National Meeting of Religious Leaders Held in Auckland

The Religious Diversity Centre organised and hosted the inaugural meeting of national religious leaders representing the wide variety of faith and belief groups throughout Aotearoa New Zealand on 15 November 2017 at the Religious Diversity Centre in Auckland. Archbishops and other leaders from Christian denominations, as well as representatives from Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Bahá’í, Buddhist, Jewish, Latter Day Saints and the Rātana Church communities were present.

Jocelyn Armstrong, Chairperson of the Centre Trust, shared a message from the Centre’s patron, the Rt Hon Helen Clark, who wrote “Understanding and tolerance between faiths play a vital part in maintaining peace and harmony within and between societies.”

Group of religious leaders

The group confirmed their commitment to respecting religious diversity in New Zealand, ensuring that people of all faiths can live in harmony. In addition, the leaders shared the following concerns which need urgent action:

  • The growing levels inequality and poverty in New Zealand, which can only be solved through addressing structural issues.
  • The need for increased levels of training for teachers to feel confident in bringing religious diversity education into classrooms. By improving understanding of each other’s commonalities and differences, we will be able to increase religious harmony in New Zealand.
  • The importance of recognising the climate crisis as an urgent issue for human beings, which impacts the well-being of everyone on the planet.

The leaders are already working within their own faith communities to implement solutions to these issues but are calling for wider collective action and advocacy. Lasting solutions require action from central and local government as well as from civil society.

The religious leaders committed to working together to provide leadership at a time of global turmoil, and look forward to meeting regularly to achieve these and other aims.


Workshops around NZ: Preventing Suicide

Over 600 New Zealanders take their lives every year, with countless more experiencing suicidal ideas or acting on these thoughts in the form of non-fatal suicide attempts.
Studies have shown that around 60% of those who die by suicide, speak to a helping professional in the weeks prior to their death.  All human services professionals need a framework for assessing and intervening with suicidal clients, to ensure that these opportunities for intervention are utilised for the maximum benefit of their at-risk clients.
John Henden is an international trainer, author and therapist from the UK.
He will be running workshops in New Zealand in February/March 2018.

The persecution of the Rohingya people in Myanmar/Burma

Although the focus of the NZBC is largely within New Zealand, sometimes the severity of a situation demands that we respond, and the persecution of the Rohingya people by the Myanmar military is one of these. In September our Chairperson Amala Wrightson attended a rally to draw attention to the crisis and stand with local Rohingya and other Muslims, and more recently Ajahn Chandako, the Abbot of Vimutti Monastery near Auckland, spoke at a gathering of Rohingya and Burmese Buddhists and sent the following report:

Continue reading “The persecution of the Rohingya people in Myanmar/Burma”

English lessons for Buddhist monks & nuns

This year, over 20 monks and nuns from diverse Buddhist communities in the Auckland region communities have been enjoying the opportunity to improve their English and meet each other. The monastics are based at temples and small centres around the Auckland region, and connected with immigrant communities from places such as Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Taiwan. Rukman Wagachchi from the Buddhist Council organised the classes, which were held at the Srilankaramaya temple in Otahuhu.

Monks and nuns studying EnglishThe Level One English class was free for learners with Permanent Residency (12 participants had PR and 17 participants did not). Classes ran two days a week, Tuesdays & Thursdays for half a day each week from April to August 2017. Tutors from the Manukau Institute of Technology taught the course, and they were briefed about how to treat the monastics respectfully.
Continue reading “English lessons for Buddhist monks & nuns”

Member Profile: Nam Kook Temple

This is the first in a series of features about our member organisations around Aotearoa New Zealand.

Nam Kook temple is a supporting organisation of the New Zealand Buddhist Council. In the past, the Buddhist Council has assisted the temple by writing a supporting letter for Ven. Dong Jin’s application for Permanent Residency. This temple has around a hundred householder members, Korean Buddhists living in the Auckland region. It’s connected with a temple in Korea called Ankook Suwon.

Buddha’s birthday is a colourful festival, celebrated in May each year, and it’s a great time to visit Nam Kook temple in rural west Auckland. The event is partly a cultural festival: there’s much to enjoy, from performances of music, drumming and dancing, to family activities including face-painting and lantern-making.

