditation resources from the Triratna Buddhist Community. We are visited by people all over the world, with 150,000 users every year accessing more than 1000 talks from 11 different countries. And since we launched at the end of 2006, we have served over 1 million Dharma downloads!

The FBA team has just revamped the home page with an important message from our Director, Candradasa:

Click to Listen!

In order to provide our services at Free Buddhist Audio, we depend on the support of our community of users. Websites like ours are complex and cost a lot to maintain, and while many have given generously over the years it still surprises us that less than 1% of people who download ever make a contribution to the site.

So, if you appreciate the work of Free Buddhist Audio please consider making a supporting contribution now. You make it possible for us to spread the Dharma throughout the world... Thank you!

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tools For Living Your Life - best read on RED

Recently spotted in the current issue of RED: an interview with Ines de la Fressange, the French model and designer of fashion and perfumes - and, it turns out, an admirer of Vajragupta’s books.

When asked about her ‘BEST READ’ she responds - “I like books about Buddhism and meditation, such as Buddhism: Tools For Living Your Life, by Vajragupta (Windhorse, £10.99). I like the idea of being in the present moment and emptying your head of aggressive thoughts. Every time l finish a book, I convince myself I am going to be like the Dalai Lama, but then immediately forget it all and go back to huge stress and thinking bad thoughts about everyone [Iaughs].  She goes on to say the BEST THING IN LIFE is...to understand that you are alive.

Tools For Living Your Life should be available from most Triratna bookshops, though it is currently out of print.  Copies are also  available from Amazon.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Kerala Buddhists visit Nagaloka

Following yesterday’s story from the students on the six-month Dharma Training Course at Madhyamaloka, in Birmingham UK, today’s picks up a similar theme - but from a very different part of the world. For the last eight years at Nagaloka, Triratna’s study centre in central India they’ve been intensively training young Buddhist men and women in the basics of Dharma and social work; the graduates have returned home and worked in many ways to create Sanghas all across India - including Kerala, in the far South. Now Vivekaratna writes with news of some fruits of this work, saying -

“On 12th April evening at Nagaloka we welcomed a party of 22 female, 30 male and 12 children, all visitors from Kerala. Most of them were the relatives and friends of our graduates Rejimon and Binojbabu, ex-trainees of our first & second batches of students. They had encouraged them to visit Nagpur to experience the celebrations of the birth anniversary of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. These are always a special celebration in Nagpur, almost as much as the anniversary of the Dhamma Revolution.

“We had a day retreat with them on 13th April, with meditation teaching in the Malayalam language of Kerala, plus a lecture by me on the ‘Importance of Buddhism’ specifically related to the needs of Dalit communities as suggested by Dr. Ambedkar. Since I cannot speak in Malayalam it was translated by Rejimon. The retreat concluded with Puja in the evening.

“On the morning of 14th April they all participated in revering Dr. Ambedkar in by offering flowers and  candles to his statue in the Nagaloka gardens. That evening they visited localities and the Deekshabhoomi (where Dr. Ambedkar converted with 300,000 followers in 1956) to experience the enthusiasm and joy of Ambedkarites in Nagpur. Rejimon took them to our Ven. Hsuan Tsang Retreat centre at Bor Dharan on 15th April.

“They were very happy to visit and to stay at Nagaloka. In fact it is an achievement that through the work of NTI graduates we are able to spread Dr. Ambedkar's message and Buddhism in Kerala state”.

With Metta, Vivekaratna

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Update from Madhyamaloka's Dharma training course

Richard Millington writes from Madhyamaloka, Triratna’s large community in Birmingham UK, with news of their 6-month Dharma training course for young Buddhist men, which is well underway now. He says - “We thought it would be good to send out an update to everyone! There are nine of us on the course, with international representation from Tomas Lindblom (Sweden) and Chris Menz (Australia). Also in attendance are Vimokshadaka, Ben Mann, David Basak, Richard Turner, Leigh Smith, Mat New, and me.

“Over the length of the course we’ve gone more deeply into the fundamentals of the Dharma and the principles behind the Triratna approach to Buddhism. We’ve been made very welcome by the Madhyamaloka community, who have given up substantial amounts of time and energy for the course (honourable mention to Sanghadeva, who has been preparing restaurant standard food almost every day since we arrived).

“Vidyaruci has done a great job of planning the material and organising teachers, and we’ve had some really interesting and fruitful material. Since the course began we’ve done two retreats with Subhuti (one on Bhante’s system of meditation and one dealing with the Satipatthana Sutta); study skills and critical thinking classes with Jnanaketu; Sangharakshita’s approach to the Dharma and the history of Buddhism with Vidyaruci; ethics with Devamitra; Dr Ambedkar and the Indian Movement with Dharmashalin; reflection and insight workshops with Dhammaloka and Jnanaketu; skilful communication with Dhammarati; meditation days with Paramartha; logic with Vidyaruci; the Pali Canon with Sagaramati and Saraha; devotional practice with Mahamati; the Perfection of Wisdom literature with Abhaya; and Buddhist approaches to Mind and Science with Ratnaprabha. [phew! - ed]

“We’re also keeping up a strong arts and culture element to the course, with screenings of world cinema and theatre, classical music evenings (a trip to see one of Dvorak’s string quartets), and a group reading and analysis of Hamlet. (I’m reliably told there is also a secret group that meets occasionally to play Dungeons and Dragons). We’ve just put on a ‘sub-35 retreat’, where a group of us gave talks on the Threefold way of Ethics, Meditation and Wisdom.

