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The Effect of Hamburg Congress
The First International Buddhist Congress held in Hamburg,Germany in July 2007 has caused sufficient ripples on the ocean of Buddhist Sangha. Though it was intended primarily to introduce bhikkhuni ordination in Mulasarvastivada which has been followed by the Tibetan sangha, but the congress successfully provided the space for Buddhists from all other existing schools.
Among the invited participants who presented their views on the possibility of ordination of women in Buddhism, there were scholars as well as monastics from different schools. Among the Theravadins, there were bhikkhus and bhikkhunis from Sri Lanka, U.S.A. , Myanmar,Thailand, etc. Mahayana sanghas gave full support by their presence, there were bhikshus and bhikshunis from the Ten Thousand Buddhas in the U.S., Ven.Thich Quang Ba led a large group of bhikshus and bhikshunis in Vietnamese tradition from Australia, there were representatives of the Fo Guang Shan in Taiwan who were pioneer in helping the Theravadins to re-establish the bhikkhuni ordination in Sri Lanka.There were representatives from Dharma Drum Mountain, Center of Monastic training for bhikshus and bhikshunis in Taiwan,etc.
The largest crowd were the maroon robe nuns ordained in Tibetan tradition. There were many senior western bhikshunis following Tibetan tradition. The Most Ven.Samthong Rimpoche, the Prime Minister of the Tibetans was by the side of His Holiness the Dalai lama. He commanded an august presence.
During the congress there was a strong unit of learned bhikkhus and bhikkhunis working behind the scene to bring about a concrete proposal to submit to H.H.the Dalai Lama on the last day of the Congress. It was this small group of both sanghas that was most impressive to me. They were both bhikkhus and bhikkhunis from various countries in the world representing both Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. They worked together late into the night with so much respect and co-operation. They were all focusing on the ordination of women! It was an existing proof to the author that bhikkhus and bhikkhunis can work together harmoniously and respectfully and how both the sanghas can become the pillars of Buddhism as the Buddha intended.
Eventhough there is no official immediate plan for action coming out of the congress in 2007, but in fact the congress was so effective that it purged all the negative tendencies against the re-introduction of the bhikkhuni sangha.
The bhikkhunis from various traditions could, for the first time in Buddhist history, hold hands. The unity among the sanghas was felt strongly. And before we know it actions are already taking place.
The only two Theravadin bhikkhunis from Indonesia were also among us in Hamburg. They have been struggling to survive. In 2000 when they started out, there were four of them, being pressured by their own Theravadin brothers, two of them eventually dropped off. The two brave ones were among us to be uplifted at least in spirit, and to be nurtured as they could see with their own eyes that there were other Theravadin brothers who were supportive of the bhikkhunis. They became convinced that yes, things will change. If we are true Buddhists we have to believe in that. And even the strong wall persisted by our own Theravadin brothers will eventually be removed not by the bhikkhunis, but by the bhikkhus’ own conscience.
The sisters both Tibetan and in Tibetan lineage who were the main object of concern for this conference were in fact the majority of the participants on the floor. They were more than joyful at this large gathering of people who were there for their immediate cause.
In fact ordination of women is not for women, but for the upliftment of Buddhism, so that we can stand on the horizon of the religions of the world with pride that we are representing the religion with complete equality. Buddhism provides the world a complete access to this highway to enlightenment, holding no limitation to race, nation, class, caste or gender.
recorded and posted Sept.2007