Program at a Glance

June 23(Fri) June 24(Sat) June 25(Sun) June 26(Mon) June 27(Tue)
06:00 COEX 06:00
Morning Meditation (06:30 – 07:30)
07:00 07:00
Breakfast (07:30 – 08:30)
08:00 08:00






09:00 Paper Presentation 1
(09:00 – 11:30)
Paper Presentation 3
(09:00 – 11:30)
Paper Presentation 4
(09:00 – 11:30)
Paper Presentation 5
(09:00 – 11:30)
10:00 Medi
of the
(10:00 – 16:00)
(10:00 – 16:00)
11:00 11:00
(11:30 – 13:00)
(11:30 – 13:00)
(11:30 – 13:00)
12:00 12:00
13:00 Paper Presentation 2
(13:00 – 15:00)
Workshops 2
(13:00 – 15:00)
Workshops 4
(13:00 – 15:00)
Paper Presentation 6
(13:00 – 15:00)
14:00 14:00
15:00 Tea Break
(15:00 – 15:30)
Tea Break
(15:00 – 15:30)
Tea Break
(15:00 – 15:30)
Workshops 1
(15:30 – 17:00)
Workshops 3
(15:30 – 17:00)
Workshops 5
(15:30 – 17:00)
Focus Groups / General Meeting
(15:30 – 17:00)
16:00 16:00
17:00 Opening
(17:00 – 18:00)
(17:00 – 17:30)
(17:00 – 18:00)
Break (17:30 – 19:00)
18:00 Welcome
(18:00 – 19:30)
19:00 Evening Dharma Talk
(19:00 – 21:00)
Cultural Performance
(19:00 – 21:00)
Night Tour
(19:00 – 21:00)
20:00 20:00
21:00 21:00
Morning Meditaiton

There will be an hour-long meditation session every morning for the duration of the conference.

Meditations of the World

Four renowned meditation leaders will each lead an hour-long meditation session from 10 am to 4 pm on June 23, the first day of the conference.


Various papers will be presented on the theme of the conference. Each session is 120 or 180 minutes long, and will be moderated by a chair who will introduce the speakers and lead the session. Each presentation will be 20 minutes long, followed by a Q&A session. Paper presentations will take place in the 3rd floor Auditorium.


Our workshops are a unique part of the Sakyadhita conference. Each workshop will take place in a conference room of 30-80 people. All the conference rooms can be found on the second floor, and 10 workshops will take place simultaneously in different rooms. Each workshop is either 60 or 90 minutes long, and presenters can use videos, photos, or other media to introduce their activities and communicate with the audience freely.


Participants will design a poster summarizing their presentation and area of interest. These posters will be displayed in the 1st floor exhibition hall for the entire duration of the conference. The authors may be available on site to discuss their topic with other participants from 3:30 pm to 5 pm on June 26.

Dharma Talk

A dharma talk is scheduled for the 2nd day of the conference, from 7-9 pm.

Cultural Performance

A cultural performance is scheduled for the 3rd day of the conference, from 7-9 pm.

Post-conference Tour (Temple Pilgrimage)

With a history of Buddhism that spans almost two millennia, Korea is home to many temples where the beauty of nature meets rich and ancient traditions. The post-conference tour will provide participants with a special opportunity to participate in a 3-day pilgrimage to some of Korea’s most iconic and beautiful temples such as Woljeongsa, Baekdamsa, and Naksansa. Baekdamsa Temple in particular will be open to us exclusively for two nights, where participants will be able to rest and meditate surrounded by nature, all the while fostering friendly conversations in between.
For more details about the post-conference temple pilgrimage, please click here.

