Ven. Bhikkhuni Dhammananda (Assoc. Prof. Dr.Chatsumarn Kabilsingh) started out as a Buddhist Academic in 1970s and turned activist in1980s.
Through more than four decades of experience with Buddhists in Asian Countries both as an academic and an activist, she saw very clearly that Asian Buddhists need to nurture each other. With lack of technology, limited personal resources, material supports, etc., she realized that Buddhism can prosper and meet the challenges in the modern world only if Asian Buddhists come together to share these limited resources and make possible various projects which otherwise will not happen individually.
For this reason, Asian Buddhism Connection (ABC) started to evolve, moving to different countries to tap unique resources in each of its member country in order to share with others.
ABC has a clear goal of sharing various resources in order to nurture each other to face the challenges of the modern world. ABC works to serve as a role model for Asian Buddhists to express their capability to show how Buddhism is lived in actual day-to-day world.
How it began: ABC started out very simply in 2015 to celebrate Ven. Bhikkhuni Dhammananda’s 71st birthday. At the time, ABC stood for ASEAN Bhikkhunis Conference. We had to link with ASEAN as it was organized at Nakhon Pathom Rajabhat University in Thailand. There were bhikkhunis coming from Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, and also an Indian bhikkhuni.
It was well received at the university. There were 500 students, bhikkhus and bhikkhunis attending the conference in the morning and another 500 students in the afternoon.
The following year, 2016 we hosted another ABC. This time, it spanned out to cover the fourfold Buddhist communities, so ABC2 stood for ASEAN Buddhists Conference. We organized the conference at the same venue and this time there were participants from twenty two countries. At the opening session, more than a hundred monks and bhikkhunis participated. The most Venerable Phra Mahacetiyacharya, the provincial chief bhikkhu came to grace the opening session. Ven. Achaan Brahm flew from Australia to offer his opening speech, very appropriately on “We are on the right side of history.”
His Holiness the Dalai Lama having heard of ABC conference in Thailand kindly gave a message to be read at the opening session as well. He also sent a Tibetan nun to participate at this meaningful conference.
ABC2 was a great success, but at the closing session, we still did not know the venue for the next ABC meet.
Early in 2017 Ven. Bhikkhuni Dhammananda was in touch with Ven. Bhikkhuni Thitacarini, a young Indonesian bhikkhuni who was invited to participate at both previous conferences. She expressed the possibility that Indonesia might be the host for ABC3. Ven. Dhammananda flew in to continue with their conversation, having met Ven. Nyanasuryanadi Mahathero, president of Sangha Agung Indonesia (2007-2017), Mrs. Lucy Salim and the team, she was certain that ABC3 in Indonesia would also be a great success.
ABC3 was hosted by Sangha Agung Indonesia, Indonesian Buddhist Women Fellowship (Wanita Buddhis Indonesia), Smaratungga Buddhist College, and Prasadha Jinarakkhita Buddhist Institute. Ven. Bhikkhuni Thitacarini played an important role as the local connecting person and secretary, while Dr. Amarjiva Lochan was secretary of ABC international.
The venue was at Sangha Agung Indonesia headquarters in Jakarta.
ABC kept expanding and it now stands for Asian Buddhism Connection.
There were great number of participants from 16 countries, and the participation of the local Indonesians from various islands was very impressive. Thanks to the great work and commitment of Madam Lucy.
On the last day of the conference, the venue moved to the temple of Ven. Master Jinarakkhita, the founder of Sangha Agung Indonesia as well as a pioneer of the revival of Buddhism in Indonesia after being silent for 500 years. It was very appropriate and foreign participants left with a deeper imprint of the great work done by the founder of Sangha Agung Indonesia. Also, this time ABC International was better prepared and towards the end of the closing ceremony, the ABC flag was officially passed on from Indonesia to Mr. Rajesh Shakya, President, Aksheswar Mahavihara and Prof. Dr. Shanker Thapa Head, Central Department of History, Tribhuvan University of Nepal, representing ABC4 which was planned to be held in Nepal in November 2019. Unfortunately, it was not held as planned because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eventually, it was held in March 25th and 26th, 2022 as a virtual international conference on “Corona Pandemic, Desperate Humanity and Response of Buddhism”
ABC5 will be held in February 2024 in Lumbini, Nepal hosted by Aksheswar Mahavihara and Lumbini Development Trust.