Euro-Buddhism and the Role of Christianity
13th Conference of the European Network of Buddhist-Christian Studies
(in Cooperation with the University of Salzburg)
St. Virgil, Salzburg, Austria, 30 June - 4 July 2022
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In the late 19th / early 20th century Buddhism began to be practised in Europe and was often presented by its European followers as a persuasive alternative to Christianity which had come under heavy attack from various sides. Buddhism in Europe was less a result of missionary activities from Asian countries than the consequence of propagation by Europeans, who studied Buddhism through various literary sources. However, European Buddhists sought connections to Asian countries from a comparatively early stage onwards, and organizations such as the Mahābodhi Society came to play an important role. Tensions between Buddhism and Christianity in the West’s Asian colonies and the critique of Christianity in the West had their reciprocal impact on each other.
Whereas in the early days of European Buddhism the focus was predominantly on Theravāda, after the Second World War Western interest shifted to Japanese Zen-Buddhism and, somewhat later, to Tibetan Buddhism. Increasingly also other forms of Buddhism (such as Pure Land or Nichiren Buddhism) became present in Europe. Immigrants from Asian countries such as Thailand and Vietnam brought along their local forms of Buddhism and established their own centres. While some of these immigrant communities kept largely to themselves, other forms of Asian Buddhism, as for example “Inter-Being”, opened their home traditions and adopted distinctly European and even Christian elements. Today, then, Buddhism in Europe exists in a large variety of forms and with different degrees of individual belonging and/or commitment. Nowhere in Asia are so many different types of Buddhisms present in one particular society as is now the case in a number of European countries.
The European Network of Buddhist-Christian Studies (ENBCS) (http://buddhist-christian-studies.org/) is dedicated to the academic study of Buddhist-Christian relations around the world. While some of its conferences have focused on issues of doctrinal dialogue and religious practice, others have had a more regional emphasis (“Buddhist-Christian Relations in Asia”, St. Ottilien, Germany 2015) or dealt with certain challenges emerging from a modern mindset (e.g. “History as a Challenge to Buddhism and Christianity”, Drongen, Belgium 2013). The 2021 conference will combine these research interests: it will investigate the development of Buddhism in Europe from its beginnings until today and inquire particularly about the role of Christianity in the emergence of what might be called “Euro-Buddhism”. Christianity is still a major factor in European culture. Any form of Buddhism that interacts with European culture or even attempts to adapt to Europe in order to create genuine forms of Western Buddhism will therefore also have to reflect on its relation – whether hostile or hospitable – to Christianity. Apart from looking at the development and present state of Buddhism in Europe, the 2022 conference of the ENBCS will explore the complex relationship between Buddhism and Christianity, as mediated by European culture, by highlighting three issues that are of particular relevance to this relationship: the challenge of secularism, the challenge of gender justice and the challenge of creolization or hybridization.
Thu (30th June)
20.00 – 21.15: Opening of the conference
20.00 – 20.15: Welcome Address (Perry Schmidt-Leukel)
20.15 – 21.15: Buddhism between Idealization, Disillusion, and Reality (Rupert Gethin)
Fri (1st July)
09.00 – 12.30: I. Case Studies
Replacing the ‘Religion of the Tax Collectors and Sinners’ by the Bright Light of Buddhist Teachings: The Role of Polemics against Christianity among Early European Buddhists (Martin Baumann)
Divide and Rule: Strategic Encounters Between a Hippie Buddhist Lama and a Christian Counter-Cult Leader in the Early Phase of Practiced Buddhism in Denmark (Jørn Borup)
15.00 – 18.30: II. Diversity and Unity of Buddhisms in Europe Today
20.00 – 21.30: Open Presentations (I) (3 parallel sessions)
Sat (2nd July)
09.00 – 12.30: III. The Challenge of Secularism
15.00: Guided Tour through Salzburg (followed by joint dinner in Salzburg)
Sun (3rd July)
09.00 – 12.30: IV. Gender Justice as a Challenge to Buddhism and Christianity
A Buddhist Perspective (Carola Roloff)
A Christian Perspective (Natalie Watson)
15.00 – 18.30: V. Buddhist-Christian Hybridities
Christian Elements in the Practice of the Order of Interbeing (Ursula Baatz)
Hybrid Spiritual Identities (Martin Rötting)
19.45 – 21.15: Open Presentations (II) (3 parallel sessions)
21.15 – 21.45: Conclusion of the Conference
Mon (4th July)
Departures after Breakfast
Ursula Baatz, Vienna (Austria). Intercultural philosopher, author and journalist (ORF) with a special interest in Buddhist-Christian encounter, mindfulness coach.
Martin Baumann, Professor for the Study of Religions at the University of Lucern (Switzerland). Special research interest in immigration and religion, religious diversity and public space, diaspora studies, and Hindu and Buddhist traditions in the West.
Lieven Boeve, Professor of Systematic Theology, Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium). Research interest: dialogue, difference and Catholic identity in the context of a post-Christian and post-secular society.
Jørn Borup, Associate Professor and Head of Department at the Department of Religion, University of Aarhus (Denmark). Research interest: Buddhism, interreligious encounter, multireligiosity.
Jamie Cresswell, Vice President of the European Buddhist Union, Director of the Centre for Applied Buddhism, member of the European Council of Religious Leaders, trustee of Religions for Peace – UK, member of the Soka Gakkai International – UK.
Rupert Gethin, Professor of Buddhist Studies in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and codirector of the Centre for Buddhist Studies at the University of Bristol (UK). President of the Pali Text Society. Gethin is a practising Buddhist in the Theravāda tradition.
Kurt Gakuro Krammer, Magister, Head of the Institute for the Study of Buddhism and Dialogue of Religions, Salzburg (Austria). Krammer is a Buddhist practitioner in the Zen tradition and has been active in interreligious dialogue for more than 30 years. He used to be an active member of European Buddhist Union for more than twenty years, is a board-member of conveners for the network “Buddhist Teachers in Europe” and of the European Network of Buddhist-Christian Studies.
Inken Prohl, Professor of Religious Studies, head of Department, Institute for Religious Studies, University of Heidelberg (Germany). Special research interest in Japanese Buddhism and transformations of Buddhism in modernity.
Carola Roloff (Ven. Jampa Tsedroen), Professor of Buddhism, Academy of World Religions, University of Hamburg (Germany). Special research interests: Gender and religion, Buddhism and modern society, interreligious dialogue.
Martin Rötting, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of Salzburg (Austria), Chair of OCCURSO Institute for interreligious and intercultural encounter e.V., Secretary of the European Network of Buddhist-Christian Studies. Specialized in Buddhist-Christian dialogue, issues of religious identity in a multireligious world.
Perry Schmidt-Leukel, Professor of Religious Studies and Intercultural Theology, University of Muenster (Germany), Chair of the European Network of Buddhist-Christian Studies. Specialized in inter-faith studies, Buddhist-Christian encounter, Indian Buddhism.
Natalie Watson, PhD from Durham University (UK), writer, theologian and long-term editor in the field of theology, religious studies, international relations, Asian studies (China, Korea, Central Asia, SE Asia, BRI), geopolitics and security.