Paper Presentation

Paper Session 1
Buddhist Women of Korea
June 24
Proposer Name Sukyung Sunim (Director, Center for the Korean Bhiksuni Sangha)
Title of the Paper The Digital Transformation of Korean Bhikṣuṇī Records:
Seeing the History of Korean Bhikṣuṇīs Through a Digital Network
Abstract As modern society continues to change into a largely digital world, the Research Institute for the Korean Bhikṣuṇī Sangha is also prioritizing the compilation and conversion of bhikṣuṇī-related materials into digital data. It first began with the digitization process of the “Collection of Newspaper Articles on Contemporary Korean Bhikṣuṇīs” and the “Buddhist Practice Stories of Korean Bhikṣuṇīs”, which contains the stories of 329 bhikṣuṇīs, by scanning the original text and entering the condensed information into a computer to make it searchable. Thanks to this digitization process, the bhikṣuṇī records could now be utilized as digital data. However, the question arose whether the information and knowledge about Korean bhikṣuṇī could be communicated meaningfully within the digital world with just digitization and digitalization. With this in mind, the Institute’s newly established project of the ‘digital transformation of Korean bhikṣuṇī records’ is currently underway, and will be introduced at this Conference.
Proposer Name Jinwon Sunim
Title of the Paper A Proposal for the Future of Korean Buddhism
Abstract In light of major changes to the customs and environment of modern Korean society, it has become necessary to reestablish the conventions of the monastic order and the status of bhikkhunis. Some of the current problems within the order are not exclusive to bhikkhunis, but seem to be based on an overall lack of gender sensitivity. This in turn causes more problems such as biased practice customs and an unequal distribution of roles in Korean Buddhism today.
The first problem that merits attention is the issue of religious suffrage. Korean Buddhists have already adopted the socioscientific elective system for making collective decisions, rather than the assembly system as seen in early Buddhism. Although the council for leadership selection and policymaking is formed through an elective process, bhikkhunis are granted not even an indirect vote but only occupational representation, thus greatly limiting their ability to participate.
Secondly, there are many aspects that require improvement on an institutional level. Most of the current monastic customs are derived from a patriarchal, male-centric context and are largely conventional.
Thirdly, it is time to expand the role of bhikkhunis within the order. In modern Korean society, women are already proving their worth in many fields based on their abilities and competency. Moreover, the majority of Korean Buddhists are women. Yet the role of bhikkhunis within the order is still extremely limited. It is imperative that laywomen and bhikkhunis cooperate to achieve the many tasks ahead of us.
I believe that the above agenda concerns not just the bhikkhunis of Korea but also the rest of the world. By giving thought to these issues and establishing a leading example together, it is my hope that the status of bhikkhunis worldwide will improve unitedly.
Proposer Name Jahun Sunim
Title of the Paper Compassion Practice of Korean Buddhist Women Medical Workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Abstract The constant exposure to others’ suffering and death can predispose medical workers to similar feelings of distress and negative consequences of care-giving for others. Medical workers describe their own psychological affliction caused by work-related distress and exhaustion as compassion burnout or fatigue. However, as the term ‘compassion’ is being contested, recent neuroscientific findings suggest that compassion fatigue should be called ‘empathic distress fatigue,’ and that the strategy to ease empathic distress fatigue is compassion training. Compassion training increases self-compassion, emotion, regulation between self and other, and builds resilience. More than enough evidence, especially fMRI ones, shows that meditation is a highly effective self-care strategy for compassion training.
This study aims to integrate the neuroscientific findings on compassion training and meditation with the working site of Korean Buddhist women medical workers at a university hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic. To do so, I discuss the different perspectives of the causes of their sufferings. I then assess their meditation practices as a means to alleviate their sufferings. Analyzing the findings from the qualitative study, I finally suggest that the meditation practices reduce depression and strengthen resilience. Thus, meditation practice is proven to be an effective self-care strategy both in the personal and professional setting. When women medical workers form the majority of the population in the field of nursing, their commitment to the practice is a way to achieve compassion not only for themselves but for the whole.
Proposer Name Hwang, Sookyung
Title of the Paper The Necessity of Buddhist Practice in Daily Life in Modern Society: Focusing on the Teachings of Seon Master Daehaeng
Abstract In modern society, problems such as materialism, excessive competition, social alienation, and depression caused by conflict between different groups have intensified in the wake of Covid-19. As a result, we are now confronted with the task of restoring mutual respect for life and harmonious coexistence. This study aims to examine the characteristics of the teachings of Seon Master Daehaeng (1927-2012), who, since the 1970s, strove to modernize and globalize Buddhism while at the same time encouraging people to practice Buddhism in daily life. We will also discuss the problems facing Buddhism today and how we should practice Buddhism in the future.
In particular, Seon Master Daehaeng made great efforts to interpret the principles of Buddhism for use in modern society and how to apply them in daily life. The main characteristic of Seon Master Daehaeng’s teachings is that she approached the teachings of Buddhism scientifically, and she taught us to entrust everything we encounter in daily life to our fundamental mind and observe what happens. She encouraged everyone to use their fundamental mind to live a truly free and evolving life. In addition, she taught that through our common, inherent foundation, all lives, minds and bodies are connected as one, work together as one, and freely share whatever is needed. Through this principle, she showed how we can solve the environmental problems facing the world and how we can live together harmoniously in the global village. Her teachings point to a path Buddhism can follow as people continue to abandon conventional religion and pursue meditation.
