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Buthan Nuns Foundation Event (LetterBox)

7th TLKY Canada Foundation Conference Held at University of British Columbia on 4 November

By Raymond Lam
Buddhistdoor Global | 2017-11-07 |
Kimberley Beek, Vanessa Sasson, and Jessica Main answering floor questions. Image courtesy of authorKimberley Beek, Vanessa Sasson, and Jessica Main answering floor questions. Image courtesy of author

The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Program on Buddhism and Contemporary Society hosted the 7th TLKY Canada Foundation Conference on 4 November at the University of British Columbia, Canada. The topic of the conference was “Buddhism and Youth” and both academics and Buddhists shared their findings and thoughts on the role of youth in Buddhist literature and practice. Buddhistdoor Global was present at the conference, with Raymond Lam presenting on Buddhism and youth in Hong Kong, and covered the conference with via Twitter.

The first session of the conference was titled “Literary Adventures” and examined the role of youths and children in historical and contemporary literature. Susie Andrews of Mount Allison University gave a lecture on the role of Buddhist monks in children’s books in Imperial Japan (1868-1947). McMaster University’s Kimberley Beek, who edits a blog on Buddhism and fiction and monitors the growth of the Buddhist fiction subgenre, discussed why there is still a relatively weak offering of Buddhist themes in English young adult (YA) fiction, the most popular fiction subgenre today.

Melissa Curley of Ohio State University also discussed children’s books, but in the context of Japanese American children’s stories from 1980s America and the associated themes of integration and post-war vulnerability. Vanessa Sasson of Marianopolis College, and a columnist for Buddhistdoor Global, spoke about the 7-year-olds represented in the Dhammapada and the theme of rebirth as a pedagogical tool to subvert traditional expectations about age and spiritual seniority.   

Raymond Lam and Justin Stein discussing the role of youth in Japanese and Hong Kong Buddhist organizationsRaymond Lam and Justin Stein discussing the role of youth in Japanese and Hong Kong Buddhist organizations

The afternoon session was called “Organizing the Youth”. Buddhistdoor Global’s senior writer Raymond Lam spoke about the progress of Hong Kong Buddhists in mobilizing young people to join and take up leadership positions in Buddhist institutions. Justin Stein of Bukkyo University, Japan, presented a paper on youth groups in Asia during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and how these groups were associated with different forms of nationalism. Jessica Main, chair of the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Program in Buddhism and Contemporary Society, gave a lecture on the perennial debate of girls’ participation in (boy)scout groups and the (boy)scouts’ sister organization, the (girl)guides, in the context of Japanese Buddhist scouting/guiding organizations. 

Casey Collins of the University of Britisch Colombia offered an analysis of a new Buddhist movement called Shinnyo-en, which is centered on the purported mystical qualities of the Ito family and is attracting both new converts and controversy. Finally, Joanne Yuasa, a student at the University of Britisch Colombia and minister at her local Shin Buddhist church in Vancouver, spoke about her experience of ministering young people.

The keynote speaker of the conference was Natasha Heller of Virginia University, who in her speech that evening, discussed a Taiwanese Buddhist children’s book and the values it aims to inculcate in its readers, both children and parents. Each session was followed by a Q&A session, with lively and stimulating discussions held on the presence of youth in literature and the consumption of this literature by young people, and correspondingly, the objectives of Buddhist institutions in attracting youth and the role the yough should play in such institutions.

Related blog posts from Buddhistdoor Global

Postcard from Raymond: Involving the Young, Then and Now

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