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1st Makhapuja International Conference on ‘The Future of Buddhism in Asia’

MahidolConf

Dr Kalinga Seneviratne was a key note speaker at the 1st Makhapuja International Conference on ‘The Future of Buddhism in Asia’ in Bangkok on 18 February 2019. The paper presented is linked below and please see the Lotus News feature on the conference by Natcha Lim. 

link to Lotus News Feature

Copy of Paper Presented:

The Scourge of Poverty and Proselytism: Socio-Economics of Protecting Buddhist Heritage of Sri Lanka and Asia

By Dr Kalinga Seneviratne, Director, Lotus Communication Network

(Paper prepared for the 1st Makhapuja International Conference on ‘The Future of Buddhism in Asia’ – 18 February 2019, Bangkok, Thailand)

In recent years, Buddhists in Sri Lanka and Myanmar have attracted wide international media scrutiny for the behavior of some monks’ - sometimes violent direct action - to express perceived grievances threatening their communities due to intensified proselytism by Evangelical Christian and Wahhabi Islamic  forces.

At the root of these problems is poverty among the grassroots Buddhist communities, which have been targeted by these forces for proselytism under the disguise of welfare services. There is also another problem: Buddhism is not seen as modern (and attractive) by young Asians anymore.

Focus on Sri Lanka

This paper, based on a research project (funded by the World Buddhist University) and the book “The Scourge of Poverty and Proselytism”. I will discuss how the international Buddhist community could mobilise to assist grassroots Buddhists in Sri Lanka and across Asia that are facing socio-economic hardships.

We initially planned to follow up with similar reports on Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand, but changes to management of WBU, has put a stop to it. It is important that we create such databases, so that Buddhist monks protesting about threats to Buddhism can produce the data – the evidence. Otherwise the international media – who don’t bother to look for such evidence - label them as “extremists”.

While the Evangelical Christianity threat has been there for over two decades, Wahhabi threat is more recent in origin, and both these movements have huge financial resources at its disposal.

A 2015 study done by Dr Terence Chong of the Singapore National University warned that a Pentecostal movement has been growing rapidly in Southeast Asia. It is driven largely by upwardly mobile, middle-class ethnic Chinese who use their business networking and financial resources to reach the poor and make their message attractive to them.

Christian threat is two pronged – missionaries masquerading as welfare agencies to infiltrate poor Buddhist communities or their popular culture via gospel music and other modern communication tools painting Christianity as “cool” to young urban Asian youth.

The Wahhabi threat gets more exposure in the media because of its tendency to use violence. Following the expulsion of Bengali migrants (Rohingyas) from Myanmar by the army, there were a lot of reports in the Indian media about how a group of Rohingya refugees in Saudi Arabia were trained in Pakistan on terror tactics – paid for by the Saudi – and then sent to Rakhine state via Bangladesh. These reports pointed out that the establishment of a terror based in Rakhine would threaten the whole of Southeast Asia and north-east India.

Protecting Heritage and Human Rights

There is a notion that when a community is in the majority in the country, it is protected by the state and is privileged. This is not the case with Buddhist communities across Asia, as I will argue in this paper. The majority community being the privileged community is based on European models.

The individualised human rights agenda based on numbers is also a western model. It is based on the 1948 UN Human Rights Declaration that gives priority to the right of the individual. This declaration was mainly drafted by the West.

But, there is another UN human rights covenant adopted in 1966 where Asian countries played a greater role. It is the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

This latter covenant focus more on collective rights than on individual rights.  That gave rise to what is today called “development rights’ which would address the structural violence of the economic system I will come to soon.

It should also bring the right to protect one’s cultural heritage to the forefront of the human rights agenda at a time when globalisation threatens local cultural heritage and traditions.

The individual rights agenda tends to give minorities all the rights and the majority no right to protect their cultural heritage. Thus, when Buddhists in Sri Lanka or Myanmar try to protect their heritage they are labelled as “extremists”.

