Through different periods of complicated changes in the country, the region and the world, Vietnam’s Buddhism has reinforced is existing relations with Buddhism in several countries as well as developed new Buddhist relations with in other countries and territories, including Taiwan, Korea, America, France, Germany, Japan … These relations have been expanded extensively and intensively, increasingly improving the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha’s position and prestige regionally and globally. Over the years, the VBS has proactively participated in regional and international conferences and forums hosted by religious organizations, governments or international organizations.
It can be said that, the VBS’s international activities have increasingly been developed fruitfully. Since its founding more than 30 years ago, the VBS has relentlessly expanded cooperation relations and strengthened international contacts and exchanges in order to consolidate friendship between the VBS and Buddhist organizations in the regions and the world.
1. Relations with international Buddhist organizations:
The Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace (ABCP): This is a social-religious organization founded in 1970 by Buddhist organizations from former Soviet Union, Vietnam and Mongolia as key members, aimed a providing support to the struggle for peace in Southeast Asia, especially Vietnam’s resistance war against America. Vietnam’s Buddhism was always an active member and held the position of a vice president and a secretary of the ABCP since its founding. The Vietnam Buddhist Sangha hosted successfully the Conference for disarmament and non-nuclear weapons in 1993 which was highly appreciated by the international community.
The UN Day of Vesak International Organizing Committee (IOC): As soon as the Vesak celebrations was recognized as the UN’s cultural and religious festival in 1999 by the United Nations General Assembly, the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha sent its representative to joint the UN Day of Vesak International Organizing Committee and participated actively in its activities. Annually, the VBS dispatched its delegation to UN Day of Vesak Celebrations hosted by the UN or member countries. Especially, with support from the Government of Vietnam, the VBS successfully hosted the UN Day of Vesak in Hanoi in 2008 and 11th UN Day of Vesak in Bai Dinh pagoda in Ninh Binh province this year.
The World Buddhist Summit Conference (WBS): In April 1998, the first WBS was organized in Tokyo, Japan. The VBS was a founding member and proactively joint its activities in the pas years, as well as sent its preventatives to the five conferences of the WBS hosted in different countries. Given its strong development and increased reputation in the past years, the VBS was highly regarded by the WBS, and expected to make further contribution to the WBS’s development
2. Relation with Buddhism of countries in the region
Indian Buddhism: Vietnam’s Buddhism has a traditional relation with Buddhism in India in parallel to the traditional relationship between the two countries. Over the years the VBS has maintained exchanges of visiting delegations and sent many monks and nuns to study in India. Up to now, Buddhist monks and nuns studying in New Delhi University and other universities in India make up the highest percentage of those studding abroad, with many of them are taking master and doctor courses in Buddhist studies. Currently, there is a Vietnamese Buddhist pagoda built and managed by Ven. Thích Huyền Diệu in Bodhgaya, India’s Bihar state.
Chinese Buddhism: The VBS and China’s Buddhist Association has strengthened relations in recent years through promoting exchanges of visiting delegations; mutual support and participation in the organization of UN Day of Vesak 2008; the VBS supported and sent representatives to the first and second World Buddhist Forum initiated and co-organized by the China’s Buddhist Association.
Taiwanese Buddhism (China): In more than ten previous years, relations between Vietnamese Buddhism and Taiwanese Buddhism gradually developed. Taiwanese Buddhism was the first Buddhist organization to present the complete Buddhist tripitaka to Vietnamese Buddhism, and thanks to this complete Buddhist scripture, the VBS has translated, printed and published the tripitaka in Vietnamese. Buddhist organizations in the two countries also exchanged visiting delegations. Buddhist institutions in Taiwan regularly received Vietnamese Buddhist monks and nuns for their Buddhists study and research.
Lao Buddhist Coalition: In tens of past years the VBS and the Lao Buddhist Coalition has maintained and strengthened relations through exchange of delegations, mutual assistance in Buddhist affairs such as preaching of doctrines, Buddhist rituals, Buddhist training, building of administrative apparatus, as well as mutual support at regional and international conferences and forums.
Cambodian Buddhism: In order to promote relation with Cambodia’s two Buddhist sects, the Dhammayuttika and Mahanikaya orders, the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha has sent its delegation to visit and exchange in Buddhist affairs, as well as to develop cooperation on Buddhist training and other issues.
Thailand’s Buddhism: In more than ten past years, the Buddhist relation between the two countries saw new developments, especially after the Vesak celebration was recognized by the United Nations General Assembly as the UN’s cultural and religious festival, and annually held in the UN Headquarters and hosting countries. Thailand is also a country where the office of the International Organizing Committee of the UN Day of Vesak Inernational Organizing Committee is stationed and the hosting country of the UN Day of Vesak for several times, so the Buddhist relation between the two countries has been regularly maintained by sending delegations to join the event of the UN Day of Vesak celebrations, exchanging experiences in the organization of the UN cultural and religious festival, or other Buddhist affairs.
