Oklahoma's Buddhists to gather for conference

NewsOK, Sept 5, 2007

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (USA) -- Focusing on one of the tenets of their religion, Buddhists in Oklahoma are gearing up for the ninth annual Oklahoma Buddhist Conference on Saturday at Giac Quang Temple, 2625 SE 44.

The theme of this year's conference is "Practicing Tolerance,” and it is appropriate in many ways, particularly because Buddhism is tolerant of other faith beliefs, said Maurice Hoover, a conference coordinator.

"In Buddhism, you don't have to forsake any other religion,” Hoover said. "We certainly have more in common than we do different.”

Hoover, 46, of Oklahoma City said he has practiced the Zen tradition of Buddhism about four years. Another conference coordinator, Rebecca Edmondson, 36, of Fort Gibson said she has been practicing Tibetan Buddhism about eight years and officially became a Buddhist about four years ago.

The two said the goal of the conference is to bring together Buddhists from across the state. The pair said the coordinating committee included Buddhists from various traditions because the event is expected to draw a diverse crowd of Buddhists.

Edmondson said Buddhism is growing in Oklahoma, and the conference serves as a way for Buddhists to connect and find out what the different Buddhist communities are doing. She said organizers expect about 200 people to attend.

"Buddhism is really gaining a foothold in Oklahoma, so it's growing rapidly,” she said of conference attendance. Last year's event drew about 150 people, Edmondson said.

Hoover said the West has the luxury of having many Buddhist traditions from which to choose, while other locales tend to have only Buddhist communities tied to a particular culture, such as Tibetan Buddhism.

As an example, he pointed out that the several Buddhist groups meet at The Windsong Innerspace, an Oklahoma City meditation center, including a Korean Zen group, Vietnamese Zen group, Japanese Zen group, vipassana group and Tibetan group.

Meanwhile, Hoover said the conference not only serves as a way to bring together Buddhists, but it also allows people interested in Buddhism to learn more about it.

"It's a way for the public to become acquainted with Buddhism. As a matter of fact, I began to practice Buddhism after attending one of these conferences, so it's an outreach vehicle,” he said.

"If we understand something, we can be more accepting of it.”

She said guest speakers and a panel discussion will be a part of the day, plus meditation sessions. Each year, organizers try to offer various meditation sessions including walking meditation and sitting meditation. Edmondson said she is to lead a guided meditation during the conference.

Guest speakers during the morning session include the Venerable Thich Hang Dat, head abbot at Ten Thousand Buddhas Summit Monastery in Corydon, Ind., and abbot at the Buddha Bless Temple in Louisville, Ky.; and Venerable Lama Dudjom Dorjee Rinpoche, resident lama at the Karma Thegsum Choling Meditation Center in Dallas.

Edmondson said the afternoon session will include a panel discussion on the conference theme, with monks, nuns and lay people from the three major streams of Buddhism: Mahayana, Theravadan and Vajrayana. Panel moderator will be Arpita Brown, who has completed the Community Dharma Leader Program at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, Calif.

Panel members include Jeff Houser, who leads a meditation group in Lawton and Jeff Green, who practices at The Windsong Innerspace in Oklahoma City.

After short presentations by the panelists, the audience will be encouraged to discuss tolerance and ask questions about Buddhist principles and practices.

Ninth annual Oklahoma Buddhist Conference

  • When: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
  • Where: Giac Quang Temple, 2625 SE 44.
  • Cost: $10, which includes a vegetarian lunch.
  • Information: Rebecca Edmondson, 596-3695; Maurice Hoover, 519-2447; Quang Pham, 317-5330.