Founder-Chairman, Council of International Buddhist College Hat Yai (Thailand) šC Penang (Malaysia):
I really admire each and every one of our panelists, in their ability to be within ten minutes to share with us, many issues. In fact, collectively, they have only 60 minutes, but we hear issues about the modern education versus Buddhist or traditional approach to education šC the modern education has emphasis only purely the academic versus the traditional/spiritual dimension šC in the traditional approach. As well as the providing of skills or jobs versus development of insights to free oneself from sufferings, the extroverted versus the introverted approach, and so on and so forth. In fact, in our experience in establishing the International Buddhist College, a very new baby, we experience these types of conflict.
There were many people who also advocated that we take a very liberal approach to a Buddhist university or college. Eventually, we got around it by having an academic component that operates exactly the same as what is required by even the government of [Thailand], but to have the traditional approach in terms of our students that need accommodations šC so they live in the monasteries. For students who do not like to be confined to this monastic training šC we give them the option to stay outside. But I am happy to report to you that with our experience most students have chosen to stay outside. So that is our solution to that.
A few months ago, Professor Gombrich was there, we were in India and Ven. Professor Samten was there šC we had a conference on the theme of ¡®Buddhism in the 21st Century¡¯, and His Holiness, the Dalai Lama šC in his opening address, said something quite interesting in terms of the Buddhist teaching of what our Venerable Geshe mentioned, on sila, samadhi and panna. So, His Holiness advocated that we have to have the roots in the tradition in sila and samadhi before following the vinaya and the suttas. But in the histories of the development of Buddhism, in India and subsequently in other places šC the ancient masters used theories in Abhidhamma, certainly, had re-expressed the Buddhist wisdom according to the different age-level that people were at. So, H.H. Dalai Lama, said that we are now living in the 21st Century, he liked the theme very much, so he advocated that we have to express the Buddhist wisdom in the methodology of the 21st Century. I think this is a very practical approach šC so there is no conflict, so we can have both.
I would like to see more Asian students being exposed to the western way of academic pursuits šC you know, you have all of this doubt in the academic approach but before, the Professor Coburn said, another way is to have western students to come and visit Asia šC to see the living tradition. This is better than trying to explain to them the ¡®other¡¯ dimension; let them see and experience for themselves. So, I think there is no conflict. There is no conflict, but there is a big challenge that we face šC that is our ability to re-express the Buddhist wisdom in the language and methodology of the modern age.
Secondly, I would like to touch on the association. It is very meaningful for us to be here together, with the idea of setting up this platform for Buddhist institutions, the colleges, to get together and be able to share resources.
I was very surprised, of course, pleasantly surprised to hear about the Budapest Buddhist University. Dr Agocs visited us, and from our conversation it is very clear that European Buddhists are struggling very hard in an environment in Europe to establish universities in terms of the financial resources, and also in other resources in terms of staffing, so I feel that this is, besides many things mentioned by Professor Richard Gombrich right now, for Asians šC where we have people practicing the tradition of dana šC I think we should go ¡®all out¡¯ to support our brothers in the West, when they are trying to establish universities and facing financial difficulties. So this is something specific that we can do also.
Lastly, I would like to report one thing: that, only last week I visited China, attended on conference there and I was very surprised that besides looking at the list that the Venerable Dhammasami and his friends have prepared šC there are so many other secular Buddhist universities in China that are now providing Buddhist studies šC and I am very sure that they would be very happy to join us in this platform. So we can work together in promoting Buddhist education in this modern time.
I am also very happy that Professor Charles Willemen from the IBC. He is a good resource to link us to scholars in China, and will be happy to help do this to get more Chinese scholars to get to join our association.