This is a further update on the convention.
As you know the title has been shortened to:
Buddhism Today: Renewal and relevance
Responding to the challenges of our times.
By now you should have had Oxana’s poster and hopefully, you have forwarded it onto you various networks, centre members and other people who may be interested in the Convention. It will also be helpful if you can make a few copies and ask people to hand them out or put them in shops, centres, community groups who may be interested in this event. This Convention needs to be seen as a shared project that we can all promote otherwise it will disappear. It’s quite a big undertaken for a group of six, some of whom are still working full-time and others of whom have multiple identities with various duties attached!
You will find a registration form on the website so please begin to register. Please note that there is a field that asks if you require food. This is important so as not to waste food – not a sustainable practice nor sensible for an event that runs on a shoestring and voluntary contributions in terms of time, food and other resources. We would like to see it remain that way.
In our last update we explained the reason for our choice of topic. If we stop to consider what is happening to our world, will see that we are beset with problems.
This is apparent in the world outside ourselves where we may think we have little control, in our own neighbourhoods as well as within ourselves. This is the scenario.
However the aim of the Convention is not to brood on the negativities that surround us and affect us – how can they not? – but to examine them; examine some of the actions that people are taking in response; and come up with ideas that people can take forward. We cannot change our environment entirely but we are not helpless and what we do together can magnify what we do individually or even as different centres..
The Convention will examine some examples of work that is taking place. Through discussion we will try and develop ideas that we can take forward to create healing in different contexts. There are already some ‘new shoots’ that are being examined; people working in different contexts with Buddhist/spiritual ideas. They will be presented at the Convention and participants may have ideas of how to take them forward. There will also be themed discussion spaces for people to explore specific ideas that have come up over the years, or to suggest their own.
It is interesting to see how many people are interested in Buddhism and are happy to talk about it. On the other hand it is discouraging how many practices are being detached from their ethical and spiritual mooring and presented as mere activities to increase the ‘feel-good’ factor of our lives. This has happened to yoga, meditation and seems to be happening to ‘mindfulness’. (Perhaps some of you read Suzanne Moore’s article in the Guardian. If not – it might be interesting to check.)
There are, of course different notions of ‘doing’ among Buddhists. Some think that we have to ‘work on ourselves first’. There are others who believe that we have to do both together; that time is precious and the situation demands it.
These are some thoughts from a Buddhist (myself) from the other side of the globe. In countries where Buddhism is embedded in the community, there is no separation. In SE Asia, monks and nuns still go out to beg for food. They are entirely dependent on the community to survive. In return they teach, maybe run hospitals, schools and serve the old. There is a symbiotic relationship between them and the community in which they live. In India where there is a revival of Buddhism, it was considered a duty to give alms bhikkus and saddhus – not just those who belonged to one’s own spiritual system (sasana*) but to any mendicant. People would look out to give at least once a day. (A custom that is, unfortunately, receding with modernisation but it is still practiced to some extent.)
Sasana is the Sanskrit and Pali term for teaching, spiritual path or practice. I am choosing to use it because the term ‘tradition’ in English is redolent with something that belongs to the past and will not change.
There will be one or two more updates in the weeks leading up to the Convention. Please also feel free to post your own material or ideas on the Website – it’s for discussion – but it’s a monologue at the moment.
Jaya – co-ordinator MBC
Manchester Buddhist Convention One Root Many Branches