The Scourge of Poverty and Proselytism

Poverty has become a huge reservoir feeding the hunger of Evangelical Christians and Wahhabi Islamists harvesting for souls to convert, undermining Asia’s Buddhist identity and culture. Their ultimate aim is to eradicate Buddhism from the Asian continent – like what happened to the great Sriwijaya civilization in Indonesia – at a time Buddhist teachings are inspiring growing numbers of westerners to adopt Buddhism in one form or another. In fact, one could argue that the drift of many European nations towards atheist  societies has been influenced by Buddhism that focus on your mind as the ultimate driver of your destiny. The current mindfulness fad in the West is one such example.

However, I’m focusing on Asia here, where Buddhism is facing many threats, not only from external forces but also internally. I will argue that socio-economic problems of grassroots Buddhists could only be resolved by socially engaged Buddhism and rich Buddhists in Asia paying more attention to helping their poorer counterparts closer to home, than showing off their Buddhist compassions to non-Buddhist communities far away, such as in Europe and North America.

Taiwan’s Tzu Chi Foundation for example has some 53 centres in the US and many in Australia. I’m on the email subscriber list of the US-based Global Buddhist Relief run by Bhikku Bodhi that dish out thousands of dollars each year for development projects acrooss the globe. I have noted that most of the grants they give out are for non-Buddhist communities in Africa in particular. They deserve the help no doubt, but there are many other international agencies that help these communites as well. Buddhist communites who need this help in Asia, often don’t have the international networking to lobby for and attract these funds.

Another issue I would look at later is the need to repackage the Buddha’s message to modern youth in Asia, who are drifting away from Buddhism. This may require paying less emphasis to maintaining the traditions purely for the sake of tradition.

“Structural Violence” of Modern Economic System

Let me first focus on the socio-economics of Buddhist empowerment.

Thai Buddhist social critic Sulak Sivaraksa often refer to the “structural violence” of the global economic system for the socio-economic problems facing the poor in Asia. He has been critical of Buddhists for not being socially engaged to help resolve the poverty issues facing grassroots Buddhists in Asia.

We do not have Buddhist leaders in Asia who articulate boldly the injustices of the global economic system – as Pope Francis often does.

The weakness of Buddhism in Southeast Asia is that Buddhists do not deal with the power structure – Sulak Sivaraksa

Sivaraksa argues that globalization and free-market fundamentalism are a “demonic religion” that is imposing materialistic values across the world.

Unlike the Catholic church for example, Buddhist scholars and leaders are not questioning this economic system and its social injustices.

Jayasri Priyalal, Head of the Financial Sector for Asia-Pacific of UNI Global Union argues that the current turmoil in the world is rooted in what he calls the ‘LPG’ economic system promoted by western neo-liberal economics in the past 3 decades. Its objective he argues is “to get rid of state intervention for market forces to reign into government”.  The Neo-Liberal policies that were dictated through Washington consensus team were founded on Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization to drive the free market economies to spur economic growth across the regions to uplift millions out of poverty.  End results however, has been weakening of governments with huge debts resulting from prolonged financial deficits, and strengthening of Multinational Corporations and related supply chains that amass wealth and hiding earnings in tax heavens.

When Thailand became a victim of this ‘structural violence’ of the global economic system in 1997, the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej prescribed a remedy in what came to be known as “sufficiency economics”. Some called it Buddhist Economics. Unfortunately, the Thai elite has not taken this advice seriously.

Sri Lankan Experience

Starting in the late 1970s, Sri Lanka’s economy was gradually opened up for foreign investors and competition. After this opening up, many subsidies given to the poor were eliminated, especially in the rural farming sector – backbone of the economy at the time. In 1995, when 11 rice farmers in the Buddhist heartland of Pollonnaruwa committed suicide, attention was drawn to the plight of rice farmers after the government signed a Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which, among others, forced the government to cut many of the assistance that were given to the farmers such as the fertility subsidy, low-interest loans and guaranteed price for their harvest. Thus, they were at the mercy of unscrupulous loan sharks who lend them money at high interest rates and purchased the paddy at depleted prices at harvest time.