It’s a religious festival, with a sermon, chanting, and a ceremony of bathing the Baby Buddha, in a Buddha Hall bedecked with hundreds of colourful paper lanterns. And then there’s a feast with tables laden with Korean temple food — an array of tasty and beautifully-presented vegetarian delights. People from the wider community attend, including local neighbours. A music concert is held, and performances have been given by the local Kumeu Brass Band, members of the Hare Krishna Temple across the road from Nam Kook, a Korean Traditional Dance Team, Korean Catholic Church families, and much more.

Continue reading “Member Profile: Nam Kook Temple”

Solution-focussed suicide prevention

New Zealand has a high rate of suicides. UK-based psychologist John Henden recently visited New Zealand to teach strategies for working with people at risk of killing themselves. He also wrote this article. In Hastings this August, he taught a One Day Intensive Workshop, with 120 people attending.

Clare Woodham (Phuntsok Choeling Hawkes Bay Buddhist Centre, Napier) reports:

John Henden has 30 years’ experience in the field, in different intervention centres with different degrees of success. He and others in this area of work have identified basic ways to rapidly build rapport, engage empathically with people, then use specific question techniques to help turn their minds away from considering suicide and into considering other ways of ending their suffering.

Continue reading “Solution-focussed suicide prevention”

NZBC Newsletter 4

New Zealand Buddhist Council Update

Email Newsletter No. 4, July 2011

Message from Chairperson

Welcome to our July Update. I hope you will be able to attend our upcoming AGM in Otahuhu. We make a point of holding our general meetings at a different temple each year so we can get to know each other’s communities better. After our meeting and lunch (generously offered by temple members) Rukman Wagachchi will give us a tour of Srilankaramaya and talk about the work they do, and how they funded and built their beautiful community centre.

I doubt whether anyone imagined, when the first quakes struck last September, what a drawn-out ordeal the people of Christchurch were going to face. With each new set of aftershocks they are having to dig deeper to find the inner resources just to keep going. The unexpected visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama seems to have given many bereaved and weary people a boost.

Taking advantage of the coming-together of that occasion, the Council organised a meeting of Christchurch Buddhist groups to find out how they were faring. Some communities have damaged buildings, others have not had access to their usual meeting places, and most have members who have lost homes or livelihoods, or have left the area. One good thing to come out of the adversity is the recognition that networking is helpful, and further meetings and information-sharing are planned, coordinated by Robert Hunt.

The Council also continues to monitor the difficulties faced by communities wishing to get Permanent Residency for religious leaders from overseas, working independently as well as with the Religious Communities Leadership Forum. Recommendations for changes to policy for religious workers are now with the Minister of Immigration, the Hon. Jonathan Coleman.

The Council notes with sadness the passing of Ven. Thupten Tulku Rinpoche. Peter Small writes about how his death became a powerful teaching which captured the imagination of the general public, and also recounts the Dhargyey Centre’s many dealings with the authorities that were required to pave the way for a traditional cremation ceremony – also a kind of teaching.

Amala Wrightson

Buddhist Council News

The Buddhist Council’s Annual General Meeting

Our AGM this year will begin at 10am at Srilankaramaya temple, in Otahuhu, Auckland. After the meeting we will enjoy a vegetarian lunch offered by the Sri Lankan community, starting at 11:30am. Then Srilankaramaya trustee Rukman Wagachchi, who is on the Buddhist Council’s executive committee, will give a talk about the Srilankaramaya temple and its activities. The half day of events provides an opportunity for members of different Buddhist communities to meet and learn about each other.

By now, all Buddhist organisations which are members of the NZ Buddhist Council should have received their membership renewal notice and an invitation to attend our Annual General Meeting, either in the post or via email. Individual members have been emailed. If you are a member and have not received the notice, please email us with your contact details.

Anyone who would like to attend the meeting, even if you are not currently a member, should contact Sally McAra ( to let her know you are coming and whether you wish to stay for lunch and the talk and tour of Srilankaramaya. Please feel free to bring others along, but again let Sally know how many.


The criteria for applying for visas for religious workers are under review and recommendations for changes to the rules are currently with the Minister of Immigration, Hon. Jonathan Coleman. If your community needs to renew a religious worker’s visa, you should apply directly to the branch manager at your Immigration New Zealand office to get an extension approved. Branch managers have been briefed to look favourably on these applications while the review is underway.

Christchurch earthquake: report from secretary

The Dalai Lama: “I come to share your sadness.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama made a special trip to Christchurch on his way to teaching engagements in Australia. His visit gave heart to people who are really suffering.

