Diary with Photo Gallery: The MBU-ATBU International Conference on Dissemination of Theravada Buddhism in the 21st

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Compiled by Ms. Saw Yee Mon
MPA (Yangon)
B.Sc (LSE), B.A (Hons.) (Yangon)
NCC Int ’l Diploma in Computer Studies (U.K)
Lecturer, (Regent Business Academy)

Ms. Mon was an observer at the conference.

Day 1 (29/9/10)

I arrived from Yangon at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport on 29th September 2010 at 6:15 local time to the warm welcome of Mahamakut Buddhist University who had one Thai Buddhist monk and two young men waiting for me at the arrival. They led me to an immigration counter for diplomats. Then, I collected my baggage at the belt no. 15. When I came out, I saw people with video camera and professional camera waiting at airport lobby to take pictures of international participants just like myself.

Two staff, a young lady and a man, fetched me at the gate and took me to the Royal Rose Lake Side Hotel. It took almost 1hour 30 minutes to reach the hotel which is situated outside BKK. The check-in at the hotel was done by the conference staff.

Soon, a Thai style dinner was served at a traditional hut in the garden. Internet facility was provided free of charge at lobby area. All the participants were reminded to join breakfast at 7 o’clock in the morning and to get ready in order to depart the hotel at 8 o’clock the next morning for the conference venue.

Day 2 (30/9/10)

I had breakfast at the hotel’s restaurant at around 7:15 am. After that, all participants waited at the lobby for departure. Meanwhile, we had time to introduce ourselves to break the ice on the way to Mahamakut Buddhist University, MBU. It was about half an hour drive to MBU where the conference was held. The new campus of MBU at Salaya, Nakhon Pathom is huge and impressive with both traditional and modern style buildings.

Guests were invited to register and then taken to the conference room. Foreign guests were given one personal attendant each to assist them throughout the conference. These attendants are students of MBU.
The ceremony started at 9: 30 am. The audience paid homage to Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. His Holiness Somdet Phra Wanarat, member of the Supreme Sangha Council of thailand, gave the opening speech. The English translation of the speech was read out by Ven. Dr. Anil Sakya Sugandho, Deputy Dean of Faculty of Humanities, MBU. After the opening, international participants were invited to come up onto the stage for group photo, which was followed by a coffee break.

The conference resumed by the welcome speech of Rector of MBU, Ven. Phra Theppariyattivimol who was not able to join the conference due to high fever; he was hospitalized the night before. Thus his speech was read out by Ven. Dr. Anil Sugandho who was the main organizer. This was followed by a video presentation of the history of MBU.

Professor Richard Gombrich of Oxford University and former chairman of the Pali Text Society, delivered his presentation on “Dissemination of Buddhism in 21st Century”. His presentation focused on the urge for Theravadins to drop the practice of rituals and customs, and to develop unity.

Lunch was served at another building. Traditional Thai food was served with delicious Thai dessert. The conference resumed at 1:00 am with cultural performances by students from MBU.

After that Ven. Professor Dhammapiya, who is an experienced meditation teacher and also hold a PhD in Buddhist philosophy from LA, delivered his presentation on “The Role of Mahasi Vipassana Meditation Tradition in Dissemination of Buddhism in 21st Century”. He teaches at ITBMU, Yangon. It was translated into the Thai language by Ven. Dr. Anil Sakya. Then Dr. Keshab Shakya of Nepal delivered his presentation on Renaissance of Theravada Buddhism in Nepal: Prospect and Problem.” The presentation was translated again into the Thai language by Ven. Dr. Anil Sakya, who is a Nepalese himself but has resided in Thailand over thirty years. The last speaker for the day was Dr. Titus Leber, an independent writer and film director who presented an interesting topic on “Role of Multimedia in Dissemination of Buddhism.” Just like the previous papers, this presentation was also translated into Thai by Ven. Dr. Anil Sakya, who holds an MPhil from Cambridge and a PhD from Brunell University, Britain.

