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The Buddhist Council of New South Wales is a charitable, not- for-profit organisation set up to help Buddhist temples and Buddhist societies in New South Wales (now also ACT) and to represent the Buddhist community to mainstream society.
The Buddhist Council represents more than 100 Buddhist organisations within New South Wales.
We are a member of the Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils (FABC), which represents Buddhist organisations throughout Australia.
On the instigation of the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) a meeting was held in 1984 in Sydney to establish a regional branch of the WFB. The many existing Buddhist organisations subsequently came together to form the Buddhist Council of New South Wales as a representative body to promote co-operation across the Buddhist community.
The Buddhist Council of New South Wales constitution was first ratified at its inaugural Annual General Meeting in June, 1985. It was incorporated in March, 1991 and in 2000 received its ABN (18 550 218 989).
Graeme Lyall, the founding Chairman, led the development of the Buddhist Council of New South Wales from its inception through to his retirement from the board in December 2006. Graeme Lyall's contribution to the development of Buddhism in Australia stretches over half a century and continues with his ongoing service as a prison chaplain.
Our vision is for a “Dharma Community with Open Arms”.
Buddhism varies in its practice from country to country, from tradition to tradition, and from teacher to teacher. The Buddha himself recognised that the vehicle for his Dharma (teaching) would adapt and change over time and in different places.
A Dharma Community brings all Buddhist traditions and schools together. While respecting the distinct value and heritage of each tradition, a Dharma Community emphasises the essence of the Buddha’s teaching which is common to all Buddhist schools and traditions.
The Buddhist Council of NSW therefore encourages all Buddhist groups, temples and societies to come together to appreciate each other through the essence of the Dharma itself.
To have Open Arms is to be open to everyone in the general community, to build bridges of understanding and to act compassionately towards all humanity, whether Buddhist or non-Buddhist.
Our Mission has three parts:
(1) To serve our member organisations, which include Buddhist temples, Buddhist societies and other Buddhist organisations.
(2) To represent the Buddhist community to inter-faith groups, media, government and the NSW public, in accordance with the Dharma.
(3) To promote the understanding and practice of the Dharma, which is an objective we share with our members.
Our logo has been revised to reflect our vision. The representation of the different traditions of Buddhist Sangha in the colours of the lotus flower reminds us that the outward manifestation of Buddhist Sangha may vary, yet all ordained Sangha and lay men and women are actually part of one community of monks and nuns.
This may also be extended to lay followers who may follow different teachers or traditions, yet we are all part of the one Dharma community.
The different colours of the lotus petals also reminds us that each teacher, tradition, school or practice needs to be respected and their integrity maintained, according to the instructions and teachings of our Sangha.
The eight-spoked Dharma wheel in the centre represents the original teaching that all Buddhist traditions and schools share. The One Dharma unites the followers of the Buddha's teachings and it is what we share.
The Spirit of Our Vision
Our starting premise is that the Dharma (the Buddha’s teaching) is the most effective medicine that we can take and that the Triple Gem is the best protection. Making the Dharma more accessible is an act of generosity and compassion.
There is a difference between proselytising and making a profound teaching more accessible. Buddhists don’t proselytise for lots of reasons. On the other hand, making the Dharma accessible is about helping and communicating with others who have made a conscious choice to explore Buddhist teachings and practice.
There is great potential for the evolution of Australian Buddhism from a Buddhist community into a Dharma community. The difference is that a Buddhist community is the co-existence of many Buddhists, whereas a Dharma community exists when Buddhists realise that they share the one Dharma, they share common problems and they share the same opportunity to generously and compassionately make the Dharma more available to others.
Having Open Arms will require us to be more tolerant and more sensitive to the integrity and value of different traditions, and more inclusive of those different traditions. This openness could even extend not only to other Buddhists, but to anyone, of any spiritual tradition, any philosophy.
This vision of a Dharma Community with Open Arms recognises our inherent interdependence – which comes from Buddhist teachings. We are not separate, there is no “us” or “them”, we really are connected in many ways and we ultimately depend upon each other.
