Every year there are supposed to be two general meetings of the Theravada Buddhist Sangha in the UK (TBSUK). One should be in March and the second in August. We try to meet in a different temple each time and we hope to see monks and nuns from every temple at these meetings.
Our first meeting of 2014 was on March 26th at Wat Buddhapadipa, the Thai temple in Wimbledon.
This was a very well attended meeting and it was particularly pleasing to see a group of Burmese monks present, as well as the usual Thai, Sri Lankan and English representation.
Once again there was some discussion around the English language requirement for Tier Two visas and the point was strongly made that at the meeting last year that the chairman, Phra Bhavanaviteht (Luang Por Khemadhammo), had had with the the Minister it had been made clear that there could be no reduction in the level of English required.
The meeting went on to talk about how to take forward the proposal that TBSUK should develop as a professional body that Theravada monks and nuns would belong to and be accredited by. It was decided to press ahead with registering as many as possible and Phra Maha Bhatsakorn offered to design and produce a form that could be sent around. Although we have a very basic constitution it was felt that an informative presentation of the history and purpose of TBSUK should be produced and Ven. Dhammasami undertook to do that with some support from Ajahn Amaro.
There was an amusing discussion about the misinformation on the BBC website about Buddhism, which Phra Bhavanaviteht said he would try and do something about. And another example was given of the continued disrespect shown to the image of the Buddha. This was the well intended but unfortunate My First Buddha – a soft toy version of the Buddha Rupa for children to cuddle. And Ajahn Amaro mentioned that in the latest version the Oxford Dictionary has misspelt the word ‘bhikkhu’. Ven. Dhammasami offered to take that up with them. Lastly, the meeting was informed of an idea for a chanting tour for peace in Thailand to take place around September.
The second meeting was on August 6th at Wat Santiwongsaram in Birmingham.
This, unfortunately was not as well attended with no Burmese or Sri Lankan monks present.
At the August meeting it is expected that one third of the committee stand down and be either re-elected or replaced. So, Chao Khun Bhavanaviteht (LP Khemadhammo), Chao Khun Phrapanybuddhiwiteht (Ajahn Laow) and Ajahn Aod, all stood down and were duly re-elected to the committee with Chao Khun Bhavanaviteht continuing as the Chairman.
It was reported that the Immigration Tier Two Sponsor Guidance has been updated to include the important point that monks and nuns are exempt from the Resident Labour Market Test. It can be found in the Guidance under section 31. Minister of Religion. Note, the reason for the exemption must be given in the relevant box, see paragraph 31.12.
Chao Khun Bhavanavieht said that with Lord Avebury’s help he’d managed to do something about the information on the BBC website but it had been hard work, especially as they kept redrafting what he gave them, which meant then having to correct their grammar.
Phra Maha Bhatsakorn showed a draft of the form he had created, which the meeting was very pleased with. Only a few minor tweaks were necessary to make it just what is needed.
Chao Khun Phrapanybuddhiwiteht (Ajahn Laow) informed the meeting that the chanting for peace in Thailand mentioned at the last meeting, would be going ahead on September 27th at Wat Phra Keow in Bangkok.
The final discussion focussed on the poor attendance. It was said that some members have difficulty following the meeting and felt excluded. There was also a suggestion that TBSUK was Thai dominated. It was agreed that there could be a language barrier, especially with the more technical details of some discussions. And of course it’s difficult to get over the feeling of Thai dominance when others don’t attend. It was resolved to make an effort to overcome both criticisms.
The next meeting will be at the Oxford Vihara on March 11th, 2015, at 3pm.