Upcoming conference: Buddhism in Dialogue with Contemporary Societies

Buddhism in Dialogue with Contemporary Societies 20-22 June 2018
Museum für Völkerkunde, Großer Hörsaal, Hamburg

The ongoing encounter between Buddhism and contemporary Western societies has already left a lasting mark on both parties, as happens in any open dialogue. Arriving in the “West”, Buddhism has been confronted with the values of European enlightenment and human rights, articulated within the paradigms of Judeo-Christian culture. Buddhism has often been described as a kind of philosophy and lifestyle. Buddhist voices have joined discussions of secular values, Buddhist-inspired mindfulness practices are penetrating therapeutic fields, while Buddhist communities have gained followers attracted to what they see as a more rational and “less religious” religion. Yet Buddhism clearly comprises an immensely diverse system of beliefs and practices that are themselves in the process of vast internal changes in response to new social realities.

To explore these dialogical processes, this International and Interdisciplinary Conference “Buddhism in Dialogue with Contemporary Societies” brings together 20 scholars of Buddhism and senior Buddhist teachers from the three mainstream traditions of Buddhism, i.e. Theravāda, East Asian (including Zen), and Tibetan Buddhism. They will address such questions as:

  • What can Buddhist thought and practice contribute to today’s world?
  • How, and how much, can or should Buddhism adapt in order to make those contributions in new contexts?
  • What, if any, must be considered to be core teachings or practices that cannot be subject to revision or adaptation?
  • What strategies have Buddhist communities developed to protect core teachings while responding to rapidly changing technological, social, and material conditions?

To ensure a successful academic outcome of the conference, the first two and a half days will be dedicated mainly to listening to the presentations on five panels followed by an intensive exchange with the speakers, respondents, and faculty. In the afternoon of the third day, preliminary results will be summarized and discussed with the interested expert audience (among them practising Buddhists and teachers of Buddhism) as well as university students. Language: English; German translation if required.

The flyer with the full program can be downloaded here.

The online registration is available here.

For all abstracts please see here.

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Review of ‘Why Buddhism is True’

Here’s a nice review of Robert Wright’s Why Buddhism is True by Adam Frank.

I haven’t read the book yet, but judging from the review it seems to take a more self-conscious about the selective appropriation of Buddhist contemplative traditions in ‘the West’ than is often the case.

To his credit, Wright is more than cognizant that exploring just these aspects of Buddhism means he is filtering out quite a bit of its history. As he reminds his readers:

“Two of the most common Western conceptions of Buddhism — that it’s atheistic and that it revolves around meditation — are wrong; most Asian Buddhists do believe in gods, though not an omnipotent creator God, and don’t meditate.”

Wright also acknowledges that even within this “scientific” Buddhism he is interested in, there are also enormous differences between various philosophical schools of thought, many with 1,000-year histories.



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Global Ambedkar Buddhism

In a recent article, the Northwest Dharma Association reports on Lama Choyin Rangdrol, a Seattle-based African American lama in the Tibetan tradition, who was talking at the B.R. Ambedkar International Conference in Bangalore, India. In his talk, Rangdrol draws parallels between the experience of African Americans and so-called ‘untouchables’ in India.

Lama Rangdrol said participating in the conference was very powerful, because he saw so many parallels between the experience of African Americans and Indian people who fall outside the caste system, who traditionally were called untouchables. […]

“I’m a changed person. It changed me because I saw the passion and the compassion of the entire Earth coming to find out what’s going on,” Lama Rangdrol said of the conference experience. “It was a deep experience to witness the grand politic of India vie over who will address the tremendous suffering of caste, and how.”

The conference theme was a “Quest for equity—reclaiming social justice, revisiting Ambedkar” and attracted around 9,000 participants from around the world.

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Graduate student symposium on mass meditation

From Scott Mitchell:

Friends and colleagues,

I would like to cordially invite you to the following symposium at the Institute of Buddhist Studies, Berkeley, Friday October 6, 1:00-5:00.