Proposer Name Eunyoung Kim
Title of the Paper Social Influence and Challenges of Lay Buddhist Women in Korea
Abstract The Republic of Korea is a representative pluralistic country where various religions coexist. Also, Buddhism has been positioned as the most essential traditional religion. In this presentation, women who comprise more than half of the Buddhist population are analyzed from various aspects through religious demographics in Korea. In addition, I will interpret the meaning of their social influence and challenges through the diverse activities of lay Buddhist women in Korea. It will be possible to understand the history and reality of modern Korean lay Buddhist women, such as the gender equality movement, interchange with bhikkhunis Sangha, and the creation of a new culture of asceticism. Lastly, I would like to suggest what kind of contribution women lay Buddhists should make within the Korean Buddhist community in the future.
Paper Session 2
Gender Stereotypes and Impermance
June 24
Proposer Name Kustiani
Title of the Paper The Evolution of Ideas of Femininity in the Concept of Māra: A Gender Analysis
Abstract Indian beliefs accepted the existence of many gods. One of them was the god of death, known as Māra. Māra is a term that has been in existence for a long period of time in Indian beliefs, mythology, demonology, and in the Vedic texts. In many Buddhist texts, Māra physically transforms into a woman. For example, the Padhāna Sutta describes the temptation of Prince Siddhartha by Māra (as a woman) on the banks of the Nerañjarā River. The Māradhītu Sutta describes the temptation of the incipient Buddha by the three daughters of Māra, namely: Tanhā (Craving), Arati (Boredom), and Ragā (Lust). It is often taken for granted that the figure of Māra is a woman or women. However, a discourse in the Ekanipata of the Anguttara Nikāya mentions that a woman cannot become Māra, which introduces a contradiction. In many instances, Māra appears in the form of a woman. This paper questions these contradictions in the conceptualizations of Māra in order to examine the evolution of ideas regarding the feminine in Buddhism.
Proposer Name Jing Liu
Title of the Paper A Buddhist Feminist Politics, Beyond Modern Dualism
Abstract This paper explores the possibility of a Buddhist feminist politics as a response to the various crises we face in world politics today: racism, sexism, colonialism, the discrepancy between capitalism and communism, and the environmental crisis. I argue that they are all metaphysically rooted in a modern subject/object dualism. I first examine the origins of dualism and how dualism is overcome through the concept of emptiness in the Huayan Sūtra. Then I move to the deconstruction of gender essentialism via the teaching and practice of not-self (anatta) in Buddhism. I will provide a feminist reading of the Therigatha, drawing resources from the analysis of power and domination in Simone de Beauvoir and Catharine MacKinnon. Finally, I outline a Buddhist feminist politics of freedom and equality for all beings grounded in compassion and wisdom, stressing the importance of wisdom. I argue that this concept of politics requires a certain enlightenment of society and a certain diminishing of ignorance. Without this, any political ideal inevitably becomes part of the dominant ideology and serves to oppress. I argue that a Buddhist feminist politics rejects any oppression whatsoever, modern or traditional, and seeks the achievement of liberation and prosperity for all beings.
Proposer Name Jeongwan Sunim
Title of the Paper Gender Role Stereotypes and Leadership in Korean Buddhism
Abstract In an age of information and globalization, flexibility and innovation have become key factors for organizations as the paradigm of innovative management has emerged. Values such as diversity, respect, consideration, inclusion, and horizontal relationships have become increasingly important. As a result, the significance of female leadership has been emphasized more in recent years because female leaders typically are held to aim for horizontal interpersonal relationships, demonstrating the benefits of leaders who express care and responsibility, and promote consideration and power-sharing. Some studies have noted that women’s strengths in addressing various leadership issues, such as inclusion, power-sharing, caring for subordinates, and horizontal interpersonal relationships, indicate that women can become better leaders than men. Although studies focusing on leadership have traditionally investigated fields such as education, management, and administration, in recent years transformational leadership has emerged as a type of leadership that is considered suitable for the 21st century. Transformational leadership explores the dramatic changes that occur in an organization triggered by changes in beliefs, desires, and values among followers based on values beyond obedience. This type of leadership is gaining attention as being characteristic of female leadership, because it prioritizes the broad participation of members and their mutual interaction.
This paper will focus on gender stereotypes as factors related to transformational leadership performance. Male leadership is often associated with strong discipline and hierarchical relations, whereas female leadership is thought to be receptive and flexible, with weaker bonds between people. It is often believed that religion provides suitable models of leadership for resolving the complex problems of modern society. However, in the Korean Buddhist community, the growth of religion is slowing and this paper questions whether one reason may be its inability to exercise female leadership in a society that increasingly values diversity and care for the whole person. Few studies have examined transformational leadership with gender role stereotypes and social capital in mind. This paper examines transformational and transactional leadership, the relationship between Buddhist expectations of leadership characteristics, gender role stereotypes, social capital, and acceptance of female leaders. The findings will have implications for the significance of female leadership in Buddhism. The findings will also contribute to the development of education and counseling programs to improve gender sensibility and create a culture of gender equality in Buddhism.
