Category Archives: Convention 2015

Manchester Buddhist Convention 2015 – June Update

IndianBuddhismManchester Buddhist Convention 2015

 

The Manchester Buddhist Convention will take place as usual on the second Saturday of October at St. Peter’s Chaplaincy, Oxford Road, Manchester.

The theme for this years Convention is:

Buddhism in Action:
Peace in the Heart, Peace in the World.

This will be the tenth Convention held in Manchester. So we come to the end of a decade of meeting together as Buddhists from different lineages – a decade when we have gone some way in appreciating the richness of the path we share. We also hope that it has gone some way in increasing our understanding of the different paths, developing solidarity and intention to work together. This is also a decade that also seems to have been marked by an increase in tension and pain in the global context.

In response to this, some of us have been exploring ways in which we can work together to create links of service and giving to complement our inner practice. A group is coming together of explore this and I hope we will be able to present something at the convention.

Alongside this, we will of course, maintain our focus of practice and exploration of Dhamma/Dharma topics. More details of this will follow in the Update in August/September.

The PG also decided to organise smaller events between the large one in October so as not to lose the momentum of the Convention. We have run one event on ‘Mindfulness in the Secular Context’ at Triratna Buddhist Centre and one is planned for July 12th at the Dechen Centre in Chorlton. You should have received, or should be receiving, information about this very soon. These are in venues with smaller capacities, accommodating fewer people than the October Convention. Places are offered on the basis of those who apply first.

As you know the Convention is planned by a group of people on a voluntary basis. It is possible to present it as an event with no fixed charge because of the generosity of Chaplaincy. This year we have decided to offer them a nominal fee to the Chaplaincy but retain the basis of ‘Dana’ – free giving – for participants. The Convention cannot take place without this so you are asked to take this on board should you attend and give generously.

I know also that many Centres have undertaken expansion or are busy with their own lineages. I am therefore asking you to consider whether you, as individuals and as centres, wish to support the event and it’s work or whether you feel it has done it’s work and for the time being and can rest for the next few years or if there is another configuration you think would be more suitable. Do you think that an event or a process that enables us to meet together as Buddhists and Buddhism without ‘boundaries’ is a useful one for the future? If so is this a useful approach to the next few years?

For instance:

  • Should it just concentrate on smaller events?
  • Should it concentrate on bringing people together for shared practice?
  • For action?
  • For visits to different Centres?
  • Or any other types of meetings or activities?

It is likely that some of the activities outlined above will go on whether or not the Convention continues in its present for.

These are things you may have to consider at the Convention so please give it some thought. You should also give some thought to the logistics of it – ie- what can we; collectively do to make it happen?

 

One         root         Many       Branches

Second letter of invitation to Dechen Centre, Sunday 12th July

tibetanbuddhismDear Friends,

I have already sent you information with regard to a second MBC event to be held at the Dechen Centre on Sunday 12th July.  If you have responded and you receive this please ignore it. If not please let me know if you are interested asap.

I will contact those who wish to attend with the address nearer the day.

We need notification in order to prepare lunch for which we will request a Donation to cover costs.

Below is a short outline of the day:

12.30 Arrive & lunch

1.30  Welcome

1.45 short meditation led by a venerable, following this an introduction to lojong

2.45 Break & discussion session.

3.15 Led meditation on lojong

4.00 Discussion & feedback

4.30/5.00 Dedication and Finish

Lojong or mind training is a comprehensive practice that is suitable for all types of students. It contains the entire path and does not depend on a person’s background. Lojong nourishes and cultivates the Buddha Nature, the pure seed of awakening that is at the very heart of all beings.  It has the power to transform even self clinging into selflessness.

The day will be a mixture of practice and discussion.

We will find time to decide if we wish to continue with the process begun with the ‘Mindfulness in the West’ event held at Triratna in April.

Dharma/Dhamma greetings,

Jaya – Co-coordinator MBC

Invisible Web of Gender by Oxana Poberejnaia

01_17_3---Spiders-Web_webGender is like an invisible web. Even if you know it is limiting and want to get out, you don’t know where to begin. Most people do not even see gender as something that is externally imposed on them, limiting their spontaneous being.

 

Gender – how to untangle the tangle?

 

As Dhamma (Dharma) practitioners we should understand the basic principles of cause and effect and of the absence of a permanent self. Many practitioners apply these principles in their everyday lives. However, it is gender that is often the stumbling block.

 

CauseAndEffectIt seems that western Buddhists are happy to accept that everything about them is conditional and dependent on one cause or another – everything but gender. One might argue that gender is the last bastion of Self for us. We tend to fuse our gender identity with our core sense of self.

 

In case someone should wish to untangle this tangle, it would probably be along the normal path of any Buddhist practice: 1. Notice; 2. Accept; 3. Let go.

 

For practitioners with experience, the second and third step would be if not easy, then relatively familiar.

 

It is the noticing, which might be extremely challenging. Noticing subtle gender patterns in your particular case is like getting out of an invisible web. Gender seems as natural to us as eating cereals for breakfast.

