"Women Practicing Buddhism:
American Experiences," held at Smith College April 7-10, 2005, focused on women's experiences
of Buddhism, and brought together scholars, students from the Five Colleges (Smith,
Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke colleges and the University of Massachusetts)
and practitioners from New England, especially the Pioneer Valley.
The vibrancy of the academic study of Buddhism in the Five Colleges
as well as the richness and diversity of Buddhism in New England (reflecting
the growth of Buddhism in America more broadly) made this conference
a timely and appropriate event.
The theme of the conference was centered
on issues of practice, bringing to bear women's particular experiences
of Buddhism as it spreads to North America and takes root in new contexts.
Topics considered at the conference explored the many practice
contexts of contemporary Buddhism, organized under categories such
as: "Engaged Buddhism," "Buddhism and Creativity," "Buddhism
and Sexuality," "Buddhism and Healing," "Race,
Ethnicity, and Class," "Women Changing Buddhism: Feminist
Perspectives" and "American Women Buddhist Teachers."
The conference had a broad and inclusive
outreach, drawing together women and men from the various Buddhist
communities in the area: Asian and Asian American Buddhists, converts
to Buddhism and people who have woven elements of Buddhist practice
into their private and/or professional lives without necessarily identifying
fully as Buddhists.
Buddhist women from around the world have begun to unite on a grassroots
level and assume leadership in working for the welfare of human society.
Now, just fifteen years later, the Buddhist women's movement is recognized
as a highly dynamic forum representing over 300 million women worldwide.
This movement, emerging from the margins into the international spotlight
as a force for social change, is an example of how women can unite
their resources and talents, work in harmony, and make significant
contributions to global understanding. This innovative movement focuses
on Buddhist women's issues and perspectives, but embraces all living
beings. It is innovative in incorporating scholarly perspectives,
spiritual practice, grassroots activism, and cultural performance
as equally valid dimensions of women's experience. Creating a forum
that unites women from such a rich variety of backgrounds, disciplines,
and perspectives with respect and appreciation is an expression of
women's enormous potential for global transformation." -- Karma
Sponsored by Smith
College, Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College,
and Sakyadhita (The International Association of Buddhist Women)