The FWBO in Hungary

July 16, 2006

Sinhagupta is Director of the Centre of Communication and Ethics in International Business (Anglia Ruskin University). Several years ago in Hungary she met Mireisz Laszlo, the head of the foundation that runs the Gate of Dharma College in Budapest. She has been in regular communication with him now for about 7 years, and was present at the opening of the Gate of Dharma stupa and new shrine room, which took place 4 years ago.Founded in 1991, the Gate of Dharma College includes the following in its mission statement:

…convinced that Buddhist principles are not foreign to Hungarian and European spirituality, we aim at enriching Hungary’s culture.Subhuti with Roma/Gypsy young men and Dharmaduta students

Gate of Dharma presently has 260 regular students in four grades, with the opportunity to study the various Buddhist schools, and Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese, Tibetan and Japanese, related religious philosophy, western philosophy, and the oriental martial arts. So far more than 100 students have graduated. They may take up a monastic vocation, but the Buddhist Teacher Degree issued by the College also enables the graduates to work as primary school teachers, social workers and teachers of religion.The College is accredited by the Hungarian Committee of Accreditation and, interestingly, i
s state-funded, as are all Hungarian institutes for religious education. As such, it is housed in an extensive building, has a library of 10,000 volumes, an up-to-date computer system, a 40-bed dormitory for students from the country, and is able to grant its students a stipend.
On the staff at Gate of Dharma College is Dr Tamas Agocs, who agreed to accompany Sinhagupta to
UK to meet Subhuti and Bhante. Subhuti, then instituting the FWBO’s own Dharmapala College in
Birmingham, was clearly interested. When Tamas showed him a list of the various Hungarian Buddhist groups associated with the Gate of Dharma, Subhuti noticed a Romany (gypsy) group listed. Tamas told him they were ‘into Dr Ambedkar.’ How so? Apparently Tibor Derdak , a white Hungarian Buddhist working with the gypsies, had ‘found a book about Ambedkar in Paris and been inspired by it.’

In June last year Subhuti visited the Gate of Dharma College and the southern village of
Alsoszentmarton, where the Tiger Cub Grammar and Vocational Secondary School (for gypsies) is located. The school serves the people from five gypsy villages in this region. Only 1% of gypsies take the final exam at high school, in comparison with 70% of the general population. This school offers classes in Roma language and Buddhist studies, as well as the national curriculum. Here Subhuti connected with Tibor, and with gypsy leader Janos Orsos, and invited them to India last December. Both became FWBO mitras in India, and since then there have been 5 more gypsy mitra ceremonies.

Subhuti and five of Dharmapala College’s Dharmaduta students are sharing in their second retreat with the gypsies as I write this, as the interest in Ambedkarite Buddhism grows, along with the academic connections between the Birmingham and Budapest Colleges.

– story by Catherine Baker