Support Socially Engaged Buddhism in Thailand
Ouyporn Khuankaew and Ginger Norwood are two inspiring women based in Thailand who embody what it means to live a “liberated life” — they are dedicated to freedom not only for themselves but for all sentient beings.
I’ve been deeply honored to get to know and work with them over these past years; back in 2011 I wrote “How to Find the Courage to Question Your World,” an article profiling Ouyporn’s life.
In 2002, Ouyporn and Ginger co-founded the International Women’s Partnership for Peace and Justice (IWP) where, along with a team of faculty, they offer workshops on anti-oppression feminism, collective leadership, gender and diversity, nonviolent direct action, and peacebuilding — all based in dharma teachings and practice.
Two years ago, IWP launched the Buddhist Education for Social Transformation (BEST) project — a year-long course focused on transformation of individuals, communities, the environment, and the world. The course is founded on the pillars of non-violent activism, spiritual practice, and anti-oppression feminism. Participants have come from all over the world, including Thailand, Myanmar, China, Sri Lanka New Zealand, and the United States.
One of the women who attended the first BEST training, Sister Canice Fernando from Sri Lanka, shared this with me about how it impacted her:
“The analysis of power structures is not new to me, because I have studied that in liberation theology from Catholicism. We also talk of nonviolence, but in Buddhism the nonviolent path becomes clearer. Even working with the government or the so-called oppressors, I have started to reflect on other methods of approaching these people. That is something that I got from this course. Listening to Ouyporn, I reflected on how a violent way of doing things begets violence, and I want to start approaching people in a different way.”
Here are two ways that you can support the great work that Ouyporn and Ginger are doing in Thailand (and throughout Southeast Asia):
1) Please help spread the word about the BEST course.
If you or anyone you know is interested in joining the BEST training this year north of Chiang Mai, Thailand, applications are being accepted until May 1.
The program is open to anyone seeking a Buddhist perspective in his or her approach to personal development, social justice, and social change work. This year’s course runs from July 18 – August 8 (with participants returning again for a final gathering in July 2016). Thanks to the Nicole Sangsuree Barrett memorial fund, there are several scholarships for participants with low income. You can find complete information and download the application on this page.
2) Please support me to be part of this year’s BEST faculty.
In 2013 and 2014, I taught at the BEST sessions and have been invited to be on the faculty again this year. I’ll offer a workshop on the “Mandala of Socially Engaged Buddhism” and will help facilitate other parts of the training along with Ouyporn and Ginger.
I’m running an Indiegogo campaign to help cover the costs of making this trip — I’d be so grateful if you would consider making a contribution to support me to be part of the faculty again this year. The campaign will end on May 7. My biggest thanks to those of you who have already made a contribution to this fund — I couldn’t do this without you!
I’d love to stay in touch with you through my mailing list! When you sign up, you’ll receive my monthly e-letter with reflections on life and liberation, as well as “9 Keys to a Liberated Life.”