“Buddhism has a long history. It has flourished in the East for 2500 years, and during this time ... numerous sects and schools have sprung up … These schools present a picture ... of unity in diversity... All aim at the attainment of Enlightenment ... At the same time they approach it in a number of ways and from many points of view. ... Despite their apparent differences, even mutual opposition, we should study and learn to appreciate them all, thus making ourselves acquainted, as far as possible, with the whole vast range of Buddhist thought and practice. Only in this way will it be possible for us to obtain a balanced picture of Buddhism. Otherwise we might commit the mistake of identifying Buddhism with one or another of its expressions, maintaining that this, and this alone, was the true embodiment of the Buddha’s teaching. Such a course would be ... sectarian exclusiveness which … is quite foreign to the spirit of Buddhism.” - Sangharakshita, 1965.
Member Services. We have developed a Member Service program which provides free advice and support to our member organisations on a wide range of topics such as fundraising, good governance, incorporation, tax and finance, technology and organising volunteers.
Education. We have developed a special website for our volunteer teachers who go to government schools to teach children. It provides access to the Buddhist syllabus, lesson plans and teaching guidelines
Chaplaincy Training: We have run an accredited introductory Buddhist chaplaincy course on many occasions over recent years..
Chaplaincy Funding. Over four years. we have increased by 50% the funding available to Buddhist chaplains in both hospitals and prisons.
Events. We have conducted events such the Buddhism Expo, Schools Day for HSC students, Q&A for children with the Dalai Lama, Acts of Kindness, Buddhist Festival Month and Dana Day for Monks and Nuns.
Free Resources. We have sent free Buddhist books to many people throughout Australia who do not have easy access to this material.
Website. We have added important features to our website such as finding information on Buddhism, locating a Buddhist Centre with particular features, and searching for Buddhist events.
What we are trying to achieve is summarised in our vision and mission statements. How we achieve this depends on our strategic initiatives which respond to the needs of different stakeholder groups.
Governance is the system by which an organisation achieves its goals, reports its achievements and complies with relevant regulations.
The Buddhist Council of New South Wales is governed by a board of directors which is supported by a team of volunteers.
After each financial year, an Annual General Meeting is held to report the financial position and overall progress.
After the financial position is approved by the members, a report is made to the Office of Fair Trading, in accordance with the Associations Incorporation Act (NSW).
We publish a user-friendly annual report for our annual general meeting which summarises our achievements, plans and how we have used our donated funds to fulfil our mission.
Our constitution was updated at our AGMs on 9 March 2008, 10 July 2010, 25 June 2011 and 16 June 2012.
download BCNSW constitution
The membership of the Buddhist Council of New South Wales includes most of the Buddhist organisations in the state. The following charts provide a summary of our members (as at May 2011).
Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils (FABC). The FABC is the peak national body representing the Buddhist community. Its members are the Buddhist Councils in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia. The FABC develops the Buddhist community’s relationship with the Commonwealth Government.
Australian Sangha Association (ASA). Through a memorandum of understanding between the FABC and the ASA, the Buddhist Council of NSW has a formal collaborative relationship with the body which represents ordained Buddhist Sangha in Australia.
Government Liaison. We assist State Government agencies such as the Community Relations Commission, NSW Health, Corrective Services and the Department of Education and Training. We also work with Commonwealth Government agencies such as the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
Media, Promotion & Representation. This activity informs the general public about Buddhist issues and developments using a combination of media and promotion. The Buddhist Council also responds to questions from media organisations.
Interfaith & Relationships. One of our roles is to liaise with other spiritual/religious organisations and representative bodies. We also represent the Buddhist community at interfaith events such as Palm Sunday, Jewish Passover, Ramadan, etc.
Mr Brian White (President). Brian was elected President of the Buddhist Council of NSW in December 2006. His career has included consulting in technology and business as well as strategic reform in the public sector. He has qualifications in engineering and information technology and has completed graduate studies in business administration, finance and investment. He has experience in both secular and Buddhist not-for-profit organisations and has completed the company directors course. Since he was introduced to Buddhism 30 years ago he has been extensively involved in Buddhist youth issues. He is currently the Assistant Buddhist Chaplain at the University of Technology Sydney and Advisor to the Mitra Buddhist Youth Network. One of Brian's interests is in helping Buddhist organisations of all traditions, so that the Buddha's teachings are more accessible and better understood across society.