 

Wait a second. Is eating cereals for breakfast a course of things prescribed by nature? We all know it is not. I ate cucumber and tomato salad for breakfast in Israel and borsch for breakfast in Ukraine.

 

There is no ‘I’ in gender

 

Gender is part of society’s structure. The ways gender expresses itself are many and are different depending on the particular culture, class, education, and financial situation of particular individuals.

 

As long as people are blind to the realities of gender as it is currently imposed by patriarchy, they are compliant. Even the ones with the best intentions. Men who do not see the reality may ask question like: “Why do women wear these ridiculous high heels? I do not force them to. I would never wear these even if people were forcing me to.”

 

family-76781_640Such questions show a misunderstanding about how society works. People are not separate individualised entities who make rational choices. Each person is a patch on a fabric of society, the same way as each individual is part of the energy network between the sun and the earth, with all its plants, animals, water and minerals.

 

It is easy to confirm or refute this claim: try to exclude yourself from the energy network – for instance, don’t go to the toilet next time you want to. Next, try to exclude yourself from society – for instance, start speaking Russian in the UK or don’t pay a bus fare.

 

Repercussions will be immediate and obvious.

 

How are you male? How are you female?

 

How are you caught up in the web? In one group of society being a woman means wearing a pony tail and being beaten by your unmarried partner, in a different group being a woman means having your body, clothes and jewellery accessed by your husband’s business associates in order to configure his status.

 

While for some being a man means showing no emotion and working yourself to death at 40, for others being a man means living a life of creativity while your Mother or your wife takes care of your family and home.

 

There is a saying that in a society where slavery exists everyone is a slave. Slaves are slaves to their masters, and masters are slaves to the social order. Slaves have no control over their lives, but neither do their owners. Slave owners have to have slaves, they have to depend on their labour, and they have to avoid treating their slaves as human beings.

 

In patriarchy, which is absolute majority of societies now in existence on earth, the situation is similar. Everyone upholds patriarchy: women, men, the elderly and the children of both sexes.

 

Children are particularly vicious and vigilant in this regard – just watch them play or listen when they pass their judgements on what girls and boys should wear, how they should have their hair and down to minute detail of what and how they should eat.

 

Delhi_Queer_Pride_2010_(2)Those who challenge patriarchy are deemed strange and unacceptable and labelled in a variety of derogatory labels. “Butch”, “gay” (both when used as an insult, not as a self-identification),  unfeminine”, “girl-like”, and simply “weirdo” are applied to men and women who behave outside of a patriarchal model of life.

 

In societies that offer people more opportunities (or in circles of societies which offer people more opportunities) such individuals have a choice of joining like-minded people and feel relatively safe and accepted.

 

stop-482702_640As we have always been saying, there is a way

 

With the help of the whole arsenal of Buddhist practices, such as calming down, being present and seeing clearly, coupled with compassion, we can slowly start noticing gender patterns that rule our lives while bypassing our better judgement.

 

For a woman, is having a smaller portion of food than men natural? For a man, is talking first and controlling the flow of a conversation natural? For a woman, is smiling as a response to a hurtful remark natural, in order to keep peace? For a man, is producing hurtful remarks as a way to hide your emotional vulnerability natural?

 

In a Buddhist centre, is it natural for a man to assume he will be up there on the platform teaching the Sangha in a few years, if he sticks with it, while for a woman, is it natural to assume that no matter how long she sticks with it, she will still be preparing tea for the visiting male teachers?

 

Is it natural for a male Buddhist practitioner to have his household revolve around his daily sittings and retreats, and is it natural for a woman to shove her sitting meditation whenever there is a gap between serving others, and dream of a retreat as a special favour from her loved ones?

 

Read more of Oxana’s essays on gender in Buddhism on international blog Feminism and Religion

Challenges to Mindfulness Practice in the West: event on 11 April 2015

For some years now, the planning group of the Manchester Buddhist Convention (MBC) have felt that we should aim to do smaller events between the large Conventions in October.

 

This year we finally decided to put this into practice. The first of these was held on the above theme on April 11th 2015, at Triratna Buddhist Centre, Turner Street.

 

WomanMeditatingThere were two broad aims to the event:

  1. To explore Mindfulness practice in secular and meditative contexts.
  2. To bring different lineages together.

 

As we expected to hold the event in the smaller of the two shrine rooms we limited the numbers to 25 and decided to invite Dharma centres to nominate two people to attend.
This is a short Report on the event:

The event began with introductions, welcome, saluting the shrine and sitting practice. This was followed by two presentations, both by Buddhist practitioners one of whom offered Mindfulness training in a Buddhist context and the other who worked within the NHS.

 

Both presenters were informed by their particular practices and the contexts in which they worked. The material covered a lot of ground – from the ‘religion’ to aspects of Buddhism from different perspectives; the 8 week stress reduction course courses taught by and the different working contexts of the two speakers – ie – in a Buddhist Dharma Centre and the NHS where any mention of a spiritual framework was taboo. Results had to be ‘evidence based’ and benefits demonstrable. One of the presentations suggested that ‘Mindfulness training could be likened to Padmasambhava taming the demons when he went to Tibet (can be looked up on the net). By contrast the other described the demons that might beset a client when s/he came for treatment and showed how it might soothe a distressed person even for a short time – so two quite different presentations. This presentation suggested that a not very creative tension existed between the evidence-based demands of a clinical context and trusting our own inner experience – integral to Buddhist practice.