Successive governments have promised farmers various assistance packages at election time but these were soon forgotten once they get elected. In 1996, the Peoples Alliance (PA) government abolished the Paddy Marketing Board established in 1972 to purchase paddy at a government guaranteed price. Government-owned rice mills were also systematically closed. While the government abandoned the guaranteed price policy for farmers, throughout the past two decades the price of fertilizer has increased.

As Daya Hewapathirane a former Advisor to the President of Sri Lanka notes:

The proportion of socio-economically impoverished people of Sri Lanka are far greater within the Sinhala community, especially among Sinhala Buddhists as compared to other communities. The preponderance of them are severely impoverished, living below the poverty-line with its concomitant malnutrition, disease, ignorance, unemployment, economic uncertainty, cultural disintegration, crime, violence, political conflicts and exploitation including proneness to unethical conversion to Christianity and Islam. To make matters worse, the basis of survival of this largely rural farming community which is their natural environment or the natural resources base is being steadily depleted and subject to extreme forms of abuse, exploitation and degradation. The implications of this overall deterioration of conditions of large numbers of rural Sinhala Buddhist families, are serious and most disturbing.

When these Sinhalese Buddhist communities are targeted, and with financial inducements are converted to either Christianity or Islam, along with it the Buddhist heritage of the country is being undermined. The community will reject their cultural heritage and embrace a new culture that pays more respect to European or Arabic cultures.

Sinhala Buddhist Heritage

Sri Lanka has the world’s longest unbroken Buddhist heritage, protected and nurtured for over 2300 years. Its heritage includes not only monuments, excavated images and artifacts of a bygone era, but a living heritage of traditions, arts such as world-renowned temple drumming and Buddhist education systems.

Though Buddhism originated in India, it was in Sri Lanka that it flourished beginning with the introduction of the religion to the island in 3rd century BCE.

Among the Buddhist heritage the Sinhalese of Sri Lanka protect very zealously are the Mahavihara education system that is reflected in the Pirivena education system of today; the sacred Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura; the Buddha’s tooth relic now enshrined at the Dalada Maligawa in Kandy and the Sinhalese Buddhist stupa architecture that has spread widely to Southeast Asia.

Sri Mahabodhi: Bhikkuni Sangamitta bought a sampling of the Bo-tree in 3rd century BCE from Bodhgaya. It was planted in Anuradhapura and it is today the oldest historically recorded tree in the world. It is venerated by Buddhists to this day.

Dalada Maligawa:  A tooth of the Buddha was bought to Sri Lanka in 4th century CE. It is today enshrined at ‘Dalada Maligawa’ (Temple of the Tooth) the last seat of the Sinhalese Kings. It is the most venerated Buddhist shrine in Sri Lanka. Lots of traditions and customs associated with the tooth relic are held daily. It is a tradition that newly elected Presidents and Ministers – even non-Buddhist – pays homage to the Tooth Relic before taking up duties. In August every year, the world renowned cultural procession of drummers, dancers and elephants - the ‘Kandy Esala Perahera’ - pays homage to the Tooth  Relic.

Mahavihara Tradition: The Abhayagiri Mahaviharaya temple of Anuradhapura is the first ever Buddhist monastic educational institution established in 1st century BCE in Sri Lanka. Mahavihare attracted scholars from all over the world.  Over the centuries Abhayagiri Mahavihare had to fight many battles to preserve the purity of the Theravada teachings.  Thus Sri Lanka claims to be a custodian of the Theravada tradition up to this date.

Writing of Tripitaka: In 1st Century BCE Buddhism faced severe threats in Sri Lanka from famines and Brahmin Tamil conquerors. Oral tradition of Buddhism could not be preserved. Thus, King Vattagamani aseembled over 100 monks at Aluvihare to write the Tripitaka.