Proposer Name Ven. Dr. Myodo Jabo
Title of the Paper Kuan Yin: a Gender Fluid Bodhisattva for Our Times
Abstract Little has been written about Kuan Yin (Avalokitesvara) in relation to sex and gender. The topic is timely due to the precarious rights afforded those who reject a dualistic approach to this issue. Even the term “gender non-conforming” demonstrates a need for greater tenderness in addressing the issues of gender fluidity and trans persons. This paper addresses how Kuan Yin can serve as both example and inspiration for those who are marginalized due to their gender identification. The discussion includes Kuan Yin’s manifestations across a variety of cultures, as well as his/her compassion and willingness to be reborn in whatever form best serves the world. Hopefully, this understanding will lead gender fluid individuals and trans persons to be comfortable seeking refuge in Buddhism.
Research Questions This paper seeks to answer the following questions:
• How and why did Kuan Yin move from male to female in China and what does this say about the impermanence of gender?
• Why do some modern Buddhist leaders reject that gender identification change?
• What are the practical implications of a Bodhisattva who is unattached to gender and form? How does this demonstrate resilience?
• What can modern Buddhists learn about gender identity and awakening from Kuan Yin?”
Paper Session 3
Seeking Awakening: Women’s Ordination Past and Present
June 25
Proposer Name Gelongma Pema Deki, Gelongma Namgyel Lhamo
Title of the Paper The Gelongma Ordination in Bhutan June 2022 – An insider’s view
Abstract Gelongma Pema Deki (born in the U.K.) and Gelongma Namgyel Lhamo (born in Bhutan) were among the 142 nuns who recently received full ordination as a bhiksuni (Tibetan: gelongma) in Bhutan. This presentation will include details of the event (with slides) and a discussion of further steps to encourage the nuns of Bhutan, such as their inclusion in the tradition of a 45-day summer rains retreat for the first time. The presentation will also include some of the inspiring words spoken by the Je Khenpo of Bhutan, who officiated at the ordination, and discuss the auspicious conditions and people who came together to make such an extraordinary event possible. We will share details about the selection of the place for the ordination, which is located near where the famous Gelongma Palmo practiced in Bhutan. In addition, we will share personal testimony about what the ordination has meant to us and how it has changed our lives and minds. Finally, the talk will discuss the lineage of this ordination and questions about the role of the eight gurudharmas (“weighty rules”). We are keen to answer questions from the audience.
Proposer Name Ursula Manandhar
Title of the Paper A Rare Ordination
Abstract Nepal Mandala is a place where divinities reside in every household, community, and temple. It is a land where the practice of Vajrayāna Buddhism is still observed and pursued by householder monks (guruju and guruma) and by Vajracharyas and Shakyas in Vajrayāna monasteries (baha and bahi). In this tradition, the presence of the four assemblies is required – bhikkhu, bhikkhunī, upāsika, and upāsikā – where everyone participates equally in tantric ritual practices.
In Vajrayāna monasteries, female priests (guruma) are not permitted in the main shrine (kwapadyo). This exclusion is a discriminating factor, even though in every ritual ordination the female priests are seated beside the male priests. The main reason for this exclusion is that females are not ordained in a ceremony called Chudakarma, as male priests are. This paper examines why females are not ordained in such a manner. It discusses the historical evidence, such as the Lichhavi inscriptions from Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur, which suggests that both bhikkhus and bhikkhunīs were residing in Vajrayāna monasteries. Due to changes in monarchial religious beliefs in the past, the system of ordaining females completely disintegrated. This paper argues that this transition created both partiality and a rift in a ritualistic practice of equality.
In order to counter this conservative mentality, a group of female practitioners from the vajrācārya caste were ordained in 2021 and the Chudakarma ceremony was performed for them in the Vajrayāna Bihara in Lumbini by Bhikkhuni Dhammavati and Professor Dr. Naresh Man Bajracharya. The following year, female practitioners from castes other than the vajrācārya were also ordained in the same ritual. Although the traditional baha and bahi were hesitant to accept their ordinations, this paper highlights how revolutionary this step was in revitalizing an extinct and rare ordination ceremony, and in bringing about equality.
Proposer Name Dr. Marlai Ouch
Title of the Paper Buddhist Women Completing the Fourfold Assembly of the Buddha Cultivate Resilience and Seek Awakening for Themselves and Others
Abstract In modern times, the fourfold Buddhist assembly (upāsikas, upāsikās, bhikkhus, and bhikkhun.īs) is not complete or inclusive. Bhikkhunīs are missing or excluded in many Buddhist traditions, including my own Cambodian Buddhist community. Women in the Cambodian Buddhist community in the United States and Cambodia lack access to Buddhist monastic education and full ordination. The tradition of women’s ordination in Cambodia was discontinued after the Angkor period, leading to widespread disempowerment and inequity for women.