Mass Meditation: Practices and Discourses in Contemporary Global Buddhisms

The fourth annual graduate student symposium at the Institute of Buddhists Studies examines the popularity of meditation practices in contemporary global Buddhisms. Papers will present a range of scholarship from historical perspectives on the modern origins of a diversity of mindfulness practices; scientific studies of Buddhist practice and globalized Buddhist feedback loops; and comparative studies across traditions, between the secular and the sectarian, and the modern and the traditional.

Keynote Address:
Dr. Erik Braun, University of Virginia
“The Morals of Mindfulness”

Erik Braun is an Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. He is the author of The Birth of Insight: Meditation, Modern Buddhism, and the Burmese Monk Ledi Sayadaw (University of Chicago Press, 2013), co-winner of the 2014 Toshihide Numata Book Prize in Buddhism. He focuses on Burmese Buddhism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Pāli literature, and globalizing forms of meditative practice that stem from Burma.

Graduate Speakers:
David Pating, Institute of Buddhist Studies
Beyond Mindfulness: Other Neurosciences and Other Buddhisms

Sung Ha Yun, University of California, Los Angeles
Sot’aesan’s Mindfulness Practice in the Context of Modern Korean Buddhist Reformation

Julia Stenzel, McGill University
The Phenomenon of Secular Compassion Training and its Loop Back Effect on Traditional Buddhist Discourses

Solomon P. Botwick-Ries, Marlboro College
From “Mindful Eating” to Eating Mindfully: a Critical-Constructive Theology

1:00 p.m. Welcome remarks
1:15 – 3:30 p.m. Graduate Speakers
4:00 – 5:00 p.m. Keynote Adress

For more information on this event, to RSVP, and to receive updates, please visit our Facebook page.

This event is supported in part by BDK America and the Asia Project at the Graduate Theological Union.

Scott Mitchell

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Buddhist Literary Festival in Toronto

Here are the details for another upcoming event aimed at raising awareness about Buddhism in the West.FestRelease3Pg1

More at: thewordonthestreet.ca

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“Walk with Me”: International Release Today

Here is the press release of an exciting new film being released today.


NOTE: Oscar®-Winning Director Alejandro Iñárritu and Other Prominent Hollywood Figures In-Person with the film’s directors Marc J. Francis and Max Pugh for the Premiere Screening and Walking Meditation with Monastics

“A moving examination of mortality and life choices.”
– Ren Jender, Village Voice

Who is Thich Nhat Hanh? And What is Mindfulness?
What is the Value of Meditation?

Martin Luther King, Jr. Nominated Him for the Nobel Peace Prize

Oprah Winfrey Has Been Deeply Inspired By Him and Feature Him onOWN‘s Super Soul Sunday

Directors Alejandro InarrituAlfonso Cuarón and Actor Benedict Cumberbatch Have Been Inspired by His Work

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff Has Been Deeply Inspired By Him


Gathr Films and Kino Lorber Release








WALK WITH ME TRAILER: https://vimeo.com/179167579

“Fascinating and profound” 

– Screen International

“A unique spectacle – a thoroughly meditative piece of cinema.” 
– RogerEbert.com

“The filmmakers leave you desperately wanting more time with it (Plum Village).” 
– Austin Chronicle

Gathr Films and Kino Lorber Inc. present the New York City premiere of the film WALK WITH ME, a cinematic journey into the world of mindfulness of Zen Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh, narrated by Academy Award nominee Benedict Cumberbatch.

The documentary feature will screen in New York City at the Rubin Museum of Art from August 18 through August 26. It is now playing in San Francisco at the Rafael Film Center, where it has been held over.

Then it will be released in theaters across the United States via Theatrical On Demand screenings. Nearly 200 theatrical bookings nationwide have already been booked for the film’s theatrical-on-demand expansion.

The film received its world premiere at 2017 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL earlier in the year.

The much-anticipated Speakit Films produced movie is directed by Marc J. Francis (BLACK GOLD) and Max Pugh (THE ROAD TO FREEDOM PEAK).

Filmed over three years and with unprecedented access, this visceral film is a meditation on a community who have given up all their possessions for a monastic life in rural France.

