Women Faith Leaders Forum at DDM

In June 2006 DDM hosted the three-day Women Faith Leaders Retreat Forum in the Dharma Drum Mountain World Centre for Buddhist Education in Taiwan.

Honoured guests from abroad included Sister Joan Chittister, the Co-Chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women (GPIW) in the United States, Ms. Dean Merriam, the Convener of GPIW, Rev. Vrnda Chaitanya from India, Rev. Dhammananda Chatsumarn from Thailand, Rev. Amel Eldih from Sudan, Rev. Teny Pirri Simonian from Switzerland, and Dr. Rushud Zidan from Iraq. There are a few delegates from Australia: Rev. Chi Kwang Sunim, Jessiee Kaur Singh, Jill Jameson, Mary-Faeth Chenery are from Melbourne.

The main topic was "Compassionate Mind, Compassionate World".

In her opening address to the assembled delegates from all part of the World, Guo Kuang Fashi explained the theme of the Rising Great Compassion, and the virtue of the Guan-Yin Bodhisattva, symbol of the greatest compassion. Compassion is the common treasure shared by all mankind in the world, and is perceived as the best remedy in healing people's suffering minds. Above all, compassion does not discriminate on the ground of gender, religion, language, race, ideology and country.

Dr. Mary Faeth Chenery from Australia warned of the numerous obstacles to achieve worldly compassion in humanity due to poverty, wars, hunger, etc in many regions of the world. However, she added without raising awareness in the practice of compassion then the goal of making a peaceful, beautiful world would not be possible.

Australian Rev. Chi Kwang Sunim talked about equality in the monastic societies particularly in Korea. Young nuns believed they do not need the patriarchal system and elder nuns are ready to break away from this tradition.

Ms, Illana Berger from USA warned that the mother earth is being mistreated and urged everyone to pay due respect to our natural environment. The preservation and protection of planet Earth is perhaps the root in the exercise of compassion that we could aim for as everyone has an interest and responsibility in the wellbeing of this planet.

All honoured delegates agreed that compassion needs to be awaken and put into practice in all corners of the world, and through the cooperation in the name of compassion there is hope for peace and equality in the world. In his final address to the assembled guests, Venerable Master Sheng Yen agreed that the problem of un-equality is prevalent in the Buddhist society but also exist in other religions and societies. He expounded the term "compassion" and asked every delegate to adapt this virtue in a grand scale for the good of mankind.

The formal discussion and exchange of views and ideas have had a lasting impact on the Australian delegates. Venerable Chi Kwang Sunim, an Australian Buddhist nun, is keen to share her personal experience at this wonderful conference and has agreed to come to our DDM Meditation Centre in November to share some of the Women's stories. She will also show members some of the pictures that she took and we are looking forward to be a part of her experience at Fagusan.

Recently, the five delegates have organised an informal get together in Melbourne to talk about the retreat at Dharma Drum Mountain in Taiwan, to explore the possibilities for future inter-faith responses to important issues and to set future direction for this group. They have cordially invited Laura Chan (Convener Melbourne DDM and Chair of Buddhist Council of Victoria) to join them.

They explored ideas and exchanged opinions on how to tackle underlying problems on wars, pollution, poverty and human rights, but were mindful of moving war from one country to another, or exchange one environmental problem for another. The idea of a "think tank" based on a collective wisdom so that the actions can provide the best outcomes, with the best possible chance of making a difference in the underlying problems. Their ultimate aim is to share any worthwhile ideas with the greater group of participants at the Compassion Retreat in Taiwan

(The story is shared and written by Chiew Shin-Yee in Melbourne.)

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