Maung Maung Lay (Sorbonne)
England is a Christian Country where there are Christian 72%, Muslim 3%, and unspecified/none 25%. The Church of England is Protestant Episcopal. The queen is its temporal head with rights of appointments to archbishoprics, bishoprics and other offices.
Although the majority of the British are Christians, England may be called a country of freedom of religions because there exist churches, mosques, Hinduist temples and Buddhist centres or monasteries.
According to my personal research, there are about 400 Buddhist groups and centres in England and Northern Ireland including Myanmar Buddhist monasteries. There are about 50 Buddhist groups and monasteries in London and its environ.
While I was staying in London with my daughter who was a staff member of Myanmar Embassy, I used to look for Buddhist centres and monasteries there and visit them during my leisure time.
I visited Oxford Buddha Vihara at No. 356-358, Abingdon Road, Oxford, OX1 4TQ, UK. Oxford is about 60 miles away from London and its takes about 100 minutes by coach to get there. I paid homage to the head of the Oxford Buddha Vihara, the most Venerable Professor Dr. Khammai Dhammasami, D.Phil. (Oxford). I participated in the chanting and practiced Vipassana meditation at the Vihara.
Myanmar Buddhists should know him as a world class Buddhist scholar. He was born in 1965 at Laikha in the Shan State, the Union of Myanmar. He was ordained as a novice in his early teens in his native township and as a bhikkhu at the age of 20 in Mawlamyaing township under the preceptorship of the late most Venerable Sayadaw Abhidhajamaharatthagura Nagasenabhivamsa Taung Lay Lone Monastery. Ven. K.. Dhammasami studied Pali and Buddhism in a traditional monastery, Buddhist university as well as some of the modern ones such as Buddhist and Pali University of Sri Lanka, Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies, University of Kelaniya and University of Oxford.
At present, Ven. Dhammasami is Buddhist Chaplain of Oxford, Executive Member, International Council for United Nations Day of Vesak, Chairman, Compilation Committee for the Common Buddhist Text ( a project to produce a book for hotels worldwide to distribute information on Buddhism), Bangkok, Co-convener Union Catalog of Buddhist Texts, Fellow and Lecturer, Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, Mumbai, Founder/Executive Secretary, The Association of Theravada Buddhist Universities, Professor, International Theravada Buddhist Universities Professor, International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University, Yangon.
Venerable Dhammasami has conducted weekly meditation classes in the United Kingdom since 1996. The 50-minute meditation is preceded by a dhamma talk on meditation and followed by a lively question and answer session, during which the meditators may clear their doubt or discuss matters related to the practice.
Sayadaw also conducts a one-day vipassana meditation retreat, consists of a short introduction to meditation, and then sitting and walking meditation, which are done alternately. The winter programme begins at 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. while the Summer programme commences at 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is no charge for the teaching but meditators may bring food to offer monks and share it among their friends. You can make donations as you like to the Oxford Buddha Vihara.
Right now Sayadaw Dr. Dhammasami is leading to establish the Shan State Buddhist University in Taunggyi, the capital city of Shan State. (Venerable Sayadaw Dr. Dhammasami, Venerable Sayadaw Dr. Kumara, Chairman of the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee Venerable Sayadaw, Dr. Ashin Nyanisara, Chancellor of Sitagu International Buddhist Universities, Dr. Sai Mauk Khan, Vice President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and dignitaries have already opened the Shan State Buddhist University on 7 February 2016.)
We must be proud to learn that Venerable Dr. Dhammasami, a Myanmar national has become a faculty member of the world’s famous university, University of Oxford in England, who may be called a Buddhist diplomat from the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
Myanmar nationals arriving in the United Kingdom can do traditional meritorious deeds occasionally at the Oxford Buddha Vihara or at six other Myanmar monasteries in London.