“In my life I’ve been so touched by the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh,  it was a great honour to work on ‘Walk With Me.’ I have no doubt that audiences across the world will be moved by this beautifully crafted film observing the daily life of the monks and nuns who have committed their lives to the art of mindfulness” 
– Benedict Cumberbatch

“A moving and wonderful film that captures the essence, depth and the poetry of Thich Nhat Hanh … a great work full of love.” 
– Alejandro G. Iñárritu

There will be a weekend of special event screenings at the Rubin Museum as part of a one week run of the film starting August 18. Jo Confino, Executive Editor of Impact & Innovation at “Huffington Post” will introduce selected screenings throughout the weekend with monastics opening each film inviting viewers to breathe and relax with the sounds of a meditation bell. Q&A’s with filmmakers and monastics from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village monastic community will follow each screening and meet and greets with monastics will be held throughout the weekend.

Filmmakers’ Statement – Marc J. Francis and Max Pugh
“Taking our time with the film process has allowed for the chance to develop a cinematic ‘language’ capable of communicating the actual practice of a life lived differently and mindfully. We have worked to create an immersive film to plunge the audience deep into the poetry of the present moment, a feeling so elusive in the reality of the daily grind. If you can allow yourself to breathe with the rhythm of Walk With Me, let go, and relax, you can experience the film as a meditation. Movie theaters offer the best conditions for this experience; where the big screen, surround sound and the collective energy of the community can come together in one moment in time.”

With unprecedented access, Walk With Me goes deep inside a Zen Buddhist community who practice the art of mindfulness with their world-famous teacher Thich Nhat Hanh.

Filmed over three years in their monastery in rural France and on the road in the USA, this visceral film is a meditation on a community grappling with existential questions and the everyday routine of monastic life.

As the seasons come and go, the monastics’ pursuit for a deeper connection to themselves and the world around them is amplified by insights from Thich Nhat Hanh’s early journals, narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch.

About Thich Nhat Hanh
Widely acknowledged for introducing mindfulness to millions of people in the western world is 90 year old Buddhist Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Today, he is avidly followed by world leaders in politics and business, particularly by CEOs in Silicon Valley, and by stars of stage and screen, including Oprah Winfrey who has twice invited him on her show.

Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by his friend Martin Luther King Jr., Thich Nhat Hanh is also a human rights activist, poet and successful author. His books have become worldwide bestsellers and he has over a million followers on Facebook.

In 1982, Thich Nhat Hanh set up Plum Village – a monastery in rural France for monks and nuns to live, and for lay people from across the world to engage in mindful practice. His community is one of the single largest Buddhist monastic communities in the world.

2017, United Kingdom, Unrated
Runtime: 94 min.
In English, Vietnamese, and French with English subtitles.

A Gathr Films and Kino Lorber Release
Directed and produced by Max Pugh and Marc J. Francis
Featuring Thich Nhat Hanh
Narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch

Press Contact
Adam J. Segal • The 2050 Group – Publicity
(212) 642-4317 • (202) 422-4673
adam@the2050group.com • www.the2050group.com

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Pali online course: enrollments open

The Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies is currently seeking students for their latest online Pali course, with Professor Richard Gombrich. Here are the details:

Pali Online School

Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies

(A Recognised Independent Centre of the University of Oxford)

World-renowned intensive three week Pali language course enters its second year online.

The Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies will run its Pali Intensive course online again in November 2016.  This course enables students to read Pali texts for themselves by the end of three weeks.

This course ran three times last year to highly favourable reviews.  Pali is the language of the texts which contain the oldest evidence for what the Buddha said.  This course is one of the OCBS’ offerings to help continue Pali scholarship within the Anglophone world.


