Buddhist Council Forum 2007
May 07 Newsletter »
Forum on Buddhism in America held at Zendo

Judy Seicho Fleischman
Photos and Photomontage: Forest Mars

On March 31, our Zendo hosted the Buddhist Council Forum, an annual gathering of over 40 representatives from dharma centers throughout the Metro area.

Participants with roots in many countries came from a diverse array of Theravadan, Mahayana, and Vajrayana traditions. The Forum, sponsored by the Buddhist Council of New York, was themed “Buddhism in America – How are we doing?”

The Buddhist Council of New York, more than 25 years old, is meant to promote dialogue and understanding among practitioners in various Buddhist traditions. The Council serves as a model of cooperation and collaboration, and has inspired efforts to form a similar organization on a national level. Village Zendo is an active member of the Council and participates in its monthly meetings.

John Baker, Senior Teacher with Shambhala Meditation Center, offered a talk on this year's theme, and invited participants to discuss it. Rochelle Weithorn, also from Shambhala, moderated. The question arose about what defines a practitioner as Buddhist, and also is this question relevant. Exploring this issue raised another, namely, how to meet both the needs for breadth and depth in expressing and transmitting buddadharma in the West. A discussion followed about the impact of Buddhism on American culture especially through the vehicle of commerce/advertising.

As participants shared many differing views on these issues, and continued to mingle as they munched on a tasty lunch provided by “Buddha House” (a restaurant near our former Zendo location), the way in which folks communicated is what left a lasting impression on everyone.

Thanks to our Zendo volunteers – Michael Balogh, Nina Klippel and Angela Zito – as well as to Tasha Chuang from the Community of Mindfulness, whose teacher is Thich Nhat Hahn. Their wholehearted effort was greatly appreciated by participants, who noted the joyfully generous atmosphere pervading the Zendo.

That joyfulness was shared by our volunteers, who noted particular delight in the way participants c ommunicated. As they remarked:

Tasha: "People shared in a very gentle and mindful way, without being attached to their own views."

Angela: "To see [the Zendo] literally animated by people with concerns and needs that criss-cross our own — it’s like air flowing into its lungs. I expected to feel the walls breathe."

Michael: "The real meat regarding ‘How are we doing?’ came from the music, not the words. The peacefulness and happiness in the Zendo was the ultimate gauge."

The happiness continued on May 19 with the celebration of Buddha's birthday, Vesak Day, sponsored by the Council, at Shambhala Center. We participated in this event and look forward to more opportunities to serve the greater NY sangha as members of the Council and invite anyone who would enjoy participating in this process as well as other social action activities to email socialaction@villagezendo.org.

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