The other Myanmar monasteries are –
1. London Vihara (Britain Burma Buddhist Trust)
1, Old Church Lane, Kingsbury, London, NW9 8TG
2. Tisarana Vihara Association
357, Nelson Road, Whitton, Twickenham (Greater London), TW27AG
3. London Buddhist Vihara Dharmapala Building,
The Avenue, Chiswick, London, W4 1UD
4. Sasana Ramsi Vihara, 88
83 Booth Road, Colindale, London, NW95 JU
5. Thuwana Theigni Mogok Vihara
94 Stradbroke Grove, London, IG5 0DL
6. Mogok Vipassana Center London
30 Oliver Gardins, London E65SE
7. The Dhammadhipati Vihara
472 Summerwood Road, Isleworth, Middlesex TW7 7QZ
A Buddhist Pagoda you should pay homage in London is “London Peace Pagoda”. The Peace Pagoda is in the Battersea Park which is situated between Albert Bridge Road and Queens Park Road. Battersea Park is quite close to River Thames in the southern part of London.
The London Peace Pagoda was built by monks, nuns and followers of Nipponzan Myohoji at the behest of the founder and preceptor, the Most Venerable Nichidatsu “Fujii” (known as Fujii Guruji by Mahatama Gandhi) who passed away in January 1985 at the age of 100 years. The inaugural ceremony took place on 14th May 1985. The Pagoda is dedicated to the realization of Universal Peace. It is a symbol of light in the darkness of the present day world, a visible prayer to awaken humanity to peace.
At the Pagoda, it is inscribed, “Pagodas have a history that stretches back 2500 years when the sacred relics of Lord Buddha were enshrined to be revered as his eternal presence. The Pagoda is a sanctuary of refuge for all beings. It is built to further humanity’s quest and prayer that the world may be saved from nuclear annihilation, our oneness and sacredness revealed by our act of reverence and worship”.
There are four great sculptures of the life of the Buddha, the Birth of the Buddha, the Enlightenment of the Buddha, First Preaching of Dhamma and Parinibanna of the Buddha.
On the sculpture of the “Birth of the Buddha is inscribed “ Prince Siddhartha, whose name means “every wish fulfilled” and who was the son of King Suddhodana and Queen Maya, was born in Lumbini Park at the foot of the Himalayas more than 2500 years ago. Immediately he took seven steps in each of the cardinal directions. With his right hand, he pointed to the heavens and, with his left, he pointed to the earth thus announcing the purpose of his birth. “ Above and below heaven, I can revered. The triple world is filled with suffering. I shall relieve it all”.
In front of the sculpture of the First Preaching of Dhamma, it is inscribed, “Buddha decided to preach the dharma. At the Deer park at Sarnath, where there is still a deer sanctuary in which deer can wander freely, Buddha gave his first sermon on the Four Noble Truths to his five former fellow ascetics. This marked the beginning of the teaching of Buddha and of the community of disciples, establishing the Triple Gem of Buddhism: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha”.
The Enlightenment of the Buddha is inscribed, Prince Siddhartha sat cross-legged on a bed of Kusa grass under a Bodhi tree at Bodh Gaya. He severed himself from all ignorance, illusions and delusions about the true nature of existence and reposed in an ultimate, unshakeable contemplation devoted to consummating the ultimate, incomparable Enlightenment. Without resorting to any measures of self-preservation or defence, Buddha cultivated great compassion against Mara’s army (the personification of all evil). The wondrous great transcendental power that subdue entire Mara’s army was in fact Prince Siddharta’s great compassion which also renders weapons of murder and destruction useless.
The sculpture of Parinivana (parinibanna) is very moving. It depicts His disciples and animals paying last homage to the demise of Buddha. It carries an inscription, “After 50 years of teaching, walking from town to town and village to village on foot, Buddha arrived at Kusloinara Buddha wished to depart from his life beneath two flowing sala trees by the Hiranavati river. Surrounded by his disciples, Buddha lay down on a couch and lifted his head on his right hand. The birds stopped singing, the wind ceased and the blossom fell from the trees above. Buddha asked his disciples if they had any further questions. No one replied. Finally, he encouraged his disciples to follow his example. As he passed away, flames ceased to burn. Buddha remains forever in this world.”
When we are in Myanmar we frequently go to Pagodas and monasteries to do meritorious deeds and so also we can do the same while we arrive in London on duty or on private visits.
You may as well be able to take refuge in Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha in London.