Reporting back from 2013 Gen X Dharma Teachers Conference
On Tue, 18 June, 2013 - 08:56
Padmadharini writes from the US with news of Triratna’s presence at the recent Gen X Dharma Teachers Conference. She says - “This month, a collection of about sixty teachers - a combination of both monastic and lay, from many of the Buddhist lineages - met over 4 days at Deer Park Monastery in San Diego, USA. All of us were born between 1960 and 1980 - hence the the Gen X of the title.
We met to discuss inspiring and challenging topics that Buddhism is encountering in the next generation of Dharma in the West. Key topics included: how to hold teachers accountable, how to teach difficult topics such as reincarnation, how to talk about liberation in a secular culture, how to sustain our own practice and teaching, building more diverse communities, privilege, race, and how to talk about sex and money in a transparent way.
Myself (soon to be based in New York), Viveka (San Francisco), and Vimalasara (Vancouver), represented Triratna at the conference. Viveka was also one of five teachers who planned, organised and facilitated the conference. Speaking personally, this was an amazing opportunity to network and connect with other teachers across North America. Noticeable were the common challenges and joys of being a teacher of this generation. One session, for example, showed that a far larger percentage of us are supporting ourselves to spread the Dharma rather than being supported to do that; we all shared a concern for lack of ethnic and racial diversity in our Sanghas; also the challenges of discussing and dealing with sensitive topics in an era of high visibility.
What was perhaps more interesting was to see the differences. Key amongst those is the emphasis Triratna places upon kalyanamitrata or spiritual friendship. Most participants thought of themselves primarily as “teachers”, with many talking about the need to not get too close with their “students”. This was also a group that was hungry for peer support. I had numerous conversations with people who were impressed with the systems of support and friendship we have created in the Order. As a lesbian, I was also struck by how much my sexuality is a non-issue in our movement, while that is clearly not the case across all traditions. And finally, people I talked with were blown away by what Triratna is doing in India; surely a missed opportunity to promote and spread the word.
I also appreciated the way the facilitators created opportunities for topics to emerge using an “open-space” approach - one session allowed us to talk about the “elephants in the room”, or pink elephants – a term coined by Viveka, which was quite endearing. I came away with a deep appreciation for what Bhante has created, whilst enjoying the opportunity to discuss with practitioners and teachers of my own generation the unique challenges we are facing. Regards, Padmadharini”.