Welcome to the Buddhist Council of Wales site. Here you will find details of events, information and news relating to the organisations which are members of the Council and also to other Buddhist organisations – a resource for all Buddhists in Wales.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Interfaith Network UK, National Meeting - Cohesive Communities: Diversity and Commonality

Cohesive Communities
Diversity and Commonality

Presented by Nor’dzin Pamo – Chair of the Buddhist Council of Wales at the Interfaith Network UK National Meeting on the 19th October 2016, in Peterborough.

I have been Chair of the Buddhist Council of Wales since 2011, and as such am invited to attend a variety of interfaith events.
As a religion, Buddhism is both a little awkward to accommodate in interfaith interaction, and also offers an unusual opportunity to encourage the spirit of interfaith openness and tolerance. In Buddhism there is no holy book to which all Buddhists will refer; there are no teachings that refer to a creator god, or an all-powerful, beneficent god; and even the word ‘faith’—which seems to be commonly preferred to the word religion is slightly problematic in Buddhism because faith is not demanded. The emphasis is on practice. Shakyamuni—the historic Buddha—asked his followers to practice and find out for themselves, rather than simply because of their devotion to him.
So . . . no book, no god, and no faith – and yet Buddhism is most certainly a religion. I have to regard ‘faith’ and ‘religion’ as synonyms, else it make no sense for me to be present at interfaith events.

There can be a tendency at Interfaith events to wish to find commonalities as a reason for different faiths coming together. I regular attend events where someone—of any faith—will say; ‘Well, we all believe in the same god, don’t we’. This is meant as a friendly, open and inclusive assertion, but it is actually rather disrespectful – and indicates a lack of knowledge of at least one of the religions represented in their audience. I usually keep my head down. It would be rude to challenge them. It would be appreciated if presenters would avoid generalisations, or claims of knowing anything about the beliefs of the people they are addressing. No person of religion can ever fully know or understand the faith and practice of another religion.

Another time I was told that ‘We are all sinners.’ When I replied, ‘I'm not!’, the gentleman repeated his statement with more emphasis. I again replied, ‘I’m not!’ He looked rather exasperated at this point, and I was finding myself rather too strongly reminded of a Monty Python sketch—which seemed potentially disrespectful—so I explained: Buddhism states that we are all beginninlessly enlightened. It does not include any teaching that correlates with the concept of ‘original sin.

There are commonalities that can be found, but these are not generally in the religion itself – they are more about the limitations and expectations a person of religion places upon themselves, such as:
  • living within parameters of your faith
  • being willing to allow something to be bigger than you are; to allow the needs or precepts of your religion to take precedence in your life
  • the wish to change, to be greater than you are, and/or to achieve a state of grace, enlightenment, or whatever is the aspiration of that religion
  • believing in the potential of your religion to bring out the best in human beings
  • to care about others; to regard compassion and kindness as an important aspect of being a human being
Involvement in Interfaith should not demand compromise of the representatives of religion or faith. Friendly Interfaith interaction should not require such a compromise, or any sense of a dilution of the tenets of the religions represented. Interfaith must applaud and support each religion’s right to be different – to be practised in different ways, and to hold widely different beliefs and views.

Yet seeking commonality seems to be pervasive. Seeking and finding what is the same in the world religions, however, is not a guaranteed road to harmony – there is a danger that choosing this route will lead to too much that cannot be said for fear of upsetting the balance. There is the danger of feeling the need to carefully steer a rather narrow path. I feel that the broader path of openness, respect, and appreciation of difference is preferable, though not always easy. I recognise that I do sometimes avoid being clear that Buddhism is an atheistic, or non-theistic religion, because I know that for people I care about, who believe in a creator god, this is not easy to hear or understand.
Knowing that our faiths or religions are different—possibly radically different—yet finding that we are people of kind heart; discovering that interfaith colleagues also cultivate patience and openness; recognising interfaith friends can like one another and enjoy each others company – this is the opportunity offered by Interfaith interaction.
Friendly and respectful interaction, and intermixing of people of different religions—or of no religion—can ripple out into the community. When there is no fear of difference, then there is nothing to hate. Interfaith harmony and respect can help to create a society that is tolerant. Respect for difference, appreciation of difference, the enjoyment of difference – this is the value of interfaith interaction. Let us celebrate that our freedom to be different is the key to a healthy society.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Buddhist Council of Wales working for Buddhists in Wales

