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From 1st to 5th June, 11 members of the Triratna Buddhist Order attended the Dharma Teacher Gathering 2015 in Rhinebeck, New York State, USA, where racism, diversity, climate change and secular mindfulness were key themes. This article is compiled from reports by Vidyamala and Viradhamma.
Viveka, Amala, Sunada, Candradasa, Kamalashila, Vimalasara, Bodhipaksa, Parami, Viradhamma, Vidyamala and Singhashri were among 180 or so western Buddhist teachers from Europe, Canada and the USA from a wide range of traditions. These included a number of monks and nuns, and well-known teachers including Martine Batchelor, Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara, Daniel Ingram, Jon Kabat-Zinn and David Loy.
Triratna had quite a high profile in the meeting: Viveka was one of the organisers and did a remarkable job of facilitating the event and keeping it focussed; Vidyamala gave an exceptional presentation on the Breathworks programme, and Candradasa’s workshop about ‘Digital Dharma, Online Sangha’ attracted lively interest. Many participants commented positively on the Triratna presence, significantly larger than in similar gatherings in the past. (The last such gathering was four years ago.)
Under the heading “Exploring issues of relevance, heritage and innovation for today’s teachers”, the major themes of the meeting included climate change and secular mindfulness. The greatest emphasis was on diversity within Buddhist sanghas and the larger issue of racism in the US. This was valuable, but it became clear that the European participants had a different set of issues regarding race and nationality. [Editor’s note: we’ll try to get more detail on this for you.]
One wide-ranging discussion explored what younger people are looking for today; the Japanese Pure Land traditions in the US are having a particularly difficult time finding a way to serve their ageing sanghas while attracting younger people.
There was a strong, shared sense of teaching the same fundamental Dharma in what might be the greatest period of challenge and innovation in Buddhist history. Triratna has a lot to contribute to the conversation about how to communicate and practise the Dharma in the 21st century and it was encouraging to see that Triratna is clearly accepted and respected.