IBEC Activities

 Annual International Conferences or Symposia on Engaged Buddhist Themes

Kodosan already has extensive experience in holding national and international symposia. Over the last 10 years, Kodosan has hosted and run the INEB Executive Committee meeting with study tour of Fukushima (2012), a retreat for spiritually minded environmental activists with Joanna Macy (2008), and an extensive one week study tour and conference on nuclear and sustainable energy issues (2015), not to mention the first national gathering of suicide prevention priests (2007). In 2017, IBEC will host the first international conference on Buddhism, suicide prevention, and psycho-spiritual counseling.

Workshops & Training Sessions on Aspects of Engaged Buddhism (suicide prevention, grief care, community development, eco-temple, etc.)

Kodosan has also run many events in Japanese on a wide variety of issues. One of the most important in the socially engaged Buddhism field was the 2007 public symposium on suicide prevention that brought together Buddhist priests from a wide variety of denominations active in the field and led to the formation of a now well known national network of Buddhist priests working on the suicide problem. With practical networking that transcends sectarian divisions as a fundamental goal of the Center, national events such as these are a priority and a unique speciality of the Center.

Engaged Buddhist Study Sessions in Japanese and English (monthly, when possible with foreign guest speakers)

In 2004, Watts and Okano were part of small group that created the Engaged Buddhist Study Group (Jp. Engaged Buddhist kenkyu-kai) which met regularly for 5 years to develop perspectives on Japanese social issues. Priests and nuns, researchers, NGO staff, journalists, students, and people from various other sectors participated in the group, which also often ran experiential workshops and hosted engaged Buddhist speakers from other countries. In the Spring of 2016, Watts restarted the group with a series of meetings with Ambedkar new Buddhists from India, renowned engaged Buddhist philosopher David Loy, and Japanese Buddhists studying new fields of engaged Buddhism with Joan Halifax and Joanna Macy in the United States.

Meditation and Study Sessions on Japanese Buddhism in English (monthly, for students, residents, and travelers)

There are increasing numbers of foreign students studying in Japan as Japanese universities attempt to compete with other globally oriented universities. Since 2009, Watts has been holding in semester, weekly meditation sessions with both Japanese and foreign students taking his courses on contemporary Buddhism in Japan and Asia at Keio University. These sessions have already attracted adults and non-students of all ages and students from other universities, including IBEC’s first intern in the Spring of 2016 (see below). Together with class work and numerous field trips to learn directly from engaged Buddhists in Japan, these students have developed interests in what seem to be the disparate fields of Buddhist practice and social justice issues.

Internships & Residencies

A unique and important extension of the above activities are a series of internship & residency options for foreign engaged Buddhists and students:

  • student internships in engaged Buddhism (3 months, 6 months, 1 year): In the Spring/Summer of 2016, the Center began a collaboration with Princeton University in the United States to accept a student intern for 8 weeks. Such interns will engage in a mutual support experience serving the Center in its basic activities and learning from taking part in these activities. Connecting with students in the above mentioned meditation and study sessions on Japanese Buddhism in English, the Center is building international student networks with a number of emerging programs to provide opportunities to study and become involved in Buddhist based social engagement. Watts (B.A. Religious Studies Princeton 1989) has already developed a strong association with Princeton’s Dean of Religious Life and their own program on meditation and social justice, including summer internships with INEB in Thailand.
  • Extended study programs for students in engaged Buddhism: INEB has recently created the INEB Institute, with Master’s Program which seeks to create extended study programs for its students at affiliated sites in the network. The Center is now in consultation for hosting a 3-4 week extended exposure and study program in Japan for students.
  • residencies for engaged Buddhist leaders (to lead and/or participate in extended study, research, or training activities): Extended residencies for engaged Buddhist leaders will accomplish two main goals: 1) to better expose Japanese engaged Buddhists to important work being done in other countries as well as support their internationalization and foreign language learning, 2) to better expose foreign engaged Buddhists to the in-depth realities of social issues in Japan and the activities of Buddhists to confront them, especially in the specialized areas of Japanese Buddhist engagement such as suicide prevention, disaster relief, counseling, and anti-nuclear activism & eco-temple development.
  • Overseas study tours and international conferences: Through the JNEB network, Watts and Rev. Okano have been encouraging and supporting Japanese engaged Buddhists to participate in a variety of international conferences, especially the bi-annual INEB Conference. Since the nuclear incident in Fukushima in 2011, one of JNEB’s leaders, Rev. Hidehito Okochi, has participated in a number of important international conferences to present about his anti-nuclear and eco-temple activities. The Center also looks forward to creating study tours for Japanese engaged Buddhists to increase their understanding of events outside of Japan and develop their English communication skills.


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