The Shifts in ABC
Dated Oct.23, 2016
Ven. Dhammananda reminded me that we need to record the shifts that occurred under ABC. This is a historical setting. She is concern that things would pass by and in the future, the younger generation would not understand how ABC started and how it has changed or developed.
It was in 2015 that the idea came to organize a conference on ASEAN Bhikkhuni Conference. It was held at Nakhon Pathom Rajabhat University in Nakhonpathom province. The conference was organized under Buddhasavika Foundation and Buddhabhat Research Unit, Nakhon Pathom Rajabhat University on Oct.6, 2015. We focused on ASEAN because in Nakhon Pathom Rajabhat University there have courses offered under ASEAN.
That Vassa( Rain Retreat) Ven.Dhammananda organized a Monastic training for bhikkhunis who came from both Vietnam and India. So already we have bhikkhunis from three countries including the local Thai Bhikkhunis.
Ven. Dhammananda invited 2 Indonesian bhikkhunis, Ven. Thitacarini and Ven. Dhammacarini. Both of them at that time were working towards Ph.D. in Sri Lanka. Ven. Dr Lieu Phap came from Vietnam and Ven.Sumangala from Malaysia. In ASEAN countries there are bhikkhunis only in 4 countries namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, but we had presentations from five countries including India. Among the audience there were both bhikkhus and bhikkhunis and 500 students in the morning and another 500 students in the afternoon.
Thus, the ABC conference in 2015 was ASEAN Bhikkhunis Conference.
The first Shift
In 2016, following the successful conferen ce in 2015, Buddhasavika Foundation proposed yet another conference. This time it was in a much larger scale. Venerable Dhammananda thought it would be more inclusive to expand from Bhikkhunis to Buddhists. Hence the first shift happened with ABC in 2016 now stood for ASEAN Buddhist Conference. This is with intention to be more inclusive to include monks, lay men and laywomen in the scope of the conference.
Prof. Dr Amarjiva Lochan from Delhi University, India offered to be ABC secretary. He used to work with Ven. Dhammananda long back since the time she was president of India Study Center, Thammasat University. He assisted her in organizing the International Ramayana conference in 2000.
ABC launched off very well. Ven. Dhammananda reported that she was very happy to have Dr Amarjiva Lochan to work for the conference. During the last six months prior to the actual conference, they literally corresponded on a daily basis, often more than once a day.
The second shift
At ABC 2016, there were 44 papers presented from at least 22 countries. On the last evening of the conference, the participants came in a round circle. Most of the participants though realised that Buddhism is fastest growing religion in the West, the same was not true in Asia. The scholars lamented that sad status ofAsian Buddhism which requires immediate attention. It was also discussed that to understand Buddhism in historical as well as sociological way would require the attention of not only real practitioners, supporters and well-wishers but also that of scholars, academicians, media (both print and visual) and analysts. Therefore, the participants decided to make the future Conferences larger and all-inclusive. Consequently, it was happily agreed that ABC in the future will stand for Asian Buddhist Conference. It was also proposed that the Songdhammakayani Monastery in Nakhon Pathom would be the Headquarters of the ABC, and it was accepted unanimously by each and every participant.
Bhikkhus, Bhikkhunis, laymen and laywomen at the conference were joyful to see the unity expressed at the Conference.
Dr Amarjiva Lochan proposed that the next ABC might take place in Vesali, (Vaishali) India in 2018. He took the responsibility to speak to a possible host and co-host. Ven. Dhammananda again invited him to be the secretary of ABC2018.
Yes, I am happy to report that ABC now stands for Asian Buddhist Conference, and we are going forward with fourfold Buddhists, Bhikkhus, bhikkhunis, laymen and laywomen.