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His Majesty, Oyo Kabamba Iguru of Tooro Kingdom, and H.R.H. Best Kemigisa, the Queen Mother, arrived at Uganda Buddhist Center in the afternoon of Friday August 31st.  The delegation was received by Bhante Buddharakkhita with flowers offered to the King by UBC volunteer Melissa Cates.  The delegation was led into the temple where Bhante welcomed the King, Queen Mother, Prime Minister, and the delegation.  He reminded the King of the speech he gave during his 2008 trip to the World Buddhist Summit in Japan.  The King’s speech in Japan expressed his interest in Buddhism and pledged support to the growth of Buddhism, not only in Uganda but in Africa.

The Rt. Hon. Bernard Tungwaho, the Prime Minister spoke on behalf of the King and reiterated his commitment to the Buddhist community and to spreading peace throughout his Kingdom. The King and the Queen Mother were then presented with gifts from UBC and a blessing was given by Bhante Buddharakkhita and the resident monk. Following this, Bhante had a brief meeting with the delegation to discuss future collaboration with Tooro Kingdom.

Afterward, the King planted a tree next to the temple as a symbol of peace and commitment from Tooro Kingdom.  Before leaving UBC, the delegation also visited the location for the new Peace School and Compassion Orphanage. His Majesty King Oyo made the ground-breaking ceremony of the school and orphanage.

 

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Amid all our diversities, we have common aspirations—the aspiration to be happy, to be peaceful, to be free from worry, stress, anxiety, anger, and many other difficult emotions. Unfortunately, we oftentimes feel stretched, worried, anxious, stressed, and fearful and we keep running from our own shadows. We feel worried about what the future holds for us. We end up running from life at home, life at work, and think we will find a solution to our unhappiness elsewhere but it still escapes us. Practicing meditation can help you navigate through all these emotions in a calm and balanced way. Through meditation, we connect directly to a more peaceful and calm mind and let go of all the sources of our worry, conflicts and confusions. As a result, we become happier in our lives and bring the benefit of joy in other people’s lives as well.

At the Sunday August 26th retreat, participants had an opportunity to develop and improve their mindfulness skills in meditation and learned how to apply mindfulness in their daily lives with a step-by-step guide on meeting difficult emotions with mindfulness. The retreat was suitable for both beginners and those experienced in meditation.

The retreat was guided by Bhante Buddharakkhita, the Abbot and Founder of the Uganda Buddhist Centre. Bhante gave instructions on mindfulness meditation of walking, sitting and standing and then the participants had a chance to practice each one. He also gave a talk on “Meeting Difficult Emotions with Mindfulness” which was followed by a question and answer session that brought about great discussions.

At the end of the retreat, a walk to feed the hungry was also arranged and participants expressed their support and courtesies to people affected by poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

 

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When Bhante first moved to Bulega village, where the temple is now situated, the villagers had no access to clean water. He compassionately availed water through the borehole projects. The vision was to ensure every individual in Bulega, and the neighboring communities, had access to safe drinking water. This would also reduce water-borne diseases people were getting from contaminated water and water from the lake. Five boreholes have already been built serving Bulega village and the neighboring communities, including two schools that have a boreholes in their compounds.

Did we solve the water problem? The answer to this question is yes, but the problem of disease still persists within the community. We have realized that the villager’s  do not understand how to conserve and store water. In this village, people use plastic jerry cans to collect and keep water. The jerry cans and other water containers are not cleaned well so they attract mold (a thick-dark green mold). When it comes time  to use the water, most are not mindful to boil it before use. Therefore, children have started getting fungal infections, which affects both internal organs and the skin.

One of the children who often comes to the temple is a victim of the resultant skin fungal infection. The infection is contagious so it can spread to other people.

Prof. Anya, one of our current volunteers, who is a Medical Anthropologist, has intervened on this issue. She has suggested that the first thing to do is a thorough cleaning of the wash areas and water containers with a vinegar solution. Bhante Sangharakkhita a resident monk has also offered anti-fungal ointment to apply on the child’s skin while using the vinegar solution internally and externally.  We hope these basic interventions will be helpful as we look into more long term solutions to this problem. We welcome any ideas that can further the cessation of this potential menace.

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Compassion Orphanage is an initiative aimed at supporting orphans in Bulega village. This initiative is an extension of the Uganda Buddhist Centre Peace School, providing education, mindfulness education and nourishment. These children are have limited access to food, most are living in squalid conditions, and the majority cannot afford to pay basic school fees.The center faced with their reality has stepped up to give them a home and food. It is also an opportunity for them to go to attend the Peace School where they are taught mindfulness meditation, practical skills and  a chance to develop their talents. By doing this, we aim to restore their hope and build future functional citizens.

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The Peace School continues to flourish with several children attending this holiday period. The center temporarily ordained two novice nuns and four novice monks as they wait to resume their formal education. The group will now live at the center for a period of one week to observe the precepts, learn meditation and adhere to Buddhist teachings.

