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A Report on the International Network of Engaged Buddhists’ Bi-Annual Conference

Jan 3rd, 2012

By Minette Mangahas

In October, Khyentse Foundation was pleased to co-sponsor the 2011 International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) conference, “The Future of Buddhism: From Personal Transformation to Social Engagement.” It was fitting that a conference on the future of Buddhism was held in its birthplace, Bodhgaya, where the Buddha achieved enlightenment.

About INEB

Founded in 1989, INEB consists of individuals and organizations from more than 20 countries who are dedicated to integrating Buddhist practice into social development projects. The conference was organized by INEB with help from the Jambudvipa Trust, Youth Buddhist Society of India (YBS), and Deer Park Institute. Over 300 luminaries, monastics, artists, teachers, and students from Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, and the Americas gathered at the Thai temple Wat Pa in Bodhgaya.

About the Conference

Over the course of four days, conference participants congregated in workshops, panels, and field trips to explore topics such as traditional art and new media, Buddhist economics and social entrepreneurship, sustainability and climate change, war and conflict resolution, dharma education, responsible pilgrimage, hospice work, gender identity, challenges facing the monastic community, and youth issues—all with the intention of improving the lives of people in the community and around the world.

Khyentse Foundation was recognized in the opening ceremony for its direct support of two componants of the conference—the INEB Young Bodhisattva Leadership Training in Spiritual Resurgence and Social Innovation and the International Buddhist Art Gathering, “Pilgrimage to the Roots of Our Heritage” .

The Young Bodhisattva Program hosted 35 participants from Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka, and India.  The participants actively engaged in workshops that addressed critical Buddhist social analysis, social re-visioning, and action planning. A significant number of Buddhist leaders have emerged from this program over the last decade, and their tremendous energy and connection infused the entire conference.

The Arts Gathering was the first of its kind and culminated in an exhibition of more than 35 works reflecting both traditional and new media art forms. The 33 artists hailed from China, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, India, and the United States. After the conference, the work they donated to INEB traveled to New York City for a gala auction at Tibet House on November 19. (Details at http://www.inebnycgala.org/.) Proceeds from the gala benefitted INEB and will be used to help launch an on-going cross-cultural international Buddhist arts program.

Rinpoche’s Comments

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche gave the keynote address on the first morning of the conference and participated in a panel about “Sangha for the Future” on the final day. He pointed out that the future of Buddhism hinges on its relationships with money and culture.

Rinpoche commented, “We need to carefully look at how culture and tradition are hijacking the true Buddhadharma. This is important not only to traditionally Buddhist places, but also for new hosts. At the end of the day, culture and the Buddhadharma are two separate things. It is not that culture has to be discarded… Their relationship is like the cup and the tea.”

In addition, Rinpoche strongly addressed the issue of money–its necessity as well as its capacity to undermine Buddhist principles. Rinpoche pointed out that “In order to propagate the dharma, a certain amount of money is necessary. But if we look carefully, I think money is the biggest destructive force, because money is not looked down upon enough, like all the other obstacles. Thus, the future of Buddhism relies not only on the sangha, lamas, and religious heads, the future of Buddhism also relies heavily on patrons and sponsors–how they give, to whom they give, and in what situations they choose to give.”

In conclusion, Rinpoche shared his hopes for Buddhists engaged in social and environmental efforts will approach their important work.

“While we must pray that all sentient beings become Buddha, we don’t have to pray that all sentient beings become Buddhist. The spiritual path needs to be something that is sought after. It should never be something that is spoon-fed or, worse, force-fed. If we keep this attitude, then Buddhism has so much to offer. The Buddhist appreciation towards scrutiny, the view that one is one’s own master, the teachings on interdependency–all these are what modern people are inclined to. I hope that conferences like this can stir ideas and resources so that we can build a world in which many, many, if not all, achieve enlightenment.”

You can listen to Rinpoche’s Address at the conference and view a slideshow of images from the event.

For more information about INEB and the conference, visit http://www.inebnetwork.org/.

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