The European Buddhist Union (EBU) organized a conference titled “Spreading Wisdom and Compassion in European Societies” on 13–15 April. Held at the Stupa of Enlightenment in the town of Benalmádena in southern Spain, it was conceived with the aim of uniting European Buddhists and developing a European Buddhist voice in the international Buddhist arena.
The conference featured 17 paper presentations, three workshops, and a public talk by speakers from the France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the UK. Topics explored during the three-day forum were a testament to the differences and also the commonalities between the various European Buddhist communities. Speakers explored various Buddhist practices and engaged Buddhist projects addressing social issues across Europe.
Following opening addresses by Víctor Perez, mayor of Benalmádena, EBU president Ron Eichhorn, Asociación Hispana de Budismo (AHB) president Ricardo Guerrero, and Margarita Lehnert-Kossowski, president of the Asociación Cultural Karma Kagyu de Benalmádena, the conference began with a Three Jewels meditation, led by Margarita Lehnert-Kossowski, to open the hearts and minds of participants to motivation, intention, and illumination.
Among the presentations on the first day, David Rycroft from Mind with Heart in the UK, who runs an education program for teachers to introduce mindfulness to children and adolescents across Europe, talked about his work in a speech titled “Spreading Wisdom and Compassion in European Societies.” Also notable was a talk by Rev. Dario Girolami of the Centro Zen L´Arco of Rome, who described his work at the Rebibbia Prison, and how meditation can help people with HIV.
Wojtek Kossowski, architect of the Stupa of Enlightenment, talked about the creation of the stupa, which contains at least 6,000 Buddha images and many other precious artifacts. The stupa, the largest in Europe, looks out over the Alboran Sea. It is managed by the Asociación Cultural Karma Kagyu of Benalmádena, who helped ensure the success of the conference.
The presentations on the second day included one by Dr. Carola Roloff and Gabriela Frey from Sakyadhita France, who addressed the importance of gender representation by presenting a paper on“The Possibilities of Buddhist Teacher Training at European Universities,” which they followed with a workshop later in the afternoon. Egil Lothe from the Norwegian Buddhist Union presented a paper on “Buddhism and its Intellectual Contribution to Contemporary Europe,” looking at the question of whether Buddhism can be established as a religion, or whether it is mainly viewed as a practice for understanding suffering and exploring the nature of existence.
The third day included an exploration of same sex-marriage by Dr. Michael Vermeulen from the UK in a presentation titled “The Buddhist Pioneers of Same-sex Marriage in the West: A Little-known History of Compassion in Action.”
The sun was shining brightly during conference’s the closing session, which celebrated the success of EBU in bringing together different Buddhist traditions to share their knowledge and experience and to spreading the wisdom and compassion of the Buddhadharma.
The European Buddhist Union is an international umbrella organization that brings together 50 Buddhist organizations and national Buddhist unions from 16 European countries. The EBU aims to facilitate international exchange and promote spiritual friendship among European Buddhists, support Buddhist social action, and to amplify the voice of Buddhism in Europe and worldwide. In 2008, the EBU was granted participatory status in the Conference of International Non-Governmental Organizations at the Council of Europe.