I am at the Buddhist Geeks Conference in L.A.
It’s extraordinary. There’s a level of enthusiasm, engagement, excitement here far beyond what I’ve experienced at any large Buddhist gathering. It totally rocks.
It’s making me feel more optimistic about Buddhism than that I have in many years—perhaps ever. It’s not so much the intellectual content (although some of that has been remarkable) as the vibe of “we can do things differently, and create an unexpected future for our religion.”
I may write a more detailed post in a few days when I’ve thought things through. For now, this is just to say wow, you oughtta be here!
(You can get a sense of the excitement by reading the #bgeeks11 Twitter hashtag.)
Buddhism is a conversation
One other thought. Vince Horn, the primary organizer of the conference, opened it by saying that his goal was to bring about interesting conversations. (With the other organizers, he’s succeeded.)
I was reminded of these words from Robert Sharf, in an interview in Tricycle (about Buddhist Modernism):
Q: Before you referred to Buddhism as a critique of all essences, including the idea that there is some essence in Buddhism that is transmitted over time. So, then, what is Buddhism?
A: One way of looking at Buddhism is as a conversation, and this conversation has been going on now for over two thousand years—a long time… It is a conversation about what it is to be a human being: why we suffer, how we can resolve our suffering, what works, what doesn’t, and so forth. These are big issues, and whichever one you choose to look at, you are not going to find a single Buddhist position. There have always been different positions, and these would be debated and argued. But all parties to the debate were presumed to share a common religious culture—a more or less shared world of texts, ideas, practices—without which there could be no real conversation…
You are confronted with many answers that generate new sets of questions and perspectives. But it is important, I think, that we keep the conversation going here. It opens one up to dramatically different ways of understanding the world and our place in it. Through our participation we help shape the conversation, and the conversation, in turn, shapes us. To abandon it would be to lose something precious.