“Perhaps the most striking thing about the way the course is developing is the sense of warmth and trust that is emerging within the group. There is an atmosphere of mutual supportiveness that at times is quite wonderful. Speaking personally, the opportunity to take a break from day-to-day responsibilities to practice the Dharma intensively, and engage with higher culture more generally, has been invaluable.

“The guys all seem relaxed and happy and we’re all benefiting in our various ways from the course. We’ll send through another update before we finish, but until then, we’d like to say a massive thanks to everyone who has contributed their time, energy, resources or money to make it possible.

“With gratitude and metta, Richard Millington

Student interviews from the Triratna Dharma training course at Madhyamaloka

Click the embedded video for an interview with Vidyaruci and others on the course, lying on Madhyamaloka’s lawn in the blissful Spring sunshine. Or here for the direct link.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Upcoming ordinations in New Zealand

Purna writes from New Zealand with new of the upcoming ordinations of seven women in New Zealand, starting today! He says - “The Private Ordinations of the following women will take place at Shambhala Retreat Centre, Golden Bay, New Zealand:

Wednesday 18 May
11am Clare Feeney (Private preceptor Varadevi)
4pm Helen Commander (Private preceptor Varadevi)

Thursday 19 May
11am Lisa Raby.(Private preceptor Megha)
4pm Jenny Cornish (Private preceptor Megha)

Friday 20 May
11am Cheryl Hyde (Private preceptor Chittaprabha)
4pm Janet Hughes (Private preceptor Megha)

Saturday 21 May
11am Anne Barrey (Private preceptor Chittaprabha)

“The public ordination will be at 2pm on Thursday 26 May.  With Metta, Purna, (sent on behalf of Varadevi)

All the above times are local New Zealand time, which is + 12 hours GMT, or + 11 hours UK Summer Time.

Meanwhile, both the Guhyaloka and Akasavana ordination retreats are well under way, with the ordinations of significant numbers of men and women expected before long. We’ll bring you full details as soon as they emerge.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Celebrating Wesak At Windhorse

This morning, Windhorse:evolution in Cambridge celebrated the Buddha’s Enlightenment. This was our second such Wesak event, and the theme was – Unfolding of the Lotus. This was the climax of several weeks of preparation involving people throughout the business. The warehouse staff have had a period of intensive practice, including silent working periods and rituals, and people from the whole business have participated in two ritualised morning events, held over a fortnight. These were to create a lotus border around the perimeter of the Stupa area, the central sacred space of our business. Having purified, prepared and decorated this ritual space, we were then ready for the main devotional event of our warehouse year – Wesak/Buddha Day!

This year our celebratory ritual centred on a long spiral procession around the offices and warehouse, chanting the Shakyamuni Mantra along the way. We accompanied it with a wide range of drums, bells, conchs and flags, as we walked inside and outside the building. We started in one sacred space – our Shrine Room, and concluded in another – the Stupa Area. The procession stopped at eight beautiful specially made shrines, placed around the building. At each we heard readings about the Buddha’s journey towards Enlightenment, followed by rousing call and response verses.

Before entering the Stupa area, we heard the story of the Buddha’s first teaching of the Dharma. Here, everyone picked up a Buddha Rupa, and whilst chanting the Shakyamuni Mantra completed their journey to the Stupa. There each person placed their Rupa in a niche, producing a vast wall containing over sixty Buddhas. We finished in a more reflective devotional mood, with a meditation led by Kavyasiddhi, and a Sevenfold Puja led by our Managing Director, Keturaja. The morning’s celebration concluded in time-honoured fashion, with a delicious festive shared lunch!

Many thanks go to Vidyavajra and Samudraghosha for all the work they put in to organising this for us.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Fırst Mıtra Ceremony in Turkey

Vajracaksu, a Turkish Order Member living and working in Istanbul, where he runs a small Triratna Buddhist group, writes with news of their Sangha’s first Mitra Ceremony. He says -

“I’m very pleased and happy to announce that Onur Pinar has recently become the first person to become a Mitra in Turkey. We celebrated the event with the traditional Mitra Ceremony at my small home studio in Istanbul,. Onur first meditated and made contact with Buddhism, through me, almost two years ago on the 17th June 2009. He first did a six week mindfulness meditation course with me 4 or 5 months later which had a deeply positive effect on his life. For example, by the end of the course he felt a lot calmer and more peaceful; was in good spirits a lot more of the time; expressed his love more; and felt more loved as well. Since then he’s done at least 6 or 7 courses.

