(TibetanReview.net, Oct27, 2014) – China sought to assert its role as a leader of the Buddhist world by hosting over Oct 16-18 the 27th General Conference of Thailand-based World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB). It also sought to legitimize and project the 11th Panchen Lama chosen by it in 1995 over the one picked by Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, by having him give the conference’s keynote speech.
The Chinese Panchen Lama Baingen Erdini Qoigyijabu has claimed to the gathering that the Chinese government’s support for the event proved the existence of religious freedom in the country. “Buddhism has already integrated into the Chinese culture and it is recognized by the Chinese government,” lankaweb.com Oct 25 quoted him as saying. He has added that Tibetan Buddhism has been a precious gem of the Chinese nation for over a thousand years.
It appears that Venerable Medagama Dhammananda, a Vice-President of WFB, was the only speaker who spoke ill of the Dalai Lama. While expressing delight at China’s hosting of the WFB conference, he has pointed out that after fleeing Tibet, the Dalai Lama had unfortunately joined forces with the West to create a bad image of China to the world, the report said.
The report cited the Buddhist Association of China (BAC) – the local host – as saying there were over 240,000 Buddhist monks and nuns in China, more than 28,000 monasteries – with over 3,000 of these in Tibet – and 38 Buddhist Academies.
The report said that though not officially acknowledged, China was now home to 200-300 million Buddhists, making it the country with the world’s largest Buddhist population.
The conference, attended by more than 600 delegates from over 40 countries, was held at the renovated Great Wild Goose Pagoda at Xian where China’s famed ancient Buddhist travelers Xuangzang had lived. Its theme was “Buddhism and Public-Benefit Charity”.
The WFB was founded by the renowned Sri Lankan Buddhist scholar Dr Gunapala Malalesekare in 1950 and its original headquarters was in Colombo. But, today, its secretariat is in Bangkok and its Secretary General Phallop Thaiarry belongs to Thailand. The organization is said to bring together Buddhists of all denominations such as Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. It has regional centres (or member organisations) in 39 countries.