SFZC Central Abbess Reports Back from International Conference on Buddhist Women
Notes from Central Abbess Eijun Linda Cutts
The 14th Annual Sakyadhita International Conference on Buddhist Women was held last month in Yogyakarta, Indonesia—a beautiful country rich in Buddhist as well as Hindu and Muslim history. Almost a thousand people, predominantly ordained women from many countries, attended the seven days of meditation and ceremonies, presentations of scholarly papers, workshops, cultural events and living together in harmony.
The conference was followed by a tour of the area, including a dawn visit to Borobudur. At this marvelous Buddhist temple monument that rises from the plains, surrounded by mountains, we practiced meditation, adorning the walls and walkways with our sitting.
Tassajara Director Shinchi Linda Galjian and I traveled together and connected with Konin Cardenas, one of our non-resident teachers at City Center, who attended as well. Another attendee was Joe Shakarchi, a longtime sangha member who now lives in Bangkok.
The theme of the conference was “Compassion and Social Justice,” and the papers that were given by panels of scholars and practitioners (translated into several languages) took up the issues broadly. We heard about the oppression of ordained women in many countries, gender issues, women who started institutions of higher learning and care facilities for the elderly, and women who were artists of renown. We studied together about new leadership paradigms, unlearning sexism, and maritime Buddhism—exciting new scholarship on the history of the region.
When the US Supreme Court made same-sex marriage the law of the land, it was announced from the podium at the conference. The sense of joy and a shared life—in the midst of so many differences—was a lesson on how a multifaceted sangha enlivens our practice.
The next conference will be in 2017 in Hong Kong. I will be there.