Navam Full Moon Day on Saturday, 24 February 2024 at 9.00am
Please see the Events page for the programme
Sutta discussion and meditation class (in English) starts on Tuesday, 16 Jan 2024
Sutta discussion (in Sinhala) starts on Friday, 19 Jan 2024
Read more on Classes page>sutta
Introduction to Buddhism starts on Monday, 16 January 2024
See Classes page>For Beginners
Devotees wishing to receive blessings at the Vihara are advised to make an appointment with one of the resident monks
Current Situation at the London Buddhist Vihara
We wish you all a Peaceful, Happy and Healthy New Year.
As there are many new supporters, we feel that it is good to write to you all with some background information about the London Buddhist Vihara (LBV) and an update.
Some of you would know the history of the LBV but it is good to mention it briefly here. As you know, the LBV moved to the present location in 1994. Ven. Vajiragnana, the Head Monk at the time, had the foresight and the courage to take that step with the generous help of the supporters who have been a great strength to him. In the title deed the Public Trustee of Sri Lanka as the Custodian Trustee of the Anagarika Dharmapala Trust ((ADT) was named as the owner.
There was the need to make changes to the building for it to be suitable for a Vihara and it was done. Then in 2002, as more space was needed, a contractor was engaged to build an extension. The construction started with the donations received from the supporters. Unfortunately, for some reason the costs far exceeded the original estimate which LBV was unable to meet, and the contractor issued a High Court writ against the ADT demanding a payment of £95,000 for unpaid bills. The total value of the contract had been exceeded by £95,000.
The Head Monk became helpless, and part of the building was sealed off with no access. The Head Monk was isolated as the person who managed the Vihara activities at that time was also on the side of the contractor and there was no money in the Bank account to spend on the case. It was then that three people including two of the present trustees were asked by the ADT for help with the matter and they were given Power of Attorney’s (POA) as they had to represent the ADT in the UK.
The Vihara Management Committee (VMC) was formed at the time with the three persons mentioned above and they took the necessary action immediately by retaining lawyers and filing the required reply within the few days left. Failure to file a reply would have meant summary justice by the court which could have resulted in losing the LBV building bought with the supporters’ donations. However, thanks to the supporters who continued with their donations, the VMC managed to put up a defence and the case was decided in favour of the LBV after over two years of a difficult litigation process. Afterwards the VMC continued to manage the Vihara and in 2006 completed the extension that the contractor had left only partially completed. Again all the funding was by the donors and we all can be happy that Ven. Vajiragnana was able to see the completion and also move into his new quarters before his passing away in December 2006.
The VMC continued to manage the Vihara and welcomed a new member in 2010, who had been a supporter for a long time and was instrumental in the completion of the extension after the court case.
The continuing progress of the LBV demanded more space for its programs and also for accommodation of monks. Planning Permission was a big issue as the building has a Grade II listing and due to the limited space available. After several attempts with different architects, we eventually succeeded in getting planning permission from the Ealing Borough Council in 2019.
Although a substantial amount had been saved by the LBV, the estimated cost of the project was £1 million after lengthy negotiations and cost cutting. There were suggestions from the ADT, that it should be done in stages as they felt that there was no likelihood of raising the required funds. The project was managed by one of our trustees who is highly qualified and experienced in that field thereby saving about £70,000 in project and cost management fees. Our supporters came forward once again raising a substantial amount of money. This support with the efficient management helped us to complete the project in one year and within the allocated budget despite the challenges faced during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Getting LBV registered as a Charitable Trust had been a long term need as we were not able to benefit from Gift Aid. Furthermore, the accountant warned us that LBV would have to pay tax on the donations unless it becomes a charity. It was also important that the LBV is properly regulated under the Charity Commission (CC) regulations and is subject to the UK legal system.
This was achieved with the agreement and approval of the of the ADT who were involved right from the beginning of the formation of the Trust in December 2020.
During the formation process, the draft Trust Deed prepared by the ADT was not accepted by the CC and instead suggested that we use a Trust Deed prepared by the CC as it was necessary to ensure the independence of the LBV Trust from the ADT in order to act in the best interest of the LBV. CC stated that ADT as an organisation based in Sri Lanka was outside the jurisdiction of the CC and the Legal System of the UK. Furthermore, the trustees had to give an undertaking to the CC that they would act independently in the best interest of the LBV. With the formation of the Charitable Trust, the management of the LBV and the maintenance of the Building was officially transferred to the LBV Trust.
Therefore, the Trustees are legally bound to oversee the Vihara activities fulfilling the objectives of the late Anagarika Dharmapala and for efficient management including filing accounts, Annual Returns and Annual Reports with the CC according to the CC regulations.
It should be noted that the title deed of the building remains with the Public Trustee of Sri Lanka as the Custodian Trustee of the ADT. LBV has occupied the building for 30 years now.
In 2022 the ADT nominated a person to be appointed as a trustee by the LBV Trust, which was done in good faith although there were certain issues.
In September 2023 the new trustee and another trustee were found to be involved in serious violations of the signed Trust Deed, CC Regulations and the Charities Act 2011. These included making unauthorised changes to the CC register which was a Criminal Act. After clarifying the matters with the CC and as per the guidelines provided by the CC, they were terminated as trustees following the procedures laid down by the Trust deed and the Charities Act 2011. This was after giving them the opportunity to provide explanations and also to attend a Trust meeting which were not taken up by either of them.
As the trustees are responsible for the safety of the trust funds and also the Data Protection, the above action had to be taken by the other three Trustees as per the guidelines of the Charity Commission and the Charities Act 2011. If not, the other three trustees would have been guilty of not taking appropriate action in the best interest of the LBV and its supporters.
In December 2023, before commencing the fourth year of forming the LBV Trust, the LBV Trust has appointed a long standing, highly respected LBV coordinator as a trustee and the Trust now has 4 trustees who have been actively involved in the LBV matters for many years.
As mentioned above, we the trustees, the Head Monk, Ven. Bandula and the resident monks have a high regard for our supporters who have helped the Vihara so much over the years. Should you require any clarification on these matters please do not hesitate to contact us. You can also check the current situation of the LBV Trust on the Charity Commission website under London Buddhist Vihara Trust (Charity registration 1192854).
Finally we the undersigning Trustees, wish to reiterate to all the supporters that we shall be carrying out our duties and responsibilities with the main interest of safeguarding the London Buddhist Vihara for which we are legally bound under the UK Charity Commission regulations and the Charities Act 2011.
1 Mr Gamini Amarasekera
2 Dr Lakdas Panagoda
3 Mr Leslie Dep
4 Mr Harsha Siriwardane
Trustees of the London Buddhist Vihara Trust