Writing down of the Tripitaka in the 1st century BCE in Sri Lanka is one of the greatest events in the history of Buddhism. That’s because dhamma appeared in text form after that … Sri Lankan Buddhists took a bold step for the first time in the history of religion to write the text in ola leaf – Emeritus Professor Oliver Abeynayake, Buddhist and Pali University

After the Buddhist cannon ‘Tripitaka’ was written in Sri Lanka, it was this text that helped to spread Buddhism and Buddhist educational systems across Southeast Asia.

Sinhala Buddhist Architecture: When Pollanaruwa was the capital of Sri Lanka, between 12th to 13th century, it is characterized with significant technological and cultural achievements. The development of architecture based on Buddhist influences has been a notable achievement of this period. Architects from Pollonnaruwa were very influential in the designing and building of the new capital of Siam – Sukhothai - in the 13th century CE. Thus the spread of the Sinhalese stupa architecture to other parts of Southeast Asia began

The Sinhalese Buddhists are very proud of their cultural heritage and their contribution to the spreading of Buddhism in Southeast Asia in particular. In the 20th century many English speaking Sinhala Buddhist monks such as Venerable Narada, Venerable Walpola Rahula, Venerable Piyadassi and Venerable Sadatissa took the Buddha dhamma to the West.

Contemporary Threats to Sri Lankan Buddhism

Biggest threat facing Buddha Sasana in Sri Lanka today is aggressive proselytization activities of both Christian and Muslim groups.  Poverty, unemployment and the civil war create fertile ground for Christian evangelism to exploit.

Many Christian evangelical organisations come to Sri Lanka and set up NGOs on the pretext of doing social services. Between 2002 and 2009 such NGOs have mushroomed from 110 to over 400. A report commissioned by the All Ceylon Buddhist Congress (ACBC) in 2012 list many case studies of what they describe as “unethical conversions”, where projects have been set up by NGOs with approvals that have been obtained fraudulently.

  • ¥Such as pre-schools set up by Christian NGOs in the vicinity of temples and in communities that are predominantly Buddhist. Most temples do run pre-schools for the community.
  • ¥On the pretext of building a hostel a church is erected in a Buddhist village.
  • ¥Many instances, churches have been built in villages and towns with no Christian community to be served.
  • ¥Industrial estates are set up, which later turns into a church complex - many of these set up by Koreans.

Most of these are “churches” that are illegal, as approval has been granted for something else. The behavior of some evangelical groups offends local sentiments which may drive local Buddhist communities to protest, unfortunately sometimes in an aggressive fashion.  The protesting Buddhists have often been labeled as “extremists” spreading “hate speech” but the activities of Christians pastors in particular, who denigrate the Buddha and Buddhism, are never mentioned in these reports, especially in the international media.

When Buddhists protest to police and other law enforcement officials they do not take action, as they are bribed by the evangelists. At one stage, the minister in charge of the police was an evangelical Christian.

The Muslims are using different methods for proselytization. There have been unauthorized Muslim settlements established within the limits of Buddhist heritage areas (ie. Dambulla / Anuradhapura).  Muslims (who are largely a business community) have been using their financial resources to buy land and expand Muslim settlements across the country, especially around poor Sinhala villages. The ACBC Commission has also received evidence that concerted moves are afoot to pressurize Sinhala Buddhists who want employment in the Middle East to embrace Islam.

Need To Monitor Foreign Funded NGOs

The ACBC strongly warned about the lack of proper control over charitable institutions. NGO funding from overseas needs to be tightly monitored, and controlled.

Sarvodaya leader Dr A.T Ariyaratne, explianed to our researcher how these NGOs expand:

They spend a lot of money and many government officials get trapped into this. They are able to set up programs through provincial adminstration officials and village council officials by providing them with many financial incentives. So these programs have government backing.

