Statement from the Chongji order

Dear ILBF/Bodhimitra friends!

We are sad to see that confusing messages have been sent. A few former ILBF volunteers have decided to go against Buddhist ways of behavior and they are trying to spread misinformation about ILBF.

We can assure you that there was no hijacking of websites; however, there was simply a change in volunteers. This was necessary due to the behavior of a few previous volunteers (including some who give themselves officially-sounding titles). We have unsuccessfully tried to reach out to this disgruntled group but, unfortunately, they continue their misinformation.  Please note that the website, Facebook page and associated email addresses are genuinely under ILBF – now Bodhimitra – directed under Master Hwaling with the full support of the Chongji order. You can ignore any miscommunications from others.

We want to remind and reassure you: ILBF was initiated by the Chongji order; while ecumenical and independent, the Chongji order and Master Hwaling always have been the founding facilitators of the WLBF/ILBF/Bodhimitra project. After the difficulties that arose with organizing the 9th ILBF in Thailand, Master Hwaling and the Chongji order decided that it was necessary to work with a new group of volunteers for the 10th forum.

Please note ILBF was always just a group of volunteer/friends working for Lay Buddhists worldwide. The group gave itself an international steering board in 2011 but the then-envisioned working modus of the board was already abandoned in 2014 as unworkable; volunteers managed to continue the meetings since then informally.

The Chongji order has always retained its intellectual and spiritual founding rights to what was first called World Lay Buddhist Forum (then ILBF; now Bodhimitra) and there is a consistent stream of agreement since 2012 that the Chongji order as the founding and supporting organization will bring the ILBF (now Bodhimitra – ILBF) back to South Korea for its 10th anniversary (ILBF Bodhimitra 2020 Call for Participation:

This is also what Master Hwaling was asked to do in Thailand.

We do believe in Buddhist conduct according to the five śīlas and encourage everyone to abstain from lying, ill-will, and from the sowing of dissent and mistrust.

WLBF/ILBF/Bodhimitra was not set up for the vanity, power, or the financial interest of a few individuals but to serve the interests of Lay Buddhists globally.

We hope you will continue to support Bodhimitra – ILBF in its aims and objectives.

All good wishes,

Chongji order

Bodhimitra five śīla (ethical principles)

* I will not kill or harm any life.

* I will not retain what is not given rightfully, nor will I take away others’ possessions.

* I will respect the sexual rights and happiness of others.

* I will not lie, nor use harsh or harmful words.

* I will avoid using substances that harm my body and mind.

Bodhimitra ILBF Aims and Objectives

Living Buddhism and leading a Buddhist life
We follow Buddha’s teachings and apply them to our everyday life in order to increase everyone’s happiness and wellbeing, beyond mere theories and ideals.

Practical Buddhism, Buddhism in daily Life, Buddhism for the benefit of all
We apply the teachings of the Buddha to real life and practice them in order to gain peace of mind, develop wisdom, and make human society peaceful and beautiful.

Responsibilities of lay Buddhists for the role of the holy Sangha
Lay Buddhists form the majority of Buddhists worldwide and hold the most important position within the fourfold community and the holy Sangha, in order to spread the Buddha’s teaching in a modern, useful way.

Internationalization of Buddhism
Through the Bodhimitra organization, we aim to strengthen ties among Buddhists of all branches and affiliations and exchange information so that humanistic and Engaged Buddhism may become a main influence in leading humankind to world peace and reconnecting people to altruism and spirituality.


The 9th International Lay Buddhist Forum in Ayutthaya and Bangkok

The 9th ILBF was held over the New Year, 28 Dec 2019 – 2 Jan 2019.

The opening of the Forum took place in Ayutthaya with the first day of talks at the Phranakhon Si Ayutthaya Rajabhat University (or ARU for short).

The opening celebration consisted of gifts for the generous host prepared by Prof. em. Dr Franz Gschwind and presented by former Sakyadhita President Dr Christie Chang, followed by speeches, music and dance, and a wonderful authentic Thai dinner. The backdrop of the opening was an impressive exhibition space created and curated by the tireless and generous local co-organiser, the artist and architect Ajahn Dulpichai.

The first day of lectures started with a wonderful introduction by the Vice-Chair of Bodhimitra, Professor Bee Scherer, PhD (Director of the Intersectional Centre for Inclusion and Social Justice at Canterbury Christ Church University in the UK). Locating ILBF firmly within the framework of Socially Engaged Buddhism, Scherer praised the work of past organisers, such as the Chong-Ji order in Korea and the Buddhayana organisation in Sumatra/Indonesia and reminisced about the 2012 ILBF Scherer organised in Spain, while highlighting the importance of an International Lay Buddhist Forum for connecting lay-practitioners, academics and monastics.

The President of ARU, Dr Kasame Bumrungveth introduced participants to the University with its impressive range of scholarly and vocational programmes and conveyed his wishes for a productive meeting.