“Gradually Onur became interested in the Dharma too and in particular loved (and loves) listening to and reading transcripts of Bhante’s talks, in particular his talk on “Fidelity” (available of couse on FreeBuddhistAudio) which he’s returned to again and again. He has strong feelings of respect and fondness for Bhante. Then he turned to the writings of Ratnaghosha, especially his talks/essays on Kshanti, and again he’s returned to these regularly. He is very grateful for the gift of the Dharma and regularly expresses his feelings of gratitude to and for Bhante, Ratnaghosha and myself.

“Last summer he visited with me our Movement in England: staying in Sukhavati community, visiting Triratna’s London Buddhist Centre, visiting Cambridge and meeting Ratnaghosha and asking him 7 questions (!), and doing a weeks’ retreat at Triratna's Padmaloka retreat centre. He had a great time, in particular loved his experience of sangha. And from that time on he’s been thinking about becoming a Mitra and on the 24th April 2011 making the traditional offerings of a flower, a candle and a stick of incense he joined the 10,000 strong international Mitra community.

“Sadhu my friend! Long may the Dharma inspire and guide you”.

Details of Vajracaksu’s classes in Istanbul are available on his website at www.farkindalikmeditasyon.com

making the traditional offerings of flower, candle, and incense during the mitra ceremony in Istanbul

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sweetheart, Come!

Amitajyoti writes from Triratna’s London Buddhist Centre to say - "Dharmacharini Vishvantara has won a commendation in the Larkin and East Riding Poetry Prize 2011 judged by Douglas Dunn. This is the poem she won the commendation for.

Sweetheart, Come! (1909)

The husband’s visits are generally deferred
though she writes to him daily: ‘Sweetheart, Come!’
Her letters tend to be just those two words.

Two eminent physicians have concurred
dementia praecox. Nothing can be done.
The husband’s visits are generally deferred.

Pencil strokes like feathers of dark birds
form text in bars or columns like a sum.
Her letters tend to be just those two words.

His address is printed clear and undisturbed,
yet time will show another recipient won.
The husband’s visits are generally deferred.

The warders boast no tantrums have occurred.
At mealtimes they shout Cheer up, Sweetheart Come!
(Her letters tend to be just those two words.)

Hours go by and find she’s hardly stirred.
White space turns grey, then black and finally dumb.
The husband’s visits are generally deferred;
her letters tend to be just those two words.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

From the Page to the Oral Tradition – Giving Voice to a Book on the Buddha

Free Buddhist Audio

Spreading the Dharma

Sharing our Practice

Connecting our Community Worldwide

This is the final part of our celebrations to mark the launch of Gautama Buddha, a major new series of talks by Vishvapani available now on Free Buddhist Audio with specially selected excerpts from the talks available below.

Read Part 1 and Part 2. [links]

It’s fitting that this companion series of talks to ‘Gautama Buddha – The Life And Teachings Of The Awakened One’ (Quercus, 2011) can be heard in the context of their source material and also of the great Indian oral tradition that remembered and reverenced Gautama over millennia. Everything we know about the Buddha has survived as a result of being passed on in that way, from person to person, and Free Buddhist Audio seeks to continue this essential work. This fresh re-imagining of the Buddha by Vishvapani is an ideal place to start for anyone who has ever wondered what Buddhism was all about or simply wished to listen for how one person’s quest after truth can resonate with their own, often in unexpected ways.

In talk 1, Searching for the Buddha’, Vishvapani explores the presence of nature in the Pali suttas, exploring its significance in the texts, in our own contemporary mental landscapes and in the imaginative life of a country and its people. Ancient India comes alive as we wander with the Buddha, facing his fears amongst the ghosts of the jungle.

“There is value in seeing the Buddha as different from us, of unearthing the society and the culture in which he lived, that shows us things of actual meaning and significance: the value of changing our states of mind, and how that creates a whole world view, and the value of facing even the most difficult and dangerous fearful aspects of our experience.”

Listen to 'Hidden Treasures of the Pali Canon' FBA Dharmabyte:

In his second talk, ‘Imagining Gautama’, Vishvapani traces his own relationship to the Buddha, from early family connections arising out of the turmoil of war to his experience of writing the book itself. In doing so he explores the tricky work of trying to engage with the imagination constrained and disciplined by the historical evidence. What emerges from his work with the Pali texts is a portrait of the Buddha and his world where it's impossible to miss the vital sense of a man questing for a coherent vision of reality.

Listen to a 'Reading Of The Attadanda Sutta':

‘The Buddha’s Personality’, the third in the series, takes us past the traditional narrative and drama to ask what the Buddha was actually like. Great artists have tried and failed to grasp the essence of the Buddha's character, and beyond the veils of history, legend and the texts themselves we encounter a vivid, felt sense of the Buddha's personality. In a series of beautifully observed close-up drawings from the Pali Canon we are left with a portrait of spiritual genius that is both enigmatically distant and thoroughly human.

