Thursday, April 02, 2009

News from The Forest Hermitage

The March issue of the NewsLetter of the Ven Chao Khun Bhavanaviteht (Luangpor Khemadhammo) OBE is at

One of the matters referred to in the News and Musings is the extraordinary saga of the Buddhist Adviser to the Armed Forces, and the Endorsing Authority (EA) which was established to monitor this operation. The Ministry of Defence appointed Mr Ron Maddox as Adviser some years ago, and when he didn't like the agenda for an EA meeting, he wrote letters to the majority of the members purporting to dismiss them. The Minister, Kevan Jones MP, upheld this arbitrary action, saying that the appointment pf members of the EA was a matter for the Buddhist communities, though Mr Maddox hadn't consulted any of them. The representative organiation of the Buddhist Sangha (the body of monks) wrote protesting about the decision, but their views have been ignored by the Minister. The text of my latest letter (dated March 15) to the Minister follows, and awaits a response:

Thank you for your letter of February 27, ref D/Min(Veterans)/KJ MC00598/2009, about the Endorsing Authority for the Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy. Will you please let me have the names of the persons on the EA which has been appointed by Mr Ron Maddox, and how you reached the opinion that they represent a broad spectrum of Buddhist traditions – other than being assured of this by Mr Maddox himself?

You say that the appointment of Mr Maddox was made on the advice of the Buddhist Society, of which Mr Maddox was an official at the time. The Buddhist Society doesn’t ‘represent a broad spectrum of Buddhist traditions’ but has been run by a small inner circle for some years. Perhaps that helps to account for its declining membership and other internal problems. I used to be a member of the Society but discontinued my membership some years ago, after Christmas Humphreys died.

You now repeat, as you have said several times already, that the provision of a Religious Endorsing Authority is a matter for the Buddhist communities to agree on There was a working EA, and by your own logic there ought to have been consultation when Mr Maddox decided to write to the majority of its members purporting to dismiss them. Why did you not then say to Mr Maddox, as you keep reiterating to me, that the EA is a matter for the Buddhist communities? I agree with you, it shouldn’t be for one autocrat to decide or suddenly alter the composition of the EA, without any consultation whatsoever.

Equally, by the principle you say you are following, the appointment of Mr Maddox should be a matter for periodic consultation with the Buddhist communities. You haven’t responded to my challenging the permanence of this appointment, and I ask you to address that point now.

In the meanwhile, as I said in my last letter, since we have made no progress through private correspondence, I agreed with the Ven Khemadhammo Mahathera that your letter be made available to a wider circle of the Buddhist communities, and to this end he has placed your letter on his blog, accompanied by the attached comment. I am considering whether any additional means of disseminating the problem are needed, so that you may know whether ‘the Buddhist communities’ think there has been adequate consultation, either on the appointment of Mr Maddox as Buddhist Adviser t the Armed Forces, or his purported dismissal of members of the Endorsing Authority. In the meanwhile, I venture to hope that your letter of February 27 wasn’t your last word on the subject, and that you will now heed the advice we have been trying to offer, which I respectfully suggest is more representative than the advice your officials have taken so far.

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