His Holiness spent time visiting staff and patients in Christchurch hospital and had a special meeting with the emergency department staff who were on duty on 22 February. At the CBS Canterbury Arena, he addressed a crowd of 5000 people, including families and friends who had lost loved ones in the earthquake. Representatives of the local iwi, Ngai Tahu and Ngai Tuahiwi, welcomed him in te reo Maori. They referred to him as “te Arikinui” (Great Chief) “te tohunga o te Aroha” (the priest of Love) and his religion as “te hahi o te Aroha.” The Anglican Bishop of Christchurch, Victoria Matthews, also welcomed him.

His Holiness said that having met Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing, “is one factor that brings New Zealand close to my mind. So when I hear this, I come to share your sadness. […] The main factor that brings me here is to share in your suffering.” He said that faith is a tremendous help when things beyond our control happen, and urged Christians, Muslims, and Jews to, “look to your God. Behind that tragedy there is meaning. God is infinite love. God loves his creation.”

He recalled losses that he had had to come to terms with in his own life, such as the death of his “spiritual father” and having to leave loved ones behind when he went into exile from Tibet. He urged people to focus on rebuilding and to pray for the dead and their loved ones. He urged people to use their “human intelligence.” But also, we need to become more compassionate in our daily lives:

“Compassion is the key of all religious traditions. Some people think compassion is a religious practice. But these are basic biological reality, to have a happy human life we need those things. Money won’t relieve our sadness. Genuine affection will. Think long term, that this tragedy should bring more inner strength, more self confidence, more optimism.”

One of the questions put to him from the audience after his address was, “How can we live in Christchurch without the everyday fear of more earthquakes?” He talked about how Tibet had many earthquakes, and added,

“From a wider perspective, our life is not very safe. Whole world not very safe. (He chuckles. Audience laughs and applauds.) If there’s a safer place, maybe we can go there. Maybe the moon. We try to get there – hopeless! We have to accept uncertainty. Buddhists, firstly we should know possibility (of disaster), keep awareness. Death. In our daily practice we have to remind ourselves of death. This helps keep our minds stable. For some (death) is taboo. But sooner or later it comes. It’s bound to happen. So mentally you must prepare. Right from the beginning. Life is complicated.”

The mood of the audience lightened during His Holiness’s talk, and the faces of many were smiling and radiant as they left the auditorium.

At a meeting of Buddhist groups after the talk, people expressed gratitude to the organisers, who were able to arrange everything with only two weeks’ notice. Many people (volunteers, police liaison officer, drivers, hotel and venues etc.), stretched themselves to make everything go smoothly. The Dalai Lama Visit Trust of NZ facilitated the visit, and with the combination of funds in its reserves and the help of donations from around the country and overseas, was able to offer the visit to the people of Christchurch free of charge. However there is still a shortfall of around $13,000.

If you would like to make a donation towards the costs of this event, cheques may be sent to the Dalai Lama Visit Trust NZ, PO Box 5429, Wellesley St, Auckland 1141, or payments may be made directly into 12-3011-0650248-02 Dalai Lama Visit Trust NZ (ASB Bank, Auckland). To receive a receipt please email

Meeting with Christchurch Buddhists

After His Holiness’s public talk and prayers, the NZBC facilitated a meeting of Christchurch Buddhist groups. About thirty people from about ten different temples and groups met in the Buddha Light cafe of the Fo Guang Shan temple in Riccarton. The purpose of the meeting was twofold:

  • to find out what help Buddhist communities in Christchurch need following the earthquakes
  • to ensure Christchurch issues interests are represented in the Buddhist Council.

Everyone had an opportunity to comment, and many reflected about how important this meeting was and how it was a good starting point from which to create a network and come together to help each other more in the future.

Robert Hunt commented that the Dalai Lama’s visit highlighted the need for a network of Buddhist groups in Christchurch. Also, people need places they can meet with others involved in Buddhism, and for there to be more interaction and cooperation. We concluded that at least it would be good to be aware of each other’s group’s activities and to be able to provide support to each other where situations of distress arise. Robert volunteered to coordinate the group, but requested that others who were well-connected with a range of Buddhist groups assist in the communication and arrangements. Robert agreed to be the Christchurch representative for the NZBC.

A few days after the meeting, the 13 June twin aftershocks hit Christchurch and many have been facing setbacks as a result. While the survival focus at such times makes it harder to contemplate scheduling a meeting, it also means that there may be points where outreach to each other on a practical level may be more compelling. Some people have thoughts of undertaking some Buddhist activities in the sense of compassionate action in Christchurch; if they do this, the network email list may be a useful tool.