Nov 7 – 26

Monday – Sat: 9am – 1.30pm

Delivered completely online

100% live instruction – no pre-recorded materials

Pair work for peer-to-peer learning and teaching

Professor and TA working with pairs and individuals

Cost: £750


“Professor Gombrich really shares his experience with the language over the years”

“…this is my best experience with online learning so far”

“It has exceeded my expectations”

“Having studied with [Prof Gombrich] at the 2011 Pali Summer School, I can attest to his engaging and direct method and the success that his students experience in reading Pali after a short period of instruction.”  – Justin Whitaker (Source and more reviews available upon request)

For more details please visit: www.ocbs.org/courses/pali-online-school, or contact steven.egan@ocbs.org

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Sydney Buddhist Centre Divests from Fossil Fuels

One way to think about the “global” nature of Buddhism is to consider not just the spread of Buddhist practitioners and institutions across the globe but also how they imagine and address global issues.  The most literally global issue of our time is anthropogenic climate change. Recently, the Sydney Buddhist Centre announced that it would divest from all fossil fuels, claiming that it is the first Buddhist organisation in the world to do so. Seeing the media release, I was immediately interested whether and how the move was justified in Buddhist terms. Indeed one of the Centre’s members, Ratnajyoti, explains that:

As Buddhists we are actively trying to transform our consciousness so we appreciate the absolute interconnection between all things. We want to increase our awareness of the impacts of our way of life and take responsibility for them wherever we can. The catastrophe of climate change has such serious impacts for all living beings we really want to start to step up to the challenge. Although this decision to shift our money or buy green energy are small gestures we will be seeking to build on them.

While I’m very sympathetic to this position, I wonder how other Buddhists view this issue. I could imagine there is a range of positions on the appropriate response towards climate change. Any thoughts?

Here is the full text of the Centre’s media release:

Sydney Buddhist Centre first in world to dump coal, oil, and gas investments

The Sydney Buddhist Centre has become the first Buddhist organisation in the world to shift its investments from coal, oil, and gas, making the ethical decision in light of the increasing impacts of climate change being felt around the world.

Globally, more than 520 organisations have divested from fossil fuels – including governments, religious, and educational institutions.

One member of the Sydney Buddhist Centre Management Committee, Ratnajyoti said it made sense for his centre to shift their investments away from fossil fuels.

“We know that the extraction and burning of fossil fuels – coal, oil, and gas – is the main driver of climate change,” Ratnajyoti said. “The decision to remove our investments away from banks that invest in fossil fuels was an ethical one we took after seeing the damage that unchecked fossil fuel burning is doing to our climate – and how these impacts are felt by those least able to afford it”.

“As Buddhists we are actively trying to transform our consciousness so we appreciate the absolute interconnection between all things. We want to increase our awareness of the impacts of our way of life and take responsibility for them wherever we can. The catastrophe of climate change has such serious impacts for all living beings we really want to start to step up to the challenge. Although this decision to shift our money or buy green energy are small gestures we will be seeking to build on them.”

Gillian Reffell who attends the Centre said she is proud it is leading the way and called on other Buddhist centres across the globe to follow

“I think it is great that the Sydney Buddhist Centre is following its ethics and taking action on climate change. I hope other Buddhist Centres and other spiritual groups will do the same,” Ms Reffell said.

The move makes the Sydney Buddhist Centre just the latest of a growing number of institutions to become part of a grassroots campaign that is spreading around the world and is modelled on the 1980s divestment movement to end apartheid in South Africa.

More information on fossil fuel divestment can be found here.

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CfP: “Contemplative Sociology”. Gdańsk, Poland

Here is a call for papers for a panel at an upcoming conference in Poland.

‘Contemplative Sociology. Towards
the Mindful Sociological Research and Empathic Society’ organized during
XVI Polish Sociological Congress (14-17 September 2016 Gdańsk).

Panel description:
The goal of contemplative sociology is to understand individuals and
communities by taking into account the point of view of the Other, as well
as the interconnectedness of the world. Contemplative sociology questions
the common sense and scientific distinctions (e.g., internal/external,
micro/macro, self/other, solidarity/anomy, etc.), and among these —
telling the researcher apart from the researched.

A contemplative sociologist not only observes and analyzes the
connectedness of social worlds — overpassing one‘s own perspective — but
also bears in mind the validity of social interventionism. As a result of
openly expressed eco-humanistic values, s/he actively contributes to
changing the reality under study. Doing so, s/he takes into account the
issue of impermanence: how susceptible to changes social worlds and
identities are? One‘s ego and self – identity are here seen as illusive,
and the concepts we use are, for contemplative sociologists, no more than
mere mind‘s products of social and material influences.

