Mr. Dion Peoples
IABU Manager - Bangkok Secretariat,
Any silent witness, or the transcriber of the various speeches preserved as audio-files delivered to the United Nations Day of Vesak 2007/2550 Symposium on Buddhist Universities, could have taken home the following impression from the excerpts of various speakers:
Buddhism now has an institutional-level platform that strives to be well-governed, through the principles of: participation, accountability, transparency, and efficiency šC all necessary factors in good governance. Greater, more economically developed nations should assist in encouraging and fostering development in lesser developed nations. Towards this result, members of the IABU should look into the greater benefits of educational exchanges between universities, professors and students šC deepening the development of Buddhism and Buddhist education šC and the International Association of Buddhist Universities, as such, is the established platform.
The association should strive to research into, and protect the methods of knowledge acquisition - from the variances in local Buddhist traditions; as well as, interact with ostracized Buddhist groups who have established their own universities. The various nations all offer valuable, traditional methods at understanding and practicing Buddhism; and while technology might be employed šC the human factor should never be ignored.
The International Association of Buddhist Universities should somehow: return economically productive and ethically responsible graduates into the society. Towards this goal, for instance: the conscious recipients of all of the association¡¯s noble intentions should be women and marginalized minority groups in distant, non-Buddhist lands. Also, the association should provide scientific and technological training to Buddhist students who can additionally utilize modern means to make Buddhist education affordable or even free to those seeking wisdom.
Buddhist education should be brought up to universally accepted standards šC standards of which might not be based on Western culturally-biased principles šC towards curriculum void of the academic/religious duality. Perhaps insufficiencies in both fields should be addressed. For example, the secularization of Japanese Buddhist universities has had some negative impacts on society, when the original intent was to provide higher types of training to future leaders šC but instead education has developed to the extent that teaching religions in these institutions has become prohibited and limited to historical discussions, or social and philosophical aspects of Buddhism.
Buddhist universities should not try to convert people of other religions into being Buddhists; rather, Buddhist universities should convert ignorant populations to become enlightened members of society šC those who can discern the sources of the world¡¯s suffering, because many young people see religion itself as a source of suffering and therefore, need to be taught to live with religion. Again, Buddhist education should liberate young students from suffering.
Since Buddhism rests on rationality, there should be no fear amongst Buddhist educators incorporating modern secular issues into their curriculum šC material should be selected carefully assist in the transformation of individuals as well as providing ethical directions for various academic disciplines and society. Additionally, Asian Buddhists should do more to support and ensure that Western attempts at establishing Buddhist centers or universities should be properly guided. There are many social paradoxes that must become rectified - some of which can be seen from actually witnessing the living Buddhist traditions in various regions. Finally, as we all can see, education is the answer to end global suffering.
From the perspective of transcribing the numerous speeches, and writing this brief summary, one might challenge to ask: ¡°What is actually happening to achieve the above goals; and how can poor Buddhist nations, with poor historical records of human/civil rights oversee and protect the development of Buddhist Studies in progressive/economically-powerful and spirituallyuninviting [prejudicial] foreign-lands, while remaining relatively passive in terms of missionary activities šC towards the establishment or existence of a foreign religion inside these nations?¡± Perhaps the question is large, and maybe IABU members would be interested in providing or reading the answers in the next edition of the IABU Newsletter.