New Horizons in Buddhism: Women Rising to the Challenges

Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia

 June 23rd to June 28th, 2019

Click here to download Conference papers. 

We were delighted to be the host country for the 16th International Conference, the first held outside Asia.    Speakers and participants joined us from round the world, enjoying the beauty of the Blue Mountains setting.  For our Asian friends it was a chance to see what Buddhism was like in the west.


VIDEO LINKS :   Here are some video recollections of this special occasion :  

1)   16th Sakyadhita Conference Recap   See highlights of the Conference and the Tour that followed, featuring Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, Ven Lekshe Tsomo, Ven Thubten Chodron, Joan Halifax and many more. 


2)     Highlights of Day One.      Day One featured a panel on Buddhism in Australia and in the afternoon a session on Ethics, Healing and Transformation.   There were also many workshops taking place.    

3)    Highlights of Day Two    :  Tenzin Palmo spoke, we heard from  Joan Halifax and others in a session on Environmental Buddhism,  the Tara dancers were among the groups who performed and the day finished with an  Aussie sing-along.

4)     Highlights of Day Three      While in the plenary the topic was Buddhist Approaches to Peace and Reconciliation, behind the scenes there were workshops, the marketplace was in full swing and there was also time for fireside chats. 

5)    Closing Ceremony Moment :  At the closing ceremony, the performance by Venerable Thubten Chönyi from Sravasti Abbey of Santideva’s verses based on the tune of the American anthem brought the house down.

6)     Highlights with  Venerable Thubten Chonyi.     Thubten Chonyi from Sravasti Abbey, a USA Monastery,  shares with us her experience of the Conference.


Sakyadhita International Magazine 

Tricycle Magazine :   Buddhist Women and #MeToo



ABC RN Soul Search 

Sakyadhita Australia Conference Scholarships






Photo : Five of the Scholarship winners, from left  Ven Pema, Ven BomHyon Sunim, Amelia Douglas, Rubie Reents. 

Sakyadhita Australia was able to give sponsorship to assist  five nuns and four laywomen attend the conference – here's some of their feedback : 

“Thank you so much for the opportunity  . . how amazing it was to see the opening and closing ceremony and all in between with so many people from different countries but with the same intention. Rubie Reents

 Thank you so much for the sponsorship, we had an amazing time! It was our first Sakyadhita conference and we learnt so much but even more so felt truly connected to our fellow practitioners and monastics. It was such a warm and unique experience!   Vens Pema and Choden. 

Thank you so much for the opportunity  . . how amazing it was to see the opening and closing ceremony and all in between with so many people from different countries but with the same intention. Rubie Reents


So much to listen to and be inspired by everyday of the sakyadhta conference!  I was particularly captured by the speakers who addressed the role for Buddhists in taking action for the environment.  I’m excited that we’re bringing this critical issue into our Dharma discourse.  Amelia Douglas.

Keynote speaker :  Roshi Susan Murphy









Roshi Susan Murphy’s passionate speech on the first evening of the Conference set the tone. Susan said  that women in dhamma  must work to save our vulnerable planet.   Her speech also touched on themes of duality, patriarchy and  reconciliation.


Some excerpts:  ‘Right now, at such a dangerous moment in human and planetary history, it is vitally important to bring across into the world something that’s been sorely missing for far too long. I mean the expression of  Dharma sourced in the embodied life experience of women – at last bringing to light the particular gifts of wisdom that can flow out only from the awake female body-and-mind, to defend and care for the life of the Earth.   . . . . this patriarchal mind-set has been  wielded for centuries as a weapon to exclude women from full religious participation and expression. . .

Poised as we are on a cliff-edge of indecision, watching the unfolding of profound climate tragedy. Agonized as we are by awareness of the avalanche of suffering and extinctions now clearly underway.

How coincidental is it that it was the very young female voice of Greta Thunberg that struck such a penetrating, resounding note in calling to account the forces . . .the huge, corporate forces of greed that are mindlessly devouring the life of the Earth.  Those very forces are awakening an impassioned youth-led rebellion with a high preponderance of female leaders, demanding action to ameliorate.

….Let us no longer permit the shameful waste of all we have to offer as women of the way. Let us freely develop and bring forth to the world our deeply natural female expression of the Dharma"

OPENING SESSION :  Buddhism in Australia.












Prof Suzanne Franzway , President of Sakyadhita Australia, speaking at the Opening Session. (PhotoOlivier Adam) 

As is traditional at these Conferences, the first session is devoted to Buddhism in the host country 

In a wide - ranging session we heard both about the history of Buddhism in Australia, the experience of being a Buddhist nun and how Buddhism is being practised today.

