President Dr Sharon Suh speaking at the Conference.
The 17th Sakyadhita International Conference
‘Buddhist Women Beyond Boundaries’
Via Zoom, Dec 2021
The 17th Sakyadhita International Conference explored the theme ‘Buddhist Women Beyond Boundaries: Interfaith, Interdependence, and Environment’. Sitting in front of a screen was not quite the same experience as if we were in Sarawak, which was the original plan.
One missed the excitement of visiting a distant country, meeting old friends and making new ones. Nevertheless it was enjoyable to see many familiar faces on screen during the workshops.
Over 1000 women enrolled for this Conference which shows Sakaydhita’s strength and importance to Buddhist women globally.
Why the title : “Beyond Boundaries? In the opening presentation President Sharon Suh explained:
“if there is one thing this pandemic has taught us it is that we need each other, we need our Dhamma friends for support and resilience to survive Covid and its impact on all that we thought that we knew. The pandemic has shifted the ground beneath us and requires we come together and transcend whatever fixed boundaries we perceive in order to imagine the world anew. We must move beyond boundaries to deeply recognize our interdependence and work for environmental justice”.
She addressed the global challenges we face by saying “These are indeed unprecedented times as we face the impact of environmental and health threats that have been exacerbated by the effects of Covid-19 and the current pandemic. Despite the ever-unfolding nature of the pandemic, I have seen first-hand how we have all been able to cultivate resilience and engage in innovative methods to join together as a global organization to continue the good work of Sakyadhita”.
The Keynote address by Dr. Malia Dominica Wong was inspiring as she wove stories and gave examples of the view from the other side, as a Christian sister. This presentation is worth listening to as she offers personal experiences and reflections how we can practice more awareness and understanding of other religions, beliefs and cultures.
Keynote speaker Dr Malia Dominca Wong
She revealed her breadth of understanding when she shared a greeting in different languages and then listed the important days, including the Christian tradition of Christmas, recently celebrated. Hers was an interfaith view: “The meeting of the heart is key in all traditions – because we are here to love, we are here to transcend boundaries . . . if we really want to alleviate the suffering of the world we need to love all sentient beings till the point where there is no longer duality between you and I”
Journey to Zangskar
Ven Karma Lekshe supports young Himalayan nuns.
Ven Karma Lekshe presented a beautiful documentary about the Himalayan nuns titled “Journey to Zangskar - Changing Perceptions of Women’s Potential”. This took us on an extraordinary journey into the heart of the Himalayas. You can catch up with it here and you can also make donations to the Jamyang Foundation at this site.
The only Australian to present a paper, Dr Diana Cousens, spoke on attitudes to organ donation in the various Buddhist traditions and a protocol that has been developed by the Buddhist Council of Victoria. This was one of three papers under the topic of Environment and Bioethics. Diana addressed the issues from differing Buddhist perspectives and included the act of generosity
Dr Diana Cousens
though organ donation to the issue of involuntary human organ traffic-ing. The presentation looked at the complexity of organ removal in relation to the actual death, People may be hesitant about disturbing the body immediately following death and Diana discussed the benefits of corneal and skin donations. The Buddhist Council of Victoria has developed a protocol about organ donation that enables an informed discussion between donors, recipients and their family that is user friendly.
Other sessions were well spaced and there was much to think about - from the sex workers of Thailand and their relationship to the Dhamma to Buddhism as a saviour to the women of India and whether life in a Buddhist centre could be an alternative for those who have left their jobs during the pandemic – the so-called ‘big quit’. We heard about the plight of nuns in Asia and participated in small group discussions on women in leadership. There was so much to take in!
We were most pleased that President Sharon Suh publicly mentioned Sakyadhita Australia’s donation to this Conference.
It was announced that the next Conferences will be held in Korea in 2023 and Sarawak in 2025. These events are something to look forward to and hopefully we can meet in person.
Recordings of the Conference sessions are available on Youtube : you can watch here
SAKYADHITA INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE, 2019
New Horizons in Buddhism: Women Rising to the Challenges
Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia
June 23rd to June 28th, 2019
The 16th Sakyadhita International Conference was held in the Blue Mountains; the first Sakyadhita Conference to be held outside Asia. Speakers and participants from around the world met in this very beautiful setting.
An inspiring program involved four days of talks, plenary sessions, panel discussions and workshops
Keynote speaker : Roshi Susan Murphy
On the first evening we heard the keynote speech, given by Australian Zen teacher Roshi Susan Murphy. Her message was that women in the dhamma must work to save our vulnerable planet; also to fight against a patriarchal mindset that holds them back. Her speech also touched on themes of duality, reconciliation and indigenous wisdom.
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 . 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.
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
She concluded “we are here to dissolve the endless delusory sense of separation with which we injure and divide ourselves and pit ourselves so dangerously against the living Earth”.
OPENING SESSION : Buddhism in Australia.
As is traditional at these Conferences, the first day's session was devoted to Buddhism in the home country, so here Australia - its history, diversity and emerging sanghas.
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 Diana Cousens, Prof Suzanne Franzway and Anna Markay. It was chaired by Dr Lydia Brown
Topics covered (in order of speakers listed above): Oral Histories 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
The first day's afternoon session was called : ‘Rising to the Challenge – Healing and Transformation’. We heard troubling accounts of the sexual exploitation and abuse of nuns and lwomen in some Buddhist communities; also of slavery and racism. An Australiangroup: Dr Jack Wicks, Damcho Dyson and Tahlia Newland presented the paper ‘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’.
Later in the Conference we heard about sexual abuse of Buddhist nuns in Bhutan. 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
New Horizons in Buddhism
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. He said : ‘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
Other inspiring talks werea given by Roshi Joan Halifax, with the topic ‘Wise hope and Socially Engaged Buddhism’ and Thubten Chodron spoke on creating harmonious Buddhist communities.
Many other speakers delved into ‘New Horizons’ – the challenges that Buddhist communities face.
The evening program included talks, dancing and singing. A highlight was the address given by Sakyadhita President Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo with its take-home message of kindness.
An important element was the Workshops, which ranged from Tai Chi to Buddhist economics to vegetarian temple food.
The marketplace was in full swing between sessions. There was also time to join friends in the lunchtime marquees, or for warming meals in the evening, fireside chats and walks to the nearby bush to discover the beauty of the Australian bush including the dancing lyrebirds.
As ever the Conference was a wonderful opportunity to get together with the community of Buddhist women – to celebrate and honour their achievements. The alliances and friendships formed, as always, were invaluable.
Sakyadhita Australia Conference Scholarships
Photo : Five of the Scholarship winners, from left Ven Pema, Ven BomHyon Sunim, Amelia Douglas, Rubie Reents.
akyadhita Australia was able to give sponsorship to assist five nuns and four laywomen to 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.
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.
Tricycle Magazine : Buddhist Women and #MeToo
RADIO LINK :
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:
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.
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!
WEBINAR WITH ROSHI SUSAN MURPHY
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.
Thursday 8 November 2018
with JETSUNMA TENZIN PALMO
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.
MOVIE FUNDRAISER: FRIDAY OCTOBER 19th, 2018
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.