Female Monastics Leading the Way at the 18th Sakyadhita Conference

The 18th Sakyadhita International Conference kicked off on Friday in Seoul, marking the beginning of a five-day event centered around the theme of “Living in a Precarious World: Impermanence, Resilience, Awakening.” This globally recognized conference, jointly hosted by the Korean Bhikshuni Association and Sakyadhita Korea, has attracted over 3,000 participants, including Buddhist monastics, laypeople, esteemed guests, and dignitaries from South Korea and various parts of the world.

The Sakyadhita International Association of Buddhist Women, renowned for its commitment to improving the lives of women in Buddhist societies, aims to empower and unite Buddhist women while promoting their welfare and fostering their contributions to the Dharma and all sentient beings. The organization, which takes its name from “Sakyadhita,” meaning Daughter of Shakya (the clan name of the historical Buddha), operates at the grassroots level, building an international network among Buddhist women and advocating for equal opportunities in all Buddhist traditions.

Under the overarching theme of this year’s conference, “Living in a Precarious World: Impermanence, Resilience, Awakening,” attendees will explore the undeniable presence of impermanence in our surroundings. From the climate crisis and environmental degradation to political extremism, social instability, and the escalating threat of violent conflicts, the conference program covers a diverse range of topics through paper presentations, workshops, exhibitions, meditation sessions, and cultural performances.

A significant focus will be placed on female monastics in contemporary Korea and their future, examining gender stereotypes and impermanence, as well as the revival and evolution of female ordination in different Buddhist traditions. Additionally, the conference will delve into the practice and application of Buddhadharma in modern society.

During her address at the opening ceremony, Ven. Bon-gak, president of the 18th Sakyadhita Conference and the Korean Bhiksuni Association of the Jogye Order (South Korea’s largest Buddhist order), emphasized the pressing challenges faced by our world today. She said, “We live in a time of war, pandemics, climate crisis, and regional disparities—a time characterized by distrust and suspicion.”

She further expressed the importance of seeking better guidelines for life and finding a common direction that fosters harmony. Ven. Bon-gak stated, “True happiness comes when one maintains inner peace by relinquishing desire and greed. A heart filled with greed leads to wars and various crises. This, perhaps, is the essence of awakening.”

The 18th Sakyadhita International Conference, held under the theme “Living in a Precarious World,” aims to guide participants through the crises and challenges of the modern world. Over the next five days, more than 3,000 attendees from 31 countries will engage in exchanges, shared experiences, and empathetic discussions on how to stay awake in these tumultuous times.

The conference has received sponsorship from esteemed organizations such as the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, the historical Korean Buddhist temple Bong Eun Sa, South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, the Seoul Metropolitan Government, Gang Nam Gu district government, and the Korea Tourism Organization.

Representing diverse Buddhist communities worldwide, the 18th Sakyadhita International Conference promises to offer a profound insight and wisdom on compassionate action and social engagement in the face of impermanence. Through the lens of the sacred feminine and the teachings of the Buddhadharma, participants will collectively explore resilience and awakening, demonstrating the power of unity and collective effort. Speaking at the opening ceremony, Sakyadhita president Prof. Sharon Suh acknowledged the extraordinary nature of these times and the significance of coming together physically following the pandemic. Prof. Suh highlighted the essence of Sakyadhita’s purpose, stating, “We need one another, and it is through collective effort that we find resilience and awakening. Sakyadhita has always been about gathering, supporting, and uplifting one another on the path to liberation.”

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