India is a fitting locale to explore the growth and progress of living Buddhist communities around the world. The Global Buddhist Congregation (GBC) event was one of the most important platforms with which to share such conversations. Organized by the A?oka Mission, it was a unique experience for many of those who attended because of the large-scale cooperative effort. Buddhists of many diverse traditions came together in dialogue and solidarity.
Attendees at the conference were diverse, ranging fro monastics to scholars to laypeople of all walk of life. Although many had never met before, there was an understanding and recognition of each other that ran deep. For example, the Sakyadhita delegates from Taiwan who pioneer women’s empowerment in Buddhist activism, academia and media inspired us. They are entirely volunteer-run, and have become important voices for the transformation of female roles in Buddhism. We learned about the Jamyang Foundation which fosters education programs for women around the world, and met some incredible Japanese priests who are making Buddhism hip again for soul-searching youth in Japan. A lay Australian named Kim Hollow represented the Buddhist Council of Queensland and joined the working committee for the new IBC.
Apart from many others, wemet Mr. Benny Liow, editor of Eastern Horizon: an English-language Buddhist magazine with its headquarters in Malaysia. He had brought his spiritual brothers, representatives of Buddhist Gem Fellowship (BGF). BGF is an organization that offers an selection of programs of Dharma propagation, Buddhist education and counseling, research and publications, creative and performing arts as well as training in leadership.
The Fourfold Sa?gha of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen is the most precious institution in the world. For Buddhists, it is the repository of sanctity that is breathed, uttered, and reenacted by its members. It is embodied in the temples we work for, the monasteries our masters reside in. It is found in the seminaries offering Dharma talks, blessings and transmissions, the schools that impart Buddhist virtue to youth and children, and the meditation centers that serve as calm shelters from everyday work life and as community centers for busy adults. The BGD provided a large, vocal platform for these diverse expressions to manifest. The next step, hopefully, is practical collaboration between all our different friends in spiritual work. What we need are creative ideas and feasible but ambitious plans, and we’ll be well on our way.