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Sakyadhita is a Buddhist women’s organisation founded in 1987. The 16th Sakyadhita conference took place near Sydney, Australia in June, with a number of women from the Triratna Buddhist Order in attendance: Kusalacitta from Sydney, as well as Tarahridaya and Karunadeepa from Pune in India. Dharmamodini was there to run a stall for Bodhi Books and Gifts.
Sakyadhita means ‘daughters of the Buddha’, and it aims to promote gender equity for monastic and lay women with a focus on education, health, spiritual practice and equal status and ordination. Its current president is Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo.
Kusalacitta writes: “The conference was inspiring for me as both a woman and a Buddhist. Over 800 women from all branches of Buddhism came together with a common aspiration to support our sisters. Most Sakyadhita members are from Asian countries where gender inequality amongst lay and monastics is the cultural and societal norm. Countries represented at the conference include Taiwan, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Academic papers and workshops were presented with subjects on the themes of sexual exploitation and abuse within Buddhism, Buddhist approaches to peace and reconciliation, feminine wisdom and LGBTQQI within Buddhism.
Many speakers described their role in projects supporting women and children. Amongst them was Karunadeepa who works in the Bahujan Hitay social project in Pune, India which runs health clinics and trains women in skills that will help them to support themselves.
Gender inequality in ordination and opportunities to study and practise the Dharma was an ongoing theme. Many of the nuns at the conference experience this on a daily basis and it is an area of concern and difficulty.
I feel privileged to be in an Order where women ordain women and my ordination is equal to that of my Order brothers. This is unique in the Buddhist world and it would be beneficial for us - and them - to share our experience of this with women aspiring to the same.”
Tarahridaya, who also attended the 2008 Shakyadhita conference in Mongolia, adds: “As the political and religious situation is very unpredictable in India, it is very important for us to have connections with other Buddhist groups from rest of the world. The conference was a very good platform to interact with other Buddhist groups and make connections with them.”
The next Sakyadhita conference is in Sarawak in Malaysia in 2021. Both Kusalacitta and Tarahridaya hope to attend - and encourage other Dharmacharinis to also consider coming!