Interesting talks followed by scholars and practitioners, from Professor Hnin Hnin Aye of the University of Abhidhamma (Yangon, Myanmar) on the use of Buddhist Principles in Human Resources to Dr Saul Tobias (an Associate Professor at Fullerton, USA) on Mindfulness. Dr Phillipe Turenne spoke about the Rangjung Yeshe Institute in Kathmandu, Nepal, as a place of higher education for for scholar-practitioners. Also from Nepal, six Newari Buddhist ‘priests’ and ‘priestesses’ (i.e. householder-monastics) attended the 9th Forum: representatives of the Nepal Traditional Buddhist Association have been an integral part of the ILBF ever since the senior Newari Buddhist leader, the Most Rev. Prof. Dr. Naresh Man Bajracharya, participated at the 6th ILBF in Spain. At the 9th forum, the Newar Scholars Dr. Kabindra Bajracharya and Puspa Ratna Shakya gave a presentation on traditional chanting and ritual sand art in the Newar Tradition.

Important talks by Shermila Milroy and Dr. Damenda Porage from Sri Lanka about the role of women in Theravada and Vajrayana Buddhism led to an animated debate. The prolific Thai-American Socially Engaged Buddhist activist and change agent Nampet Panichpant-Michelsen gave an inspiring, personal account of her life with Buddhism.

Dr Dominick Scarangello of the Lotus Sutra-centred Buddhist movement Risshō Kōsei Kai (立正佼成会), which graciously hosted the 7th ILBF in Japan in 2014, spoke about Buddhist Principles whilst living in a sharehouse in Japan and Master Beobkyung Kim gave an interesting talk about the practices of contemplation and compassion in the Chong-ji order in Korea. The order, who generously contributed to the organisation of the 9th forum, will again host the next, 10th Forum in 2020 in Seoul, to be organised by the current Bodhimitra ILBF President, Dr Hwaling Lee.

After a light dinner, the participants strolled at their leisure through the famous night-market of Ayutthaya sampling some of the culinary delights Ayutthaya had to offer.

The next day let the participants on a temple tour of Ayutthaya to arrive in the evening at the Thai Hua Fo Guang Shan Temple in Bangkok, a grand temple still under construction. Fo Guang Shan is a Chinese Mahayana Buddhist organisation founded by the Venerable Master Hsing Yun, and is known for their social activism as part of the concept of ‘Humanistic Buddhism’. The abbot of the temple Venerable Hsin Ting and the other Venerables and volunteers of Fo Guang Shan Bangkok gave the forum a very warm welcome.

On New Year’s Eve, the forum continued with two workshops, by Xuan Huynh and her husband Dr Thanh Huynh on mindfulness and by Dr Maurits Kwee on Buddhist psychology. Further, Huihui Lan, a young Singaporean occupational therapist, offered participants early morning Yoga sessions.

Dr Franz Gschwind, a retired engineering professor and long-term practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism, shared his experience of leading a mindful life; his wife Johanna spoke about the Tibetan Buddhist Rabten community and showed a video of their event of teaching meditation to children. The American Diplomat and China expert Roseanne Freese presented about the changes to Buddhism in mainland China.

Enkhgerel Batsaikhan (Annie) spoke on the changing attitude of Buddhist Youth in Mongolia. Dr Kalinga Seneviratne shared his experiences on non-violence response and Venerable Dhammasiri Thero gave us a glimpse into monastic life in Sri Lanka.

Further, the ILBF Steering Board formally met at Thai Hua Temple and recorded heart-felt thanks to all formerly active committee members, including the previous organisers Dr. Gene Reeves and Dr. Jongin Kim, as well as the former ILBF secretary, Ven. Bhikkhuni Bodhi (Dr. Bong). The committee decided to charge President Hwaling Lee with organising the 10th forum in Korea 2020, with the gratefully acknowledged support of Chong-ji Master Inseon and the assistance of Jogye order volunteer and professional translator Sarah Kim. It was further decided to add the name Bodhimitra –friend/s (on the path) to enlightenment– to the acronym ILBF. This additional name should facilitate an easier recognition and dissemination of the ILBF network.

For the countdown into the New Year, the participants were shuttled to the nearby Wat Phra Sri Mahathat Woramahawihan temple to observe the local community come together to chant and welcome in 2019.

The forum came to an end with a visit to Sathira-Dhammasathan, an impressive oasis of peace, healing and spiritual growth founded by one of Thailand’s most influential and inspiring female monastics, Maechee Sansanee.

ILBF is grateful to our friends Buddhist Door for publishing a first account gathered from selective sources about the 9th forum; equally, the Chinese Buddhist News network published a lovely report written by Sister Tzu Chin.

A special thanks goes out to all hard-working organisers and volunteers. Special mention is due to those avoiding the limelight: Bodhimitra treasurer Kathy Monaco (Ben Xi) and volunteer April Wang for her tireless work before, during and after the forum, especially during our stay at the Thai Hua Temple in Bangkok.

The pictures used here were taken by Dr Patrick de Vries and Pensiri Mahasutthikul.