In the fall and winter semesters of the 2017-2018 academic year, our Foundation has partnered with the University of Toronto to create service learning opportunities for undergraduate students studying Buddhism. We will work with a group of students who will visit temples and centres to speak with leaders and community members about what education programming they would find important for the future of Buddhist education in Canada.
The Greater Toronto Area is home to the most numerous Buddhists as well as to the most immigrant Buddhists in Canada, and also home to the largest number of Buddhist temples, centres and groups in Canada, representing the diversity of Buddhism in the world. Our Founding President the Late Rev. Shi Wu De had over the years discussed with the executives about creating a Buddhist college in Toronto. Unfortunately, sufficient conditions for this had not come together, and he passed away in 2014. Since the inception of our Foundation in 2001, we have supported several Buddhist studies initiatives at the University of Toronto to build its strengths in Buddhist studies and to provide opportunities to students to learn the teachings of the Buddha. With strong community support, we have been successful in various projects.
Universities in Canada generally take a secular materialistic approach to Buddhist studies and do not consider an insider approach as worthy of serious academic endeavours. This is partly due to the developing trend of Buddhist studies in North America and the west that investigates Buddhism from an outsider’s perspective. While it is important to understand an outsider’s perspective, Buddhist education is far more encompassing and is intended for self understanding and self transformation. Furthermore, we believe that Buddhist education in Canada must serve the needs of Canadians with our unique expression of a Canadian Buddhism, both in its cultural diversity and its relationship with the Canadian family of mosaic we call home.
We hope that you will share your ideas, expectation, experiences and wisdom regarding Buddhist education with our students. From your input, we will compile some idealistic models of what a Buddhist college designed for Canada may look like.