A clearer vision of Buddhist teaching;Letter

26th June 1998 at 01:00
I was very disappointed to see in your article "Buddhist groups 'misleading' pupils" (TES, June 12) accusations against the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order and the Clear Vision Trust which are both unsubstantiated and unfounded.

In my view it is wrong of your paper to repeat these damaging accusations without attempting to establish their veracity. Neither Lord Avebury nor the Liberal Democrats have produced a scrap of evidence to support them and neither has The TES. Indeed both Lord Avebury and the Liberal Democrats tell us they have not seen any Clear Vision material. A responsible approach would have pointed out this lack of evidence.

The TES had a further responsibility to ask whether these claims were well-founded. In fact Clear Vision's materials cover the key doctrines and practices common to all Buddhist traditions, as outlined in the Government-approved model syllabus.

Numerous leading figures in the RE field will vouch for the integrity and value of its materials, and its work supporting teachers dealing with Buddhism in response to their locally agreed syllabus.

In addition to repeating the claims of others, The TES has exaggerated them.

1 The claim that the "FWBO is accused of ignoring spiritual tenets and inflating the spiritual importance of figures from its own leadership" is unattributed and has no basis in any of the published material. It touches on the fact that what is happening here is a disagreement among Buddhists about the nature of the Buddhist faith. In its uncritical repetition of these views, The TES risks supporting a sectarian stance.

2 "Orthodox Buddhists posted a critical dossier on the Internet." The Internet document is anonymous (a fact that is not mentioned). The effect of this statement is to contrast these "orthodox" authors with the FWBO's presumed unorthodoxy. However, the FWBO does consider itself to be orthodox. The TES has therefore taken it upon itself to judge what is orthodox in Buddhism - which is surely an abuse of its position.

3 Your article gives a strong impression that something is badly wrong with the FWBo and its educational work. However, it almost entirely fails to specify the nature of these concerns, the one exception being the claim that Clear Vision material ignores the Theravada school. I find it hard to see that in itself this is would justify these concerns; and in any case it is quite incorrect.

Clear Vision materials illustrate the variety and diversity of Buddhism and show Buddhists from a number of schools including the Theravada.

I hope you will do everything in your power to redress the damage you have done a respected and valuable educational body.

Vishvapani FWBO Communications offficer St Mark's Studios Chillingworth Road London N7 Editor: We apologise for not having allowed enough space for FWBO to respond to these allegations. However, Lord Avebury did make specific complaints about the FWBO's "doctrinal correctness" in his letter to David Blunkett. He also complained that the video for schools misses out the Therevada tradition. He told The TES "the material being used is a matter of great concern". The headline was based on a quote from Don Foster MP, the Liberal Democrat education spokesman, who said the idea of "misleading" Buddhist teaching in RE was very worrying.

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