A Conference on Transforming Conflict
as Compassion with Exposure and Retreat
“The Challenge for Engaged Buddhism in the Next Decade”
November 22-29, 2017, Taiwan
Some 2,500 years later, humanity seems to be more tangled that it has ever been. Facing environmental crisis and continuing violent conflict, many seem to be turning inward and away from the embrace of a world of inclusivity, where we overcome the constructed barriers of our diverse identities to rebuild our mother earth and find a new home amongst it. The role of institutionalized religion amongst this struggle is debatable. Is it a source of continued division and intolerance or a platform to develop common values and infuse our economic and political systems with ethics? Socially engaged Buddhism has been a movement oriented to the latter of these possibilities. Emerging out of the anti-colonial struggles of the peoples of Asia, socially engaged Buddhism has flowered over the last three decades into an incredible diversity of movements—holistic community development in Sri Lanka and Thailand, suicide prevention and psycho-spiritual care in Japan, meditation for application in modern medical science in the U.S and Europe, campaigns for social justice and equality in India, and a growing movement for environmental justice world wide—to name just a few.
The International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), founded in 1989, has been an integral part of many of these developments, identifying and nurturing grassroots initiatives in localities all over Asia and linking them together in a global network for holistic, inclusive, and non-violent social transformation. The immense complexity of our worlds—so interconnected by internet technology yet so fragile as seen in recent political and cultures shifts away from this interconnectedness—have more deeply awakened those of us at INEB towards taking new steps in our collective struggle. We feel we must now double-down on our efforts to realize over the next decade four essential goals for the livelihood of our planet, which make up our Roadmap for Socially Engaged Buddhism for the Next Decade:
- Environmental integrity, which consists of the integration of inner and outer ecology
- Cultural inclusivity and diversity, which are essential to a vibrant and healthy system at any level
- Inner peace, and the need for experiential forms of inner development to empower psychological wholeness
- Social justice, and the creation of larger political and economic systems that nurture ecology, diversity, and inner peace.
A Conference on Transforming Conflict as Compassion
- As INEB seeks to further empower its own network and support efforts by like-minded colleagues from different faiths and different fields of endeavor, we will host our first international conference (our 18th overall) as part of this roadmap for the coming decade in Taiwan in November, 2017 entitled “A Conference on Transforming Conflict as Compassion”. While environmental integrity, cultural inclusivity & diversity, inner peace & psychological wholeness, and socio-political justice form our goals, compassion is one of our principle means and conflict is our field. In keeping with our core Buddhist view of non-duality, conflict provides a rich field for our practice, without which we could not practice compassion. Therefore, conflict is not our enemy, but actually the ground for realization, hence we transform conflict as we realize compassion, the two working together in a creative dynamic. In our conference, we will investigate these themes further through a program of exposure, conference, and retreat covering one week.
- Nov. 22-23 : two days of visiting two of Taiwan’s most prominent Buddhist orders, Dharma Drum Mountain and Tzu Chi, with a variety of special exposures to Taiwanese engaged Buddhism, including a symposium on dying and hospice care, a visit to a Buddhist hospital, and a massive, elderly volunteer run recycling campaign.
- Nov. 24-26 : two and a half days of general conference to delve into the conference theme of “transforming conflict as compassion” while engaging in a deeper exploration of Taiwanese engaged Buddhism. Afternoons will be spent learning and engaging with the wider INEB community on the many interests and activities of the international network, which include Taiwanese engaged Buddhist activities. The conference will conclude with reflections and action plans from these afternoon sessions, an update on INEB’s 10 year Road Map for Socially Engaged Buddhism, and a final reflection from our Taiwanese hosts.
- Nov. 27-28 : three days of post-conference meditation and practice retreat to internalize our experiences, reflect on them, and integrate them into our spiritual practice and daily lives. For realizing this, we have identified three sequential touchstones of Buddhist practice: the development of mindfulness, the cultivation of compassion, and the realization of transformation. Four leading female Dharma teachers from different traditions will lead the retreat offering instructions on practice, dharma teachings, and perspectives on connecting them to our lives of social engagement.
- While the challenges of this age are daunting, the potentials for transformation and collective awakening are tremendous. Bodhisattvas in their vows to engage in the immense vastness of suffering, sentient life, and practice never lack optimism and energy. So we encourage you to join us not just for this conference but also for the journey that lies ahead.
2 Days Exposure Tour (Nov 22-23) :
Symposium on Dying and Hospice Care & Exposure at Dharma Drum Mountain Temple
(Jinshan, Northern Taiwan, 1.5 hours from Taipei City)
One of the outstanding examples of Taiwanese Engaged Buddhism is the development of Buddhist based hospice care and the training of ordained sangha members in psycho-spiritual care for patients, family, and other caregivers. As it is hard for a large group such as ours to visit a hospice, we will instead host a half day symposium bringing together some of the leaders of this movement, including one of our hosts, Ven. Huimin, President of the Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts. After a refreshing vegetarian lunch at Dharma Drum’s expansive cafeteria, we will tour around Dharma Drum Mountain Temple, one of Taiwan’s leading Buddhist sanghas, and learn about their volunteer training program.
Environmental Care and Human Care with the Tzu Chi Buddhist order
Morning: The Tzu Chi Recycling Project @ Neihu
Tzu Chi Buddhist order, another one of Taiwan’s most prominent sanghas, is know for its variety of social welfare activities, especially overseas disaster aid. We will visit the Tzu Chi Recycling Project which operates more than 5,000 recycling centers with tens of thousands of volunteers all over Taiwan. Their elderly volunteers recycle PET bottles and all sorts materials to make blankets for use in overseas disaster aid as well as various products for daily usage like bags, shoes, and clothing.
Taipei Tzu Chi Hospital & “Silent Mentors”
Tzu Chi also runs a large hospital in Taipei City, and amongst a variety of unique activities, we will learn about their Silent Mentors program. Around the world, it is common for surgeons-in-training to practice on actual cadavers, yet these bodies are usually handled like disposable items—cut up, tossed to the side, and thrown away with no regard to the human beings they once were. The Silent Mentors program connects Tzu Chi Medical University’s surgeons-in-training with the families of people who have voluntarily donated their bodies for this program, so that a practice of honoring their bodies for research and a deeper care for the whole human as body and spirit is instilled in their doctors.
Afternoon : After a full morning of seeing Engaged Buddhism on the ground, we will refresh our mood with a visit to the New Taipei City Yingge Ceramics Museum