Human Revolution Orchestra performs in Manchester 17 November

Copyright HRO

Copyright HRO

Check out this multi-faith ensemble called Human Revolution Orchestra.

They are performing in Manchester soon:

17.11.2015 Live In concert at Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester  featuring Robin Eubanks

On their website they say:

Based on a Buddhist concept of Itai Doshin (many in body, one in spirit) the ensemble seeks to create the type of unity which is not a mechanical uniformity. Rather, it is a unity that has at its heart respect for the diverse and unique qualities of each individual. We treasure, and work to bring the best out of each other.

 

Final Update – Manchester Buddhist Convention 2015

Final Update

Greetings to all. I hope you are well and found spots of sunshine in the summer…

This is the final update for the MBC Convention 2015. You should have seen the

Programme on the Website, or you will see it soon!

This is the 10th anniversary of the Manchester Buddhist Convention so I hope people

from earlier years will be encouraged to attend. There will be some looking back and

some looking forward!

As you know, the theme this year is:

From Stillness to action:

Peace in the Heart

Peace in the world.

We identified the theme early in the year and recognise it as an aspiration and need

following on from the painful events that occurred last year and which continue. (The

first anniversary of the killing of David Haines took place recently.)

All of us who have our eyes open and our ears attuned will be aware of the lack of

peace that continues to haunt our world. Alongside that is the courage with which

people encounter and deal with what they are dealt, globally as well as on our own

doorstep. I don’t aim to catalogue these but this is always a humbling experience for

me. Some images have galvanised ordinary citizens worldwide into action. One of

these must be the picture of the young Turkish soldier and the tenderness of his

demeanour as he carried a drowned child to a place of rest. Acts of compassion are

being replaced by border clampdowns across Europe as crisis deepens.

We can aim to be aware of this and hold it in our hearts as we meet on October 10th.

For instance, seekers already here often need a place to stay if their appeal fails. We

can also remember people in our practice and may be able to identify ways to offer

practical assistance.

One thing where we may find consensus is the belief that the path we practice,

whatever the lineage, offers positive alternatives to deal with conflict. The MBC

planning group acknowledges that we need to begin with ourselves so, to some

extent, this has begun among the group. For myself, I ask how we can put this to

practical use. It was with this in mind that we have taken two initiatives.

 We have organised two ‘mini-events’ attended by some of you. There have

been short reports on the Website. The aim of these is to bring Buddhists

together in a smaller context than the large event in October and to set up a

process.

 Recently we established Sangha in Action (SIA) – again from different

Buddhist lineages. SIA will work in tandem with the MBC. (More information

will be available on the 10th.)

With regard to the Programme, we have tried to present one that looks back on the

last decade and are happy that Joy Bose – one of the MBC’s Founder members will

be visiting. He will do a short reflection on the MBC’s early years. I will look as some

of the things that have happened in the last few years. ore importantly, I think we

need to look a little bit ahead at where we want the MBC to go and what we can do to

make it happen. Some of us on the MBC are approaching our ‘sell by’ date so this is

important.

The programme will, as usual, have a range of speakers and presentations from

different lineages. Some of these will be Practice sessions; some will be Dharma

themes and some will present social action underpinned by an ethical framework. If

you look at the Programme before the 10th it may help you make a choice. There will

be programmes posted on the walls. There will also be people to hand to help.

It has been pointed out that the acronym MBC is already in use by the Manchester

Buddhist Centre (Triratna) and in this tenth year it may be appropriate for the MBC to

think about another name. A couple that have been suggested are:

 The North-West Buddhist Forum (as increasingly the Convention is attracting

people and centres from outside Manchester).

 Manchester Maha-Sangha (it has been indicated that people won’t

understand what ‘Maha’ means but it could be a case of learning…)

Within this, the Manchester Buddhist Convention could still retain it’s name as one

event, just as SIA or the smaller events that are becoming part of what we do.

Please register if you haven’t already done so. It is useful to keep a record and

people will then get information of other events. It also helps to cater with minimal

waste. Please also de-register if you have registered and CANNOT make it.

Several individuals make up a dozen or more (!) This makes a difference when we

want to keep the event on a Dana basis. But don’t let non-registration prevent you

from coming if suddenly find you have a spare day. It may change your life and ours!

Now it just remains for me to say that I’m looking forward to seeing many of you from

earlier years as well as some new faces that will bring a fresh impetus to the MBC

process (and maybe help us think up a new name!)

May we come in trust to share ideas, thoughts, similarities and differences with

peace, and willingness to listen. Whether we agree or not may then become

peripheral to how we engage and live with each other and could increase the

possibility of ‘Peace in the World.

Blessings and Dharma/Dhamma greetings,

Jaya- Co-ordinator and Programme development.

One Root Many Branches

Programme for Manchester Buddhist Convention

Please click on the link below to open up, view and download a PDF of our 2015 event programme:

MBC 2015 Programme final

Thanks,

MBC

Lojong – Second MBC Event at Dechen Centre 12th July 2015

This year (2015) the Manchester Buddhist Convention has organised two smaller events apart from the large event we organise in October. These events have two basic aims:

  1. To bring together Buddhists from different lineages
  2. To learn something about a practice or examine a theme in the context of Dharma.