'What Kind of Person Was the Buddha?'

‘The Buddha and Society’ - in this wide-ranging, riveting talk Vishvapani gives us the Buddha as a radical, as a holy man, as pragmatist, as tamer of demons, as visionary - all these and more, and all in relation to the society Gautama took part in. Some provocative words and questions from the Buddha and from our speaker as we try to get to grips with a world vastly different from our own. What was the Buddha's social vision, and what can we learn from it? This is essential listening and holds some surprising insights into the life and times of a great sage in and out of his own culture and history.

FBA Dharmabyte: 'The Spirit World & The Taming of Mara'

‘The Buddha’s Vision’: A fitting conclusion to a wonderfully insightful series. When the Buddha finally sat down under the Bodhi tree and saw deeply into the nature of things, what had brought him to that point? And what happened next? In his final take on the Buddha's journey of the heart and mind, Vishvapani focuses in on the Buddha's experience before, during and after Enlightenment, bringing his nuanced, perceptive reading to the words the Buddha himself is said to have employed in order to best evoke his experiences as he struggled to give voice to them.

Listen to: 'Insight Into The Nature of Mind'

Join the FBA Community!

Subscribe to a weekly Dharma talk with our FBA Podcast along with our brand new Dharmabytes to hear more on this fascinating series.

FBA needs your support! Become a Supporting Friend to Free Buddhist Audio, dedicated to providing free access to Dharma talks.


Vishvapani is a Buddhist writer and teacher based in Cardiff, Wales. He discovered meditation and Buddhism at the age of 14 and became a Buddhist soon after. He became a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order in 1992. Vishvapani is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day (a reflection on the news in 'Today' the main UK radio breakfast news programme). See Vishvapani’s 2009 Triratna Buddhist Order Convention talk, ‘Recollections of the Buddha’.

Vishvapani will be broadcasting on Thought for the Day on May 17 (for Wesak), May 25 and June 2 at around 7.48 am GMT. These will be available as a podcast and on the Thought for the Day Website. He will be a panelist on the BBC1 ethical debate programme 'The Big Questions' at 10.00 am on Sunday 15th May, available afterwards on BBC iPlayer.

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Ipswich Buddhist Centre celebrates Festival of Enlightenment in town centre

Amoghavajra writes from Ipswich in the UK with news of their recent ‘Festival of Enlightenment’, celebrating 25 years of Buddhist activities in the town. He says -

“Last Sunday, 8th May, Triratna’s Ipswich Buddhist Centre celebrated Buddha Day right in the very centre of Ipswich. Acalavajri and Bodhivamsa inspired us to take our celebration of this important Buddhist Festival to the people of Ipswich and use this ancient Town Square – known locally as The Cornhill – that was established in 700CE. It is used frequently to host many different events and by holding our Festival of Enlightenment in the square we hoped to really bring ourselves to the attention of the townspeople. This year marks 25 years of activities in the town and what better time to take the courageous step of practicing in the square.

“Our dream was to erect a ‘bodhi tree’ which would be similar to the old British ‘clootie tree’ – a wishing tree. Jnanamitra designed our tree and canopy which went up easily on the day. As you can expect we were all apprehensive not just about such a public event but also whether the fickle British weather would bless us or rain on us! In the end we had glorious weather.
Our Evolution shop is located a hundred yards from this site and we created a pathway to the shop. During the day we had people meditating in the shop window.

“The day itself went supremely well. The sun shone and we had a great interest from the passing public in our festival. We had a dedication ceremony, meditation, chanting, walking meditation, talks and concluded with a 7-fold puja. A blast of a day and a huge success in bringing our Sangha together, along with friends from Colchester, Bury St Edmunds and Padmaloka. I think we made a very positive impression on the life of the town and received a lot of interest from those passing by. I think this big day will be remembered well by Sangha and townsfolk alike”.

Amoghavajra (Chairman, Triratna Buddhist Community Ipswich)

Bodhivamsa, one of the organisers, adds - "We also wanted a compassionate aspect to the event, so we provided lunch for the general public, and many took up this offer. Fifty meals were prepared at a local restaurant by our sangha team of cooks, led by Carol Bloyce. We also accepted donations of food from local ethnic Buddhists.

"The Evolution shop in Ipswich had people meditating in the shop window and a path of enlightening footsteps was drawn on the ground leading to the event on the town square. This pathway was especially of interest to youngsters who could be seen following it accompanied by their reluctant parents.

"Being proud and confident in our Buddhist faith was the main driver and vision for such a testing event. The event gave many people in our Sangha the opportunity to overcome fears about themselves and join collectively and openly in celebrating a world changing event. The event also managed to raise a lot of press interest, with interviews on local radio, and several articles in local papers including a centre spread entitled: ‘Lighting up lives at an inspiring festival’".

There's lots more photos of the day on-line here.

