Triratna at the European Buddhist Union annual meeting 2014
On Thu, 20 November, 2014 - 16:18
Representatives of Buddhist traditions and national Buddhist unions in Europe attended the annual 3-day meeting of the European Buddhist Union (EBU) at the end of September in Hamburg, Germany.
Munisha attended for Triratna, along with nearly 40 others from all over Europe, including members of Hungary’s Jai Bhim Network, new gypsy Buddhists inspired by Dr Ambedkar and his Indian followers. The EBU membership is currently largely Mahayana or Vajrayana.
We heard about the EBU’s work in European institutions, working for the proper recognition of Buddhism alongside other religions and more generally on the position of women and minorities in society. EBU committee member Michel Aguilar (French) is current president of the Council of Europe’s (CoE) Human Rights Committee; EBU president Jamie Cresswell (British) addressed the CoE’s ministers’ meeting this year and attends meetings of the European Council of Religious Leaders and the European Network on Religion and Belief.
Reporting back from the UN Wesak celebrations and meetings of the newly formed International Buddhist Confederation in Asia, the EBU president said Asian Buddhists were often amazed to hear there were any Buddhists in Europe!
(In fact, numbers of European Buddhists are estimated at 3-4 million, the majority in Germany, Italy, France and Britain, and mostly of minority ethnic heritage. This figure includes the 1137 members of the Triratna Buddhist Order in Europe - 482 women and 655 men - out of 1900 members worldwide.)
It was interesting to meet at the very beautiful Hamburg Buddhist Centre, part of the Diamond Waysangha, a Karma Kagyu lay movement with over 600 centres worldwide, founded by Danish Lama Ole Nydahl in the 1970s.
The modern centre building, designed like a Bhutanese monastery, features a stylish bar-cafe and daily classes run by volunteers. A complex of studios and flats houses a community of young Buddhists living singly or in couples or families, all sharing one courtyard, one airy shrine room and a single, very large, kitchen-dining room.
In the final session I presented the UK’s Buddhist Action Month (an annual month of Buddhist social action, in June), using the Centre’s stunning thousand-armed Avalokiteshvara rupa to introduce the idea, so well-known to the Triratna Buddhist Order, of each member as a hand of Avalokiteshvara, relieving suffering in different ways. It proved an inspiring end to the meeting, with members leaving fired up to take BAM back to their traditions and countries for 2015.