This is the second of these events and offered a Tibetan practice known as Lojong; a practice that aims to transform mundane mind into one of loving kindness and compassion for all sentient beings – a basic concern to all schools of Buddhism.  This term is sometimes translated as ‘Mind-training’ which in my view does not convey the depth, power and efficacy it has to do so. This is how it is described by John Rowan. ‘Lojong, is a comprehensive practice; suitable for all types of students. It contains the entire path and does not depend on a person’s background. It nourishes and cultivates Buddha Nature that is at the very heart of all beings and has the power to transform even self clinging into selflessness.’

The event was hosted by the Kagyu/Dechen Centre on Manor Road.  It was a delight to be in this beautiful garden with elegantly set tables, flowers and food. We also had a chance to visit the Shrine room with an exquisite Buddha Rupa from Nepal.

Venerable Chueh Ru from the Fo Guang Chan Centre started the session with an inspiring meditation ‘workout’. I suspect that many of us will be going to the FGS to experience her approach to loosening the ‘chi’ prior to sitting. Thanks also to Simon who led us through the Lojong.

After the ‘workout, there was a ritual creation of a Mandala or sacred space. After this Simon explained the basic practice.

To generate compassion, the practice traditionally focuses on our mother of this life. It reminds us that she has been our mother in many lives; talks us through the care she has given us and the sacrifices she has made to help us grow and bring us to maturity.  It encourages us to extend the love we feel for her to all beings thereby broadening the extent of our compassion.  A guided meditation led us through the process. He suggested that we take as our focus anyone for whom we felt great love.  

The second part of the practice is called Tonglen in Tibetan (roughly translated as taking and giving). Through this we, symbolically, take on the suffering of the world in exchange for our well-being. We breathe in the suffering represented by black smoke and send out fine bright light.. This can seem challenging but in reality we can’t, in actuality, take on everyone’s suffering. I think what we/I do is acknowledge interconnectedness and the vow to be of service to all beings. We didn’t do the actual practice as one person was uncomfortable with the idea. However, many of us do Tonglen on a regular basis. (My personal experience is that the practice does deepen compassion. However, it is indeed effective in dealing with actual distress. It does not necessarily relieve grief but it has helped me deal with it better; connects me with the source of external pain -I used it regularly during the nightmare earthquakes in Nepal and I ceased to be a bystander.  I believe it has consolidated my personal commitment to action, embedded in Dharma, in the environment in which I now live. At least two other practitioners have made a similar observation.)

The day ended with some but, to my mind, insufficient discussion.  One observation was that the event did not connect sufficiently with the next step – ie- social action. This was indeed the case as it hadn’t been planned in. Several notions were raised in relation to this:

  • Animals in the scope of our concern for, ‘all sentient beings’.  For this reason, many people are beginning to move from vegetarian to vegan diets.  The MBC, in its October event offers Vegan, ethically-sourced and bought food. (As best we can.)
  • Social action – we mentioned some of the work MBC has been involved in, including contact with the camps for homeless people. A newly emerging social action group that was due to meet the next day. This has now happened and there is likely to be a short report on the Website in the next few weeks.
  • Buddhist Action Month was mentioned.  
  • The work of Tzu Chi is an example if Compassion on Action. They are deeply involved in working in the community.
  • Problematic relations with mothers were raised in email feedback. This is a reason for the suggestion to use any loved person. I’ve read one account of a woman who focused on her new-born baby and learnt understanding and love for her mother with whom she had a conflicted relationship.
  • Secular mindfulness was mentioned and the possibility of developing this in the future. This also figured in personal conversations.
  • The idea of looking at compassion and metta from different perspectives, and aligning Venerable Chueh Ru’s breathing methodology to therapeutic work was suggested.

These are all good ideas. Some could be taken up by MBC. It is also possible for a centre to take the lead in organising an event with the MBC.

MBC Planning Group has said one of the spin-offs of working together is that the people involved have learnt more about each other and the different approaches to Buddhism and to let go of assumptions. Our home is that this will begin to permeate into the different centres and allow us to engage creatively with each other and be of greater service to the needs of the age.

I don’t know of another way of developing relationship and confidence other than by creating process so this is my approach rather than racking up a series of events so it was good to see so many familiar faces and a few new ones.  I would love to hear of other ideas and thoughts for the future especially as MBC moves into its second decade…

Our thanks to everyone for coming and being involved and enthusiastic

Jaya – Co-ordinator MBC.

Genius of the Ancient World

On Wednesday 5 August at 21.00 BBC 4 television are broadcasting an hour long TV programme entitled Genius of the Ancient World which may be of interest. Further details about episode 1:Buddha can be found at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b064jf28

Jacquetta Gomes – World’s First Female Buddhist Fire Chaplain

Read this article from The West Morland Gazette:

A Buddhist teacher from Kendal has made history as her faith’s first ever female fire chaplain.

This is the news item about this by Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women

This is the link to BEWES website

Click here for the MBC Faith and Fire Page

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.

 

%d bloggers like this: