Dharma Realm Buddhist Youth Conference 2001 took place at the City of the Dharma Realm in West Sacramento on Memorial Day weekend (from the evening of Friday, May 25 to the evening of Sunday, May 27). Over 80 people, including high school, college, and graduate students, young working adults, as well as parents, teachers, Sangha members, lay disciples of the Venerable Master, and other interested folks participated in the weekend conference. The packed conference schedule included a wide variety of workshops from which to choose. Saturday workshops included Science and Technology in Buddhism, A Buddhist's Way of Reducing Family Stress and Conflict, Views on Gender within Buddhism, Discovering Buddhism - Second Generation Buddhists, Interfaith Peace, and Buddhism's Perspective on "Hot" Topics. Sunday's workshops focused on different practices: Chanting Our Way to the Pure Land-Amitabha Buddha, Bowing to the Inner Buddha-Significance of Bowing, Meditation- Quieting the Inner Voice, Reflecting True Wisdom, Precepts-Purifying the Body and Mind. There were also presentations on "Introduction to Buddhism-The Story of Shakyamuni Buddha", "How to Balance Being a Buddhist with Living a Worldly Life", and "Why Be a Vegetarian."
Participants also took part in the regular Morning, Noon, and Evening Ceremonies, guided meditations, and stretching exercises, as well as enjoying acoustic guitar music and stories told by the Berkeley Buddhist Storytelling Circle. Workshop leaders and presenters included Bhikshu Heng Sure Shi; Bhikshunis Heng Gwei Shi, Heng Shr Shi, Heng Yang Shi, Heng Yin Shi; Dr. Martin Verhoeven, Doug Powers, Dr. Snjezana Akpinar, David Rounds, Helen Woo, Franklyn Wu, Loc Huynh, Brian Conroy, and Clarelynn Rose Nunamaker. Various DRBY members facilitated the discussions.
This year's conference drew students, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist, from many cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, including those who were not Buddhist but interested in finding out more about Buddhism. One Catholic college student from Kenya said, "I learned that Buddhism and Catholicism have many similarities." Another non-Buddhist said, "I thought I would be attacked for my views, but instead I was heard and respected." Another student remarked, "I've been to many church retreats where young people just hang around, and I really appreciate the rich experiences offered by the numerous workshops and the well-organized daily schedule."
There were humorous moments (such as when Helen Woo told of her transformation from a wild party girl into a devoted Buddhist and vegetarian) and touching moments (such as when one young man tearfully related his experience of trying to practice the Venerable Master's teachings by bowing to his father every day, and how his father finally opened up to him and they developed a close relationship).
Due to everyone's open-minded sincerity and the hard work of the conference organizers and presenters, as well as the support of the residents of the City of the Dharma Realm in providing lodging and delicious vegetarian meals, this third annual conference was the most successful yet.
For those who could not attend, don't worry: there are many more events lined up. The next DRBY event is a two-week Shurangama Sutra Study Retreat July 18th-25th, led by Bhikshuni Heng Chih Shi, who translated the Shurangama Sutra into English and was present at the first Shurangama Sutra Session held by the Venerable Master in the summer of 1968. For more information, visit the DRBY website at www.drby.net.
Venerable master's Dharma Words
To see things as they are is to understand;to let go of them is to be liberated;to be liberated is to be one's own master.