On Thursday, January 30th, l997, Bhikshus and Bhikshunis of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association represented Buddhism as an emerging faith at a three-day pastoral conference at Berkeley, California. As most of the participants were representatives of Christian clergy, must of the conference concentrated on Christian topics. However, newer religious groups in the Bay Area, such as Buddhists and Native Americans, were also given a chance to introduce their religion to a largely Christian audience.
The conference was hosted by the Pacific School of Religion and took place at the spacious First Congregational Church of Berkeley, not far from the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery. The theme of the conference was “Equipping Faith Communities for a Changing World.”” The three days included the l997 E.T.Earl lectures, as well as other lectures, sermons, and workshops. Bhikshu Heng Sure and Professor Ron Nakasone of PSR headed a workshop under the heading of ldentity, Assimilation and Adaptation: 100 years of Buddhist Experience in North America.”
During the Thursday afternoon session at First Congregational Church, Heng Sure Shr, representing DRBA, gave a short speech, recalling his first encounters with Buddhism and describing the activities of the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery and the Venerable Master's vision of it. He also invited the audience to participate in a simple meditational exercise of watching the breath. The presentation was closed by a recitation of the Heart Sutra in English.
After the workshop was over, the audience was invited to visit Berkeley Buddhist Monastery. For over an hour representatives of DRBA answered questions and discussed various aspects of Buddhism. The visitors were especially interested in finding out about the life of Buddhist monks and nuns and the principles guiding their lives. All in all, the afternoon provided a valuable chance to introduce Buddhism in Berkeley and was an inspiring example of the changing, multicultural and multifaceted religious scene in the Bay Area.