Welcome speech . Vello Vaartnou
My name is Vello Vaartnou and as a Buddhist and leader of the Buddhism & Australia organisation I am very pleased to welcome you all to the International Buddhist Conference entitled Buddhism and Australia.
This is our very first event discussing Buddhism in the context of Australia and the vision of bringing Buddhist culture to Australia and sharing our history and culture is quickly becoming realised.
It is my great pleasure to extend a warm welcome to all who understand that the core problems in today’s world are the same that the Lord Buddha foresaw 2600 years ago.
The teachings of Buddha have spread throughout a variety of cultures spanning a widely in geographical terms, especially in the last 60 years.
It is thought that in a few thousand years the teachings of Buddha helped attain a totally different mental dimension and method of thinking compared to the forms we know today.
The world is changing in all its forms and so are we, things that surround become sources of knowledge and such is the way of Buddhist knowledge. From this concept manifested the idea of calling together monks, scientists, lay Buddhist and other people, who are interested in researching the way of the Buddha.
This works to fulfil knowledge both within the context of practical wisdom and academic knowledge also.
We live in a period of increasingly rapid globalization. This means we have to talk about subjects within a wider geographical perspective tapping in to the ways various countries think.
When we look at the world map, and look north of Perth, across the Indian Ocean, we can see Asia, picture then that the Indian peninsula along with Asia is leaning on Western Australia.
While studying graphs and charts that explain Western Australian imports – exports we are given a similar impression.
Today we are gathered here to advance the teachings of Gautama Buddha, to try to define our place in the ideological and geographical world which is increasingly growing together with its spiritual assets, literature, art, history, architecture, politics and philosophy, is a wide topic and offers us much to discuss.
We could ask how much is Buddhism capable of adapting to the rhythm of the modern world, its understandings and technology?
What will happen to the teaching of Buddha after 300 years? What awaits us Buddhists, in this futuristic world?
The Future has always intrigued many different cultures and ideologies; we are all always interested, what the future brings us.
In this case, we would have to start with the history, so as to speculate on the course of the teachings of Buddha in time.
Every generation should review the chronicles from the history, because time changes our understandings and conceptions about Buddhist teachings...
History is the bridge between past, present and future.
The goal and nature of the Buddha’s teachings does not change in time, however people who follow the teaching of Buddha do, hence people will create new forms and methods to meditate on the teachings of Buddha.
So the methods of teaching will change in time, but it is possible, that even the practical, meditative – ritual side of Buddhism may still change.
A few centuries ago Buddhists would meditate on the teachings of Buddha.
This should be the priority in 2012 so that we can fill the world with the knowledge of Buddhism.
Buddhism started its victory in India and immediately was exported throughout Asia and as it spread wider, Buddhism as a world-view, acquired new shades and colours.
Every nation, which met with the light of the teaching of Buddha, added something to it; something that was close to their heart and important to their culture, of course language and spirituality.
The popularity of Buddhism in the world may be interpreted as a victory of a new spiritual ideology, which moving from one continent to the other, enriches the teachings of Buddha, with modern new methods and western technology.
Through this, we widen the horizon of human consciousness, but this process brings out new spiritual nuances and aspects both in language and culture.
Due to the assimilative nature of Buddhism, the teaching of Buddha has acquired a huge collection of literature.
Being the year 2012, we cannot view Buddhism as spiritual, ideological and religious concept; however Buddhism should be viewed more as a part of our economical life as well.
Asia is full of successful businessmen, economic leaders and politicians, whose lifestyle puts Buddhism in an important place.
These global economic ties bring together people with different religious principles and cultural backgrounds and the basis for success comes from a mutual understanding.
The foundation of successful business and communication is knowledge of cultural and an ideological space in which the partners interact.
Buddhism is not only the catalyst for spiritual development, but in many countries it is also a successful mediator for economic relationships.
Australia is the economic polygon of Asia and in Western Australia is especially popular and alluring for foreign investors.
It is because of this that one could assume that Western Australia dedicates itself to researching its partner’s ideological, historical and cultural background.
The most powerful of these ideologies that has been dominant in Asian continent for thousands of years, is Buddhism.
Because Western Australia is the centre of Asian economic relations, it is also a suitable environment for an international conference on Buddhism and Australia.
One could also put forward the idea that in a few years Buddhist and Asian Studies will become a new subject in the Universities of Perth.
Because the economic bridge has been built between the two continents, then the same should be made in the field of culture and ideology.
The Goals of this Conference:
To gather the material allowing the compilation of the History of Buddhism in Australia in the coming years.
Buddhism has been present in Australia for some generations and probably these are the last years in which we can ask the old generation of Buddhists to write down their thoughts and ideas.
To gather materials, documentation, photographs about Buddhist history in the East as well as in the West. Because the development of technology in the world today is offering us many possibilities in the field of communication, then modern technologies should be used such as computers, Internet etc.
This idea has been promoted by the likes of Prof. Lancaster for a long time. Modern digital technology allows more room for data, thus allowing us to record the activities and achievements of modern Buddhists in more detail.
Technology also allows us to publish gathered information online. Gautama Buddha, who was the ultimate model and the source of highest knowledge towards enlightenment, might agree with the proposition to gather and preserve the contribution of today’s followers of the teachings of the Buddha – to record their achievements whether they are in nature practical or theoretical. The goal of our activities is to gather and preserve materials and facts about the Buddhist of our times for the future generations.
It would be useful to gather information about the relationships between different schools throughout history.
The influences between different schools, in theoretical and practical Buddhism will hence enrich the teachings of Buddha.
At the same time this conference could speculate on topics as to how one could use computer games to create visual environments, which could help fulfil the Buddhist view of the world with visual aids.