As a Cambodian-American Buddhist resident of San Francisco with a doctorate in Educational Leadership from San Francisco State University focused on social justice and equity, and a co-founder of the Cambodian Bhikkhuni Sangha Initiative, I have been working in partnership with Dhammadharini to support the revival of the Cambodian Bhikkhuni Sangha for the upliftment of Cambodian Buddhist women’s communities for about ten years. The Cambodian Bhikkhuni Sangha Initiative supports ordained Cambodian Buddhist women in the Theravāda tradition. It provides a path for Cambodian women who wish to be ordained to prepare for full ordination and supports their development. This initiative aims to complete the fourfold assembly and establish inclusivity in the Cambodian Buddhist community, enabling the community to survive and thrive. When bhikkhun.īs learn and practice the Buddha’s teachings and teach others to do the same, they are seeking awakening for themselves and others. Today, to be awake means that the Buddha’s teachings are accessible and available to everyone.
Proposer Name Vanessa R. Sasson, Sharon Suh, Mavis Fenn, Darcie Price-Wallace
Title of the Paper Telling the Story of the Request for Ordination
Abstract The story of the first women’s request for ordination as nuns is one of the most important in the Buddhist canon. We find it in the Cullavagga, along with alternative renditions in the other vinayas of Buddhist literature. It is a story of courage, determination, and complicated realities. It is, moreover, a story that is not confined to ancient history, but one that we find reflected in contemporary monasticism, as communities continue to wrestle with the question of how the story might be understood.
Vanessa R. Sasson’s new book, The Gathering (Equinox, 2023), tells the story of the nuns’ request for full ordination. Trained academically, Sasson presents the story in the shape of a novel, following the narrative largely as the Cullavagga recites it. Her characters, however, emerge out of the Therīgāthā and its commentary. In her book, women of different backgrounds walk together to ask the Buddha for access. It is a women’s march of ancient times, led by a queen who wanted to become a nun. This panel will open with a brief description of the book, followed by a conversation with the panelists, each of whom will focus on one aspect of The Gathering. The panelists include Mavis Fenn (professor emerita of University of Waterloo), who will focus on the intersections between text, history, and culture; Darcie Price-Wallace (recent graduate of Northwestern University), who will speak about the history of nuns’ ordination; and Sharon Suh (professor at Seattle University and current president of Sakyadhita), who has experience as an author of books for a wide readership.
Paper Session 4
Pilgrimage, Practice, and Precarity
June 26
Proposer Name Dr. Mitashree Srivastava
Title of the Paper Gender, Pilgrimage, and Power: An Anthropological Study of Women Pilgrims at Bodhgaya, Bihar
Abstract Bodhgaya, in Bihar (India), where Buddha Śākyamuni became awakened, is a Buddhist pilgrimage center and a UNESCO world heritage site. Every year, Bodhgaya witnesses a huge influx of national, international, and transnational pilgrims and tourists, including Buddhist women. In this anthropological study, I attempt to understand how gender plays a crucial role in shaping women pilgrims’ experiences of “being” or “becoming” Buddhists in the male-dominated ritual space of Bodhgaya. My paper argues that Buddhist women pilgrims are marginalized when it comes to their visibility and representation in the religious landscape of Bodhgaya. My research addresses the following questions: First, what are the personal beliefs, motivations, and goals of Buddhist women pilgrims at Bodhgaya? Second, how do Buddhist women pilgrims challenge religious patriarchy and exercise their agency, claims, and rights in the sacred complex of Bodhgaya? Finally, why do a few Buddhist women pilgrims choose to stay back at Bodhgaya, making it their home? Considering that precarity runs as an undercurrent in the lives of women, I use a reflexive stance to collect and analyze the life histories and narrative testimonials of Buddhist women pilgrims. Because these Buddhist women pilgrims represent different cultural/Buddhist traditions, classes, ethnicities, castes, nationalities, and minority groups, recording and archiving their voices and memories is necessary to reconstruct oral histories of womens’ empowerment in Buddhism.
Proposer Name Sandra Ng Siow San (Ph.D.)
Title of the Paper Body Compassing Our Way Out
Abstract In this paper, I share research gathered for my doctoral thesis, which examined the religiously and/or spiritually transformative pilgrimage experiences of Malaysian and Singaporean Buddhists of ethnic Chinese background. Out of a total of 27 interview participants: nine are Chinese Malaysian Buddhist laypersons, nine are Chinese Singaporean Buddhist laypersons, and nine are Buddhist spiritual mentors. Of this latter category, four are monastic Buddhist mentors (two Australians, one Malaysian, one Sri Lankan) and five are lay Buddhist mentors (four Malaysians and one Singaporean). My aim was to learn why Buddhists carry out pilgrimages and how pilgrimage impacts their being Buddhist. I learned that the motivations of my participants are varied and multifaceted, and their reasons for pilgrimage are personal, unique, and creatively tied to their becoming Buddhist. When the coronavirus broke out, I could not help but notice that we have all, in one way or another, been thrown into a kind of pilgrimage. In the latter part of this paper, I take up the following question: If Buddhists can no longer go to the special places of the buddhas or bodhisattvas, then how do we do pilgrimage? Through selected narratives of two participants (a laywoman and a male spiritual mentor), I show that pilgrimage can be understood as an embodied practice in the here and now. The body, as such, matters as it holds the wisdom and fundamental qualities from which we can seek guidance, inspiration, awareness, and awakening as we move through this precarious world.
Proposer Name Nirmala S. Salgado
Title of the Paper Sri Lankan Bhikkhunῑs Living the Pandemic: Crisis, Temporality, Ritual