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

In Conversation with Vishvapani About ‘Gautama Buddha’

Free Buddhist Audio

Spreading the Dharma

Sharing our Practice

Connecting our Community Worldwide

This is the second part of our celebrations to mark the launch of Gautama Buddha, a major new series of talks by Vishvapani available now on Free Buddhist Audio.

Read Part 1

Viriyalila, FBA’s head of community development, was present for the opening talk of the series, given in Manchester in the UK, where she picked up a copy of Vishvapani’s new book, Gautama Buddha - The Life and Teachings Of The Awakened One. She met with him at the local café to discuss the writing of a substantial piece of new work on the Buddha. Sitting with a cranberry scone and a latte, Vishvapani described how this book has become his main project over the last 3 years.

Commissioned to write the biography by Quercus, he quickly found himself involved in a much bigger endeavour than he had imagined:

“I thought there were already lots of books on the Buddha that you could turn to and get a reasonable idea about what he was like and what he did in his life. The first surprise was discovering that there actually aren’t books like the one I’ve written. There are many books that retell the legends and there are books that treat the historical Buddha fairly briefly, but I wanted to do more then just retell the legends…”

Vishvapani talked about wanting to get as close as he could take us to the Historical Buddha. “Being a Buddhist myself, I didn’t want to do it as a scholar would do, for me the Buddha was enlightened, that’s my starting point when I read those texts…The book is very thorough. In terms of using the Pali Canon as a basis for a biographical portrait of the Buddha there is no other book that is anything like as substantial as this…”

Vishvapani - On Gautama Buddha from Triratna Buddhist Community on Vimeo.

Viriyalila was interested in understanding how Vishvapani’s Buddhist practice influenced his writing of the book:

“Because I am a Buddhist, I don’t question that the Buddha was enlightened, I take it that he was Enlightened and that the suttas, to a more or less accurate degree, represent his efforts to explain his understanding of his life and communicate that to people.”

Vishvapani - On Enlightenment from Triratna Buddhist Community on Vimeo.

Reflections from FBA

All of us on the team at Free Buddhist Audio have appreciated the opportunity to work closely with Vishvapani to bring this series to our audience, doing extensive work to provide you with the best quality audio recordings and highly detailed indexing of the talks themselves.

We'd like to bring you a special reading from the book, given in the talk The Buddha's Vision (Bristol Buddhist Centre, Feb 2011), the story of Bahiya set in the context of historical time, place and lifestyle:

There is much that is important for reflection here – the Dharma made fascinating by dint of the author's depth of engagement with Buddhist practice and the sheer breadth of his cultural reference.

Join the FBA Community!

Subscribe to a weekly Dharma talk with our FBA Podcast along with our brand new Dharmabytes to hear more on this fascinating series.

FBA needs your support! Become a Supporting Friend to Free Buddhist Audio, dedicated to providing free access to Dharma talks.


Vishvapani is a Buddhist writer and teacher based in Cardiff, Wales. He discovered meditation and Buddhism at the age of 14 and became a Buddhist soon after. He became a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order in 1992. See Vishvapani’s 2009 Triratna Buddhist Order Convention talk, ‘Recollections of the Buddha’.

Vishvapani is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day. He will be broadcasting in that slot on Radio 4's 'Today', the main UK radio breakfast news programme, on May 17 (for Wesak), May 25 and June 2 at around 7.48 am GMT. These will be available as a podcast and on the Thought for the Day Website. He will be a panelist on the BBC1 ethical debate programme 'The Big Questions' at 10.00 am on Sunday 15th May, available afterwards on BBC iPlayer.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Windhorse gets in the Wesak Spirit

Windhorse gets in the Wesak Spirit Friday 6th May

Windhorse, the Buddhist gift business based in Cambridge UK is getting in the festive spirit for Wesak - celebrating the day of the Buddha's awakening.

The festivities began last Friday with a ritual around the large stupa in the centre of our warehouse. We dedicated the celebrations and invoked the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. There was circumambulation of the stupa and chanting just as used to happen round stupas containing relics of the Buddha in ancient India.  

Then we got to work with your craft skills! Around the stupa a 12 pointed traditional Mandala boundary had been marked out on the warehouse floor. The aim was to turn this into a wall of lotuses by the time of Wesak day the following week. Under the direction of ritual master Vidyavajra we all set to making lotus stencils with card and craft knives. These will be used to mark lotuses in white spray paint over the following week. We also sprayed in the first of four very splendid larger lotus patterns at the four gates of the mandala.

Of course the area around the stupa will continue to be part of the warehouse with trolleys and pickers running past, but they will be aware of an extra sacred dimension as they do so.

Over the coming year the plan is to spray in a wall of vajras and one of flames to complete the Mandala wall.


