Saturday 16th June 2012, the Buddhist Council of New South Wales conducted a meeting at the Lao Buddhist Temple near Bonnyrigg, Wat Phrayortkeo Dhammayanaram. The meeting involved Buddhist Sangha and lay Buddhists from different organisations that come together to discuss how to make the Buddhist community stronger.
The main points of the discussion were the growing potential of Buddhism in Australia, the challenges and obstacles of it and what could be done to achieve the goal. The meeting provides an opportunity for Buddhist organisations to learn from each other experiences, of which they are different in many aspects. Some are cultural base or sometimes called ethnic Buddhist organisations which have strong support from their community and seem to grow very quickly. However, this group may provide little service to Australian community. While Australian Buddhist groups are comparatively small in size but provide more suitable services for the Australian community. The general challenges for this group is the lack of volunteers and it mainly runs by the core members.
One common problem that everyone seemed to agree was how to recruit new generations as they will be the main force in future to continue spreading the teachings of the Buddha (Dhamma). Questions were raised, mainly on how to get youth, of both Buddhist and non-Buddhist backgrounds, to take part in activities provided by the Buddhist community.
Some advice and examples were given by Cecelia, a former university student and former ambassador of the university Buddhist club, that the youth today like to be ‘free’ but when they joined some Buddhist activities, they felt that it was too strict and they were being pressured to do things that they did not really like to participate. Some suggestion from the floor for the solution to this was when organising any activities that will include youth, they may be alter and flexible to encourage the youth to join as long as they do not go against the normal practice.
The moderator concluded that the Dhamma is always pure and never change but we need a new way to present and convey the Dhamma to the new generation. He simply put it as the Dhamma in a new packaging. It is clearly the communication issue that we all need to find the solution. The meeting was close due to the time limit and the Buddhist Council of New South Wales would call another meeting to discuss this topic in particular which all the participants agreed to come for the next meeting for this issue.
Ajahn Satit, the teaching monk at the Buddhist temple in Albury attended the meeting as well. He brought the issue back with him as a homework and as something to do with his small Buddhist community on the border. He mentioned that from his experience when Buddhist activities were organised separately for youth, they might enjoy the activities and learn some Dhamma, however, it was usually found that they never come back to the temple again as the activities did not form a sense of community.
“I would prefer the activities as the whole family at the temple, this way they reinforce the practice of the Dhamma as well as the strong relationship within the family and the whole community, from grand parents right down to grand children. The question would be, how the temple maintains this wide range of audiences together. When they come to the temple, some activities could be done separately and some common activities to be done together as a whole. For example teenagers could be volunteers for the service while they offer this time for their parents to focus more in the practice of the Dhamma. Older youth take responsibility to take care and teach the young children. In this, it would be the right Buddhist culture to maintain Buddhist for the long lasting. The individuals Buddhist practice in the modern western lifestyle could be done but I don’t think it could help to maintain Buddhism for a long term. As the Lord Buddha already said how long the Buddhism last will depend on the four Buddhist company which is the combination of Lay Buddhist and the Sangha.”