Saturday, November 17, 2007

Buddhists on the Radio...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ongoing actions in support of Burma…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

More FWBO yatras in support of Burma

Since last Thursday’s post here, reporting the Cambridge Yatra in support of Burma, a number of other FWBO Centres and individuals have organised their own actions. In Brighton between 300 and 1,000 people joined a Dharma Yatra, walking silently between the Palace Pier and the Hove Peace Statue; Interestingly, the organisers estimated 300 and the local paper 1,000! In Glasgow the ‘Shambolic Warriors’ met to ‘Sit in Peace’ in George Square (see photo); and in San Francisco a women mitra organised her own ‘very quiet gesture of non-violence’ through San Francisco's financial district on Friday afternoon.

One of them, Ann, commented afterwards -

I felt deeply peaceful and connected in an unusual way with the suit-and-tie commuters, the dates on their way to supper, the bike messengers gathering for the Critical Mass ride, the prostitutes leading their johns into the public toilet, the German tourists riding the cable cars. We walked for two hours. People noticed. It felt good. Did it make a difference? Who knows. But I had to do it. May all beings be released from their suffering”.

There are plans for two more Brighton Yatras and a Birmingham Yatra through the city centre on October 14th and there will be an FWBO presence on the London march on October 7th.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007


Many around the FWBO have been following the unfolding events in Burma with great concern, and have wanted to demonstrate their concern by taking some sort of tangible action.

The Cambridge Buddhist Centre today organised a Yatra (meaning simply ‘walk’), followed by meditation, from the Buddhist Centre though the centre of town to the Guildhall. Some 70-100 people joined and the organisers expressed themselves as “delighted”. See a video clip on our Videosangha website.

Yatras have been used by Buddhists to help bring peace to several of the world’s most tense places, including Cambodia and Palestine.

Another Yatra is planned in Brighton for Sunday, and others are being organised in Birmingham and possibly London. Contact FWBO News for more information.

On Radio 4 Vishvapani presented today’s ‘Thought for the Day' on the Today programme, he spoke of how he’d returned from a retreat studying loving-kindness only to see words from the same ancient text emblazoned on the monks’ banners – and realised how loving-kindness leads naturally to action, even as a mother protects with her life her child, her only child… You can listen to his broadcast here.

Meanwhile a number of petitions have been circulating around the FWBO Sangha, one addressed to Burmese embassies around the world and one to the UK prime minister

In the words of the Buddha, please “do what you think it is the time for”.

Whatever living beings there may be;
whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
the great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
the seen and the unseen,
those living near and far away,
those born and to-be-born,
may all beings be at ease.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Jambudvipa team visits America

Jambudvipa is an FWBO/TBMSG project based in Pune, India, which - among other things - aims to internationalise the plight of India's vast ex-untouchable 'Dalit' community, from which come most of India's new Buddhists. Besides this they play a crucial role in disaster relief work with this community (see for example the report on their work after the Tsunami) - at such times India's age-old caste system rears its head with full force.

Mangesh Dahiwale, Jambudvipa's publicity officer, recently sent us this report on their recent - and ground-breaking - trip to the USA:

"As a part of Jambudvipa's vision to reach out to the world community and transcend barriers, and to generate international support for peaceful social revolution that Dr. Ambedkar launched, a visit to US was planned.

"Maitreyanath and Mangesh Dahiwale visited US during April 19-May 28, 2007. In the span of over 35 days, they moved from one city to another to give talks on evils of caste system in India, Dr. Ambedkar, revival of Buddhism in India and work of TBMSG. This visit was aimed at dissemination of information, raise support for the revival of Buddhism in India and develop alliances.

"During this visit, people from all different background co-operated, which included followers of Dr. Ambedkar living in US, social activists, academicians, black activists and Order Members of FWBO/TBMSG."

In the short time they were there they managed to meet a remarkable range of individuals and groups - from Tricycle Buddhist magazine and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship to the US State Department and five different universities and colleges, plus of course several FWBO centres, criss-crossing the country beween San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Cincinnati, San Diego, Washington, Indianapolis and elsewhere.

There are encouraging signs that caste prejudice and discrimination is increasingly being seen internationally not simply as an Indian social issue but a gross violation of human rights - see, for instance, recent references to this both in the UK's House of Commons and House of Lords where the UK Government minister is quoted as saying "My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord and with the Prime Minister of India —[Untouchability] is indeed a blot on humanity. Discrimination on the basis of caste identity constrains the human rights, livelihoods and life chances of millions of men, women and children. It is a systematic injustice and a routine violation of the most basic human rights..."

We are proud that the FWBO and TBMSG is able to play a part in making this more widely known and indeed in eradicating it.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Shambolic Warriors return to Faslane

Sophia Young has sent us this report on Glasgow Buddhist Centre's network of engaged buddhists - the Shambolic Warriors.