If you are not yet part of this informal email network but would like to be, please contact Robert Hunt ( with information about your group’s activities and facilities and any offers of assistance to others. Robert would like to arrange another meeting in a few weeks’ time, so please let him know if you’re interested in attending.

You can, of course, also subscribe to the Buddhist Council’s email list (to which this email news update is sent, several times a year).

More stories from Christchurch

In our last update we reported on some of the things that have been happening for Buddhists in Christchurch, including memorial services at Fo Guang Shan’s temple and relief work by Tzu Chi and other Buddhist groups. If you did not receive the last update, please email us and we will email forward it to you.

As a result of the earthquake and continuing aftershocks, Buddhist groups in Christchurch are facing a range of difficulties, but many are finding their own Buddhist community and their particular forms of practice help them, in a range of ways.

The earthquake has exacerbated the challenges that Buddhist groups already face – e.g. shortage of volunteers to run the group, shortage of material and financial resources etc. Members of Buddhist groups had lost their jobs or moved out of town, meaning that the centres were losing people and support. With less finance the groups were having problems meeting costs, and a new challenge in hiring a venue: “Is it safe or not?” Various Buddhist groups have been unable to access premises due to damage, or its location in a cordoned-off area. Robert Hunt reported that the Dhargyey Buddhist group still cannot access its venue in town and is unsure if its building is still standing. Its members are using a home in Richmond. Recent events meant that impermanence and dukkha really hit home for people.

Wat Buddha Samakhee, the Thai temple in Marshlands Rd, was largely unscathed. Indeed, the Thai temple provided emergency accommodation, food and water for a number of families in the week following the February earthquake, and one of their monks was interviewed on Thai national television several times. Being able to visit any temple/centre, whether Theravada, Mahayana or Vajrayana, helps people who need somewhere peaceful to take time out from daily difficulties.

Many Buddhist groups have helped others during this trying time, and we would love to hear about it, in order to share your stories in future newsletters. Jimi Wallace, General Director of Soka Gakkai International (New Zealand) wrote that after the February earthquake, “it took two days to confirm all the 150 or so [Soka Gakkai] members were OK and uninjured. A few had evacuated and many homes damaged, but no one was injured, it was a great joy. On the third day after, two of us drove down from Picton with requested supplies – 60 collapsible 20-litre water containers, fresh veges and other necessities. These were distributed through the SGI community and neighbours and friends. Members in Christchurch got fully involved in joining the volunteer armies, assisting people around them and opening their homes if they had water and power.”

Support for earthquake-affected Buddhist charities

An organisation called Techsoup, which provides donated and discounted technology products and services to eligible New Zealand charities, is offering assistance to organisations directly affected by the earthquakes, or working directly with earthquake-affected individuals, families and communities.

You can find more information about this here.

Other news

Dharma in prisons

In various prisons around the world, inmates are being introduced to Buddhist meditation techniques. We’d like to hear from you if you are involved in prison work in New Zealand.

Jeanne and Shayne Crimp, who are Zen students in the Mountains and Rivers Order (MRO) [LINK], have been facilitating weekly meditation groups at two units of Rolleston Prison near Christchurch, for a decade. In the Kia Marama unit, serious offenders undergo an intensive Cognitive Behavioural Therapy program, and the meditation group has become an important adjunct to the program. Indeed, the unit’s lead psychologist has been very supportive and encourages the prisoners to come to this well-attended voluntary group. The program has not been as effective in Christchurch Women’s Prison, because with the shorter prison sentences that women are usually serving, it can be difficult to get continuity. Shugen Sensei is the head of the MRO and abbot of the Zen Center of New York City. Each year, he visits New Zealand to lead retreats, and he also visits the prison groups. Shugen Sensei also manages the National Buddhist Prison Sangha, a right action program offering spiritual guidance and support to inmates in a wide range of prison settings throughout the United States and Europe.

The Liberation Prison Project (LPP) is an international organisation that has emerged out of the work of the Tibetan Buddhist organisation called the FPMT. [link] The LPP offers spiritual advice, teachings, books and materials, to people in prison interested in exploring, studying and practising Buddhism. It has been operating in NZ since 2009. Prisoners have been provided with books and in 2010 some of them now correspond with a Dharma Friend and study the FPMT’s “Discovering Buddhism” course. LLP also arranged for a Burmese monk to support a prisoner with very limited English. Venerable Tenzin Chogkyi and Kate Bukowski have been teaching in Paremoremo prison in 2011, and partnered with a yoga teacher to offer yoga and mindfulness classes to inmates. The Chaplains in both Auckland prisons have been very supportive.

