This past weekend, the Institute of Buddhist Studies hosted a conference on Buddhism in the West called Buddhism without Borders. It was, by most accounts, wildly successful.
(I say “the Institute” hosted it, but let’s be honest myself and my good friend Natalie did most of the work organizing it. I sometimes have a hard time accepting compliments and often feel more than a little uncomfortable boasting my own accomplishments, but I think in this case I can be allowed to sing our own praises. This conference was the coolest thing I’ve ever done as a scholar.)
One of the panelists presented a paper about about Buddhism on blogs, a study that focused on issues of identity and race within the popular discourse of Buddhist practice. While her paper was not directly related to this blog, she did mention it. And by mention it I mean that in her accompanying Power Point presentation, she showed a screen shot of this blog and pointed out that it’s mine, that’s right, me, the same Scott who helped put together this conference. So, whatever illusions (or delusions) I may have harbored about no one ever reading this blog, whatever illusions (or delusions) I may have that no one in my academic community is aware of this pretty shabby looking blog, well, those illusions have been shattered. I think I’ve been effectively outed. And I wouldn’t be surprised if my readership around here didn’t just jump by a dozen or two. (Hi there!)
How narcissistic is it of me that I’ve even brought this up? It’s completely irrelevant. Like I said, the paper in question really had very little let’s be honest, nothing to do with this blog or my little blogging hobby. But then again, aren’t most blogs at least a little narcissistic? Even if we honestly believe that we’re in it for the sharing of knowledge or other high-minded altruistic reasons, we’re still interested in contributing our own opinions and perspectives to some particular conversation here are my ideas, my opinions, me me me, blah blah blah.
But, whatever. I’ll leave aside long-winded ruminations on the nature of blogging. What I really wanted to do, while I have your attention and the attention of, possibly, some new readers, is to express, once again, how deeply grateful I am for this past weekend’s conference. More than a few people expressed to me how much they enjoyed it, how much they got out of it, and, really, having a successful conference was almost inevitable. Natalie and I brought together a sizable but still intimate group of people who are all deeply passionate about the study of Buddhism in the West. In short, a bunch of geeks who got to hang out with other geeks and geek out about our tiny little sub-discipline for four days. How cool is that?
These sorts of things always get my creative juices going. Getting a chance to hear about what other folks are working on, engaging people in conversations about all manner of random issues related to the subject, raising difficult questions and watching other people really struggle with the answers because, again, this is something we’re all pretty passionate about all of this has the effect of making me think about my own work in new ways, of giving me ideas for my own future scholarship and research. I feel really grateful that so many really brilliant people said yes to this thing and helped us pull it off.
And the helping-us-pull-it-off bit is the bit I’m most excited about. It was a joy putting all of this together with Natalie, and when the event started, the staff and students here at the IBS and the JSC all pitched in to help where and when needed. Moreover, being able to showcase and promote the work of other scholars was deeply rewarding. This is the type of work I want to do more of in the future.
I’ve been asked to write up a “report” on the conference for the BCA’s newsletter that will probably end up over on the IBS’s News & Events blog, so check that out later to get a sense of what actually happened at this thing apart from my own personal reflections.
It was a long weekend. But I’m excited by all of it, and I hope to use this creative energy to push me headlong into my next big project.