Helping animals

Each and every living being cherishes its life. Liberating animals into the wild is a custom that has special meaning in some Buddhist traditions. Often this will involve purchasing, blessing and then releasing animals that they have saved from being killed. Practitioners believe that this brings spiritual benefit to themselves and to the animals being released. However, despite such kind intentions, this practice does more harm than good if not very carefully researched. It often results in unintended harm both to the animal and the ecosystem into which the animal is released.

In January 2019, the issue was in the public eye after the New Zealand Herald published an article about individuals who do this practice here in Aotearoa. The article correctly warns that releasing animals in this way can be very harmful to our ecosystem.

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The Buddhist Council’s 10th Anniversary

In 2007, we held the first meeting of what was to become the NZ Buddhist Council, and in 2008 the organisation was incorporated. This year is the Buddhist Council’s tenth anniversary. We are working on two projects to celebrate this milestone.

  1. A booklet outlining the history of Buddhism in New Zealand and the NZ Buddhist Council, and with a little information on each of our member organisations. If you are interested in assisting with research and writing content relating to the history of Buddhist activities in a particular city or regional part of the country, or for an organisation that has been established in New Zealand for at least 25 years, please contact Sally McAra.
  2. A Peace Walk in Auckland on Saturday 24 November, from Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) to Maungarei (Mt Wellington), stopping at several temples on the way. There will also be a Peace Walk in Christchurch (16 November). Details TBA.

Member Profile: Hawkes Bay Buddhist Centre – Phuntsok Choeling

Article produced for the New Zealand Buddhist Council in April 2018, by Sally McAra and Clare Woodham.

Our first featured Buddhist organisation was Namkook temple, which serves the Korean Buddhist community in the Auckland region. Let’s now look at an organisation in central Napier, which serves people who are often new to Buddhism. The group is called Phuntsok Choeling Hawkes Bay Buddhist Centre. Also known as Palpung Kagyu Samten Choling Tibetan Buddhist Centre, this Napier-based organisation was founded in 2006.

Phuntsok Choeling, exterior view

Clare Woodham, a trustee, tells me that the core group consists mostly of middle-aged and older people, more female than male. The regulars are generally Pākehā New Zealanders or more generally people of European ancestry, rather than people from countries where Buddhism is part of the received cultural tradition.

However, she says, their eight-week meditation courses attract some younger men and women. The diversity of the wider community (in terms of cultural background, ethnicity and gender) is seen in some of the centre’s activities, for instance in an annual introduction to meditation at the local polytechnic, for which participants are mostly Māori and Pasifika. Most Māori who visit or attend Phuntsok Choeling’s events come from an Armed Services background and have spent time in Singapore, and they have often had at least a brief exposure to Buddhism there. Residents from the local addiction recovery centre attend the Wednesday night meditation session, and most of these people are under thirty or so years old, and generally around a third are Māori.

Clare hopes that Phuntsok Choeling will become more widely known as a centre for Dharma, peace studies and practice. She hopes it will continue to grow its community profile through peace walks, tree planting, and Dharma activities in public places.

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Peace Symposium: Loyalty to State or Faith?

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Peace Symposium was held on the theme “Love for All, Hatred for None”, in August 2017 in Auckland. Our executive member Simon Harrison was asked to provide a Buddhist perspective on the topic “Loyalty to State or Faith?”

Simon began by making it clear that rather than representing all of Buddhism, he was speaking as a student of one particular tradition of Buddhist teachings. He told the story of how Prince Siddhartha renounced his royal role and dedicated himself to finding “abiding peace”, noting that from that perspective the Buddha could be seen as choosing “faith” over “state”.

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Mindfulness Summer Camp for school children

Rukman Wagachchi reports on a two-day Mindfulness Camp (Sati Pasala) that was held on Jan 31st to Feb 2nd this year, for 35 school children at Bella Rakha Retreat Centre in Oratia, Auckland:

The young people participating ranged from eight to seventeen years of age. We organised them into four groups, with five facilitators. Apart from mindful sitting and mindful walking meditation, children enjoyed all the mindful games and drawing. Some of their group drawings sent to Global Mindful Summit 2018 to as exhibits.

Artwork by student saying "Be there. Now. Live."

They were shown short videos about mindful eating, mindful teeth-brushing, mindful showering. The four groups each made their own salad for the lunch and shared with other participants.

Children enjoyed the forest walk and being in the nature listening to the sounds of the flowing stream, singing birds. They loved the experience of being silent observing nature.

We also had several mindfulness Sunday schools in two temples. This was a half-day programme including mindful sitting, walking and several mindful games.

We are planning a three-day Mindfulness Summer camp in Jan 2019. Contact Rukman if you want to know more.

New Research

New doctorate from the Auckland University of Technology: “Ethical Decision-making in Organisations in Sri Lanka: A Buddhist Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis,” by Thushini S. Jayawardena. You can read the abstract and download it here.

How do Buddhist managers participate in ethical decision-making in the organisations where they work? Dr Jayawardena conducted twenty interviews with managers who practice Buddhist meditation in Sri Lanka for her doctoral research, based at the Auckland University of Technology. You can read more about it on here or read her abstract and full doctoral thesis here.

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Support from Government for New Zealand’s Ethnic Communities

The Office of Ethnic Communities (OEC) of the Department of Internal Affairs supports ethnic communities in New Zealand. OEC offers access to two services through their website that may interest NZBC members:

  1. Help with the governance, management, marketing, etc. of an ethnic community organisation. An organisation called ‘Appoint‘ helps organisations find expert help in general and specialist areas.

The OEC can also help you find translators and interpreters.

  1. Making a contribution. OEC keeps a database of New Zealanders from ethnic communities who are suitably qualified to be considered for appointment to a number of government boards, committees and advisory groups, including those of Crown companies.

The positions represent an excellent opportunity to contribute to the prosperity and strength of New Zealand’s economy and communities.

They are looking for people with any of the following:

  • Previous experience in regional or national governance roles
  • Previous appointments to governance positions
  • Directors on medium to large enterprises.

If you are interested in being nominated for one of these opportunities and you can demonstrate one of the characteristics listed above, OEC would like to hear from you. Please email the Office.

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.


Invitation to Give Feedback on Religious Diversity Statement

Race Relations Commissioner, Dame Susan Devoy, of the New Zealand Human Rights Commission invites you to participate in the consultation process to review the New Zealand National Statement on Religious Diversity.

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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.