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.
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.”
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.
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.
On the 15th morning of July, children gathered at the Temple to learn and practice mindfulness meditation under the divine guidance of Most Ven. Adicca. He led the children in a sitting meditation, with emphasis on breath, to teach them to focus on the present moment.
After meditation, children chanted and paid their respect to the Triple Gem; the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. With translations by Ven. Sangharakkhita, Ven. Adicca delivered a talk on the importance of the Five Precepts and the practice of Metta (loving-kindness) meditation. Children skillfully learned to manage their stress, forgetfulness, and anxieties.
Children received their lunch and other alms munificently offered by Ms. Moe Moe, a Burmese woman living in Uganda. As a way of paying courtesies to their supporter, children chanted and offered special blessings to their guide Ven. Adicca, Moe Moe and shared their merits with everyone present. This event was also a chance for them to learn to be mindful of their actions, to be responsible and to share their merits. No one is too poor to give, and no one is too rich to receive. It was humbling to see the children share their merits and blessings.
We take this opportunity to appreciate our current volunteers, Anya and Fernando who are contributing effort on behalf of UBC. The team is setting up a functional administrative system. We are reorganizing our kitchen and we figured out how to wax a kitchen floor. We are also consciously maintaining the temple grounds, working as a team as well as connecting with each other and Bulega community.
We hope the introduction of this system will allow the Uganda Buddhist Centre to streamline and realize the vision.
Prof. Anya is a Kenyan medical anthropologist with a lifetime experience in management, policy and systems design, editing, public relations, gardening and culinary expertise. She has been practicing Buddhism for the last 35 years. Anya is also helping provide health awareness and solutions among women from the immediate Bulega village. So far, the solutions provided have been useful.
Fernando is from Spain and keen on expanding his meditation experience. Previously he had attend a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat in Spain and was inspired to continue. Fernando has set up barriers for the Centre, and he is handy in all the activities of daily living such as pruning hedges and cooking.
As per our last newsletter, we reported about the Uganda Buddhist Centre’s intention to provide fresh and clean water to the staff and students of Bugabo Primary School.
Bugabo Primary School is located in a neighboring village. The children population consist of 181 girls and 172 boys. A major challenge for the school has been access to clean water an issue that affects the basic running of the school. The construction of the borehole is now complete and students are able to access clean and safe water.
Previously, the students had to fetch water from Lake Victoria a distance of 2km which inconvenienced them due to the amount of time spent collecting water. The water they collected was unsafe and contaminated and constructing the borehole eliminated that issue.
The Uganda Buddhist Centre through the courtesy of Helen Lee and her family has solved the problem of contaminated water for Bugabo Primary School.
The project now awaits for the official commissioning by Bhante Buddharakkhita. In the meantime, the staff and students of Bugabo Primary School are ecstatic.