Myanmar’s Buddhism: In more than ten past years, since the International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University made its first enrolment and invited the late Most Venerable Thích Thanh Tứ, former Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha Executive Council to join the opening ceremony for the first course in 1998, the Buddhist relation between the two countries was strengthened and the VBS regularly sent its monks and nuns to study at this university.
In addition, the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha had contacts with Buddhism in Sri Lanka, Korea, and Indonesia…
3. Strengthening relations with national and international Buddhist organizations by receiving working visits
As soon as it was established, the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha actively developed relations with regional and international Buddhist organizations. Since the country carried out the innovation policy, especially for previous years, the VBS’s international cooperation relations have gradually expanded, and currently there is a strong development in these relations. Accordingly, the VBS have received many working visits of foreign Buddhist organizations and individuals, and numbers of visiting organizations and individuals are on the rise.
Via receiving workings visits by foreign Buddhist organizations and individuals, the VBS helped foreign Buddhist organizations and dignitaries better understand religion in Vietnam in general, and Vietnamese Buddhism in particular. In its development history of about 2,000 years, Vietnamese Buddhism have always preserved and promoted the tradition of patriotism and close attachment to the nation.
Buddhist delegations and dignitaries from Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, China, India, Nepal, Bhutan… have witnessed the development of Vietnam’s Buddhism in many aspects, with nearly 15,000 spacious and beautiful pagodas nationwide. The current number of monks and nuns has doubled in comparison with that number of 26,000 in 1981. Currently there are 05 Buddhist institutes, 01 Buddhist colleges, 07 college-level courses in Buddhist studies, 31 Buddhist high schools and hundreds of Buddhist preliminary schools. There’re more than 5,000 monks and nuns graduated from those training institutions yearly. In addition, monks and nuns studying aboard have increased yearly, and reached about 700 in number according to incomplete statistics, including nearly 70 monks and nuns having graduated with master and doctor degrees from universities abroad.
4. Participation in national and international conferences and forums
The VBS has sent many delegations to religious meetings and conferences organized in other countries and made many contributions to these forums, thus helping enhance its prestige. Such meetings and conferences include the Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace (ABCP) in Mongolia and Laos, the international conference on “the Eternal Message of the Buddha” in Sri Lanka, the international conference on the origin of Buddhism in Thailand and neighboring countries, the conference on Buddhist education in China’s Jiangxi province, the conference on Vietnam’s Buddhism and the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha, two Buddhist forums hosted by China’s Buddhist Association and China’s Association for Cultural Exchange, the World Buddhist Summit Conference (WBS) held in Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and other conferences on Buddhist studies or themes related to Buddhism organized by Buddhist organizations or Buddhist Institutes in several countries.
In addition to taking part in conferences on Buddhism and relating to Buddhism, the VBS has also dispatched delegations to religion-related international conferences aimed at strengthening religious understanding and cooperation, such as the Summit for religious and spiritual leaders at the UN headquarters, the conference on globalization in Berlin, ASEM’s interfaith dialogues and forums, the Asia-Pacific Interfaith dialogues.
5. Caring the for the spiritual life of Vietnamese overseas
Displaying its responsibility towards Vietnamese Buddhists living and working overseas, in recent years, the VBS dispatched monks and nuns of virtues and competence to give instruction to Buddhist communities abroad in religious activities, especially the Buddha’s birthday and Ullambana (Vu Lan) festivals. Since 2005, the VBS has regularly sent delegations to the Federation of Russia, the Republic of Poland, the Republic of Hungary, the Republic of Ukraine, the Republic of France… The VBS also recognized Vietnamese Buddhist associations in France and Czech Republic as its member, and sent its dignitaries to administer Buddhist temples in France, Hungary, and Ukraine… These VBS’s Buddhist activities has played an important role in bringing stability to, and meeting spiritual demand of Vietnamese overseas, helping them lean towards the Fatherland by practical deeds and efforts, together building the country of Vietnam.
For over 30 years of development since its establishment of a single and unified Buddhist organization in Vietnam (07/11/1981 – 07/11/2013), and through 6 general congresses, the VBS has gathered and united Buddhist dignitaries and followers for implementing its religious practicing orientation, proactively participating in social movements for building and developing the country, acting as a bridge for connection and solidarity between the Vietnamese Buddhist dignitaries and associations overseas and all people in the country, together contributing to the development of the homeland. The position and reputation of the Vietnam Buddhist Sanga has been affirmed in the international Buddhist community. Such affirmation is a noble reward for the VBS in general, and for may Buddhist monks and nuns in particular, in overcoming all difficulties in order to make miraculous developments of Buddhism in Vietnam./.
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