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As the ‘Liaison Officer’ for Triratna’s European Chairs’ Assembly, I’m the person who looks after Triratna’s co-operation with other Buddhist traditions on matters of common interest. As part of this work, each September I attend the AGM weekend of the European Buddhist Union (EBU) and the meeting of the Buddhist Teachers in Europe. This year both took place at the Benchen Katsang Retreat Centre just west of Warsaw, Poland. Next year will see them meeting at Adhisthana.
Nearly 30 Buddhist traditions were represented at the EBU meeting (see below for full list) – national Buddhist unions and individual traditions. It was a harmonious meeting; a high degree of continuity of attendance over the years means that I have come to know and nearly everyone and have friendly relations with them.
Having issued an EBU statement on the Buddhist-Muslim violence in Myanmar/Burma (see below for more details) a group exercise identified the two topics felt to be most pressing for next year’s gathering: 1) Young people and Buddhism; 2) Ethical standards in sanghas. Interfaith dialogue, Buddhism and the environment, intra-Buddhist dialogue and Engaged Buddhism were close behind.
Related to concerns regarding ethical controversy in several European sanghas, I talked about my work as Triratna’s ‘Safeguarding officer’. What is referred to as Safeguarding in England and Wales (or ‘Protection’ in Scotland) being unknown in some other European countries this was interesting to many and the German Buddhist Union asked me to attend their annual meeting next April to talk about it.
We heard about the EBU’s work with the Network of Buddhist Women in Europe and the European Council of Religious Leaders. We also learned about the newly published Common Buddhist Text, a compilation of key Buddhist scriptural texts from all three yanas, the pan-Buddhist team for which included the Scottish Dharmachari Sraddhapa, who lives in Norway.
There was discussion of the next EBU conference, ‘Wisdom and Compassion in European Societies’ to be held in Malaga, Spain, 13th-15th April 2018.
The EBU includes a number of special interest networks. Its Rainbow Network (which looks after LGBTQ matters) brought an interfaith declaration against the so-called “Conversion Therapies” used by Christian organisations to convert gay people to heterosexuality. This was signed by many of those present, either personally or on behalf of their traditions.
Finally, there was again interest in Buddhist Action Month, which originated with the UK’s Network of Buddhist Organisations and has been very widely taken up in Triratna.
The annual 3-day Buddhist Teachers in Europe meeting follows straight on from the EBU meeting, offering time to talk informally about various matters personal and to do with Dharma and Dharma teaching. Every three years there is a large BTE gathering including many prominent European teachers but this year we were just eight women and men including teachers from Theravada, Zen and Tibetan traditions and Lama Govinda’s successor Vajramala Thielow-Pressing.
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Some recent Buddhist declarations on violence in Myanmar/Burma:European Buddhist Union statement in English
European Buddhist Union statement in Spanish
European Buddhist Union statement in Italian
Swedish Buddhist Co-operation Council statement
Buddhist groups represented at the 2017 EBU meeting
Austrian Buddhist Union
Salzburg Buddhist association
Buddhist Union of Belgium
Triratna Buddhist Order and Community
Buddhist Union of Finland
French Buddhist Union
German Buddhist Union
Dhagpo Kagyu Ling
Yun Hwa Sangha Europe
Buddhist Mission Hungary
Mandala Samten Ling Drikung Kagyu, Italy
Italian Buddhist Union
Netherlands Buddhist Union
Buddhist Federation of Norway
Sakya Tashi Ling, Spain
Sangha Activa, Spain
Spanish Buddhist Union
Asociacion Hispana de Buddhismo
Buddhist Co-operation Council of Sweden
Swiss Buddhist Union
Haus Tao Switzerland
Network of Buddhist Organisations UK
Western Chan Fellowship, UK