This, the first conference of its kind in Manchester, was organised by the Manchester University Buddhist Society (MUBS) and led by an organising committee comprising the Venerable Piyatissa (Ketumati Buddhist Temple) and the Venerable Miao Di (Fo Guan Shan Temple), together with Joy Bose, James Conole, Dennis Khong and Cathleen Liu of MUBS.
The venue for the day was the Fo Guan Shan Temple, a spacious Victorian building which had previously been a library. The organisation for the day had included a comprehensive web site, invitations to a wide range of Buddhists groups in the Manchester region and a detailed programme.
The event was attended by around forty participants, notably including some eleven monastics of various traditions. There were representatives from Ketumati, Manchester Buddhist Centre, Manchester Centre for Buddhist Meditation, Saraniya Dhamma Meditation Centre, Vairochana Buddhist Centre, Wat Chareon Bhavana, and Rochdale Zen Retreat.
There were some valuable talks, including ‘The heart of monastic practice’ from Reverend Master Bonati from the Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, talks on Buddhism in Higher Education; Counselling, Psychotherapy and Buddhism, and care for the dying.
The day finished with discussion groups examining Buddhists as a community. The great majority of the participants expressed their thanks for an opportunity to meet and talk with practitioners from different traditions. James Conole in his survey of ‘what students want from a Buddhist Society’, mentioned the importance of the social aspect. Students not only want to learn about and practice Buddhism, but also to meet with other like-minded people.
Some of the problems faced by university Buddhist societies were mentioned. In particular, the problems in maintaining continuity with a constantly changing student population and in gaining enough volunteers. The issue of ‘neutrality’ was also raised. University Buddhist societies are generally (and ought to be) a pathway to all mainstream Buddhist traditions.
The need for lay-people, in particular, to meet with other lay-Buddhists was a theme that was repeated throughout the day.
Additionally, the Rev Master Bonati also emphasised the need to practice diligently within a tradition in order to make progress as a Buddhist.
The Venerable Piyatissa closed the day with a wish to continue with an annual Manchester Buddhist conference. The beginning of August 2007 was suggested as a target for the next conference.
The NBO is very supportive of such regional events which create fellowship between Buddhist traditions, and would be enthusiastic about helping to organise and publicise similar events in Manchester or other areas of the UK.
The Manchester University Buddhist Society website is: http://www.umsu.manchester.ac.uk/mubs/
From this comprehensive site, there are links to all groups in the Manchester area.