Vipassana meditation was offered in a prison program in Taranaki in the past, but these have been unable to continue as there is insufficient room in New Zealand prisons to run meditation retreats.

If you are interested in the projects mentioned in this newsletter, you can contact Kate Bukowski at or on Facebook.

Jeanne Crimp can be contacted at

The Passing of a Tibetan Lama in Dunedin

Peter Small, Dhargyey Buddhist Centre Director, writes:

Venerable Thupten Tulku passed away in late May this year. Since 1996 he had taught and advised Dhargyey Buddhist Centre community members in New Zealand.

Born in southern Tibet in 1940, he was recognised as a reincarnate Lama and admitted into the monastery at about age four. He fled Lhasa from India in 1959 after His Holiness the Dalai Lama in a party that included his guru, Ven. Geshe Dhargyey, who started the Dunedin centre, and Ven. Lhagon Tulku who still lives in Dunedin.

Ven. Thupten Tulku had his education interrupted in 1959 and thereafter he only had private tutors, no formal monastic curriculum. He was a school teacher in Tibetan refugee camps throughout India for about thirty years before coming to Dunedin. In Dunedin he taught three classes of Buddhism per week from 1996 to the end of 2007, when he went into formal retreat, something he had promised one of his gurus.

Rinpoche’s great accomplishment by remaining in his body for eighteen days after death proves demonstrates he was a great Bodhisattva. About ten days after his passing we got a call from the a TV documentary reporter who had heard about what was happening and was interested in sharing the story. We welcomed their interest, and also put them in touch with the organisers of His Holiness’s visit to Christchurch. His Holiness gave us some direction – he felt that Ven Thupten Tulku’s continuing meditation was for the purposes of furthering Buddha-dharma and we should publicise and share it. I think this combined to develop the journalist’s sensitivity to the story and goodwill towards us. They were genuinely amazed at what was happening too and they knew it was a good story – it was their highest rating story this year.

The cremation was prepared for well in advance. We had done it once before, for our founding Lama, so we had a general idea of how to gain the necessary permissions. At present the responsibility for granting permission for a cremation lies with the regional Medical Officers of Health. Gaining permission required informing neighbours who may be affected or disturbed by the smoke, getting city council permission for the fire, getting approval from the regional council, as well as consulting with the tangata whenua. We also needed to demonstrate that we really knew how to do the cremation, since there is an understandable sensitivity in society to human remains. None of this would have been possible without us already having a site that was sufficiently remote from town as to not affect too many people. Once the death had occurred the authorities were understandably concerned about the condition of Rinpoche’s body so they sent a doctor on three separate occasions to visit us and view the body to make sure there wasn’t a public health threat of disease due to decomposition.

Most of this is fairly mundane information about a very spiritual process that our esteemed Buddhist monk went through. It is hard to convey anything other than this. One of the features of His Holiness’s school of Buddhism is a requirement that any spiritual achievements be hidden. However some great Buddhists seem to radiate a sense of well-being in others. That was very noticeable with Ven Thupten Tulku Rinpoche and especially so as he lay on his deathbed after passing away. The monks describe that state as absorption in Dharmakaya or the “wisdom truth body of Buddha” or the “clear light” of the most subtle level of mind. Remaining in it is said to accelerate one along the path to Buddhahood.

The Dhargyey Buddhist Centres are in Dunedin, Whangarei and Christchurch.

You can view the TVNZ news item on Thupten Rinpoche’s cremation here. You can also read an article in the Otago Daily Times.


Practices for Japan

10,000 Shakyo (hand-copying the Heart Sutra) for Japan, to be interred in the “Tohoku Earthquake Memorial Sutra Mound.”

Teachings on how to handle the stress of Earthquakes

Tuesday 19 July, 7.30pm, 333 River Road, Richmond, Christchurch. Chime Shore is a Buddhist teacher who will be offering teachings in Christchurch to help people at this very difficult time. Contact Kathleen,

Burials and cremation act review

The issues paper can be viewed here.

