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Living in a Precarious World: 18th Sakyadhita Conference Commences in Seoul

Photo by Craig Lewis

The 18th Sakyadhita International Conference commenced in Seoul on Friday under the theme “Living in a Precarious World: Impermanence, Resilience, Awakening.” Running from 23–27 June and jointly hosted by the Korean Bhikshuni Association and Sakyadhita Korea, this international event is being attended by some 3,000 Buddhist monastics, laypeople, guests, and dignitaries from South Korea and around the world.

The Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women is the world’s leading body committed to transforming the lives of women in Buddhist societies, aspiring to empower and unite Buddhist women, promote their welfare, and facilitate their work for the benefit of the Dharma and all sentient beings. “Sakyadhita” means Daughter of Shakya (the clan name of the historical Buddha). Working at the grassroots level, Sakyadhita provides an international network among Buddhist women, promoting research and publications and striving to create equal opportunities for women in all Buddhist traditions.

The theme of this year’s conference, “Living in a Precarious World: Impermanence, Resilience, Awakening,” is a reference to the increasingly evident nature of impermanence in the world around us, as evidenced by the climate crisis, environmental destruction, political extremism, social instability, and the growing incidence and threat of violent conflict. Directly addressing this theme, the conference schedule includes a wide range of programs, including paper presentations, workshops, exhibitions, meditation sessions, and cultural performances. 

Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo. Photo by Craig Lewis
Sakyadhita president Prof. Sharon Suh. Photo by Craig Lewis
Photo by Craig Lewis
Photo by Craig Lewis

Presentations and workshops will focus on the lives of female monastics in contemporary Korea and looking toward the future, gender stereotypes and impermanence, the revival and evolution of female ordination in various Buddhist traditions, as well as examinations of the practice and application of the Buddhadharma in modern society.

In her address during the conference’s opening ceremony on Friday, Ven. Bon-gak, president of the 18th Sakyadhita Conference and president of the Korean Bhiksuni Association of the Jogye Order, South Korea’s largest Buddhist order, shared: “Today, the world is on the throes of war and pandemics, of climate crisis caused by a rapidly changing environment, and of regional disparities. We live in a time of distrust and suspicion.

“We, even during times of crisis, have taken care of and shown consideration for one another, overcoming numerous challenges together. However, now is the time to seek even better guidelines for life and find a direction where everyone can come together in harmony.”

Photo by Craig Lewis
Photo by Craig Lewis

“A heart full of greed will lead to wars and all sorts of crises, but true happiness will come when one maintains inner peace through emptying the desire and greed. This is probably the meaning of awakening,” said Ven. Bon-gak.

“In order to navigate through these crises and problems of the modern world, the 18th Sakyadhita International Conference, which is being held today under the theme ‘Living in a Precarious World,’ will embark on a five-day pilgrimage with you. Starting today, we’ll be joining more than 3,000 participants from over 31 countries to exchange, experience, and empathize with each other on how to stay awake right.”

This year’s conference has been sponsored by: the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism; the eighth-century Korean Buddhist temple Bong Eun Sa; South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism; Seoul Metropolitan Government; Gang Nam Gu district government; and the Korea Tourism Organization.

Photo by Craig Lewis
Photo by Craig Lewis
Photo by Craig Lewis
Photo by Craig Lewis

With representatives of Buddhist communities from around the world, the 18th Sakyadhita International Conference promises five days of mindful insight and wisdom on compassionate action and social engagement in the face of impermanence from the perspective of the sacred feminine and through the lens of the Buddhadharma. 

Speaking during the conference opening ceremony on Friday, Sakyadhita president Prof. Sharon Suh observed: “These are indeed unprecedented times and how wonderful to come together in person after the pandemic. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we need one another, and that resilience and awakening come through collective effort. This is what the Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women has always been about—gathering, holding, and uplifting us all toward liberation.”

Photo by Craig Lewis

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18th Sakyadhita International Conference: Living in a Precarious World: Impermanence, Resilience, Awakening
Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women

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