The conference was concluded at 4:00 pm, which was followed by a workshop of ATBU member universities. Non member participants were taken back to hotel to take a rest before going out again for dinner. Dinner was served at traditional Thai restaurant by a river. Food was lavish and delicious. International guests got back to the hotel by 9:30 pm. All are reminded to assembly at the hotel lobby to have breakfast and to visit floating market.

See Photos for Day 2 30/09/2010

Day 3 (1/10/10)

I had breakfast at hotel’s restaurant at 7:00 am and together with others left the hotel at 8:00 am for a boat ride in the river. I had a chance to enjoy sightseeing. Refreshments were served on the boat. We fed loaves of bread to fish in the river. Then, we embarked at a local market. Fresh fruits, traditional edibles and other local products attracted all of us who were thinking of souvenir shopping. We left the market around 9:40 am.

By the time we arrived MBU at about 10: 20 am, the religious ceremony had already began. The ceremony finished at 11:00 am which was followed by lunch. The conference started at 1:00 pm with a video presentation of the documentation of first day of the conference. Dr. Gregory Sharkey of USA delivered his presentation on Christian Reflection on Buddhist Mission. As usual, it was followed by translation into the Thai language by Ven. Anil Sakya. Then Q&A session followed.

Dr. Deon Peoples, lecturer at Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University delivered his presentation on "Possibilities for the Dissemination of Theravada Buddhism in Islamic Nations” at 2:35 pm, followed by Q& A. At 3:30pm, Mr. Rachata Laengsin, a Ph.D student from MBU, delivered a brief presentation on “Buddhism in the Post Modern World.” The contrast between modern world’s material developments and it’s drawbacks were highly plausible. There was a coffee break at 3:55 pm.

The conference resumed with the presentation on “Thai Dhammaduta in the world” by Ven. Anil Sakya himself. A clear picture of how Thai monks had and have been promoting Buddhism throughout the world was introduced to the audience. No Q&A session followed due to limited time.

Then the session for panel discussion began at 5:00 pm. All the panelists were invited onto the stage. The panelists included the Most Ven. Dr. Ashin Nyanitsara from Sitagu International Buddhist Academy, Ven. Prof Dr. Dhammapiya from ITBMU (Myanmar), Prof. Thilak Kariyawasam of International Buddhist College, Hatyai, Dr. R. Panth of Nalanda University of India, a lecturer from MBU and Ven. Dr. Anil Sakya. Each of the panelists gave a brief address and opened floor for questions and comments. Different nationalities of participants among the audience including one monk and two ladies from Thai, one monk from Vietnam, one monk and one lady (myself) from Myanmar, one lady from Japan, one gentleman from Indonesia, two gentlemen from Nepal, one gentleman from India, one gentleman from Israel and a lecturer from MBU raised questions and made comments. Questions and comments highlighted the important issues
and challenges on dissemination of Buddhism in 21st century.

The conference came to an end at 7:00 pm with the closing remarks from each panelist.All the participants were taken back to the hotel and dinner was served a restaurant in the hotel compound. Ven. Dr. Anil Sakya gave souvenir from MBU to each international participants. Participants parted around 10:30 pm.

Day 4 (2/10/10)

I had breakfast at 7:00 am. Participants who moved to BKK left the hotel at 7:30 am. The rests, Dr. Jenny Quek, Rev. Gregory and me were invited to join the alms offering to Thai monk who rowed a small boat to receive offerings along the river. It was a very new experience for all of us. Lunch at served at 12 noon. Ven. Anil Sakya hosted the lunch and Dr. & Mrs. Leber also joined us. Then we all were taken by a boat to an organic farm where they grew lotus, banana trees, paddy and other plants. The locals there were waiting for us with foods: tampuras, sweets, fresh fruits and variety of scented plain tea.

We left the farm around 3:00 pm. As soon as we got back to hotel we packed our baggage and checked out. We all said final farewell to the generous Ven. Anil Sakya and the staff members and left the hotel at 3:30 pm.

I left Suvarnabhumi at 7:20 local time for Yangon with a lot of food for thoughts and new energy for the Buddha's dhamma.