September 25, 2006
“Bringing together so many Buddhists from radically different traditions is an earth shattering feat in itself. In the past the Network of Buddhist Organisations has brought different Buddhists together to look at their differences. This event is remarkable in that it brought them together to look at and address the issues in the real world – issues facing the Dalit communities of India”. This was the comment of Dharmarati from FWBO about the conference “Dharma Revolution: 50 years on” organised by the NBO and Karuna Trust.
The conference was held in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the mass conversions to Buddhism initiated by the famous Dalit leader Dr Ambedkar. Speakers who arrived from India spoke about the wave of fresh conversions anticipated on the occasion of this golden jubilee. Indian Buddhism had been almost wiped out up until 1956. There are now more than 10 million Buddhists in India. However this new Buddhist community still faces deprivation and exclusion as a result of the caste system.
The conference was attended by over 60 including representatives of the FWBO, the Karuna Trust, Soka Gakkai International, Dhagpo Kagyu Mandala, the Amida trust and various Ambedkarite organisations from the UK and India as well as individuals from other Buddhist organisations in the UK. They heard presentations by Manidhamma (TBSMG), Subhuti (FWBO), Ian Finlay (Open Way Zen), Claire Bertschinger (the SGI nurse who inspired Live Aid). Speakers emphasised the urgent need for more Buddhist teachers and organisations to get involve with the Dalit Buddhist movement.
Workshops looked at the issues around the self empowerment of the Dalits and the need to take the Dharma to these communities. In addition there was a concert given by the sitar virtuoso Baluji Shrivastau who identified himself with the work for the Dalit cause. “I feel honoured to take part in this momentous event” he said to the packed shrine room of the North London Buddhist Centre.
Saul Deason and Suddhaka
North London FWBO
September 18, 2006
I just arrived a couple of hours ago this morning from London attending a two day workshop on ‘The Dhamma Revolution in India: 50 years on’ organised by The Karuna Trust and the Network of Buddhist Organisations, UK. There were about 40 participants from many western Buddhist groups, including the FPMT, Soka Gakkai, FWBO, Amida Trust, Gaia House, TBMSG & Sakya Sangha from India. We explored significance of Dr Ambedkar and his conversion movement and its relevance to western world. We looked into successes of the past 50 years and difficulties that these Indian Buddhists still face because of change in caste behaviour. We also explored how western Buddhist can contribute to social change in India and help Indian Buddhists in their practice of the Dhamma and the ongoing transformation of their lives. I felt very happy and grateful to the organisers and particularly Saul Dyson and Amalavajra for putting their efforts for many months.
Last a couple of months had very challenging and spiritually rewarding. I have intensive experiences of loss and contribution, pain, learning, gratitude, joy and inspiration. One of my older brother Yashawant who was a mitra and was supposed to be ordained soon died suddenly on 23rd August in Wardha surviving his wife and two kids aged 1 and 2 years. This was shocking and painful experience for all the family and affected everybody’s life. So, I went to India to support and be with my family. I am very much moved by support from my friends in Sangha, especially Mahamati, Mahastham, Karunamati, Vivekamitra, Koteshwar Rao, Turanya, Vimalnath as well as my colleges from Dharmapala College, Dharmacharies and friends from Yavatmal and Wardha Sangha. This is second death in my family in a years time as my sister in law died last year same time. So, thanks to all those who were thinking of me and my family, sent cards and metta.
I also was enjoying and occupied with my studies at the Dharmapala College. We finished our third term with intensive MBTI and NVC training and retreat and before that we studied Mahayana and Yogacara texts. I also found our visit to Hungary very productive and significant to contribute to Gypsies, especially the retreat near Ukrainian border. We developed more contacts and deepened our friendships. Result of that was two Hungarian Mitras came and stayed with us in Birmingham.
Now, in a weeks time we are flying to India to participate in the 50th anniversary of Dr Ambedkars conversion at Nagpur and the going to Chattisgarh state to help depressed people and talk about Dr Ambedkar and Dharma. We will be also leading a Dhammayatra or Long March from Nagpur to Satara in western Maharashtra to support new conversions from other Dalit communities. There will be launching new translations of Bhantes books in Telugu and Hindi in Hyderabad, Nagpur and Sarnath in auspicious of Dhammaloka Trust and Dhammaloka International Centre for Buddhist Learning. We will also go on pilgrimage to the holy sites of the Buddha, to Delhi to develop connections with non-Ambedkarite Buddhists, and a solitary retreat before I come back for new year term of the Dharmaduta course. So, please visit http://www.dharmaduta.blogspot.com/ for more updates. I am looking forward to the forthcoming visit to India and celebrations at Nagpur and elsewhere.