Sunday, April 26, 2015

Playing with other kinds of Buddhists

Yangsi Rinpoche

Ouypom Khuankaew
I just returned from a three day conference at the Harvard Divinity School called "Education and Buddhist Ministry:  Whither and Why?"  It was a fascinating experience to be with Buddhists and religious educators of all kinds, intent on working together to find some way to offer service to the suffering world.

Some of the highlights for me included meeting people from other Buddhist traditions.  I was inspired by all the varying viewpoints.  A few of my favorite moments:  Listening to Yangsi Rinpoche, who is affiliated with Maitripa College, end his presentation, the last of a panel on "What does it take to be a Buddhist minister?" with the advice that one of the criteria could be the capacity to perform miracles, like Milarepa, the great Tibetan Buddhist sage.  Rinpoche bears a striking resemblance to Jimmy Smits (see photos above and below) but I was informed (much to my relief)  that they are in fact different people.

And my heart just lit up listening to Ouypom Khuankaew, the director of the International Women's Partnership for Peace and Justice in Thailand.  Many of the presenters had been calling for a return to our "Asian Buddhist roots" which presents a problem for me personally, since both of my lineage traditions are generations removed from Asia, and firmly established in American culture at this point.  Ms Khuankaew stated at the outset of her talk that it would be a mistake to connect to the traditional Asian Buddhist teachings where, for example, a woman could never become a Buddha. She encouraged everyone to find a way to practice a modern Buddhism that included feminism and social justice.   And she got a fervent round of applause for saying this.

On the last morning, we received the devastating news about the earthquake in Kathmandu, and representatives from each Buddhist tradition offered a prayer or chant from our various traditions.
The Zen folks did a rousing version of the Kannon Sutra.   I still have many questions from the conference, but I am heartened by the good will among many kinds of Buddhists, who might disagree about what Buddhism actually is, but who came together for three days in companionship and kindness.

Rev. Koshin Paley Ellison and moi
Ven. Bikkhu Bodhi
Jimmy Smits

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