Saturday Night: We all need a little Buddha

London Meditation Week starts today. Ah, the 'M' word again. Seems to be cropping up all over the place. And what with Bertolucci's The Little Buddha opening last night, it will become even more commonplace over the next few weeks. In fact, if Buddhists are not careful, meditation could soon rival mortgages as Most Boring Dinner Party Topic. You can hear them already:

'Dermot and Sophie are up to 50 minutes. Amazing. They only started in, what, March?'

'The cushions? Oh, Tom knows this little woman in Battersea.'

'We decided to go for Vajrayana. That's the 'Diamond Vehicle', you know. Gets you there in a single lifetime.'

Not that meditation is confined to the capital. All over the country, people are sitting, just breathing and gazing at the floor, their eyes unfocused and half-closed.

London Meditation Week has been organised by the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order, which is giving free meditation instruction at its five London centres. The FWBO expects a surge of interest in the wake of Bertolucci's flawed epic, but has noted a steady growth in novice meditators for several years now.

According to Dhammarati, 'order member' (lay monk) of the FWBO and chairman of the Bethnal Green centre, increasing numbers are discovering that ancient Buddhist meditation techniques can play a crucial part in modern life. 'Initially, it allows you to become a bit more aware of yourself, and the world around you. And it simply builds from there.' At the same time, he says, a sense of calmness and acceptance develops towards oneself and others.

Dhammarati believes that increasing numbers of Christians are turning to Buddhism. With Christianity, he says, the emphasis is on faith, whereas meditation provides the practitioner with 'direct, first-hand experience of a spiritual nature'. He quotes the great Zen scholar D T Suzuki: 'Buddhism takes the mystery out of mysticism.'

The FWBO consciously makes Buddhism accessible to Western urbanites: its order members wear ordinary clothes, not the traditional saffron robes. And because of its proximity to the City, says Dhammarati, the centre attracts many office workers who need '20 minutes to check in with themselves'.

Meditation as a means of stress- management is undoubtedly spirituality's big growth area, says Keith Ryan, chairman of Shambhala London, a centre for both Buddhist and secular meditation training in Clapham, south London. 'Many people are looking to build some kind of spiritual life around a calm, contemplative meditation practice, though they might not wish to become card- carrying Buddhists.'

There are more than 130,000 British Buddhists, according to recent estimates. The number of non-Buddhists who have incorporated meditation into some form of private spiritual practice is thought to be several times that figure, and rising.

You don't have to meditate in order to harbour Buddhist beliefs, either, according to a recent article in the Catholic Herald entit-

led 'Italy Faces Threat of Buddhism'. The article quoted a survey commissioned by the Roman Catholic Church: 'Buddhism is likely to win hundreds of thousands of converts among European Catholics by the year 2000,' it said, adding that 'Rome fears one-quarter of all Italians share Buddhist beliefs, such as reincarnation and others incompatible with the Catholic faith.'

'One-quarter of all Italians' means roughly 15 million people. If Buddhist concepts can flourish in the heartland of Catholicism, what kind of resistance can Anglicanism muster?

The writing is on the wall, to use a biblical metaphor. Even the American fashion magazine Harper's Bazaar observed recently: 'In an age of agnosticism, one might venture that Buddhism, or at least the Buddhist outlook on man and the universe, is becoming more and more the widely accepted world view - even among people who have no formal knowledge of Buddhism.'

The whole ecological movement, it also ventured, shares the Buddhist notion that all life is interdependent.

Call your interior decorator now: the future is looking decidedly saffron.

The FWBO's London Buddhist Centre is at 51 Roman Road, London E2 (081-981 1225). Free meditation instruction is also provided at the Shambhala Centre, 27 Belmont Close, London SW4 (071-720 3207). Both have regional centres around Britain.

ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Ed Miliband and David Cameron are neck and neck in the polls
election 2015Armando Iannucci: on how British politics is broken
Life and Style
Great minds like Einstein don't think alike
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Leeds

    £22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Leeds This i...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Bristol

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

    £13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power