Welcome to the first Buddhist Council of Wales newsletter. Here we will give you an idea of the work that the Buddhist Council of Wales (BCW) undertakes to represent Buddhists in Wales.
With eleven member organisations, membership is healthy, but the BCW urgently needs more Full Members - organisations willing to send a representative to its twice-yearly meetings and to represent the BCW at events. Currently the Chair of the BCW, Nor’dzin Pamo, often accompanied by her husband, attends as many events as possible, but is not able to attend them all.
Things are usually pretty quiet over the summer, but as soon as autumn started to hint its arrival, requests for Buddhist representation started to flow in.
Events attended by BCW representatives on behalf of Buddhists in Wales:
  • October 7th - Cardiff and the Vale Health Board Spiritual Care Group 
  • October 17th - Muslim Council of Wales Annual Interfaith Dinner
  • October 19th - Interfaith Network UK National Meeting
The Cardiff and Vale Health Board Spiritual Care Group aim to support the spiritual and religious needs of staff and patients. The Group is led by the Chaplaincy Department of the University Hospital Wales. The BCW involvement in this group means that we aim to respond to any requests from Buddhists, such as the need for a funeral or a blessing. The BCW also checks that the Buddhist section of the ward plan meets the needs of Buddhist patients.
Nor’dzin Pamo presented at one of the workshops of the National Meeting of the Interfaith Network UK, in Peterborough. The theme of the meeting was ‘Cohesive Communities’, and Nor’dzin presented in the workshop looking at ‘Diversity and Commonality’. The notes for her talk will be posted separately.

Invitations received by the BCW but not attended:
  • September 14th - Royal Naval Reserves, HMS CAMBRIA, Barry, South Wales - Employer Engagement Event - ‘...we would be delighted if members of the Buddhist Council for Wales were able to attend... The event aims to highlight the work of Reservists and develop closer links between the military, civilian and religious organisations and employers. 
  • October 6th - Science Café event - invitation from The Rt. Hon. The Lord Mayor of Cardiff, Cllr Monica Walsh and the Lord Mayors Charity Cancer Research Wales
  • invitation for a representative at the Cardiff SACRE - could you help with this?
Other work by the BCW on behalf of Buddhists in Wales:
  • responded to the draft report from Gill Vaisey, Religious Education Consultant, on ‘Guidance on Managing the Right of Withdrawal from Religious Education’ - the least of festivals that parents may withdraw their children from school to attend will be posted separately. The BCW has ensured that Buddhist festivals are included in this list.
Looking ahead, there are a number of interfaith events for interfaith week, plus various meetings and events. If you would like to help with the work of the BCW, please get in touch by email: buddhistcouncilwales@gmail.com.

Calling all Buddhists in Dyfed and Powys - Dyfed-Powys Police interfaith event

Could you take part in this interfaith event being hosted by the Dyfed-Powys Police during interfaith week? If you can, please contact Constable Jo Thompson, Assistant Staff Officer, by email:

As part of Inter Faith week (13th - 20th November 2016) Dyfed-Powys Police is organising a day to celebrate the diversity of faiths in Wales.  The day will be titled ‘A Window on World Faiths’.  We have set aside Tuesday, 15th November 2016 for this event which will be held at the Strategic Command Centre at Police Headquarters in Carmarthen.  The day will start at 10:00am and finish around 3:00pm.

The purpose of the day is to explore the diversity of faiths that surround us.  It will be a terrific way for people from all faiths to learn from one another and celebrate the tremendous amount we have in common.

We envisage the day to be similar to a ‘Faith Fair’ where we hope to attract guests from all sectors of the diverse faith groups.  The fair will follow a ‘Window on World Faiths’ theme that will hopefully encompass music, food and artefacts that are meaningful to the communities we serve.  

We would be delighted to be able to work in partnership with your faith group.  Apart from the valuable experience that your members could bring to the day, it would be a great opportunity for us all to get to know each other and each other’s work. 

We would therefore like to invite five persons from your community to come along to participate in the day.