We celebrated the summer solstice in fine style by taking a six mile hike to the North gate of Faslane naval base and peacefully meditating, dancing and singing outside. On Sunday 24th June - the 20 warriors, two children and a dog gathered on Helensburgh pier and,fortified by homemade scones and flapjacks, began the long trek to the base in heavy rain.

A detour for a cup of tea at the peace camp was made. Under a parachute canopy the shambolics shouted three saddhu's saluting the work of the peace campers who have been maintaining a presence at the base now for twenty-five years. Faslane naval Base situated on the River Clyde is the base for UK's Trident Nuclear weapons System.
The Campaign "Faslane 365" is drawing attention to the opposition that exists in the UK to Trident and any plans to update it. Diverse groups from around the country, including the Shambolic Warriors and the Network of Engaged Buddhists have been taking responsibility for organising individual days of the year long protest.
While there have been complaints about the heavy policing of such events- there are often as many officers as there are protesters, the day passed peacefully and happily, with much banter on both sides. Indeed, our lone protestor on the second day, Shantiketu,was offered lunch and given a lift back into Helensburgh by the duty cops.

The Shambolic Warrior Network was formed two years ago after Parami's Healing Self, Healing World retreat in Dhanakosa and members of the network lead actions in areas of concern to us. We are inspired and sustained by the ideas of Joanna Macy and the Work that Reconnects. Other strands of activity in the network currently include a housing project, environmental events in the centre, personal development workshops and womens group in the centre, outreach teaching of the dharma, cooking for large numbers ( we have the best catered events!).

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Intrepid women #2 - AIDS work in Uganda

Loren Treisman is a mitra from the Cambridge and Buddhafield centres. She’s been in Africa for the past eight months working first on AIDS-related projects in Uganda with an NBO called Tasaaga, latterly in Malawi in an orphanage. This is a report from her. She says -

“So I thought I would start with a brief low down on the general situation out here and then go on to the specifics.

AIDS is affecting EVERYONE. It's not as simple as treating patients. Every family I have met has either lost a member or is caring for orphans which few can afford, communities are losing health workers, teachers, basically all skilled workers to this devastating disease. It's an endless cycle where poverty increases the risks of becoming infected with HIV and being infected leads to greater poverty. I've been reading so much literature out here and I could tell you so much more, it's verging on impossible to describe quite what it is like out here where few people have access to basic needs such as clean drinking water, education and health care and where ignorance is killing people.

At the start of this year, I was working on Jana island, which is 1 of the Ssese islands on Uganda’s Lake Victoria (which is so large it looks like an ocean). The only access to the island is on a rickety boat which only goes once every 2 days (and that's in theory, in practice it goes less often). There's no electricity, no water other than the lake (or bottles which noone but me can afford), no permanent structures (mud huts only), no secondary school, no nurses or Drs, I could go on but I am sure you get the picture. There are approximately 1500 people on the island, excluding children and the HIV infection rate is estimated to be around 29%, though it is impossible to know as few people have managed to get tested. Women have a really hard time and since I have been here in Uganda (about 2 months) I have only managed to make one female friend but many males.

Following interviewing, I realised that the most vital necessities on the island were education and income generation. I devised an education program and gave daily seminars ranging from lectures to informal gatherings in the various villages on topics including nutrition, family planning, child abuse and labour. The receptivity was incredible and I was astonished at how much people listened. I have had villagers flocking to me for free condoms and femidoms which oddly enough they really like out here, telling me how much energy they’ve got having drunk more water, telling each other off if they saw child violence, it brings tears to my eyes to see the difference.

4 people died on the island while fishing (the only way to make a living in Jana), all in their 20's, which really got to me due to being unable to swim so I arranged swimming lessons in the lake. It was fairly tough teaching adults but some of them were getting there and I have encouraged them to train others.

My main work on the island involved setting up income generating schemes. I don't believe in hand outs, and people expect them here from people in the west so I thought the best solution was to start some project which helped the villagers help themselves. After many meetings, establishing viability of different projects, the fertility of soil, the skills available, etc, 2 projects were decided on-pineapple growing and pig rearing. By the time I left, with the help of many inspiring villagers land was cleared for 300 pineapples and there are 400 more to go and the pig house had started to be built and piglets secured from the mainland. A committee was established comprised of trustworthy community members who will decided how to distribute the money, based on those who work hardest and those who are unable to work due to old age or bad health The aim is for the profits to largely contribute towards supporting orphans, school fees and health care as well as to expand the projects to generate more income. People are so incredibly grateful.

Since then it's been Malawi and the city of Blantyre where I've worked in a very cool orphanage, the contagious smiles of African kids never cease to make my heart go gooey inside, I can't wait to teach some of them in August! My meditation has gone to new levels which is most exciting too. So much inspiration out here! Miss you all more than you know, it gets painful sometimes but I can't help following my dreams, Africa rocks my world!

SADHU Loren...!