Treating addiction

Mahamudra Centre in Coromandel has been working for some time now on a Buddhist-based programme for the treatment of Drug and Alcohol Addiction with the eventual goal being to establish a non-denominational residential treatment facility. Mahamudra now has a core team working on developing the programme but would like to find other Buddhist clinicians and people working in the area who might be interested in becoming involved with this project. Contact Ven. Nangsel at

Weblinks of interest

International Buddhist aid work

The mission of Buddhist Global Relief (BGR) is: “to provide relief to the poor and needy throughout the world regardless of nationality, ethnicity, gender, or religion. Bearing in mind the Buddha’s statements that ‘hunger is the worst kind of illness’ and ‘the gift of food is the gift of life,’ BGR especially focuses on providing food aid to those afflicted by hunger and lack of food security. Its long-range goal, however, is to combat all the manifestations of poverty that detract from the inherent dignity of human life.” More information can be found here.

Religious diversity in Australia

Australian Human Rights Commission has issued a report on freedom of religion and beliefs.

There is also a news article about the report here.

NZBC Newsletter 3

New Zealand Buddhist Council Update
Email Newsletter No. 3, March 2011

Message from Chairperson

Warm greetings and welcome to the third issue of the New Zealand Buddhist Council newsletter.

It has been a time of great upheaval in the world, not only the devastating earthquakes in Christchurch and north eastern Japan, and floods and fires in Australia and elsewhere, but major political unrest and change in many places too. Let us sit, and chant, with all who are suffering, in a spirit of solidarity and love, backing up spiritual aid with material aid where possible.

What can we learn from these events? The natural disasters remind us of sentient beings’ powerlessness in the face of Earth’s elemental forces, and of the power of compassion and selflessness. With the very close and detailed reporting that has come out of Christchurch since the big quake we have heard so many stories of heroism, simple kindness, and hours of freely-given hard work; an extraordinary outpouring of Bodhisattvic energy following in the wake of all the destruction and death. Through the American Zen Teachers’ Association list-serve I’m hearing of similar stories from Japan. The “faceless fifty” workers at the nuclear plant, who continued to work while exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, so others would not be, deserve special mention.

The human disasters of violent repression and war now unfolding in North Africa and the Middle East also remind us of human limitations. Some of the regimes there have yielded to change to prevent further bloodshed, while others appear to be descending into civil war. It is not yet clear what the outcome will be now that Western powers have intervened militarily in Libya, to “protect” civilians. Despite the massive military might of the nations involved, the results of their actions are uncertain.

At the Buddha’s birth it was predicted that he would grow up to be either a world conqueror or a sage. A sage is one who has conquered himself. All efforts to conquer the world are partial and temporary – whether through First World technological sophistication, repression and tyranny, or overwhelming firepower. The Buddha taught:

“One who conquers himself is greater than another who conquers a thousand times a thousand on the battlefield. Be victorious over your self and not over others. When you attain victory over yourself, not even the gods can turn it into defeat.” (The Dhammapada)

All of us as Buddhists are engaged in this vital work of conquering ourselves. The more we see through the “small self”, the more able we are to open our hearts and reach out to those in need.

On behalf of the Buddhist Council executive, much metta to all those suffering as a result of the earthquake in Christchurch, and the quake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear emergency in Japan. I know that many Buddhist groups have been chanting for those affected as well as collecting donations. Some have sent needed items. It is also encouraging to read that the Tzu Chi relief organisation has been assisting those who have been displaced, in both Christchurch and Japan. We have provided more information about the Christchurch situation below.

Other information in this newsletter includes: an invitation to participate in a review of the Burials and Cremations Act, a range of community notices, and a reflection on the earthquake from the Insight Aotearoa newsletter.

In the Dharma,

Amala Wrightson

Buddhist Council News

Burials and Cremations Act (1964) review

The New Zealand Law Commission has been asked by the government to undertake a first principles review of all aspects of the Burials and Cremations Act 1964. This legislation is to regulate the appropriate handling of human remains generally. It involves the issuing of legal death certificates and notification to the authorities of the place of burial. It also covers management of crematoriums and cemeteries and various other associated matters.

The Law Commission is being asked to consult widely with different ethnic and religious groups. They want the new legislation to enable us all to manage burials and cremations in a culturally appropriate manner.

At this stage they are particularly interested to hear about the experiences we have had around burials or cremations so far. They are also keen to understand the spiritual significance of the processes we Buddhists undertake for the deceased and, more generally, Buddhist attitudes towards human remains.

