Harvard Hosts Symposium: "Buddhism, Globalization and Social Change"

March 20, 2003

Source: Harvard University Gazette

On March 20, 2003 Harvard University Gazette reported that "One of the world's leading engaged Buddhists, Sulak Sivaraksa, currently a fellow of the Harvard Yenching Institute, spoke March 14 in a symposium called 'Buddhism, Globalization, and Social Change.' Also on the panel were Venerable Yifa, a Taiwanese Buddhist nun and director of the Greater Boston Buddhist Cultural Center; Charles Hallisey, associate professor of Buddhist studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; and Janet Gyatso, the Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies at Harvard. Christopher Queen, lecturer on the Study of Religion, was moderator. 'There's been a sea-change in the Buddhist tradition,' said Queen... 'Buddhists have gotten up off their cushions, recognizing that collective sources of suffering in the world must be addressed by collective action.' Sulak, the founder of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists, is Thailand's leading dissident and public intellectual... In his talk, Sulak spoke about nonviolence as the master precept of Buddhism and discussed the ways in which Buddhism's other precepts are related to this master teaching... Yifa, who earned a law degree from National Taiwan University and a Ph.D. in religious studies from Yale University, has been a nun at Fo Guang Shan Monestary in Taiwan since 1979... In her talk, she discussed the establishment and subsequent decline of women's monastic orders in Buddhism. Only in China did these orders persist, and today only in Taiwan can they be said to flourish... Hallisey described his student's adverse reaction when Sulak came as a guest lecturer to one of his classes and spoke on the Buddhist view of democracy. Westerners, and especially Americans, believe they invented democracy, and find it difficult to hear a person from a different culture criticize their beliefs and practices, he said... Gyatso's talk focused on the question of women's monastic orders in Buddhism, taking up the issues that Yifa had raised... 'That is the situation Buddhism faces today-- how to handle challenges to authority brought by the feminist critique. Just as we haven't attained full democracy, we also have to attained gender equality,' she said."

See also: Buddhism, Civic, Campus