She described her work as ‘harmonising the mind with the body, rather than the other way round.’ ‘Making mindfulness accessible to mentally ill people.’ Helping them to ‘accept themselves’.

 

The group broke into small groups. These are some of the questions/points raised:

  • Is secular mindfulness the same as Buddhist Mindfulness practice?
  • The value of secular Buddhism is dependent on the quality of the teacher.
  • Secular mindfulness is better coming from a Buddhist teacher.
  • Buddhists are being too precious/possessive about ‘Mindfulness’.
  • The need for an ethical framework was indicated.
  • The need for transmission from a qualified teacher.
  • Were grand claims being made for limited results in the clinical context?
  • The use of Mindfulness training in other contexts was raised – in industry, schools, even within the US army. A comparison with the use of it among the Samurai was made in one group.
  • The Buddha’s teachings were not complicated but were they losing this simplicity and directness through cultural accretion?
  • ‘Challenges’ faced by Buddhism were not necessarily ‘cultural’ (Western) but the challenge of ‘modernity’ Buddhism has changed its presentation without losing its integrity over hundreds of years.
  • What might our questions be if we reversed the question to consider how Buddhism challenges our ‘modern’ cultural and given assumptions.
  • The possibility of losing lineage, transmission, diluting the Buddhadharma, eventually leading to losing it.
  • Not going far enough – ie- it will teach us how to ‘manage’ samsara but will not address how Awaken. Does this mean that we just learn how to function better in a corrupt society?
  • Can it help managers, for instance, to exploit people better? *

 

The other aim was to bring Buddhists of different lineages together? Why?

 

This was one of the main purposes of the MBC and most groups are keen. The October event is evidence that most Buddhists really do enjoy this engagement. Despite this, over the years of organising this event and speaking with different individuals it has become clear that there is a historical residue of historical suspicion. Some of this may be lineage based and some specific to Manchester. This weakens our potential and opens us to accusations of ‘sectarianism’. Facing our differences may be the one powerful thing we can do to ensure that the Buddhadhamma/dharma is made secure from ‘threats’ it may face. The Planning group has begun to reflect on this; to ‘own’ our ‘baggage’ and admit its existence. It aims to create trust in which to embed our practice and group and would like this to happen in a wider context – hence this event. This worked remarkable well. In a small group of 28 people there were at least 6 different lineages all absorbed in conversation and really engaging with each other.

 

We also wanted to explore ways in which we could work together as an inter-lineage group. Related to this are these comments from attendees:

  • The Annual Convention was exciting but it was good to be able to meet Buddhists from different lineages in a smaller, more intimate context.
  • The event was ‘therapeutic.’
  • There are not many inter-lineage networks like this one.
  • It captured the energy obvious at the Convention.

 

Some parallel observations:

 

  • The use of the breath and of sound is, or course, ancient and pre-dates Buddhism by millennia.
  • There is a blurring of the edges of what meditation has been used for; suggestion that it is not especially linked to spiritual practice.
  • Secular ‘mindfulness’ is here to stay. What can we do to harness it for the best possible use and mitigate its misuse (which appears to be happening alongside the relief it brings to suffering).

 

Once again, interest in what Buddhists could do in relation to service emerged. There was a huge fund of experience and action based initiatives in the room. We are exploring these and will keep you informed of what is happening either via the Website or at the Convention. If you are interested in the possibilities or have ideas or are involved in such initiatives please get in touch with us via the Website of with me directly.

 

A further event is planned for July. Again numbers will be limited due to space. If you are interested please inform your Dharma Centre or contact us directly.

 

Jaya – Co-ordinator, Manchester Buddhist Convention.

 

Poster for Manchester Buddhist Convention 2015

Click here to download the poster as PDF

MBC 2015 poster draft

Manchester Buddhist Convention 2015

DSC04981Friends:

 

This is the first notice about the Manchester Buddhist Convention.

 

This will take place, as usual, on the second Sat. of October, (Oct.10th) at St. Peter’s Chaplaincy on Oxford Road. Please can you put it in your diaries. We have not decided on themes, format etc but will keep you updated. As you know this is the 10 anniversary of the founding of the MBC.

 

You may be interested to know that we have begun to have smaller events between the large ones in October. These will have dual aims: to learn about a particular theme and to learn about other lineages (which is, of course, one of the aims of the Convention). The first of these took place at Triratna Buddhist Centre on Turner Street on the theme of ‘Mindfulness in the West’. Space was limited so we invited Centres to send two people to these. If you are interested in the event or the Report, please let us know via the website email address.

 

The second one will take place at the Dechen Centre in Chorlton. Further information will be sent as we plan it. Again, this will be subject to space.

 

Many thanks,

 

Jaya Graves (Co-ordinator, Manchester Buddhist Convention)

 

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