There are many determined monks,  who want to help the communities – not just take from them. But they have no international backing, nor government backing.

There is an urgent need for a well coordinated international Buddhist charity – similar to the Catholic World Vision - to help mobilise funds and empower poor grassroots Buddhist communities.

Inter-faith dialogues cannot bring peace unless the socio-economic issues that give rise to religious conflicts are addressed.

What Buddhists Could Do

There is no point always protesting about these evaneglical forces, Buddhists only expose ourselves to be labelled intolerant or extremist. Buddhists need to devise ways of empowering the grassroots Buddhist communities socio-economically and culturally.

Buddhists in Asia are not a poor community anymore. There are a lot of wealthy Buddhists and Buddhist temples. We have enough grand Buddhist temples with huge statues of the Buddha or Chinese deities, where million are spent in building these.

If Buddhists do not empower their grassroots Buddhist communities socio-economically, all those huge Buddha statues and grand temples that are built will end up like Borobodur in Indonesia – with no Buddhist community to support them in the future as spiritual and educational centres.

Building Own NGO Networks

In the 1980s when the IMF’s Structural Adjustment Policies destroyed social welfare systems and safety nets for the poor, non-governmental organization – known as NGOs today – began to sprout up all over the world to fill this vacuum, because the governments were unable to provide these services anymore.

At first they were mainly well-meaning do-gooders trying to help the poor and needy, the governments have abandoned. They were mainly funded from the West – both governments and philanthropists. But, by the beginning of the 1990s they began to take a different face – some donor countries found that NGOs would be a good covert way to interfere in the domestic affairs of a country to serve the donor interests without having to face accusations of infringing on a country’s sovereignty.

During the presidency of George W Bush – who was elected to office on the back of a huge Evangelical Christian vote base – legislative changes were made to make it possible for so-called “faith-based” organisations to access the US government “aid” budget for projects overseas. It opened the floodgates for US evangelical Christian churches to use NGO networks to reach “unconquered” territories to harvest for souls by planting churches – while they helped the poor.

These “faith-based” NGOs are creating problems all over Asia for Buddhist communities – as well as Hindu communities. They need to be closely monitored and strict guidelines provided to them before such NGOs are given to operate within the country.

We do not want to leave our poor Buddhist communities suffering in poverty. Buddhist organisations, could work with governments to draw up such guidelines, and where possible even work in collaboration with foreign donors to channel the money into genuine welfare programs and not for proselytism.

Teaching English

The empowerement of Buddhist communities in Asia today should also include the teaching of English. The Evangelical Christians, have exploited this need to introduce Christianity through the backdoor to Buddhist communities, offering English classes.

In Embilipitiya, in southern Sri Lanka, a well-known Buddhist monk Ven. Omalphe Sobita Mahathera started an English language Bodhiraja International School over a decade ago, when a Christian evangelical group was planning to set up one in this predominantly rural Buddhist community. Though they teach in English, there is a strong Buddhist cultural element to it with students starting the day with Pali chanting and leaning Buddhism in English. The school is thriving today and even get government subsidies.

When I interviewed him in Embilipitiya he argued that he is not undermining the Sinhala Buddhist culture. “English is the wings I’m giving to rural children to succeed in today’s globalised society. It should be seen as a boat (to cross the river) or a rug (to wipe your feet). Not something you keep in an altar and worship” he explained.

National Buddhist organisations should plan a well-coordinated English teaching program via temples, with books produced that reflect Buddhist ideas. Same could be done for teaching Mandarin too as that will be an important language in the future.

Scholarships To Study Overseas

One of the powerful weapons in the armoury of Christian evangelists is their ability to offer scholarships to universities in the West, particularly the US, to new converts. That is a carrot where many Asians fall prey to.