Free Buddhist Audio Presents, ‘Gautama Buddha’, A Major New Series by Vishvapani

Free Buddhist Audio

Spreading the Dharma

Sharing our Practice

Connecting our Community Worldwide

Over the past few months, Vishvapani has delivered a significant new series of talks, Gautama Buddha, to launch his book ‘Gautama Buddha – Life And Teachings Of The Awakened One’ (Quercus, 2011). Now available exclusively on Free Buddhist Audio, this superb five-talk series highlights various key themes woven into the legendary accounts of the Buddha’s life and the historical records of his great vision of reality that have come down to us through the ages.

Gautama Buddha - New Series Now Available at Free Buddhist Audio

Listen to FBA Dharmabyte – "Engaging with the Historical Buddha”

Bringing a broad cultural awareness and a depth of personal practice to bear on his subject, Vishvapani's biography of Gautama takes us into the world he inhabited, offering glimpses of the Buddha's personality and exploring his relationship with nature and his own society as evidenced in the earliest Buddhist texts. The insights afforded into our own conditioning and cultural context are both profoundly revealing and challenging.

The talks are supplemented by a bonus recording of a fascinating discussion between Vishvapani and renowned psychologist Dorothy Rowe on ‘Buddhism, Science and Reality – How Can We Understand Ourselves?’

Gautama Buddha: The Life and Teachings of Awakened One

Vishvapani speaks eloquently throughout his series about the experience of writing his book and of his desire to portray the historical Buddha as closely as possible. For the more we see the Buddha in his own time and place – the more we can see him in his historical specificity –the more likely we are to understand his teachings. Vishvapani wished to bring to life: “The person who actually lived, walked, and breathed, who was involved in a society, the person who was trying to convince the people around him that he was telling the truth, that he had gained some kind of wisdom, that Buddha…”

He explains, “How can we write a life of someone who is beyond ordinary experience? The reason we can is that after his Enlightenment, the Buddha devoted himself to communicating what it was through his teachings, through his examples, through his actions, and through the character of community established. Writing about the Buddha, reading about the Buddha, is really a way of contemplating the Buddha.”

Listen to FBA Dharmabyte - "'Knowing' the Buddha"

‘Gautama Buddha – Life And Teachings Of The Awakened One’ (Quercus, 2011)

The New 'Gautama Buddha' series available on Free Buddhist Audio


Vishvapani is a Buddhist writer and teacher based in Cardiff, Wales. He discovered meditation and Buddhism at the age of 14 and became a Buddhist soon after. He became a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order in 1992. See Vishvapani’s 2009 Triratna Buddhist Order Convention talk, ‘Recollections of the Buddha’.

Vishvapani is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day. He will be broadcasting on that slot Radio 4's 'Today', the main UK radio breakfast news programme, on May 17 (for Wesak), May 25 and June 2 at around 7.48 am GMT. These will be available as a podcast and on the Thought for the Day Website. He will be a panelist on the BBC1 ethical debate programme 'The Big Questions' at 10.00 am on Sunday 15th May, available afterward on BBC iPlayer.

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Monday, May 09, 2011


Manidhamma in Sarnath
Manidhamma sends us this dispatch from Sarnath in India, historic site of the Buddha’s first teaching.  Triratna has for some years owned a beautiful piece of land there,  managed by a small team headed by Manidhamma.  They are currently fundraising for a beautiful stone Buddha statue, now being sculpted by a mitra in Bodh Gaya.  In aid of this, he’s about to begin an epic hundred-mile walk, tracing one made by Sangharakshita over 60 years ago.  He says -

“I am writing now about a walking tour from 9th to 14th May from Sarnath to Kusinara.  We have organised a 'Padayatra: a Walking Tour through the Curtain of Fire' to recreate the experience Bhante had according to his memoirs 'The Rainbow Road' . We are a bunch of ten inspired Order Members and Mitras from Vidharbha.  Right now I am at Sarnath and we are all set to begin our walk tomorrow (10th May) morning.  Like Sangharakshita, we intend to reach Kusinara on the full moon of Wesak.

We are undertaking this journey partly to practice walking and using the traditional robe and bowl of the Anagarika to deepen our going for refuge and partly to raise funds for the installation of a Buddha statue on our land at Sarnath.   Also, on our way we will benefit people by studying and teaching the Dhamma. We would like to take the vows of anagarikas for our journey. We would very much appreciate your thoughts and good wishes to accompany us for this journey.

Sangharakshita after his ordination
Here is a little of Sangharakshita’s story - In May 1949, two young wanderers wearing ragged robes, Dharmapriya and Satyapriya, set out on foot to cover the 180km from Sarnath to Kusinara in order to meet the Burmese monk U Chandramani. It was the hottest time of year with temperatures rising relentlessly every day and scorching hot winds gusting across the plains. Despite the dangers, the two young men were not to be dissuaded.  “So great was our desire for ordination that if necessary we would have prostrated ourselves the whole distance”. Following the railway tracks, wearing wet towels as turbans, sheltering in mango groves and ashrams and depending on the generosity of those they encountered, the wanderers completed the epic journey in 8 days. Shortly after arriving in Kusinara, Dharmapriya was ordained as the novice called Sangharakshita.

