One of my recent general observations about religion is that its role in the lives of the younger generation has been deteriorating. While I do not have the numeric data that my fellow blogger arunlikhati is so skilled in collecting to support my claim (I tried to sort out some PEW stats but gave up…), I think many readers will agree with my claim just through each of their personal experiences with the youth, namely children up until high school. I am well aware that this is not the case for all youth and each of us can easily come up with children who do hold their faith close to their hearts. However, I do think that in a society where people share their latest thoughts and status with Facebook and Twitter more often than God, where money and power have become society’s determining factor for success rather than morality, and where Miley Cyrus has become a more influential icon for children than most religious figures, religion certainly has much more competition nowadays especially in finding a place among the youth.
I was looking over Dharma Forest and on the top was a mention of the recent DRBY conference. Back when I was in college, we had always hoped to make a national Buddhist youth conference. I did attend one, in fact, for the Student Buddhist Network in Boston.
The SBN conference was a tradition that died before it took off. The conference was not really national (I was the only one not from the Northeast), not well planned (I remember spending the night in the Brandeis University library) and no one really stayed in touch afterwards (although I did get to meet Sumi Loundon). Anyway, running across this site made me begin to wonder about what’s going on with Buddhist student groups across the country. Are there conferences going on that I’m completely unaware of?
I couldn’t find many. I found a few conferences overseas, including Mitra (Australia), and ANZBYC (Australia & New Zealand). There was also ARBYC (Hong Kong), but that looks like it was really for kids. Too far for me.
In the US, I know of few such recurring conferences. One of the biggest conference organizers is the Buddhist Churches of America, the Shin Buddhist group. At least of a year ago, their Young Buddhist Association (YBA) was headed by Rev Fumiaki Usuki (or just Rev U). There is also the conference of Gia Định Phật Tử Việt Nam (Vietnamese Buddhist Family) held every year, but needless to say, it’s oriented towards Vietnamese. Aside from these two organizations, the only one I know of is DRBY.
It’s a bit sad to look at all these conferences, and then realize that I don’t really fit in. For one, these are all Mahayana Buddhist conferences. I doubt they’d ever reject me, but I really lean more towards the Theravada. Plus, I’m not really Japanese or Vietnamese either (maybe DRBY is the safe bet then).
If anything, I’m really looking for a conference that has a more general Buddhist theme to it: ‘What does it mean to be a Buddhist American?’ I guess I’m looking for something like an Asian American student conference, but for Buddhists. I’m still interested in the same questions as ever. Where do you go to temple? Where can I buy a cheap zafu? (Or show me how to make one!) Of course, I most want to know about other people’s questions and stories.
Guess this means I won’t be going to any conferences soon, but do write me a little note if you know of any that I didn’t mention here.