Spreading Wisdom and Compassion in European Societies
After a successful conference in Berlin two years ago the European Buddhist Union organised a sequel (12th – 15th of April 2018)
Report of the 2018 EBU conference by Rev Satyavani Robyn, Amida Mandala Buddhist Temple, UK
This year the conference was titled: “Spreading Wisdom and Compassion in European Societies”, and the venue was the largest Stupa in Europe – The Enlightenment Stupa of Benalmádena. This Stupa was inspired by a great Buddhist Master from Bhutan, Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche, and was made possible through the cooperation of his western disciples and the Local Government of Benalmádena City with its then Mayor, Don Enrique Bolín.
This attitude of co-operation between those of different countries and beliefs, brought together by a single vision, was also seen during the organisation and running of the conference. Under the generous and able leadership of the President of the Asociación Cultural Karma Kagyu de Benalmádena, Margarita Lehnert-Kossowski, many people volunteered their time to prepare for the conference. All weekend they fetched drinks for the speakers, organised the technical equipment, cleaned the toilets, answered questions and prepared delicious vegan lunches for us all.
Over the weekend there were at least twenty speakers from across Europe, most of them with at least twenty years of experience. The talks explored our differences, but we also found that we have enough in common to feel like we’re part of the same Buddhist family. We are all inspired by the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, who lived two and a half thousand years ago and who taught for more than forty years. We all take refuge in the ‘three jewels’ – the Buddha, the Dharma (the teachings of the Buddha) and the Sangha (the community of Buddhists, living in harmony and awareness). We all feel inspired by our faith to do good work for the world – to bring peace where there is turmoil, to help enemies find reconciliation, and to spread compassion wherever we go.
Stupa architect Wojtek Kossowski describe the task of creating the amazing traditional Buddhist structure we were sitting inside, including the hidden spaces where at least 6000 Buddhas and many other precious Buddhist artefacts have been placed. David Rycroft spoke about his work in schools across Europe, Dario Girolami spoke about his work in prisons in Italy, and Sabira Trifi and Sabine Terpereu from France spoke movingly about how the Dharma has allowed them to heal their relationship including the violent past of their ancestors. There were sessions on different Buddhist practices, and talks to share the projects Buddhists were engaged in across Europe.
It also felt very important that we heard about the experiences of two groups who have been oppressed during the history of Buddhism (and in general life) – women, and those from the LGTBQ community. Due to the good work of those like Carola Roloff, Gabriela Frey and Michael Vermeulen in these fields, awareness is being raised and progress is being made.
By the end of the weekend both old friends and new felt united and dedicated to the common cause of spreading compassion throughout Europe through the Buddhist philosophies and practices.