Already thousands of Buddhist monks study in each other’s countries across Asia on scholarships. We need to extend it to secular universities with some prestigious universities in countries like Thailand, Taiwan, China, India and Japan allocating scholarships for Buddhist youth recommended by mainstream Buddhist organisations in their own countries.

Buddhist Counseling

Counseling for the sick and the mentally disturbed has been a Buddhist tradition from the time of the Buddha. The monastic system was built and expanded under this principle. Except for a few great institutions, today, this tradition has fallen by the way side, due mainly to the corruption of the monkhood.

We need to revitalize this tradition right across the Buddhist world, in conjunction with relevant secular professional organisations. I’m not referring here to Buddhist medical clinics or hospitals (where there are many in Asia) but to professional counseling for those who suffer from family problems (such as divorce); teenagers with drug or alcohol or other emotional problems; or those suffering from cancer or similar diseases. In other words we need to develop Buddhist psycho therapy centres.

In many citie in Asia, because such Buddhist services are unavailable, Christian groups have filled the vacuum. It has provided them opportunities to convert whole families.

Recently, I visited Sathira Dhammasathan, a unique Buddhist nunnery in Bangkok run by a charismatic Bhikkuni Maechee Sansanee. I was greatly impressed by how she has blended modernity with traditional Buddhist teachings. It has what they call a ‘mindful hospital’ not with doctors and nurses but meditation teachers and Thai massage therapists. The centre seems to be attracting young Thai girls and families in large numbers with girls ordinating for a short time. We need to encourage such centres or monasteries – what ever you prefer to call them – and make an attempt to spread these in the region.

Buddhist Media Networks

About a year ago, I was at a press conference at the Bangkok Press Club when the London-based ‘Burma Human Rights Network’ led by a Rohingya refugee launched a report about discrimination against Muslims in Myanmar. He kept on saying that Buddhists are discriminating against Muslims, and the local and regional reporters lapped on it and reported it uncritically. If you look at the report critically, you will see that the same happens in the West to Muslims. But it is not reported as Christians discriminating against Muslims, but as a national security issue in the context of the fight against Islamic terror. Why cannot the same be said of Myanmar?

Buddhists need to develop strong media networks both domestically and internationally to convey news about Buddhist countries from a Buddhist perspective – like how Al Jazeera does for Muslims. There are many Buddhists media cross Asia, but these mainly broadcast chanting and sermons, where a monk sits in front of a camera and talks for 1 hour or more. They may also cover Buddhist ceremonies, festivals and other events. What is lacking is discussion programs on social-economic, environmental, cultural, social or development issues in Buddhist communities.

We need to develop ‘mindful communication’ methodologies using Buddhist philosophy to train a young generation of Buddhist communicators. In 2015-2016 I was involved in a project at Chulalongkorn University – funded by UNESCO – to develop curriculum to train Asian journalists using philosophical concepts mainly from Buddhism. A book was published by SAGE in 2018 with material drawn from this project. It is titled ‘Mindful Communication for Sustainable Development: Perspectives from Asia”.

Currently, I’m involved with Shantiniketan University in India to develop a  regional training  program on mindful communication for sustainable development. Basically redefining development communication with Buddhist ideas. The training of the modern Buddhist development communicators should also involve monks.

We need mainstream universities in Buddhist countries to join in this project. They need to see Buddhism as a modernizing force not an anthropological issue.

If you look at the work of the Nalanda Sriwijaya centre at the National University of Singapore, you would see what I mean. It is unfortunate that such a prestigious university in Asia looks at Buddhism in the past rather than in the present. We need mainstream universities to encourage their students to see their cultural heritage and wisdom as something that could guide and improve their lifestyles. Not just hang on to it for the sake of tradition.

Bringing Buddhism Into Popular Culture

Another serious problem facing Buddhism in Asia, is the drifting away of young Asians from Buddhism. They see Buddhism as too ritualistic, sometimes even superstitious, and thus not “cool” enough for their modern lifestyle. Many get attracted to Evangelical Christianity, especially with its gospel music and modern communication methodologies.

