Sydney: Around 100 representatives, teachers and practitioners from various Tibetan Buddhist Centres in Australia participated in the conference of Tibetan Buddhist Centres held on 26 March at Aerial Function Centre, University of Technology, Sydney (UTS).
The conference, first of its kind held in Australia, was organised by the Tibet Information Office, Canberra with an aim to bring together Tibetan Buddhist centres, teachers and practitioners in Australia to discuss the universal teachings of Tibetan Buddhism and His Holiness the Dalai Lama and their significance to the contemporary world and to provide an opportunity to learn and share from each other’s experiences.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama sent a message on the occasion expressing appreciation for hosting such a conference. His Holiness further added “In addition to Tibetan Buddhist centres, there are communities in Australia from historically Buddhist countries such as China, Vietnam and Thailand. During my visits to Australia over the years, I have met many of them. Since we all follow the same teachers, it’s important to maintain good relations with them as well. We need to be 21st-century Buddhists by engaging in the study and analysis of the Buddha’s teachings and not relying on faith alone. Although Tibet, the Land of Snow, has undergone tremendous difficulty in recent times, one of the positive consequences has been that the people have become aware of Tibetan Buddhist culture, with its emphasis on compassion and warm-heartedness, and is part of the treasure of humanity. We must therefore make earnest endeavours to create a genuinely peaceful world free of weapons and violent conflict. ‘’
In his greeting video message to the conference, Sikyong Penpa Tsering emphasised the importance of the four principal commitments and the Social, Emotional and Ethical (SEE) Learning idea of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and suggested that Tibetan Buddhist Centres in Australia could take an initiative in introducing SEE learning curriculum in Australian schools by contacting local and state administrations.
Australian Senator Janet Rice who is a staunch supporter of Tibet addressed the conference through a video message and said, “The world should not give up easily and allow Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan traditions and culture to be destroyed by the repressive totalitarian Chinese government. I will continue to speak out and urge the Australian government to oppose any effort by the Chinese government to interfere with the practice of Tibetan Buddhism and only recognise the Dalai Lama appointed by the Tibetan Buddhist traditions and practices.”
The member of the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile for Australasia Tenzin Phuntsok Doring also sent his greetings through a video message as he was unable to attend the conference due to the ongoing Tibetan Parliament session in India.
During a brief inaugural function held on the morning of conference, Representative Karma Singey welcomed the participants and outlined the objectives of the conference and highlighted the risks faced by Tibetan Buddhism’s future in Tibet with the atheist Chinese government gearing up to increase their control over Tibetan Buddhism by interfering in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of reincarnation, control of the monasteries, and restrict the academic learning and free movement of monks and nuns.
The Chief Guest of the opening ceremony, Gawaine Powell Davies, Chair of the Federation of Australian Buddhist Councils and Buddhist Council of NSW, noted that His Holiness is held in the greatest respect by people across Australia and across the world, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike, as one of the great men of peace.
He further reiterated that we must all be concerned about the lack of freedom in Tibet, especially freedom of religion. We must be particularly concerned by any attempts to interfere with Tibetan Buddhism and the process for identifying the reincarnation of His Holiness.
Geshe Lobsang Goga, resident lama of Tara institute and Kyinzom Dongdue, a former member of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile who were special guests on the occasion spoke on the importance of following the counsel of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and maintaining good relations with communities of other faiths with respect and expressed their grave concern on the violation of religious freedom in Tibet.
Following the morning inaugural session, a panel of scholars and Tibetan Buddhist teachers comprising Venerable Khensur Geshe Tashi Tsering OAM, Khangmar Samdrubling, Dr Anna Alomes, Former Director of the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Ethics at the University of Tasmania, Ian Green OAM, Chairman, the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion, discussed on the theme” the importance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s principal commitments and approaches to secular ethics in today’s troubled world.”
Dr Ian Coghlan, a Buddhist Scholar and Research Fellow at Monash University focused his presentation on the contribution of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the dialogue between Buddhist Science and Modern Science. Lama Choedak, Spiritual Director of Sakya Losal Choe Dzong, Tibetan Buddhist Society, Canberra moderated the panel discussion.
The second-panel session was held under the chair of Representative Karma Singey on the theme “Protecting religious freedom in Tibet and the issue of reincarnation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The panellists for this topic include Professor Chongyi Feng, Associate Professor at University of Technology Sydney, Kyinzom Dongdue, Former Member of Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile and Strategic Campaigns Lead at Amnesty International Australia and Dr Zoe Bedford, Executive Officer, Australia Tibet Council.
In the afternoon, an interactive session was held for exchanging experiences and ideas among the participants on improving coordination and relationships among Tibetan Buddhist Centres and to explore ways to strengthen the dharma community under the chairs of Geshe Sonam Thargye, Spiritual Director of Drol Kar Buddhist Centre, Melbourne and Tony Steel, Centre Director, Vajrayana Institute, Sydney.
Kalsang Tsering, President of the Australian Tibetan Community delivered his closing remarks followed by a vote of thanks by Lhawang Gyalpo, secretary of Tibet Information Office.
The conference ended with following statement of consensus:
The First Conference of Tibetan Buddhist Centers in Australia was held at Aerial Function Centre, University of Technology Sydney, on 26th March 2023:
- Recognises the importance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s four principal commitments, namely – promotion of human values based on the oneness of humanity; promotion of inter-religious harmony among the world’s religious traditions; preservation of Tibetan language, culture, heritage and protection of Tibet’s natural environment; and revival of the ancient Indian knowledge in today’s troubled world.
- Commits to preserving and promoting Tibetan Buddhism under threat in Tibet and strives for promotion of universal human values for the benefit of individuals, society and the world at large.
- Commits to engaging and cooperating with communities of other faiths with respect and harmony to promote shared universal human values.
- Recognises His Holiness the Dalai Lama as a leader of peace, compassion and non-violence in Australia and the world.
- Notes with concern the severe violations of religious freedom in Tibet and the policy of sinicising Tibetan culture and religion.
- Reiterates that the selection, education and veneration of the Tibetan Buddhist leaders are exclusively religious matters and recognises defining the process of recognition of the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation is solely the prerogative of the present Dalai Lama himself and no one else.
- Recognises the importance of convening such a meeting at least once in every two or three years.
- Thanks to the Tibet Information Office, Canberra, for facilitating this conference and providing leadership in bringing together Tibetan Buddhist Centres in Australia.
-Filed by the Office of Tibet, Canberra