For more information on Bhante’s original journey, read the chapter called “Through the Curtain of Fire” in The Rainbow Road.  To contact Manidhamma email him here; to contact the Dhammaloka Trust, Sarnath please visit www.dhammaloka.com or  www.dhammayatra.in.

For our fundraising, any contributions are welcome from you or your friends.  We have created a special JustGiving page at www.justgiving.com/padayatra .  Thanking you, and we are looking forward to hearing from you.

With metta,

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Friday, May 06, 2011

Wildmind: Transcending Space and Time(zones)

Bodhipaksa, founder of the online meditation centre Wildmind (www.wildmind.org), has been running online meditation courses for over ten years. Now he’s started something new that brings together the convenience of an online course with the immediacy and atmosphere of a face-to-face class.  He writes -

"This weekly group, meeting on Skype though videoconferencing, involves an ongoing exploration of the principles and practice of meditation, of mindfulness in daily life, and of the cultivation of insight.

"The first classes started a few days ago, and have been very successful. One participant said that she was surprised to find she experienced the best meditation she’d had in a long time. There was an abundance of humour".

The videoconferencing format allows the workshop participants to see and talk to one another, and Bodhipaksa reports that the format offered for genuinely warm connections to form, and he envisages strong bonds of closeness and intimacy developing as people practice with each other and share their lives. This will be helped by the fact that participants are being asked to make at least a three month commitment to the workshop.

The topics explored go well beyond introductory meditation, and will deal with such things as how to free the mind from the hindrances, how to cultivate jhana/dhyana, bringing mindfulness into daily life, and how to cultivate insight.

Bodhipaksa rather ambitiously says that his aim is to help participants become enlightened. Although he admits that not everyone in the workshop is currently aiming that high, he points out that Enlightenment is the purpose of all Dharma practice.

Each week there is a short talk, a guided meditation, and opportunity for discussion. Meetings last for 90 minutes. So far there have been participants from across the US, from Canada, Mexico, and the UK. The times of the classes have been chosen to allow people from as many timezones as possible to participate. The most difficult region to accommodate, Bodhipaksa says, is Australia and New Zealand.

There is no fixed charge for the workshop, and people are free to give what they can afford.
Bodhipaksa sees the workshop groups as a mission: “What I'm suggesting,” he says, “is a mutual commitment to generosity. I'll go out of my way to support the people I'm working with.” He’s offering to deal with students’ questions via email or phone calls, and to support their spiritual development in any way he can.

For further information on Bodhipaksa’s Skype meditation workshops, visit Wildmind at www.wildmind.org.

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Thursday, May 05, 2011

New Society weekend upcoming in Birmingham

Jnanarakshita writes from Birmingham with news of an upcoming event aimed especially at younger members of the Triratna sangha. It’s ‘The New Society in Principle and Practice’, and he says - “It’ll be a weekend of inspiration for young Triratna Buddhists, looking at the “WHY?” of the New Society, and also the “HOW?” – either getting involved in existing projects or starting your own. It’s for people who are interested in any of the following:

• helping to create a New Society
• spreading the Dharma and building Sangha
• living communally
• working with other Buddhists

The weekend will include
- a fresh talk by Vajragupta
- practising together in the shrine room
- time to meet with others
- practical workshops on getting more involved and on getting new initiatives going

We’ll explore some of the principles and practices of creating Sangha together. What are the advantages and the challenges of Dharma work and of communal living? The emphasis will be on achievable action, and practical next steps.

7.30pm Friday 17 June to 4.00pm Sunday 19 June at Birmingham Buddhist Centre.
Cost: dana (by donation).  Accommodation: available
To book: contact Vidyaruci on

For updates please see the Facebook Event ‘The New Society in Principle and Practice

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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

“Lankan Awakenings”

Ujukarin, an Order Member from Amsterdam but with family links in Sri Lanka, writes with news of developments in the Triratna Sangha there following his recent twice-yearly visit. He says -

"The Triratna sangha in the tropical island of Sri Lanka might be tiny for a country having millions of people calling themselves Buddhist, but it does remain lively - something I've just encountered again following my recent visit.

"Over a week late March Saddhavira, Supadma (visiting from Wardha, India) and myself held a series of meetings and talks around our base in central Colombo and Dhammamitra Renuka’s hospitable South Ceylon guesthouse in Unuwatuna - right on the beach! For about the first time I used a non-Triratna book as basis for the study: the excellent One Dharma by Joseph Goldstein, which I find a good example of unified ‘Ekayana’ Buddhism now also becoming popular outside Triratna. In Colombo we attracted a total of 15-20 people over the three days we were there, whilst in Unuwatuna we saw a few each night and no less than 20 for the day retreat – a record in recent times!

