International conference on traditional and innovation in Vajrayana Buddhism
The three-day series of talks and presentations on issues of continuity and change within contemporary expressions of Vajrayana Buddhism ends today.
More than 400 international participants took part in the three day international conference held in Thimphu from July 1-3. The conference was organized by the Central Monastic Body and Centre for Bhutan Studies (CBS) and GNH Research.
As a textual tradition, Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism developed in India from the 8th century onward as a creative response to changing socio-cultural conditions, building on earlier traditions of spiritual practice. Vajrayana subsequently shaped the art, culture and consciousness of much of Asia, and especially the Himalayan regions of Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan. Vajrayana Buddhism is now a global phenomenon.
The conference empha- sized Vajrayana’s long history of creative adaptation within wider processes of continuity and change and the current globalization of Himalayan Buddhist culture.
During the course of three days conference, 65 speakers from seventeen different countries shared their insights and experiences on historical and contemporary perspectives on Vajrayana Buddhism and specifically addressed the role of mind-body practices within Vajrayana Buddhism that have been shown to being significant improvement to human beings health and well beings.
The speakers further empathized on Vajrayana Buddhism and the role of women, great historical and contemporary figures of Vajrayana Buddhism and its social application, functions of Vajrayana centres around the world. It also talked on iconography and arts in Vajrayana Buddhism, enactment of Vajrayana Buddhism in the 21st century and concluding overview.
In the thematic address of His Eminence Reverend Khamba Lam Gabju, Supreme Head, Centre of Mongolia said some of the similarities between Mongolia and Bhutan. His Eminence added, “In my opinion, there is a crucial need for us to learn from each other and to work together on many issues in the future. As Buddhist practitioners, we could send our monks to the Kingdom of Bhutan on exchange programs for learning from the experience of Buddhist Institutions. We know that the Kingdom of Bhutan is one of the very few countries where the Vajrayana Tradition has not been broken since it’s established.”
The speakers were also engaged in discussion with both internationals and domestic participants for further clarifications. The programme also includes illustrated talk, presentations, movies and live performances. The speakers include religious leaders as well as scholars from Bhutan and Tibet to neuroscientists, academics, and prominent international scholars- practitioners who have adapted Tantric Buddhist methods of individual and collective transformation to the priorities and concerns of the 21st century.
At the opening of the conference on Thursday evening, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said, “This conference is not only about we Bhutanese can share with all of you who have come from the world to experience Vajrayana Buddhism in its living context. We ourselves will benefit greatly by learning more about the forms that Vajrayana Buddhism has adopted in Mongolia, India, Nepal, Myanmar, Russia, Australia, Brazil, Japan, China, Europe, and the United Sates.” He further added, “The opportunity of this conference is top explore, open- mindedly, the nature of the multifaceted and fascinating raft that is Vajrayana, the diamond vehicle that points out that the far shore and the one which we are standing are ultimately one and the same.”
The conference was opened to general public and included interactive discussion. The Centre for Bhutan Studies plans to make this international conference as an annual event.
Even the food offered during the conference reflect Vajrayāna Buddhism’s living presence in Bhutan, in the form of native red rice, organic vegetables, and healing herbs. As Dasho Karma Ura, the President of the Centre for Bhutan Studies & GNH Research stated that “This conference is not only about sharing ideas, but about discovering something at the core of our being that we all hold in common. This is the heart of the Vajrayāna Buddhist vision, and the conference will help international guests and Bhutanese alike to apply their innate qualities of compassion, wisdom, and creativity in all aspects of their lives.”