With the help of digital technology it is possible to prepare different teaching materials for monasteries and higher educational institutions, but for lay Buddhists as well. The technology today allows this to be freely employed.
I myself started painting thangkas with a computer in 1997. The computer allows more detailed work and a bigger visual-informative composition. The digital technology also allows greater illustration of texts, in addition to, different comments which are inlayed within the visuals.
The co operation of Buddhist monks, nuns and academics represents many points of view however the content of this conference has aimed to remain simple and easy to understand.
Looking at the future, we should discuss how the next event should look and how it can be more fruitful.
It is tempting to start the next session with different workshops, but all this depends on how successfully this co operation is supported outside this conference. Buddhists have to offer academics information this is their line of work, by this I mean Oriental Studies, Buddhist Studies, Tibetology, Indology etc.
The previous conference that we organized in Europe dealt with the history of Buddhism in Northern Europe.
These conferences turned out to be very successful and due to the co operation between Buddhists and academics, it allowed us to record the main events in the history of Buddhism in Northern European countries – Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark.
In conjunction to that, we discussed the theoretical topics in Buddhism.
Interesting aspects of texts and translation problems have been introduced by internationally known specialist Natalia S. Yakhontova PhD who is a senior researcher at the St. Petersburg branch of Institute of Oriental Studies Russian Academy of Sciences (department of Turcologic and Mongolian studies) one of her works:
"Mistakes in translation from Sanskrit." “An outline of Buddhism advent to the Kalmyks “
The previous conference Buddhism and Nordland has brought here many highly qualified specialists – monks and scientists.
When I went through Asia to study Buddhism I got to know many interesting people among them internationally recognized specialist Dr Natalia Bolsokhoeva from the Institute of Mongolian and Tibetan Studies, the Russian Academy of Sciences in Buriatya, Russia .
During the time, I could not even imagine that decades later our paths would cross again on through Buddhism. I am confident in the future our many paths will cross again.
Years ago when I arrived in Kathmandu where I visited a Tibetan clinic, I was asked if I knew Dr. Natalia Bolsokhoeva because I had studied in the monastery in her country. I was surprised of how well-known her name was in the Asian continent.
On this note I am honoured to present her, because she was personally in correspondence with my first guru – Munko Lama.
I found myself on a journey to Myanmar and met a very broadminded monk - the Venerable Dr. Ashin Ketu from State Pariyatti Sāsana University in Yangon, who now has arrived to Perth with a rich presentation „Pāli and Sanskrit Studies in Myanmar“
The subject of our conversation in Yangon was also terminology and translation.
To add to this shining list of scientists who I have had interesting and enriching co operation we could add very many people:
For example Prof. Chimeg Oyun, from National University of Mongolia,
The names that I do mention here, are connected to the previous conference Buddhism and Nordland.
They have arrived here, from the opposite side of earth, to work with all of us and broaden this field of knowledge.
The result of the conference Buddhism and Australia will be fruitful in the same extent, because we all carry an idea of how Buddhism and science could provide an ongoing fruitful relationship logically and profitably.
Buddhist philosophy also includes mysticism, but here even is subject to logic and analyses.
Mysticism is an important component in a person’s life. It helps us develop and create a fully functional lively person.
It was the goal of Gautama Buddha to free sentient beings from illusion of reality, offering infinite field of knowledge, which helps us understand our place in space and time.
It is a real pleasure to welcome our honourable guest Ven.Tenzin Damchoe from Drepung Gomang Monastery India.
Gomang datsan and Buryat are tied together by a historical, legendary person, the teacher and monk Agvan Dorijev, who has founded the famous Kalachakra temple in , and who for years acted as the representative of the 13th Dalai Lama in Russia.
We should also mention, that it indirectly connects Estonia to Gomang as well, and this through Dorijev, Karl Tonisson and some other Estonians in the later years.
All of you, who have arrived to our first event, are most welcome.
In connection to the organizing of the conference I would like to pay respect to the honourable Ajahn Brahm, under whose dharma guidance the flower of teaching is blossoming in the monastery of Serpentine, my thanks for advise and positive emotions.
I have already mentioned people, who I have developed relations throughout the years and this process of exchanging acquaintances and knowledge is repeating itself time and time again.
And now I want to present to you all the people who did the hard work making the Buddhism & Australia 2012 conference happen.
Firstly I would like to introduce Chris Burns and Kay Burns from York.
Both donated money to support our international Buddhist – scientific event.
Interestingly Australians seem to be more scientifically oriented then local authorities.
Both the State Government and, The City of Perth decided that our conference is useless for Western Australia .
I don’t think so!
All those people who arrived from overseas to work on our conference have the same opinion to support research on Australian soil.
I want to extend a warm thank you to the City of Subiaco for supporting science and Buddhism (I also wouldn’t state the amount donated as it could potentially offend other sponsors)
Now I want to introduce our secretary Marju Broder.
She has been the secretary of Estonian Niyngma more than one decade.
Thanks to these people we have created such an interesting scientific event in Perth.
I want thank you all, who helped with the funding making it possible for our guests to arrive in Perth and I thank all the volunteers who have wished success for our event.
I thank the leaders in the Murdoch University for their help and understanding attitude towards organizing a conference in their building.
I wish you, the Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis of the Sangha, peace, happiness and the
Accomplishment of your Buddhist duties.
In hope I wish for the representatives of Local, State and Federal Governments, the
members of Community Associations, the Ethnic Communities, our friends and distinguished
guests, I wish you happiness, understanding, empathy and harmony to be amongst us all .
I pray that the wishes of our countrymen and women, the
Buddhist disciples show a path of truth, and that you always have peace, happiness and prosperity.
Thank you all.