B: 2013 marks the 13th conference for the Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women. Was there anything different about it from the previous twelve (thematically, demographically, etc.)?
KLT. The theme “Buddhism at the Grassroots” focused attention on the living circumstances and current projects of Buddhist women in many different countries. With participants from 32 countries, we had wide representation from Buddhists of different communities and had a chance to get updates on the wonderful work that Buddhist women are doing around the world. For the first time, we had participants from Turkey and Estonia. Again this time, we had large delegations from China and, for the first time, we learned about some of the amazing projects that are underway for Buddhist women in various parts of China. Bhiksuni Guo Xuan from Xian estimated that there are currently 80 000 bhikkhunis in China, more than the number of bhikkhunis in Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and other countries combined.
Workshops in the afternoons again allowed participants to share ideas on a one-to-one level, with women speaking from their own experience. Located in India, the conference had a large number of local participants, especially from Maharashtra and various Himalayan regions. For the first time we had speakers from Sikkhim and Arunachal Pradesh. This conference was unique in including a number of video presentations on topics as diverse as the roots of gender discrimination, the lives of Korean nuns, and the work of B. R. Ambedkar for the advancement of women and the lower castes. The conference made an environmental statement by not using plastic bottles, showing Buddhist women's concern for the environment on a grassroots level.
Perhaps more than any other conference, we were able to offer accommodations for a wide range of budgets. And we were able to offer a selection of cuisines, including Indian and Vietnamese.
Workshops and performances by the Tara Dancers afforded insight into contemporary Buddhist creative expressions. The pilgrimage tour following the conference was a very special opportunity for Buddhist women from around the world to visit Buddhist sacred sites to join their prayers and to express their common aspirations.