Buddhafield – Dharmafield



I attended last week for the fourth year the annual Buddhafield Festival, near Taunton, Devon, UK, about an hour north of Totnes. Organised by the FWBO (Friends of the Western Buddhist Order), the festival shifted this year to a new nearby location to accommodate the growing interest in the festival. Numbers increased from 2000 to 3000 participants for the five day event.


It seems to me the pith (to use a much beloved word of the Buddha) of the festival slowly but gradually focuses every year around the area known as the Dharma Parlour where there are marquees for the exploration of Dharma. Each year more festival wallahs check the notice board to see what dharma talks/inquiry/workshops/ discussions/practices are taking place in the Dharma Parlour.


As well as the privilege of being one of the contributors, I also listened to the voices of other contributors, some of whom belong to the sangha of the FWBO. There is no monolithic voice in the FWBO unlike some other Buddhist traditions that I know. The differences of view, o f values, of priorities of Order members, show a sign of health, of a lively dharma spirit, as well as some tension.

The FWBO has a remarkable capacity to unleash talents of individuals in its sangha for communicating the dharma, meditation teachings, organisational work, the arts, NGO commitments, religious rituals and at the same time keeping steady to the core principles of its tradition that is only 40 years old.


There is a wealth of discussion on its websites among some of the most senior order members on the vision and issues, past and present, facing the Order. There is an openness in the FWBO that often goes unnoticed.


I am happy to regard myself as a friend of the Western Buddhist Order. I share the view with them that taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha is an unsurpassable commitment. Akasati, a guardian angel of Buddhafields, tells me that there is some discussion about extending the Dharma Parlour programme into the evenings at Buddhafield in July 2009. Brilliant.


At the beginning of one my dharma inquiry sessions at the Festival, I asked how many people in the marquee had been to India. A huge shower of hands went up. I am thinking of asking friends to help start an India Dharma Wallahs Network for ex-India wallahs to keep in touch with each other through designing a suitable website, and perhaps having an annual general meeting of India wallahs. Long standing Dharma friend, Gavin Kilty has a website for aging Dharma wallahs who spent time years ago in Dharamsala.