 

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The dialogue was organized by the Women’s Situation Room (WSR) in partnership with the Juna Foundation on Wednesday, August 15, 2018 at FOYER DE CHARITE in Namugongo. The dialogue was supported by the United States Embassy in Kampala who brought, Imam Mohammed Bashar Ararat, the convener of several annual international youth leadership, intercultural, and interfaith conferences called Better Understanding for a Better World.

The aim of this meeting was to express and understand elements of a shared positive vision of peace and tolerance. It sought to highlight shared values and promoted the embracing of differences among religions. In attendance were representatives from Islam, Christianity, Baha’i, Judaism and Buddhists .

Five delegates from the Uganda Buddhist Centre represented Buddhism at the meeting, including 2 monks and 3 laities. In his brief introduction, Bhante Buddharakkhita reiterated the noble vision of the Buddha, Peace. He expressed that Buddhism is concerned more with the problem of suffering and how we can escape this shared problem by way of understanding the FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS (1]suffering, 2]the cause of suffering, 3]cessation to suffering and 4]the path to  freedom) which are universal in nature. He added that the Buddha encouraged interfaith dialogues that were aimed at building peace and unity among people.

Discussions also pinpointed the need to move from theology to spirituality in order to: build cohesiveness, understanding and peace among the diverse religious groups; understand each other’s differences; develop a true understanding of interfaith; encourage interfaith gatherings to increase the level of understanding among religions; and to counter issues that disturb our peace and well-being. In summary, the meeting called for an action to ensure human dignity and advancing the shared vision of peace.

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In our last Newsletter, we highlighted the progress of the borehole that the Uganda Buddhist Centre installed at Bugabo Primary School. The borehole was officially commissioned by the Most Ven. Bhante Buddharakkhita on August 8, 2018.

The School children through song and dance ecstatically expressed their joy and gratitude to Bhante Buddharakkhita for the borehole provided by the Uganda Buddhist Center.

In an interview the school head teacher, Mr. Paddy Wangubo expressed that:

“We are extremely grateful to the Venerable Buddharakkhita. We wrote to him regarding our problem of lacking water. As you see, this school had a water crisis. Also, the water from the National Water and Sewerage Cooperation was often shut off and we were forced to go to the lake to fetch water, which was risky to the kids.

When I wrote to Venerable Buddharakkhita informing him that we have a challenge of clean water, and to ask if there was a way he could provide us a borehole he responded. Now he has given us a borehole and we started using it late May this year 2018.

The borehole has not only saved us the trek to the lake to fetch water, which is risky to the children, it has also brought new ways of life…water is life. The availability has also allowed us to use this water at any time for things such as cooking, cleaning the classrooms and washing the latrines. There is abundant water any time we want, morning, afternoon, or even at night. It has really improved our situation a lot. Our children are no longer foraging  for water.”

 

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Fernando, one of our recent volunteers tells his journey and experience at UBC:

When I got in contact with Uganda Buddhist Centre (UBC) I let them know that I wanted to serve and progress in the Dhamma. After five weeks in Uganda, I’m glad to say that both those objectives have been satisfied.

As a volunteer I got the chance to help develop the center in different ways: from mundane and crucial daily chores like cleaning or gardening, to more challenging tasks like developing an inventory and building a fence. I also participated in the community outreach programme, attended Bugabo Primary School on several occasions, and delivered talks to the children.

As a Buddhist practitioner, I would highlight the interaction with the monks who were always approachable and friendly guides in my journey, suggesting the many books that I studied and delivering simple yet insightful pieces of knowledge. I will not forget how welcome I felt the first day, when Bhante Sangharakkhita greeted me with a beaming smile and invited me to watch a World Cup match with him. I also benefited greatly both from the group meditations at the Temple and from listening to the Insight Meditation CD programme with Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzburg.

UBC can pride itself on a wonderful team and a committed yet flexible environment. The community is visibly growing thanks to their hard work and they always found time for me, whether it was to show me around Uganda or for a good laugh.

The main lesson I learned at UBC was how to practice Buddhism in a controlled environment that is rich in mindfulness and faith in the Dhamma, yet at the same time not unfamiliar to the outside world with its difficulties and distractions. It is important, I believe, to learn how to keep the practice of meditation, the precepts and the aspiration towards a greater conscience of the present moment in a context that has a quality of purity but is at the same time relatable to your ordinary life, so that you can find a renewed drive to strengthen virtuous habits upon your return home. At at UBC I found some great friends and fond made memories along the way.

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This programme was organized by Charoen Pokphand Group and True Corporation Plc to broadcast a reality documentary about 12 novice monks living together to meditate and practice Buddhism. As a result, viewers all over the world would benefit from the programme and apply the teachings in their daily lives to bring about world peace.

Bhante was invited as a special guest lecturer to teach the novices about “Love in the Propagation of Buddhism”. This also included sharing his story as a Buddhist missionary monk in Uganda, Africa. The stories inspired the newly ordained young novices to commit to the practice and propagation of the Buddhist teachings for the benefit of all.

 

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