Buddhism finds global voice at China conference
Posted on November 8th, 2014

Kalinga Seneviratne Special to The Nation Baoji, China  Courtesy:  The Nation ( Thailand)

More than 600 international delegates met for the 27th World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) conference last month, hosted for the first time by China, in the north-west province of Shaanxi.

The conference theme of “Buddhism and Public Charity” laid a path for Buddhist collaboration, especially in mobilising financial and spiritual resources to advance the development of Buddhist communities across the world in a compassionate and socially harmonious manner.

China has more Buddhists than any other country, with between 200 million and 300 million worshippers. There are over 240,000 Buddhist monks and nuns in China, more than 28,000 monasteries.

The Venerable Chuanyin, Buddhist Association of China president, told delegates that the October 16-18 conference was a milestone for Chinese Buddhism: “It will allow China to play a greater role in the Buddhist world and the Chinese Buddhist community is always committed to public charity endeavours to help society”.

“We hope to work with dharma brothers and sisters in other countries,” Chuanyin added, “this conference will open a new chapter with Chinese characteristics in the future of WFB”.

However, the Chinese government is believed to have refused visas for followers of the Dalai Lama to attend the WFB meeting.

Delegates from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar made impassioned pleas at the conference to mobilise international Buddhist support to address socio-economic problems in grassroots Buddhist communities in their countries. They argued that a lack of financial resources had made their communities vulnerable to proselyting activities by Christian and Islamic groups, which had led to sometimes violent conflicts. They complained that there was a no global voice for Buddhists, many of whom were being painted in the international media as troublemakers.

A resolution proposed by Sri Lanka to amend the WFB constitution to permit a unified Buddhist voice in communication with the international media was adopted unanimously. The next step will be to develop a global voice for Buddhists in the way that the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) does for Muslims.

“We face great hardships in protecting our Buddhist monuments and heritage, especially from Muslim incursions into our communities” explained the Venerable Medagama Dhammananda, a WFB vice-president. “There is a feeling that [the WFB] needs to be proactive in empowering Buddhist communities and protecting them from unethical conversions [in Asia]”.

Dr Bikiran Prasad Barua from Bangladesh, chair of the WFB Publications, Education and Culture Standing Committee, agrees that Buddhist communities in South Asia in particular, are in dire need of international support.

“Bangladesh has a rich Buddhist heritage and we had been ruled by Buddhist kings for 450 years” he noted. “[Two years ago] some miscreants came and destroyed 12 of our monasteries [in Chittagong hilltribe areas]. Many of them came from across the border in Myanmar – Rohingya people. They were very ferocious.”

Achariya Nanthakij of the Young Buddhists’ Association of Thailand is happy that China now sees the importance of Buddhism for community development. “This meeting should be a starting point for everybody to get together to protect Buddhism,” she argued. “We need to create networks between universities and the media to make the Buddhist voice heard around the world.”

“Media coverage in the US gives the impression that the Buddhists are aggressors, when in fact they have been the victims of much violence [in Asia],” said Bob Isaacson, president of the Dharma Voices for Animals, a US-based organisation. He supported a Sri Lankan resolution to set up a committee on conflict resolution within the WFB.

One of the major components of the Baoji Declaration adopted at the end of the conference was to strengthen networking between Buddhist organisations in order to play a greater role in social and welfare development to reduce inequalities and poverty, applying Buddhist principles of peaceful co-existence.

Dr Kalinga Seneviratne attended the WFB General Conference in China as an observer with a delegation from Sri Lanka.

One Response to “Buddhism finds global voice at China conference”

  1. AnuD Says:

    Sinhala buddhists are very corrupt. They break all five precepts and they are very greedy. But we say we believe in Orthodox buddhism.

    Chen Buddhism is not Orthodox Buddhism. Yet, it is highly applied to day to day activities as a social philosophy. For example, every year, Chinese Buddhist companies give some bonus to people as gifts. Because, they believe if they consume every thing without giving anything they would never get more and they would lose every thing. Taoisim is very close to Buddhism.

    Dalai Lama would have gained more if he aligned with China instead of aligning with the west. I think in that sense, Dalai Lama made a mistake. I think, even now, Dalai Lama can earn a lot for Tibet by aligning with China.

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