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Dalai Lama invites TBMSG, workshop held introducing Tibetan community to needs of new Buddhists in India

Following on from our report on TBMSG's Delhi seminar, Lokamitra sends us this account of a potentially very significant meeting with senior Tibetan Buddhists in Dharamsala, North India.

This year is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism. In recent years the momentum of conversions to Buddhism from the Scheduled Caste communities (as well as other communities) has been increasing, and this year is doing so even faster. Millions of people throughout India have become Buddhist but very few have access to effective teaching. If they do not get guidance in Buddhism they will either develop very strange forms of Buddhism or they will return to Hinduism and their place at the bottom of the Hindu social order. Whatever the case, the conversion to Buddhism will have resulted in no individual or social change. TBMSG has been working in this situation for 29 years. We are doing what we can through training and through lecture tours and retreats throughout India, but the more we do the more we realise immensity of the task. We cannot do it all ourselves. We have to encourage other Buddhists to help. We can offer them our experience.

In 2005 the Dalai Lama visited Nagaloka and expressed his desire to help with our work. Encouraged by this Subhuti and I visited Dharamsala in October 2006 along with a good friend, Naresh Mathur, who is a member of the Dalai Lama’s trust. We had extremely satisfactory meetings with Ven Lhakdor (head of the Library and Archives), Samdhong Rimpoche (the Kalon Tripa or Prime Minister of the Tibetan government in exile) and Tenzin Geche (the Dalai Lama’s secretary), all of whom encouraged us to run workshops for Tibetan monks to educate them about Dr. Ambedkar and his Buddhist followers in India.

From 19th until 21st May in Dharamsala we did exactly that. We were assisted by Suvajra, Vivekaratna, Ojogeeta, Yashosagar and Kumarajiv. There were about 35 monks, nuns and lay people, mainly if not all from the Gelugpa tradition, some extremely well studied. In his introduction Samdhong Rimpoche emphasised that the Dalai Lama had himself asked that this workshop to take place.

The workshop consisted of a combination of presentations, question and answer sessions and group work. All went very well, but the group work seemed particularly effective. Thinking that most participants would be monks we only took one Dharmacharini with us. This was a great mistake. Almost half the participants were nuns, and Ojogeeta was much in demand.

The workshop gave the participants a broad understanding of the social and cultural situation (particularly caste and untouchability), Dr Ambedkar's life and achievement, and his understanding of Buddhism, and especially its social significance. It helped them understand the Dharmic needs of the new Buddhists, and the possible difficulties, notable among which was the question of karma. There was a great deal of interest in the FWBO/TBMSG. I am sure that the workshop will bear fruit in several ways, most importantly in bringing about more interest in and support for the Buddhist followers of Dr. Ambedkar in India.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Three remarkable women...

The last few months have seen three remarkable women from the FWBO taking their practice way off the cushion and out into the world. FWBO News hopes to do short reports on each over the next couple of weeks.

First is Zee-Zee Heine, a mitra (and long-time peace activist) from the North London Buddhist Centre. She was active in the North London centre's 'ESA'(Environmental and Social Action) group and before that in the FWBO's 'P.S... ecopractice network'. For the past two months she's been in Palestine working with EAPPI, the World Council of Churches' Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel. Her work has been a varied mixture of personal training, checkpoint watches, accompanying children to school past violent Israeli settlers, interviewing victims of military or settler violence, and sending news of what is happening to friends and contacts in the West.

Here is an excerpt from her latest report -

"...we went to a two-day conference on Popular Resistance in a village called Bil'in. On the third day was to be a peaceful demo, however it is a village which has a demonstrations every week about the fact that the wall goes through the land of the village and denies them access. The organisers said the demo was always peaceful but sometimes youths of the village when they saw Israeli soldiers on their families land would feel they had a right to throw stones at them, and the soldiers would respond violently.

Part of the conference included what in Britain is called pre action training. For example we were told that if the youths were seen to be collecting stones one could go over and talk to them, if the soldiers started firing rubber bullets the safest thing to do is to sit down, allow things to calm down and then slowly get up and drift forward whereas if they fire tear gas it is better to disperse up-wind and then regroup. But because of the big conference there would be many extra people including many internationals, so the organisers thought it unlikely that the demo would become violent the next day.

In the event we gathered in the centre of the village and walked down the road towards the separation barrier. Just as we reached the outskirts of the village, when we were still about half a mile from the barrier and still all on the public highway, the Israeli solders started firing tear gas without any provocation. I was amazed. Some of the other EAPPI volunteers and I went back to the house where we had gathered and watched from the roof. Two others ran over the pastures and got up wind of the tear gas and stayed much closer and took lots of photos. The solders followed the tear gas with plastic coated metal bullets and water cannon. Very different from any British demo I have been on."

She will be back in early July and concludes her report by saying "When I return I want to do speaking engagements to let people know about the conditions in Palestine." If you can help arrange any in the UK (or beyond!) please let her know directly on zeezeeh [at]

Next in this series - Loren Treisman from Cambridge/Buddhafield. Suggestions for other entries welcome...

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