Mr Trevor Robertson (Vice-President External). Trevor first became actively engaged with Buddhism in Melbourne in 1970, joining the Buddhist Society of Victoria. That involvement and his later membership of the Buddhist Society of the Northern Territory acquainted Trevor principally with the Theravada tradition, but the inclusion of the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions in the Darwin-based Buddhist Society taught him the need for a deeper knowledge and understanding of Buddhism’s breadth. Trevor subsequently majored in history and studies in religion at the University of New England. Buddhist scholarship and the use of meditation in psychotherapy became the focus of his Honours year. He spent a decade serving on Committees of the Buddhist Society of the Northern Territory. Trevor spent sixteen years as a broadcaster with the ABC, for several years producing and presenting a religious affairs program for Radio Australia, the ABC’s overseas network, before leaving to train Indigenous broadcasters in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia, Darwin and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
Mr Brent Carswell (Secretary). Brent is the Creative Director of Crunch Design, a Sydney based branding and web development company. He has over 30 years experience in design and has been designing for the digital world for more than 10 years. Such is his amazing mojo that he can build creative collateral, online brand identities and vegetarian soft tacos without ever losing his intense focus. Form and function merge seamlessly in his work, and he’s known for original thinking, clear strategy, and targeted visual communications delivering measurable results for clients. Brent's former incarnations include roles as a Senior Designer, Art Director and Designer, Creative Director and Communications Design Director. He has extensive knowledge and expertise in web design, online marketing, information architecture and web-based interface design. Brent's goal is to bring this expertise to the Buddhist Council's online presence. He is a practising Buddhist and lives and works in Sydney.
Mr Tissa Mohotti (Treasurer). Tissa is a Certified Practicing Accountant (CPA) and also has a Masters of Business Administration. He is presently an Accounting Manager at Engineers Australia, the national peak body for professional engineers. Tissa was appointed an Independent Auditor for the Australian Buddhist Mission from 1989 to 1992, and consequently was elected its Treasurer 1993 to 1995. He has held that position since 1997.
Dr Lawrence Ong (Board Director). Lawrence Ong is a medical practitioner and psychology graduate currently practising in the public hospital system. He was president in 2001 and Dharma Officer in 2002 of Unibodhi, Sydney University. The plight of university Buddhist groups was an important issue which drove him to found Mitra Youth Buddhist Network. Whilst with Mitra, he also convened the second of the Mitra Youth Buddhist Conferences. Lawrence is currently involved in the Metta Portal project, which will bring together the Buddhist community online.
Mr Brendan Coutts (Board Director). Brendan Coutts has worked for ten years as a business advisor and analyst, particularly focussing on the relationship between the performance of an organisation and the well-being of the people involved with that organisation. He has a PhD in an area of climate modelling, and his interest in numbers and analysis is matched by a fascination with culture and people. He has been a practicing Buddhist and managed a local Buddhist group for more than ten years. In the last year he has also begun teaching meditation/Dharma classes.
Ms Merran Dawson (Board Director). Merran is the Sangha Relations Coordinator for Zen Open Circle and is a Buddhist chaplain at Westmead Hospital. Previously, she worked in policy and teacher training leadership positions in the Department of Education and Training; and in training management positions in the public service and University of Technology Sydney, before launching her own training consultancy business. Merran has fulfilled volunteer roles as Vice-President of the Schools Section of the Australian Library and Information Association, and councillor on the Australian Institute of Training and Development management council.
Ms Melody Lin (Board Director). Melody has been a Buddhist for 20 years and is a Chan practitioner of the method of the Guan Yin Bodhisattva. Her interest in the Mahayana tradition includes the study of sutras and the application of the Dharma in daily living. She sets her life goal as a bridge for Dharma exchange between East & West.Melody holds an MBA from National Taiwan University and has more than 30 years of working experiences in international trade promotion activities, strategic planning and marketing. During her 5 years term as Executive Director of Taiwan Trade Centre in Sydney, she actively established networks with various Mahayana Buddhist societies. She has been a volunteer of Buddhist organizations in Taiwan and Sydney since 1993. As a certified presenter of the 'Six Ethics of the Mind' based on the spiritual environmentalism advocated by the late Master Sheng Yen, she has delivered talks on the topic regularly for the past two years both in Sydney and Taiwan.
Our Golden Rules guide our work.
(1) We try to find ways to spread the understanding and practice of the Dharma, without duplicating what our member organisations are doing.
(2) We work for the Dharma, not for ourselves.
(3) We are mindful of all our other responsibilities, so that whatever we do for the Buddhist Council of NSW is the practice of the Middle Path.
(4) We use the Dharma in our work for the Buddhist Council of NSW, so that whatever obstacles face us, we can endure and overcome as part of our Dharma practice.