Abstract This paper focuses on how national lockdowns and travel restrictions in Sri Lanka at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic affecteded the communal cohesion of Buddhist nuns. The paper will argue that although the impact was significant, at the national level, nuns’ continued disciplinary practice at their home hermitages helped them resume pre-pandemic practices with little disruption. State-imposed mandates prevented Sri Lankan bhikkhunīs from engaging in important communal practices defining who they are as Theravāda bhikkhunīs. Practices such as training junior monastics for the annual higher ordination and participation in the monthly pātimokkha and annual rain-retreat rituals are central to who they are and what they do. Based on research conducted during the pandemic, this paper investigates not only the extent to which Sri Lankan bhikkhunīs maintained pre-pandemic ritual practices and connections with householders, but also how their interpretations of the pandemic itself provide a window into their resilience as Buddhist monastics and leaders. While some monastics adapted to life in the pandemic by using digital communications such as Zoom for the first time, most senior nuns without access to smart devices resorted to other means to sustain connections with their far-flung monastic contacts and local householder supporters. As I demonstrate, the daily renunciant practices of nuns, crucial to maintaining their discipline and empowering their position among the communities they serve, were essential in sustaining communal cohesion among themselves and with their householder esupporters. I will also discuss the extent to which nuns have successfully resumed important practices since the height of the pandemic in 2021.
Proposer Name Tenzin Yangchen
Title of the Paper Progress in Nunneries of the Mon Region, Arunachal Pradesh, India
Abstract This paper focuses on the progress made by nunneries in the Mon region, Arunachal Pradesh, India. The Mon region refers to the Tawang and West-Kameng districts of Arunachal Pradesh. In the Mon region, the advent of nunneries is difficult to pinpoint exactly, but most probably they arose in the late 17th century, well after the establishment of Tawang Monastery. The largest nunneries in the region are Gyang-gong Nunnery, Drama Dungchung Nunnery, Singsur Nunnery, and Jang Nunnery. Most of the nunneries in the region were originally retreat sites that developed into small nunneries as the number of nuns increased. Some of the nunneries were founded by Buddhist spiritual teachers )lamas), reincarnate lamas (rinpoches), or individual nuns. In early times, nuns faced difficulties running their nunneries due to a lack of connection with local communities due to the fact that their nunneries were located at remote sites. In some nunneries, there are still some nuns who work in their local villages to earn money to buy necessities. Today, most of nunneries have their own academic study programs where new and junior nuns can receive a basic education in both modern and traditional subjects. The nunneries are also institutions for preserving the age-old traditions of Buddhist learning in the region. In this presentation, I will discuss how nunneries function in this remote region and explain their relationship to their local communities.
Proposer Name Sourajit Ghosh and Ven. Nguyen Thi Hanh
Title of the Paper Contemplation on the Sukhāvatī: Shared Stories of Buddhist Women Initiatives On Community Wellbeing, Environmental Consciousness and Developing Sustainable Happiness In Asian Geographies
Abstract Global warming and the advent of the COVID crisis have caused all life forms on this planet to experience suffering in profound ways. Sometimes this suffering it is beyond control and to some extent it is beyond understanding. The world’s peoples need to be more active, conscious, and united than ever before to develop more climate-friendly practices to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change through a green approach based on principles of sustainable development and circular economics. The tangible and immediate effects of global warming on the natural ecosystem and all forms of life are being explored by climate scientists and environmentalists. But a serious question that still needs to be addressed is the impact of climate change on human livelihood and mental health. As a community of global citizens, we need to provide society with a much simpler, more ecofriendly way of life, with less harmful patterns of consumption.
This paper look deeply into the “small is beautiful” concept advocated by the eminent economist E. F. Schumacher, combined with concepts of mindfulness and integrated wellbeing (a Buddhist approach) to advocate better strategies for community health in times of crisis. In this paper, we explore recent initiatives by Buddhist women to prevent mass exploitation of natural resources by following minimalist consumption patterns, without sacrificing essential human needs. The need of the hour is to recognize the power of compassion that women wield in these difficult, unforeseen times. The paper will touch on Buddhist philosophical tenets of nondualism to address the need for an ecofeminism that acts collectively to nurture the well-being of Mother Earth and human beings’ deep connections with nature. This approach considers human beings to be an integrated part of nature rather than an external agent. The paper presents specific cases of monasteries and nunneries in Vietnam (Kim Son Nunnery) and Northern India and their recent efforts to support their communities and mitigate the effects of the global climate crisis for a better shared future.
Paper Session 5
Applying the Buddha Dharma
June 27
Proposer Name Pema Khandro
Title of the Paper Why Buddhist Women Should Be Respected: A 14th-Century Tibetan Perspective
Abstract In the wake of the brave voices of the Buddhist #metoo movement, critiques have been levied that neo-colonialist, Western liberal feminist voices dominate Tibetan Buddhist conversations. In light of this, there is a need for responses to gender violence based on post-colonialist, indigenous, Tibetan Buddhist centric perspectives. To contribute research to fill that urgent need, this paper examines the history of paradigms of respect for women in classical Tibetan literature, focusing on tantra and Great Perfection (rdzogs chen). It examines sources that address key themes that have been the target of contemporary #metoo debates, such as samaya, interpersonal violence, and consort relationships. In addition to explicit discourses, taking the lens of anthropological research on rape-prone cultures, it also analyzes what implicit elements of this literature may be significant resources for ending violence towards women. The primary sources for this paper’s focus are drawn from a corpus of fourteenth-century esoteric literature called the Seminal Heart of the Dākinī, (mkha’ ‘gro snying thig) and its related key classical Tibetan texts of Great Perfection. This paper argues that discourses of respect for women are tied to a web of other discourses, ranging from ontological concerns to ethics, and often linked to female buddhas, deities and dākinīs, justifying the inclusion and respect for women based on gender essentialism. It concludes by analyzing the benefits and limits of gender essentialist approaches and raises questions about the role of historical discourses of respect for women in contemporary contexts.
