Buddhist scholars from many countries fly to Thailand for MBU-ATBU Conference 2010

His Holiness Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand. The international Buddhist conference on ‘‘Dissemination of Theravada Buddhism in the 21st Century’’ is held to pay tribute to His Holiness’ 97th birthday.
Anil Sakya

Buddhist scholars from many countries fly to Thailand to participate in an international conference organized in honor of His Holiness Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, Supreme Patriarch’s 97th birthday.

The third of October is the auspicious birthday of His Holiness Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, Supreme Patriarch of Thailand. As a part of celebrations, Mahamakut Buddhist University in co-operation with the Association of Theravada Buddhist Universities is organizing an international Buddhist conference on ‘Dissemination of Theravada Buddhism in the 21st Century’ to pay as a tribute to His Holiness’ enriching 97th birthday and 117th anniversary of the Mahamakut Buddhist University, the first Buddhist university of Thailand.

The conference will be held on 30 September and 1 October 2010 at the Sujib Punnyanubhap Conference Hall, Mahamakut Buddhist University, Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, 30 minutes drive toward South from the Royal ground of Sanam Luang.

Mahamakut Buddhist University was founded by His Majesty King Rama V on 1 October 1893 with the objectives of promoting and supporting Buddhist education and widely disseminating Theravada Buddhism in Thailand and abroad.

Theravada is the oldest form of Buddhism surviving in the world today. It began to be disseminated from India by the Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century BCE, and over the centuries has become fundamental to Asian civilization and travelled to every part of the world. The globalization which has resulted from the power of modern technology has contributed even further to the rapid spread of all forms of Buddhism, so that Buddhist principles have influenced almost every field of modern endeavour, from education to the entertainment industry.

Nevertheless, it is noticeable that the influence of Theravada Buddhism, which on the global scale seemed for a while to predominate over that of other forms of Buddhism, has recently been somewhat eclipsed by the resurgence and popularization of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. This has made scholars question the methods by which Theravada is being disseminated, and seek reasons for its comparative lack of success. When they arrive abroad, Theravada missionaries from Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand set up temples and monasteries which become cultural centres and provide religious services for the diaspora populations from their own countries, rather than aiming their efforts at the local populations of the host countries. The modern world has been described as a “world without frontiers”, but how true is this?

In order to discuss the problems that Theravada Buddhism faces and the obstacles to its successful propagation in the contemporary world, Mahamakut Buddhist University is inviting many Buddhist scholars from different parts of the world to discuss the theme of ‘Dissemination of Theravada Buddhism in the 21st Century.’

The world renowned scholars include Prof. Dr. Richard Gombrich who will be delivering a keynote speech on ‘Dissemination of Theravada Buddhism in the 21st Century.’ He is a world renowned scholar of Theravada Buddhism who has authored hundreds of academic articles on Buddhism and many books which became the references of Theravada Buddhist Studies. He is the author of the famous book ‘Theravada Buddhism: A social history from ancient Benares to modern Colombo.’ His latest publication is ‘What the Buddha Thought.’ His academic excellence is in Sanskrit and Pali. Accordingly, he was a former President of the Pali Text Society in the UK. He is the founder of Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies in Oxford University and architect of ‘nine days intensive Pali course’ which enables an ordinary person to read and translate Pali suttas effectively after 9 days of study.

Dr. Keshab Shakya is from the Buddha’s family in Nepal. He is a Nepalese Buddhist scholar as well as a Buddhist and cultural activist of Nepal. He is a renowned developer of Nepal with many international development projects under his credit. He was a former Vice Chairman of Lumbini Development Trust who was responsible for Lumbini, the Buddha’s birth place under the government of Nepal. Recently, he is the president of a political party for indigenous right in Nepal. He is presenting his paper on ‘Renaissance of Theravada Buddhism in Nepal.’

Mahasi Vipassana has a significant impact on the teaching of Vipassana (insight) meditation in the West and throughout Asia. Ven. Prof. Dr. Dhammapiya, a professor of International Theravada Missionary Buddhist University, Myanmar, is a Mahasi Vipassana meditation master who has been teaching and conducting meditation in Malaysia and the USA. He is delivering a paper on ‘The role of Mahasi Vipassana meditation tradition in dissemination of Buddhism in the world after the World War II.’

Our modern lifestyle is very much influenced by multimedia. Dr. Titus Leber is a renowned Austrian writer, film-director and multimedia creator. He has produced a world class master piece interactive media under the title of ‘What did the Buddha teach?’ Currently, he is working on another big multimedia project entitled ‘Borobudur : Paths to Enlightenment.’ He will show the power of multimedia in dissemination of Buddhism under the title ‘Role of multimedia in Dissemination of Buddhism.’

Moreover, in the 21st century Buddhism is not only a subject of Buddhists anymore. Rev. Dr. Gregory Sharkey SJ, a research Professor at Boston College earned an M.A. in Sanskrit and a PhD in Oriental Studies from Oxford University. He published his Ph.D. thesis on “Buddhist Daily Ritual’ and his specialty is Buddhist-Christian interreligious dialogue. Interestingly, he is going to speak on an important topic of ‘Christian reflection on Buddhist Mission.’

Equally challenging and interesting topic is a paper by Dr. Dion Oliver Peoples, a lecturer at Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University. He will give us a rare reflection on ‘Possibilities for the Dissemination of Theravada Buddhism in Islamic Nations’

Where is Thailand in the field of Buddhist missionary in the world? Ven. Dr. Anil Sakya, lecturer of Mahamakut Buddhist University will give a glimpse on ‘Thai Dhammaduta in the World.’

Importantly, the conference will end with a panel discussion where all scholars and audience will discuss the theme to find some concrete points in the deliberation. Is Theravada Buddhism dwindling away in the new millennium? This unique conference will surely leave a legacy for all Theravada Buddhists to ponder over.

The Mahamakut Buddhist University public invites to participate in the Mahamakut Buddhist University Conference 2010 on Dissemination of Theravada Buddhism in the 21st Century.

Registration is free but it is advisable to reserve your seat ahead.
For further information: Tel: +66-8-6886-0910 web: http://www.ic2010.mbu.ac.th or e-mail: ic2010@mbu.ac.th

See more report at: http://www.bangkokpost.com/leisure/leisurescoop/197961/buddhism-in-the-2...

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Bangkok Post, Sep 23
Prof Dr Richard Gombrich