Meditation and the mindfulness practices are here applied in order to evoke
a more insightful and compassionate approach to the study of social
activity and social life. These are also made use of to increase the
researcher‘s sensitivity, as well as to improve both methods and research
techniques s/he applies. Experimenting with the mind and the self is of
great importance in acquiring such social sensitivity, especially in case
of sociologists. Making use of spiritual inspirations in the research
practice may develop the understanding of social worlds and impact upon
building trust, as well as the visions and plans to improve the
socio-ecological system and the quality of life, and also the well-being
of humans and animals.

We invite contributions that address (but are not limited to) the
following themes:

  • Methodological endeavors aimed at applying the techniques of meditation,
    mindfulness, and breathing, as well as the work with the body. The sensory
    embodiment of the researcher‘s concepts. The role of intuition in the
  • The mindful research and analysis of data (Contemplative Grounded
    Theory, Mindful Interviewing, Mindful Ethnography, etc.).
  • Research methods — ‘the first-person perspective to study consciousness’.
  • Compassion and sensitivity in sociological research.
  • Intervention in the community, clinical research, hospitals,
    correctional institutions, et cetera — from the contemplative perspective
    and with the use of spiritual inspirations.
  • The self and ego as compelling but empty exemplifying the contemporary
  • The mindful and not-mindful organizations and management.
  • Spirituality in business and capitalist systems.
  • Social emotions and the mindful management of emotions in everyday life
    situations and organizations.
  • The mindful connectedness with the nature and animals. The issues of
    compassion and interactions.
  • The commercialization and commodification of spiritual movements and
    ideologies. Mindfulness and/or McMindfulness.
  • Engaged sociology. Spiritual inspirations. Sociology in the
    contemplative/mindful action research.
  • Towards the mindful/emphatic culture. Towards the mindful/empathic society.

We welcome reserachers from various disciplines. All details of Congress
are here: http://16zjazdpts.pl/en/.

Contact: Radosław Kossakowski (radoslaw.kossakowski@ug.edu.pl)

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E-learning Course on Asian Buddhist Women

Here’s an announcement about an upcoming E-learning course on Buddhist women in Asia. Sounds like it will be very interesting.

The Numata Center for Buddhist Studies at the University of Hamburg, in cooperation with the Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts, offers an E-learning Course on Asian Buddhist Women. The course consists of a series of lectures by a group of international scholars.

Participation is free of charge and open to anyone interested, but requires online registration.

Lectures will start on 14 April and will be held every Thursday at 2.15 pm German time.

Recordings of the lecture are accessible for registered participants at any time of their convenience after original delivery. The e-learning platform also features a discussion forum for exchange between participants and lecturers.

Registration is possible until the end of March.

For registration please follow this link: http://dev.ddbc.edu.tw/registrations/j201112.php
For additional information about the course follow this link: https://www.buddhismuskunde.uni-hamburg.de/en/women-in-buddhism/e-learning.html#4121827


5-5 Ayako ItohA Nascent Bhikkhunî Sangha in North-east Thailand

12-5 Lilian HandlinWomanhood as Imaged in Myanmar’s Pre-modern Gandhakuti(s)

26-5 Ranjini ObeyesekereBuddhist Women in Sri Lanka

2-6 Lori MeeksWomen in Japanese Buddhism

9-6 Monica BetheImperial Nunneries in Japan

16-6 Sarah KirchbergerWomen and Buddhism in Communist China

23-6 Ester BianchiChinese Buddhist Nuns and Laywomen in a Changing World: Harmonizing Tradition and Modernity throughout 20th and 21st Century China

30-6 Lekshe TsomoWomen in Tibetan Buddhism

7-7 Jampa TsedroenGender Constructions and Gender Relations from a Tibetan Buddhist Perspective

14-7 Dhammadinnâ Women’s Soteriological Agency, Text Transmission and Buddhist Institutions

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