France: Sakyadhita National Branches
Sakyadhita France was founded October, 26, 2006, by 8 cofounders and currently has approximately 50 members in France, and many interested supporters. Sakyadhita France is officially registered as a charitable association under French law and is a member association of both the French Buddhist Union and the European Buddhist Union.
Sakyadhita France is based in Strasbourg near the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. The founder and president of Sakyadhita France, Mrs. Gabriela Frey, has been a Buddhist practitioner of the Sakya Tibetan Buddhist tradition for many years. She has worked for several years for the European Parliament, asthe assistant to several German MEPs, as well as in the tourist sector for the Alsace region. Also a board member for the European Buddhist Union (EBU), she represents the EBU at the Council of Europe where the EBU obtained participatory status in the Conference of INGOs in 2008.
The activities of Sakyadhita France focus first on providing information in the French language. We can see
in all countries a lack of information about the situation of women in Buddhism due to the fact that very little
information is available in languages other than English. At the same time, since France is highly interconnected with Europe, many Buddhist centres and communities have members from different European countries. Likewise Buddhist teachers visiting these centres have students from different European countries. Thus members of Sakyadhita France translate numerous texts, interviews and articles into the French language for web pages, newsletters and news media in France, Belgium and Germany. Sakyadhita France has participated twice in the Buddhist-TV magazine shown on French national channels.
The second main focus of Sakyadhita France is on raising awareness of the difficult situation of women in Buddhism in France, in Europe and in the rest of the World. Since 2010, Sakyadhita France has been working on creating a Committee on Buddhist Women in Europe within the European Buddhist Union. Approval was obtained during the Annual General Meeting of the EBU in Budapest in September 2010. Since then Sakyadhita France has been working to integrate our activities into the mission of this new committee in the EBU. At present it is a loose network for information in three languages with a common website, with the aim to bring other languages to this common effort.
A third activity for Sakyadhita France is the raising of funds for several social projects. In 2010 donations were made to the following Social Projects: Sakya Nunnery in Dehradun, Sakya Nuns Study institute for higher education, Sakyadhita in Sri Lanka, Sakyadhita International, the Nunnery Dongyu Gatsal Ling of Ven. Tenzin Palmo, and the Committee of Bhikshuni Ordination. We also try to help European nuns who have taken their vows and try to live in Europe but receive little support. There are few Buddhist nuns in Europe, compared to Asian countries, and subsequently insufficient support from sanghas is available. More than a few nuns have to disrobe due to financial difficulties or feelings of isolation. Funds raised for these purposes mostly come from charity sales during the Christmas season at the European Parliament each year and also through donations.
The main activities of Sakyadhita France include:
- Offering information on events & dates of Buddhist women teachers. Helping partly to inform about or
organise the teaching tours of female Buddhist teachers.
- Providing a platform for associations and social projects aiming to help nuns and Buddhist women in
Asia and Europe.
- Maintaining a reliable multilingual data base of interesting and useful texts, teachings, and
documentation, as well as bibliographies of interest to Buddhist women.
- Supporting the translation of books, articles, and interviews with information on subjects of interest
to Buddhist women since there is very little quality information available in French.
- Providing support for the ordination or full ordination for women; as part of this, providing substantiated information concerning ordination.
- We hope one day to be able to hold ceremonies of full ordination here in Europe. However, at present, taking ordination is easy but maintaining it here in the West is heroic! Many do not dare to take the ordination for fear of having to later disrobe because of insufficient support. Sakyadhita France would like to help establish bhikshuni sanghas in Europe with regular financial support. The creation of a database of bhikshunis or female sanghas from all Buddhist traditions in Europe would be helpful
to this aim.
There are many texts to be translated, information to be collected and much social assistance is needed. This is a mammoth task, and needs the support of many people.