Building Buddhism in England Emma Tomalin and Caroline Starkey University of Leeds
The Project To assess the meaning and significance of faith buildings amongst Buddhist communities in England. To • Enable EH and the broader heritage sector to develop its expertise and protect these buildings appropriately; • To better understand the heritage, nature and significance of Buddhist buildings for their respective communities/users; • To better understand the ways in which building use reflects and enables Buddhist practice.
The Project • Mapping of Buddhist buildings (online) • Qualitative interviews with 14 groups in 10 locations • Online survey • Completion: October 2014 • Article published on ‘Public Spirit’ website • Blog launched (3500+ page views)
Starting point • What did English Heritage want to know? • What impact did they expect the project to have?
What they wanted to know • Where are Buddhist buildings and how many there are? • What kinds of buildings do Buddhists communities use and what do they use them for? • What is the value of these buildings to the communities and individuals?
What impact did EH want the project to have? • Add terms to the ‘heritage gateway’ • Add to listed buildings • ‘Introduction to Heritage Assets’ resource • Update and amend details on the ‘heritage list’ • Principles of selection for ‘Buddhist buildings’ to be listed
What is a ‘Buddhist building’? • Rooms in private houses – private practice • Rooms rented for weekly class by Buddhist groups • Rentedor squatted full-time • Purchased residential (suburban semis to derelict mansions) • Purchased other (shops, libraries, swimming baths, courthouse, schools etc.) • Purpose built (much less common)
Little academic work in this area Peach and Gale (2003) – looking at relationship of faith groups with town planners over time. Four stages: • ‘Tacit change and planning denial’: ‘Faith communities were often unaware that British planning regulations require official permission to change the use of premises’(2003: 482). • ‘The search for larger premises’: ‘often conversions of disused chapels of churches or the conversion of factories, cinemas, or other commercial premises to places of worship’ (2003: 482). • ‘Purpose-built premises: Hiding and Displacement’: “hiding the buildings from public view of truncating their iconic features” (2003: 483). • ‘Purpose-built premises: Embracing and Celebration’: this is where the full range of architectural features are on show (2003: 484-5).
1) Finding and developing the buildings Throssel Hole Abbey (Soto Zen) [The] monks started to build…the ceremony hall building, where you have the meditation, you know, the shrine room…unfortunately, all gung-ho…they started building it, then of course they hadn’t really done it well enough, so most of it had to get taken down…But what did happen later on is that we did have a member of the congregation who was an architect, who was very, very helpful with all our buildings. He was working for the local authority, and he’s drawn up lots of plans, and was able to help us quite a lot. Because, as you can imagine, with a lot of these places like us, we’re not all swimming in cash.
1) Finding and developing the buildings WatBuddhapadipa, Thai Funding for buying both the house and the land, and later building the temple, was granted by the Thai Government.
2) Buddhist Building Terminology • Convert groups are more likely to adopt the word ‘centre’ • Diaspora groups prefer to use Asian terms such as pagoda, gompa, wat or vihara • Also visited the Bhutanese stupa at Harewood House
2) Buddhist Building Terminology • Convert groups are more likely to adopt the word ‘centre’ • Diaspora groups prefer to use Asian terms such as gompa, wat or vihara
3) Range of functions • Buddhist practice and cultural activities • Monastery • Community centre • Retreat centres • Schools • Buddhist businesses e.g. Lama’s Pyjamas • ‘Secular mindfulness meditation’ courses • Hire out rooms to other groups, including non-Buddhist
4) Value of Buddhist Buildings Manchester Buddhist Centre (Triratna) it’s the place where they first discovered Buddhism... Buddhism changed their lives… You know, a lot of people say, ‘I don’t know where I’d be…’. In fact, last night, somebody even said ‘ I don’t know if I’d be alive if it wasn’t for Buddhism’…
4) Value of Buddhist Buildings Manchester Buddhist Centre (Triratna) I like the fact that it’s an old building that’s been renovated. I like the idea of recycling the building. So this building’s been put to new use, and I like that. Aesthetically, I like this building. It think what is more important to me is that this building now has a history of Buddhist use. That’s what’s important. And I know that a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into renovating this building, and those blood, sweat and tears were put in because there was a vision—a Buddhist vision. And there’s been a continuation of that over time. That’s what’s meaningful for me being in this building. It is great that it’s an old building.
4) Value of Buddhist Buildings Amaravati, Thai Forest Sangha There's a difference between being attached and taking care. And so, non-attachment doesn't mean having no structures, or no conventions. The monastic discipline that the Buddha crafted is extremely intricate. It's a long, long, long list of 'do this, don't do that.' It's a form. If you cling to it, and you attach to it, then it becomes an obstacle…The use of structure without attachment is like the famous simile of the raft…
Issues Raised • Diversity: ‘Convert’ vs. ‘Ethnic’ (or ‘ethnic minority’) building style, emphasis, and use • Buildings and Mindfulness: Wider Community Use • Buildings as Buddhist Practice: Community Involvement and ‘Right Effort’ • Contribution to heritage • Significance and Insignificance; Attachment/non-attachment • English Heritage Involvement: Help and Listing
Future Plans • EH funding next phase on Hindu, Jain and Zoroastrian buildings • Extending project to Australia, and to all of the UK?