Proposer Name Dr. Diana Cousens and Dr Anna Halafoff
Title of the Paper Preventing Family Violence and Violence Against Women among Buddhist Communities in Victoria, Australia
Abstract Family violence and violence against women affect significant numbers of women in diverse faith communities. In the state of Victoria, the Royal Commission Into Family Violence was completed in 2015. In 2019, the Buddhist Council of Victoria received funding to develop training packages for faith leaders and communities. The project is continuing into 2023 and at this stage has worked with the Vietnamese, Chinese, and Tibetan communities to raise awareness and provide resources. Resources include help cards, a toolkit, posters, and videos, in multiple languages as well as face-to-face training. In this paper, we will consider the successes and obstacles to tackling this issue in the Buddhist community.
Proposer Name Ngar-sze Lau, PhD
Title of the Paper Pioneer Buddhist Chaplaincy Services Organized by Bhiksunīs and Laity at Public Hospitals in Hong Kong
Abstract This paper explores the core values of the pioneer organization that established regular Buddhist chaplaincy services at public hospitals in Hong Kong, focusing on the initial effort of a group of bhiksunīs and laywomen. Although there were some Buddhist monastics visiting cancer patients in the 1990s, there was a lack of regular and organized Buddhist chaplaincy services at public hospitals in Hong Kong. With the background of colonial Hong Kong, there had been only Christian chaplaincy services at hospitals as official services. The Centre for Spiritual Progress to Great Awakening, which was established in 2009 by the Chinese Bhiksunī Yanyang, started establishing Buddhist chaplaincy programs in 2011 by providing spiritual care to patients in Hong Kong. Despite the passing away of Bhiksunī Yanyang, by 2021, with significant effort by nuns and laity, the Centre’s outreach had greatly increased, providing services to 16 hospitals, with 45,000 patient visits, 12 Buddhist chaplains, and over 300 volunteer spiritual ambassadors. Moreover, life education programs were organized for the public to provide education for facing death and related suffering. All these socially engaged services have greatly promoted the positive image of Chinese Buddhism in Hong Kong, despite challenges to the image of Buddhism due to some misbehaving monastics. This paper examines the development of this organization and its Buddhist teachings through a case study approach.
Proposer Name Chenxing Han
Title of the Paper Listening to the Buddhists in Our Backyard: Engaging Youth in Community-Based Learning
Abstract This paper reflects on the powerful lessons that can emerge when young people engage with local Buddhist communities. For ten weeks during the 2022 spring trimester, six high school students and two co-teachers focused on learning about the tremendous diversity of Buddhism in the Merrimack Valley, an area north of Boston within thirty minutes of their school campus. This experiential educational experience was part of “Listening to the Buddhists in Our Backyard,” a project that began as a creative partnership between Andy Housiaux, a high school religious studies teacher at Phillips Academy Andover, and Chenxing Han, a writer, educator, and advocate for Asian American Buddhists. Through immersion in local Chinese, Khmer, Lao, Thai, and Vietnamese Buddhist communities, our eight-person collective came to realize the foundational importance of generosity (dāna), as well as the centrality of intergenerational, cross-cultural relationship in producing meaningful work and pursuing lifelong learning.
Proposer Name Ven. Nguyen Ngoc Anh and Ven. Le Thi Kim Ngan
Title of the Paper A Buddhist Approach to Loneliness and Its Solution through Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva
Abstract Facing a world full of upheaval and challenges, humanity is being pushed into a lonely pandemic, especially after extended isolation due to the COVID-19 virus. The problem of loneliness can be seen as a cataclysm that destroys people’s mental and physical health. Lonely people are distressed and in need of a solution for caring, healing, and recovery. First, this study will investigate how feelings of loneliness can be transformed through the Buddhadharma and through Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva. In Buddhism, solitude and self-reliance can be promoted as ways to release the suffering that comes from loneliness. Loneliness can be healed by practicing awakening to fully embrace solitude, as healing the mind is where the transformation of loneliness begins. We will introduce the method of healing loneliness by deeply listening, contemplating, and practicing the great compassion of the kind mother, Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva. Deep listening, contemplation, and the practice of compassion can be especially beneficial healing therapies for managing feelings of loneliness. Finally, we discuss how ending loneliness through the teachings of the Buddha and Avalokiteśvara is a way to practice great compassion for oneself and others. Solitude helps us calm down to listen, reflect deeply, and transform loneliness into compassion and wisdom. Through intertextual analysis and interpretation of early Buddhist discourses and the sūtras of Avalokiteśvara, this study highlights Buddhist approaches to loneliness and its management. We also recognize the need to research other sūtras in comparative perspective to find ways to manage loneliness.
Proposer Name Patricia Guernelli Palazzo Tsai
Title of the Paper Sabbam Ādittam: The Fires of Craving and Attachment Are Burning Our World
