Do Buddhists need more unity?

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by Oxana Poberejnaia

Manchester Buddhist Convention will be running for the 7th time next 2012 year. And every time, at every closing session of questions and answers, one kind of question was bound to come up: Do we Buddhist need to be more united? Shall we hold some sort of event together? Should we be able to give common response to various social, political and spiritual problems that our society faces?

Good examples were given: for instance, somewhere in the world, Buddhist of various schools get together once a year for a public event, something like “Relaxation Day”, or “Awareness Day”. They hold stalls and put up te

nts where members of public can experience various types of meditation and chanting for their health and spiritual benefit.

Manchester Buddhist Convention was created with a view of bringing Buddhists and people interested in Buddhism together. And it does just that – for one day per year.

Do we want, do we need, a higher level of unity, and what are we prepared do to for it?

Voices have been raised saying that each Buddhist centre is concerned with its own affairs, maintenance and survival. This is fair enough.

Another reservation that I can see is that people might feel that pushing ourselves forward too much is not very Buddhist, and smells of ego somewhat. In addition, people might say that we as Buddhists do no have a common opinion on political and social matters, as we are too different.

I can answer to the latter argument by saying that it is not our drawback, it is our strength. By standing together in diversity we first demonstrate to society that various views can co-exist peacefully without the need for conflict, and, second, we can offer our co-citizens a wealth of various solutions.

As for the former argument, it is of course more serious. Strengthening our ego is the last thing we want to do. In fact, we spend a lot of energy on doing just the opposite. We don’t want any additional identity as “Buddhist” to the ones we already have.

However – what if we look at standing united not as an ego boost, but as service?  We all practice Dhamma (Dharma) – and that means that we find it worthwhile. Are we not supposed to share what is good about Buddha‘s Dhamma with other sentient beings?

What are the benefits of the practice? Obviously, they are manifold. Some of them, like health benefits of meditation, are scientifically proven by now. there are numerous articles on this that everyone can access – so why are we still shying away from saying: “Want to get more peace and lower blood pressure? Ask me how!”

Other positive sides of Buddhism, in my view, are:

  • Practicality
  • Non-dogmatism
  • Adaptability to times and cultures
  • Wide range of choices to suit any personality type
  • And, excuse me, but no concept of God (no offense to our theist brothers and sisters)

The Seventh Manchester Buddhist Convention promises to be the largest ever. We also aim to become a hub for North-Western Buddhist organisations and beyond, as well as a mould based on which other regions and countries can establish their own Conventions – for the benefit of all sentient beings. This year, the organising committee is thinking of attracting more attendees who are only interested and perhaps have not even started on their Dhamma path.

We could also think about what we can do together, as “Manchester Buddhists” – a clean-up event? A public meditation in Peace Gardens. (There is a successful London-based meditation flash mob going).

We don’t have to re-invent the bicycle, either  – we can just find something that other Buddhist do and learn from them. Or we can even get together and help one of our centres that needs help and struggles to muster work force with their own practitioners only. Cleaning, gardening – you name it.

I publish this post here  strictly as my humble opinion and as a prompt for discussion, that I hope, this, seventh time, will take us somewhere.

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One thought on “Do Buddhists need more unity?

  1. Jaya Graves 03/01/2012 at 12:01 Reply

    I love the idea of a meditation flash mob and have been talking to some friends about it. Let’s do it (maybe in Summer?). The idea of uniting to do some work in different Dharma Centres is also great and doable. I’d like to add to that the idea of coming together to raise awareness and funds for disasters that happen in many countries with (or without) strong Buddhist traditions. We have seen several over the years – floods in South East Asia, tsunamies in Japan and S.Asia, earthquakes in Tibet and Sikkim and we have worked to raise funds and awareness of these issues but not together, as something we do as Buddhists. Working together would, of course, benefit us as well as we learn directly, about and from, the different traditions. What would be more difficult is to have a united position on some of the issues that have come up for discussions in other years – eg – what to Buddhists think about organ transplants, gender issues, sexuality issues.

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