The  speakers were Dr Anna Halafoff, Ven Chi Kwang Sunim, Ven Miaou  You, Dr Diane Cousens, Prof Suzanne Franzway and Anna Markay.      ,  

It was chaired by Dr Lydia Brown

Topics covered : (in order of speakers listed above) The History of Buddhist Women in Australia,  Life as a Korean/Australian bhikkuni,  Humanistic Buddhism in Australia, Working for Buddhism in Australia and New Horizons for Emerging Sanghas (such as community groups) ,


Rising to the Challenge:  Healing and Transformation’











Damcho Dyson and Tahlia Newland present their paper.  Photo Olivier Adam

This afternoon session covered difficult topics such as sexual exploitation, slavery and racism.  Among the papers given  the Australian team  of Dr Jack Wicks, Damcho Dyson and Tahlia Newland presented ‘Personal Reflections on Rigpa and Aftershocks of the Fall of Sogyal Rinpoche’ which ‘detailed years of physical, emotional and sexual abuse of students and the use of donations of support an extravagant and gluttonous lifestyle’. We learnt that this situation and the resultant public scandal and division in the Buddhist community ‘is not an isolated incident;  abuse is rife in the monasteries and, to various degrees, accepted conduct by many lamas.   This kind of behaviour taints the whole Buddhist religion and cannot be allowed to continue”

This can be seen as Buddhism’s ‘#metoo moment’.  It  led to the formation of the Alliance for Buddhist Ethics  with the broad goal of  promoting “ ethical behaviour in Buddhist communities for a future in which the Dharma may flourish with integrity”.

New Horizons in Buddhism










Photo :  Olivier Adam

Australia's Bhikku Sujato gave a paper in this Plenary session. It was called ‘The Serpent Gurrangatch and the Hunter Mirrigan’  -  he related this legend of our indigenous peoples to the existential threat of climate catastrophe.  His view : ‘Reforming Buddhism is great, creating conscious spiritual communities is great, improving gender equity is great but none of it means anything if our entire ecosystem is headed for collapse”

Scholarship Winners.jpg

POSTPONED Sakyadhita Mini Conference and Annual General Meeting

Chenrezig Institute Eudlo Queensland   

Initially scheduled Saturday 6- Monday 8 June 2020

In these turbulent times, it is with great disappointment we have cancelled our Mini Conference, scheduled to take place in June in Chenrezig in the beautiful hinterland of the Sunshine Coast.
 We are hoping to reschedule the Mini Conference at a future date, Covid19 allowing.
We had a terrific program lined up for you with inspirational speakers & interesting activities including:

Inspirational speakers:

  • Ayya Jitindriya, the spiritual Director of Santi Monastery on her experience with the summer bushfires that came so close to Santi.

  • Ven Thubten Chokyi , the Director of the Liberation Prison Project. On her work with women in prisons, women ‘turning their minds around.’  

  • Lody Levy, psychologist and therapist on Buddhist activism – what is possible?

  • Chi Kwang Sunim on Ecodhamma.

  • Anna Halafoff  on Buddhist buildings in Australia.

Engaging activities:

  • Daily meditation and puja with the Chenrezig nuns.

  • Screening of  Bhikkhunī – Buddhism, Sri Lanka, Revolution a documentary  about the revival of women’s ordination in Theravāda Buddhism.

  • The launch of Rainbodhi LGBTQIA+ Buddhist Community.

  • Walks in the Garden of Enlightenment.

  • Visit to Cittamani Hospice.

  • Tsa Tsa painting workshop.

Not to mention good meals and the chance to mix with like minded people!



Watch Sakyadhita Australia President Helen Richardson in a live webinar with Roshi Susan Murphy held 16 October 2019.  Roshi Susan is the founder and resident teacher of Zen Open Circle and  one of the important global voices in the Ecological Buddhism movement.
Roshi Susan talked on women, power and reconciliation with this earth, expanding on the themes of her keynote address given at the Sakyadhita International Conference held recently here in the Blue Mountains.

Jetsunma with stupa.PNG

Thursday 8 November 2018



Sakyadhita Australia's inaugural webinar was with Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo.

In the webinar Jetsunma explored issues related to the theme of the 2019 Sakyadhita International Conference – New Horizons in Buddhism.

Sakyadhita Australia’s President, Professor Suzanne Franzway hosted the webinar.

Click here for the videos of the webinar

Westwood A4 movie fundraiser flyer (Saky


Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist

Cinema Nova, Carlton, VIC

$28 Employed; $23 Concession


All funds raised will help an Australian Buddhist nun attend the International Sakyadhita Conference in Australia, June 2019. 


       ph 0409 164 396

Note: Tickets must be purchased in advance. Tickets will not be available for sale on the day.