"The reason for this deserves some special attention, as it may also serve as a guideline for other outposts and an invitation for any Triratna community member who wants to help spread the Dharma. Back in Winter 2010 we had already had a one-month stay by Colchester mitras Anne and Ian, which stimulated quite a few local people (esp. women) between Galle and Matara to become more active. This winter these two small heroes, both semi-retired, made it to the island for a full three months. During their time with us they simply kept in close contact with Saddhavira, and decided to run a weekly Saturday meditation morning class; a discipline which normally, due to Saddhavira’s semi-nomadic lifestyle, is hard to sustain. And it worked! - their attendance grew from 2-3 to 5-10 people every Saturday, and culminated with our ‘huge’ day retreat late March. Now Saddhavira has a stable basis to build upon, and we’re looking forward already to the next visit of these and maybe other foreign mitras!"

The photo shows the Unuwatuna day retreat, with Anne and Ian in the back row next to Ujukarin. More photos are on Facebook here.

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Monday, May 02, 2011

Sangharakshita's Diary, April 2011

The gardens at Madhyamaloka, where Sangharakshita lives
Vidyaruci, Sangharakshita’s secretary, writes with news of Bhante’s activities over the past month., saying - “The search for a property to house the Sangharakshita Library and Study Centre continues, which leaves Bhante not knowing how long he will live at Madhyamaloka, or where he will move to when he goes. But go he will, and perhaps it is therefore natural that his latest literary project is a series of reveries whose starting point is some memories of Madhyamaloka that he will carry with him to his new home. He has not long started the piece, but it will be interesting to see how it develops, and it certainly gives him something to ponder as he takes his daily walk.

“Amid the flow of daily visitors was the indefatigable Subhuti, who again had a number of discussions with Bhante, this time about the social implications of the Dharma. I am sure many people look forward to seeing what results. There has also been a contingent from Nottingham, led by Paraga, who were treated to tea and cake in the Madhyamaloka cafeteria. Bhante's audio book listening has mainly been Martin Amis' memoir Experience, which was quite long, and which Bhante found sometimes interesting and sometimes a bit boring. Much of it was about the author's father, the novelist and poet Kingsley Amis.

“Bhante and I finished Sulak Sivaraksa's autobiography Loyalty Demands Dissent, and Bhante wrote to Sulak expressing appreciation for the book, and noting a few parallels between the lives of the two men. I have also read to Bhante articles by David Loy and Philip Larkin, and an essay by Lama Anagarika Govinda called 'Teilhard de Chardin in the Mirror of Eastern Thought', which Bhante admitted to finding a little disappointing.

“There’s no health news to report, except that Bhante went to the hospital for a vision check, and will go again next month”.

Sangharakshita's memories of Madhyamaloka will appear in due course on his website www.sangharakshita.org, which already contains links to most of his writings including material not published elsewhere.


Sunday, May 01, 2011

A 'Map of Terms' for Triratna Dharma

Mat New writes from Madhyamaloka, a Triratna community in Birmingham UK, asking us to publicise his ‘Map of Terms’ - a rich and accessible summary of the Dharma, as shown in the  photo opposite.  It's a simple one-sheet summary of all the main Dharma terminology used in Triratna, plus the relationships between them. He says - “I am distributing an A0 poster (120cm x 85cm) of some of the most popular Buddhist lists and terms presented in a logical, graphical format. Its main function is reference and recollection, and would be ideal for hanging on the wall in any area where study/reading/discussion takes place.

“The poster includes some of Sangharakshita’s teachings and paraphrased definitions, plus accurate Pali and Sanskrit translations for all terms. It’s been in existence for about a year and a half in many different forms (this is version 2.13) and I've been regularly discussing its progress with anyone who would listen! The final copy has been looked over in depth by Padmakumara and Shantavira, plus Saraha, Vidyaruci and Cittapala and others - in fact everyone who has stayed in my room over the last 12 months has spent time looking at it and discussing it with me.

“The main content (about 70% of it) is derived from Triratna’s Garland Of Terms, complied many years ago by Cittapala and Ashvajit. Each individual list is surely correct, and if there’s anything controversial about the Map it’s where each list sits in relation to each other - for example do the Four Right Efforts go under Meditation or Ethics? People who read it continually come up with more and more possibilities of where things *could* go, and more things that could be fitted in but as far as I'm aware the layout is as reasonable and valid as any other.

“There is also a disclaimer on the key at the bottom: 'Lists have been placed in a logical order, but this resource is not intended to provide a definitive map of how the Buddha’s teachings relate to each other. It has been produced primarily as a means of memorising material and quickly referring to many terms and lists found in the Buddhist tradition.'

“I can supply them for around £22, or £27 posted to addresses in the UK. That’s quite a lot I know, but it’s expensive to get them printed in such small quantities. All profits will go to the Birmingham Buddhist Centre’s 'Sangha Building' project - the much needed repairing, renovating and improving of the Centre.  If you would like one then please email me at matnoo at hotmail dot com and I’ll send payment instructions”.

Kindly eyes,

The Map is also available on the Triratna News ‘Resources’ page as a multi-page PDF for home printing.

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