The New Zealand Buddhist Council has agreed to give a summary of relevant points to the Law Commission. If you have had some experience of this process in New Zealand, especially if you felt unable to give your loved ones the funerary rites you wanted, we would be very happy to help you voice those experiences to the Law Commission.

Peter Small in Dunedin has taken on this role for the New Zealand Buddhist Council. He would be happy to talk to anyone directly or receive emails about your experiences. His contacts are: during work hours 027-434-0376, at home (03) 477-9805 or email Please contact him before 31 March if possible.

Notice of Annual General Meeting

The New Zealand Buddhist Council’s AGM will be held on 30 July, hosted by Srilankaramaya Temple in Otahuhu, Auckland.

10am start, with lunch break at 11:00, then a guest speaker. Details to be confirmed.

Minutes of the 2010 AGM together with the Chairperson’s and Treasurer’s full reports to the AGM are available on request from

Developing our website

We are redeveloping the Buddhist Council’s website in 2011. We have a wonderful new logo and style manual, a generous offer to host the URL, and plans for the structure of our new site, but at present we have no web designer to make the site a reality. Do you know any web designers who would be able to kindly donate time to help us with this?

Contact us at

Religious workers’ visas and Immigration policy

The Department of Labour has published a ‘summary of submissions document’ on the review of immigration policies available to religious workers. The document can be accessed here. Please note the Minister of Immigration has not yet made decisions on potential policy changes, if any. From the perspective of the Buddhist Council, two areas could be of concern: the language requirement and the age requirement. If you have any comments on this, please contact NZBC executive member Simon Harrison, phone (09) 378 9433 or email

Special feature

The Christchurch earthquake, February 22, 2011

Rukman Wagachchi from the NZBC executive has been in Christchurch and visited several Buddhist groups. He also attended the memorial service for victims of the Christchurch earthquake, which was held on Friday 18 March in Hagley Park. The service included prayers from leaders of various faiths. Venerable Manshin, Abbess of the Fo Guang Shan temple, read a prayer invoking Compassion Buddha. Rukman said the the Abbess also advised Buddhists to stay and provide hot meals and comfort, and to help others in any way they could. The audience responded positively, he added: “Not only Buddhists, but all the people loved the different religions being up there on stage delivering prayers and speeches – the different ways people look at things.” The Christchurch Fo Guang Shan temple in Riccarton held a Buddhist memorial service on the Friday evening, which Rukman attended on behalf of NZBC. The Fo Guang Shan temple will hold further services, as spiritual aid for both survivors and the deceased.

We have one member organisation in Christchurch, the Diamond Way Sangha. They report that their members and building are safe. We also have an associate member in Christchurch, Ven Somarathana of the Samadhi Buddhist Vihara. Their vihara is currently closed, due to earthquake damage.

If you or your Buddhist organisation has been affected by the earthquake, or if you have been involved in helping others in the recovery, we would be grateful to hear about it from you so that we can share stories on our website and in our next Update. Contact us at Please provide a contact email and phone number.

For the time being, we have compiled earthquake-related information below.

The community of the Vimutti Buddhist monastery near Auckland packed and sent canned food, clothes, toiletries and loads of toilet paper down to Christchurch as part of the nation-wide relief support. Ajahn Chandako comments: “As traumatic and difficult as that earthquake has been for New Zealand, we can only imagine the scale of destruction and suffering in Japan and send our empathic compassion for their hardship, pain and loss. Nature still remains our primary Dhamma teacher.” (Source: News from Vimutti Buddhist Monastery, March 2011).

Insight Aotearoa’s newsletter for 7 March 2011 discusses the earthquake and provides an online noticeboard and a resources page.

Insight Aotearoa newsletter co-editor Kanya Stewart writes:

Bearing witness

For most of us, the natural and immediate response to the suffering caused by the Canterbury earthquake is one of compassion and solidarity for the people of Christchurch. We are a nation in mourning. A tragedy of such massive proportions in our midst breaks our hearts wide open, bringing down the barriers of separation that keep us locked into our own small world of personal concerns. The nation has become unified in a way most of us haven’t experienced before. There are so many inspiring stories that make the reality of connectedness tangible and heartwarming. Generosity and acts of kindness have, like a tidal wave of goodness, flowed out in abundance from every part of the country and beyond.

When we are open, not turning away, we can receive the vastness and depths of loss, despair and grief into our own hearts. The losses have been unprecedented in New Zealand; some have lost family, friends, workmates; many have lost their homes, jobs, community, the city that they love, and all that was familiar. Few of us alive today have seen this level of suffering so close. Bearing witness to the trauma brings home to all of us that life is unpredictable, that everything can be taken away from us at any time.

