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This year the venue was Sangha Activa, a Spanish group in the Sakya lineage of the Vajrayana Tibetan tradition in the countryside an hour north of Barcelona. I attended both meetings as Triratna’s Liaison officer and Vajratara (who lives and works at Tiratanaloka) joined me for the Buddhist Teachers in Europe.
Sangha Activa several years ago took over and have made beautiful a filthy, severely neglected and dilapidated mansion full of dogs and other animals, who took months to re-home. Led by their lama, Dondrub, the sangha were wonderful hosts, providing hospitality and delicious food, all on a dana basis, outside under a tiled canopy shading us from the hot sun.
The weekend is the EBU’s annual opportunity to to hold its AGM and review the activities of its committees (for example offering Buddhist contributions to the work of European institutions such as the Council of Europe and European Parliament, and bodies such as ENORB - the European Network on Religion and Belief).
Alongside that there are always gatherings of the representatives of the various national Buddhist unions who form the bulk of the EBU’s membership (in addition to the individual member groups, such as Triratna), and consideration of particular topics.
This year we started by looking at ‘digital Dharma’, with a talk from American Buddhist teacher David Viafora (in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh), and it was pretty clear that - to judge by those groups present - Triratna probably uses digital media more than most Buddhist groups - perhaps more than any Buddhist group.
The 30+ women and men gathered from many countries and Buddhist traditions across in Europe also heard a talk entitled “Buddhism and Conflicts - How we can transform conflicts and develop beneficial states of consciousness”, from Prof. Robert Szuksztul of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, and took part in discussion groups on ‘Solving conflicts in a Buddhist spirit’, which I unfortunately had to miss because of a online meeting as part of my other role as Safeguarding officer.
One evening saw me sharing a platform with those attending from Rigpa and Shambhala, to update everyone on how we are addressing controversial ethical issues in our three groups. It was a very positive session, in the sense that all listened with compassion and a wish to learn, and it was interesting to hear that all three groups were using Restorative process as part of the work of resolution. (It’s important to note that this never replaces police and legal process where a matter may be criminal.)
Two small committees sought to produce public statements on the status of women in Buddhism and on climate change; however when drafts were presented to the assembly there was no agreement on the wording or content and they were postponed.
We also heard of the work of the EBU’s Rainbow sangha, starting to work on awareness and inclusion of LGBT+ people in European Buddhist sanghas. All are welcome, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, to take part in their current survey of awareness and attitudes towards gender and sexual orientation in European sanghas.
Another group of around 30 women and men, including a few of those who attended the EBU meeting, then gathered for the Buddhist Teachers in Europe meeting. The BTE has no legal existence, being simply an annual informal gathering of Buddhist teachers and leaders for discussion and talks. This year their general topic was “What can Buddhism offer to the west?”
Watch a video report from the EBU weekend.
Watch a presentation about the EBU’s new community web platform.
Visit the EBU’s new community web platform.
Read a report from the EBU’s LGBT initiative, Rainbow Sangha.