Members of the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) held a public celebration in Thailand on Saturday to honor the life and legacy of their founder and venerable leader of the global movement of Socially Engaged Buddhism, Professor Sulak Sivaraksa,* who celebrates its 90th anniversary this month.
The lively occasion, held in the leafy gardens of the Siam Society (under royal patronage) in Bangkok, whose main building also marks its 90th anniversary this year, was attended by a colorful cross-section of friends and of supporters from Thai society and around the world, all of whom came to pay their respects to the venerable teacher and paragon of compassionate social action. Artists, activists, social reformers, scholars and business moguls came together in a friendly atmosphere of respect and kalyana-mitrata for an evening that included conferences, musical and cultural performances and a play.
Although he was unable to attend in person, His Holiness the Dalai Lama shared a personal message of respect with Professor Sulak for the occasion:
It gives me great pleasure to offer you my congratulations on your 90th birthday. As you know, we have known each other for so many years. I respect you a lot and consider you an older brother. May I congratulate you on the meaningful life you have led. I offer you my praise and best wishes.
Twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and 1994, and in 1995 winner of Sweden's Right Livelihood Prize (dubbed the Alternative Nobel Prize), Sulak, who turned 90 on March 27, has for decades worked relentlessly at the forefront of the Buddhist Movement's engagement, seeking to empower the oppressed and provide the means to radically transform human society to create a more equitable and compassionate world, driven by a spiritual commitment to manifesting a model of model of social development rooted in Buddhist teachings and manifested through democracy, justice and cultural integrity.
The founder of INEB, a renowned author, became a recipient of the UNPO (Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization) Prize in 1998, the Indian Millennium Gandhi Prize in 2001 and the Niwano Peace Prize Right Livelihood 2011. he was also a spiritual friend and student of Thich Nhat Hanh for over 40 years, drawing inspiration from the Zen master's teachings and a lived example of committed Buddhism.
Revered Korean master Seon (Zen), social activist and patron of INEB, Venerable Pomnyun Sunim, also extended his best wishes for the occasion:
Dear Ajahn Sulak Sivaraksa, I would like to send you my most sincere congratulations on your 90th birthday. Ajahn, by founding and supporting the INEB, you have left a remarkable imprint on the modern history of Buddhism. Your wonderful legacy will be well loved and favored by the rest of us. I wish you a good health. Thank you for continuing to guide us for many more years.
The International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) is a global network of individuals and organizations committed to promoting and working for social justice, environmental sustainability and world peace.
INEB was established in 1989 by Professor Sulak and a group of Buddhist leaders and scholars seeking to apply Buddhist teachings and principles to contemporary social and political issues. Through its global network, the INEB strives to promote understanding, cooperation and connection between inter-Buddhist and inter-religious groups, and to actively address pressing global issues such as human rights, the resolution conflicts and environmental crises.
Based in Bangkok, INEB has implemented a wide range of social projects and outreach programs aimed at overcoming suffering and empowering vulnerable communities through Dharma practice and social engagement, such as education and training, community development projects, advocacy and lobbying efforts, and interfaith dialogue.
The network also champions the importance of environmental sustainability and responsible use of natural resources, and has promoted sustainable development practices in various communities.
INEB emphasizes the importance of developing an ethical Dharma-based approach to its work and encourages its members to work collaboratively and respectfully with individuals and organizations on the basis of shared values and aspirations.
* Benevolence and Kalyana Mittata: The Committed Buddhism of Sulak Sivaraksa (BDG)