Buddhist scholars gather for conference

By Jason Kosareff, Pasadena Star News Staff Writer, Jan 16, 2006

Rosemead, CA (USA) -- A major event in the Buddhist world quietly got under way Monday at the University of the West. The seventh International Conference on Humanistic Buddhism kicked off with a small gathering of some of the world's top Buddhist scholars, who will present papers during the weeklong conference.

The University of the West sits atop Walnut Grove Avenue. It was founded in 1991 by Master Hsing Yun, who founded Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights, the largest Buddhist temple in the Western hemisphere.

The theme of this year's conference is Humanistic Buddhism and Sustainable Economic Development. The Venerable Hui Chi, abbot of Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights, said he sees much in common between the studies and practices of economics and Buddhism.

"Between supply and demand, there's a need to balance, to harmonize," Hui Chi said.

During a series of seminars this week, scholars from Italy, Britain, South Asia and Southeastern Asia will present to the public and their peers treatises on global economic development from a Buddhist perspective. The papers submitted at the conference will be published in a journal widely read in the Buddhist world.

"The idea is we're trying to prevent inbreeding of ideas from this university," said Dr. Ananda Guruge, dean of academic affairs at the university.

The practice allows critique of the university scholar's works, preventing an "ivory tower" syndrome, said The Venerable Bhante Chao Chu, abbot of the Rosemead Buddhist Monastery.

The conference also fulfills Master Hsing Yun's vision of Buddhism applied to the real world. The master's founding of Humanistic Buddhism marked a departure from Buddhism's emphasis on the spirit world, Guruge said.

In a written statement read Monday night at the inauguration of the conference, the master said Buddhist tradition encourages people to acquire wealth as a way to help their families, friends and community.

"The heart of Buddha's teachings on wealth is to acquire it honestly and use it to help others," he wrote.

The conference schedule is available on the University of the West Web site at www.uwest.edu.