Abstract Our human society expands each year, having surpassed one billion people worldwide. In theory, these one billion human beings share the same space with wildlife and nature. But unable to coexist harmoniously, humans have sought ways to dominate nature and transform the world into a profitable industry. Human beings have become monsters to the very world we live in, destroying and not reflecting on the consequences, such as climate change, pandemics, famine, and conflict. Resources are finite, but our desires are not. The fires of our greed, craving, and attachment keep on burning not only ourselves, but literally are setting the world in which we live on fire. The problem is that human societies adopted money and the market as its idols. The logic of this system is based on keeping the wheel of craving and attachment turning. Neoliberalism calls craving and attachment virtues, and moderation and non-attachment vices.For this wheel to keep on turning, people need to compulsively desire more and more new things, which they buy, stock, and then discard. Human beings often dispose of things as soon as they are bought. This paper addresses the contributions that Buddhist traditions, especially Buddhist women, have to offer to tackle these issues. Buddhist women are bringing change to the status quo and have the potential to bring forth even greater solutions for our world. This paper will analyze an excerpt from the Āditta Sutta (SN 35.28) in contemporary dialogue with the Tibetan Geluk tradition as a contribution to the cessation of the fires that threaten to consume all beings and our world.
Paper Session 6
Inspiring Resilient Figures
June 27
Proposer Name Gauthama Prabhu Nagappan
Title of the Paper The Significance of Bhikkhuni Manimekalai in Tamil Buddhist Literature
Abstract The Manimekalai is a Tamil Buddhist epic that was composed by Kulavanikan Seethalai Satanar during the 6th century CE. The epic consists of 4,861 lines arranged in 30 cantos. The epic tells the story of a woman named Manimekalai and how her physical beauty attracts kings who try to pursue her. She later becomes a Mahāyāna Buddhist nun and seeks to free herself from all attachments to become enlightened. In this epic, Manimekalai is known for converting a prison into a hospice to help the needy and for teaching kings the Buddhadharma.
The Manimekalai is one of the five great epics of Tamil literature. The epic includes much information about the history of Buddhism in Tamil Nadu, the southernmost state of India. It presents the author’s view of the Buddhist doctrine of the Four Noble Truths, dependent arising, the mind, mantras, rebirth, merit-making, and compassionate action. The epic also reveals the rivalry with other schools that were constantly attacking Buddhism. According to Shu Hikosakam, a scholar of Buddhism and Tamil literature, the Manimekalai includes the doctrines of both Mahāyāna and “Hinayana” Buddhism in an era when monks of these traditions stayed together and shared ideas, before their ideologies had taken fixed forms. The most important aspect of this discussion in the Mainmekalai is that it serves as a prelude to the only other remaining Buddhist text composed in Tamil. The Manimekalai reveals not only the literary imaginings of a specific religious community in a specific historical time and place, but also sheds light on the status of language, the nature of literary culture, and the transmission of ideas and values in early medieval South Asia.
Proposer Name Shubhangi Satkar
Title of the Paper Ambedkarite Buddhist Women and Their Everyday Life in India: A Study Across Changing Times
Abstract Across historical periods, women’s lives have been very difficult due to the many restrictions imposed on them by traditional customs and practices that limited their freedom. But many great revolutionary women and men have fought to improve the lives of women in Indian society. For instance, Savitribai Phule was the first woman in Indian society who studied and became a teacher. However, in order to get an education and become a teacher, she endured much disdain from society. Savitribai Phule became a source of inspiration for women to break out of social constraints and lead new and respected lives. Another great figure is Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, who showed a new way of liberation for society by accepting Buddhism. Dr. Ambedkar’s egalitarian approach was very much appreciated because Indian society is deeply unequal, including inequality between women and men. In this paper, I explore the lives of highly educated Ambedkarite Buddhist women to argue that positive change can be seen in the lives of educated women in contemporary times. In order to understand the changes in their way of living, I share the stories of four educated Buddhist women I interviewed to highlight the fundamental role of Buddhism in enabling these women to seek education and thereby achieve liberation from unequal gender roles in society.
Proposer Name Dr Nita Mishra
Title of the Paper Understanding the Links between Empowerment and Peace: The Soka Gakkai Women of Ireland
Abstract This paper examines how women of the Soka Gakkai International school of Buddhism empower themselves and their community, and how these efforts are linked to global peace.
Two research questions guide the paper: (1) What Buddhist teachings and practices empower them to cope with daily challenges of life? and (2) In what ways does their Buddhist practice link to the idea of global peace? The paper uses qualitative research methods of in-depth interviews and group discussions drawn from feminist and ethnographic studies, including autoethnography, with the aim of investigating the “lived experiences” of ten women belonging to the SGI school of thought in Ireland. This study is significant in the following ways: First, it shows the ways in which women understand “empowerment” and practice “empowerment” themselves. Second, it gives evidence of how the lives of ordinary women may have an impact on global peace. Third, the study links the discourses on women’s empowerment at local levels to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (#16) that advocates for Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. Therefore, this study includes important policy recommendations for states and international organizations.