Perhaps, we can learn a lesson or two from them, on how to package Buddhism for the 21st century youth. Its no point getting the youth to sit through a 1 hour sermon or take part in a long chanting session where they don’t understand the language. We need to use modern communication tools such as video song clips, 30-60 second video clips and short tele-drama to get the dhamma across.

We need to turn the Pali sutras into song clips or short teledramas in your own language to get the message across to youth. Even verses of the Dhammapada could be presented via 30-60 second video clips.

Recently, I met a Buddhist broadcaster in Myanmar who wants to do such things, but, he is running into a lot of problems with conservative monks. We need to develop Buddhist media networks that interprets the dhamma to relate to modern social, economic and cultural needs.

When I used to teach at Ngee Ann Polytechnic in Singapore a decade ago, students from Chinese Buddhist families used to tell me that they are “free thinkers” not Buddhists. They see the Buddhism their parents practice – offering joystick and flowers, and chanting for hours in a language they don’t understand – as a superstition. When I explain to them that Buddhism is also a free-thinking religion, they tell me that this is not the Buddhism their parents explained to them. They were told to just do something to gain merit.

Currently, I’m working with 5 Buddhist media channels from Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Nepal, India and Thailand to launch a IPTV based regional Buddhist network in English. What is stopping us is not technology but funds. We need to raise at least USD 100,000 before launching it because it will include mindful communication training of contributors in the region, as well as a budget for translations and sub-titling/dubbing.

At the first Asian Buddhist Media Conclave organized by the Delhi-based  International Buddhist Confederation (IBC) and held in Delhi last August, a resolution was adopted to launch a Nalanda Arts Festival in Nalanda to bring together Asian Buddhist artistes both for performances, workshops and  exhibitions. We are in the process of forming an organising committee and we hope that the Indian government will fund it for at least the first 3 years to be held at Nalanda.

Reforming The WFB

Finally, I would like to address the issue of reforming the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) that should be the focal point for many of the proposals I have made above, especially to mobilize funding.

The WFB is the ideal vehicle for Asian Buddhists to strengthen their networking and mobilize the rich Asian Buddhist community to help its own people. It needs serious reforms as it has turned out to be a good social club of a few Buddhist leaders usually representing wealthy Buddhist monasteries and organisations, who gather once in 2 years for a big party and then goes to sleep until the next one.  Judging from these gatherings, it has a good cross-section of the Asian Buddhist community, but it sadly lacks imaginative and inspiring leadership.

Since WFB is based in Thailand and I believe gets support from the Thai government, we should call on the government to do a serious review of the WFB. I know there is tremendous disappointment across the Asian Buddhist community about WFB’s inability or unwillingness to stand up for the Buddhist communities across Asia in their hour of need.

We need a new, perhaps younger, but more so an enthusiastic leadership at the WFB. The old guards need to make way for new blood, who could constitute active Standing Committees within the organization to mobilize the Buddhist community, to address the issues I have mentioned above. It is urgent and there is no time to waste.

The IBC was set up about 10 years ago mainly by disgruntled members of the WFB. Because of its location, IBC has been unable to tap into wealthy Buddhist communities in East Asia for funding, even though it has some enthusiastic members willing to do the work needed. If a reconstituted WFB and WBU (World Buddhist University) could work together with the members of the IBC as well,  there is much we could do to address the threats facing Buddhists in Asia.

Otherwise, may I remind you again, that all these grand pagodas and monasteries we see across Asia, would become historic monuments like Borobodur, by the end of this century. And there will be many more Nalanda Sriwijaya Centres in Asia researching Buddhism as something belonging to a great past.

(END)

 

 

 

Setting up of this website was sponsored by SJ Mets Consultants PTY Ltd of Perth, Australia in memory of J.H.A. Gunadasa & S.T. Jayasinghe, beloved fathers of Sunil and Aruni.
May they attain Nibbana