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Women Practicing Buddhism


"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.

Learn more about the conference in the Winter 2005 issue of NewsSmith

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.

"Since 1987 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 Lekshe Tsomo

Sponsored by Smith College, Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, and Sakyadhita (The International Association of Buddhist Women)

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