The truth of impermanence on such a grand scale is brutal. Any experience of loss and disorientation is difficult to deal with and the challenge to remain present to what is unfolding requires great inner strength. Resources of faith and trust are tested. When fear of ongoing loss is part of the equation, and the most basic requirements for survival and security are taken away, it takes great inner resources to not get lost or overwhelmed in the intensity of the suffering.

Continued here.

Immigrants open homes for victims

In the New Zealand Herald, Lincoln Tan writes: Migrant communities in Auckland are opening not only their wallets but also their homes to earthquake victims. Distraught tourists, international students and migrants who have lost their homes continue to arrive at Auckland’s domestic terminal – some without money and passports – not knowing what to do next.

The Korean Consulate, which ran a help desk at the airport from Friday, said nearly 70 South Koreans sought help with documentation, food, temporary accommodation and flights home.

“Many are distressed and just want to be somewhere where they can be understood and eat food they are familiar with,” said consulate spokeswoman Rebecca Kim.

“The local Korean community has been wonderful in opening up their homes to these victims.”

More here.

Resources for immigrants coping with the aftermath of the earthquake

The Department of Ethnic Affairs has provided information on resources for coping with the earthquake here.

Other news

Western Monastics’ Gathering

On March 3, Vimutti Buddhist monastery hosted a gathering of Western-born Buddhist monks and nuns living in the Auckland area. This was a valuable opportunity to discuss topics relevant to Buddhist teachers in a Western context and to build community among renunciates who are often isolated on a small island in the middle of the Pacific, far from larger monastic sanghas and the countries of their Asian traditions. The full day included structured discussion but also allowed much flexibility to accommodate spontaneous arisings in the present moment. This is the second occasion this gathering has taken place, the first being two years ago also at Vimutti. It was a day filled with in-depth discussion of Buddhist topics, much laughter and heartfelt camaraderie.

Source: Email News from Vimutti Buddhist Monastery, March 2011.

Southern Cross Youth Development Programme

Over the last few weeks young Christians, Sikhs, Baha’is, Hindus and Buddhists have been participating in an annual multi-ethnic outdoor leadership course with other participants from diverse backgrounds in Anakiwa, Marlborough Sounds.

The multi-ethnic programme is run by Outward Bound Trust, in partnership with the Human Rights Commission. The Southern Cross course includes young Aucklanders of Māori, Pākehā, Pacific, Asian and other descent. The objective is to provide an opportunity for personal development, teamwork, leadership and an understanding of the diverse backgrounds of fellow course participants.

Outward Bound is the leading organisation in New Zealand for showing people their full potential through challenge and adventure in the outdoors. The vision of Outward Bound is simply stated as helping the development of ‘Better People, Better Communities and a Better World’. This is the 8th year that Outward Bound has run a multi-ethnic course for young Aucklanders from diverse backgrounds.

Source: Human Rights Commission newsletter, Te Korowai Whakapono, 21 February, 2011.


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Communicating Compassionately

16 & 17 April, Auckland

A weekend workshop in Auckland, based on the principles of Nonviolent Communication. Call Amitabha Hospice for details: 09-828-3321

EthnicA Conference: Building New Zealand’s Vibrant Community

1-2 April 2011, Auckland

Two major events examining critical issues about New Zealand’s growing ethnic diversity. These forums in Auckland and Wellington will provide stimulating, relevant and provocative views about ethnic diversity in New Zealand. They will provide an opportunity to take stock of New Zealand’s journey as a diverse nation and to begin thinking about its increasingly diverse future.

Tree-planting day

Sunday 29 May, 8:30am to noon, Auckland

Every year, Srilankaramaya Temple helps the environment by planting trees at Hamlins Hill, Auckland, and you are invited to join in. All the trees will be supplied by Auckland Council using native seeds collected from local area (so please don’t bring your own plants). If you want to plant a memorial tree for a loved one, we can help you to arrange a suitable tree.

Contact Rukman Wagachchi at for more information.

Topical Dharma talks

During April, in several cities

Eric Kolvig, an Insight meditation teacher from the USA, is visiting New Zealand and will be giving talks with titles such as: “Mindfulness of the Mind, and Mindfulness of the Body in Challenging Times”; “Engaging With World Tragedy”, and “Practice for Hard Times”. You can read more about Eric and his visit here.