THE SO-WIDE STORY
So-Wide was formed in 2004. Between then and 2011, we did some big projects. Since then, things have been quieter. Now, it is time to open up.
The Charity Commission said to define our aim — was it ‘religious’ or ‘educational’? ‘Religion’ has overtones. People think of dogma and social control. Also, there are no gurus here. So this is an educational charity.
First we worked on Buddhist Studies. The project was to create an Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies (OCBS). This took till 2006.
Then the OCBS became a ‘sister’ charity. Housed in Wolfson College, it:
- raised the funds for a Chair in Buddhist Studies at the Oxford;
- promotes Buddhist Studies, particularly of Pali Buddhism; and
- puts on lectures, offers student bursaries and so on
Next we worked on Buddhist practice. The project was to create an Oxford Mindfulness Centre (OMC). The OMC started as a sister charity in 2008.
Buddhist tradition is all about the mind — how it creates and perpetuates its own suffering, and how to train it to escape from engrained, disabling patterns. Some psychologists and psychiatrists try to use this approach in mental health care. An Oxford team has been in the forefront of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). The OMC offered them a vehicle
- operates within the University Department of Psychiatry,
- researches and provides for patients with depression.
- scholars coming to the UK; and
The last decade
In 2011, So-Wide was transformed.
- The two sister charities, OCBS and OMC, became fully independent.
- So-Wide staff transferred to the OCBS.
- Geoff Bamford, pro bono Executive Director of the OCBS 2004-11, and of the OMC 2008-11, relinquished those responsibilities. He has remained So-Wide Chair and an OCBS Trustee.
- So-Wide reduced its activities. Apart from supporting visits to/from Oxford, it has had one main focus, the Visitorship for Traditional Scholars. This has benefited from John Eskenazi’s generous support.
Since 2011, So-Wide has been in a holding pattern. Now it is time to see if we can set it on a firmer footing and perhaps do more.
The first stage is to develop this website. It will
- the charity, plus
- some of what it has come out with, and
- invite participation and support.
Then, the Visitorship needs strengthening. The intention is:
- to invite wider participation at the UK end.
- to reach out to the institutions, from which our Visitors come, and offer them a more clearly defined role in the operation of the scheme;
- to build up a pipeline of prospective Visitors;
- to extend the scheme to support students travelling to Asia as well as traditional