Screenshot of The Future of American Buddhism in-person conference

Over 200 People Attended The Future of American Buddhism Conference in person or via livestream at the Garrison Institute, New York, June 2-5, 2022.

The conference, hosted by Naropa University and the Lenz Foundation,  featured six themes plus a Grantmaker’s panel. Each session described below contains either a link to Lion’s Roar Buddhadharma Magazine with articles adapted from panelists’ talks or links to films from the conference.

Session 1: Tradition & Innovation

How is Buddhism innovating in an American context without losing connection with its Asian roots?

Session 2: Leadership, Power, & Empowerment

How are leaders and teachers across genders and diverse identities being empowered?

Session 3: Dharma for the Environmental Crisis

How is American Buddhism contributing to solving the critical environmental issues of our time?

Session 4: Engaged Buddhism

What new examples of engaged initiatives in America bring contemplative methods to social, educational, and political issues?

Session 5: BIPOC Wisdom & Skillful Means

How are BIPOC, Asian-American and other communities bringing new structures and modalities to American Buddhism?

Session 6: Digital Dharma & Virtual Sangha

What new platforms and venues are propagating dharma in America, and how has this changed the face of American Buddhism?

Session 7: Grant Funding Panel and Open Space Conversations

How are funding organizations and foundations supporting the values of American Buddhism? What are their processes and grantmaking criteria?

Conference Pictures provided by Brian Spielmann

Western Pen Calligraphy 

Summary and Results

10/17/22

Lenz Foundation logo banner

Dear Friends,

We are humbled and inspired by the hard work, perseverance, and dedication of the team that created the Future of American Buddhism conference, the organizations that submitted grant proposals, and the spirit of collaboration among like-minded foundations and other donors.  This is a great tribute to the future of American Buddhism. We hope this is the beginning of even greater initiatives to come.

With gratitude, we thought you would enjoy viewing the Future of American Buddhism milestones since the Spring of 2018 through the present time. This set of milestones has taken place thanks to all of you.

  • In 2018, we convened our Lenz Foundation Advisory Committee and shared a dream–our next event in 2020 would be a conference on the future of American Buddhism and discussions would take place on themes that 100+ Lenz Foundation grantees would deem most important.
  • Naropa University conducted a wide-ranging survey. Over 80 responses established six topics: Tradition and Innovation; Leadership, Power, and Empowerment; Dharma for the Environmental Crisis; Engaged Buddhism; BIPOC Wisdom and Skillful Means; Digital Dharma and Virtual Sangha.
  • Covid-19 upended our plans, and the conference was postponed twice. In January 2022, Naropa’s Susan Skjei and Judith Simmer-Brown and the Lenz Foundation opted to hold a gathering in June of ’22 at the Garrison Institute, New York, which had recently re-opened.
  • Prior to the conference, we held six free weekly webinars with one topic for each session. Over 1,000 people participated over the six sessions. While Naropa University’s conference team and planning committee canvassed the American Buddhist landscape to bring in diverse, activist speakers and workshops, the Lenz Foundation reached out to other foundations to expand the fund for grants to be given after the conference.
  • We were delighted when Fetzer Institute, Hemera Foundation, Kalliopeia Foundation, Pema Chodron Foundation and Owsley Brown III Foundation all served as co-sponsors who contributed to the grant pool, along with generous donations from students of Rama – Dr. Frederick Lenz.
  • The Future of American Buddhism Conference at Garrison Institute was unique in many respects. The 100 live participants and 100 on livestream spanned ages, genders, lineages, and ethnicities. On the last day of the conference, a funder panel with participants from Kalliopeia, Lenz, Hemera, and Kataly Foundation shared their visions and grant-making processes. The Lenz Foundation announced that working together, we had raised $260,000 to be given out in post-conference grants. 
  • We asked Naropa University Extended Campus to host an online platform to continue the conference’s sense of community and display every proposal we received. We received a total of 56 grant applications requesting over $1.1M. 
  • Since our goal was to fund as many grant applicants as possible, the Lenz Foundation combined its two grant making cycles for 2022 and 2023 and also reached out to the conference co-sponsors and other foundations for help.  
  • Because of the quality and passion of the grant proposals, four foundations–BESS Family Foundation, Kataly Foundation, Hemera Foundation, Kalliopeia Foundation—took over or co-founded 11 grant applications totaling $314,000. 
  • Thus, at the end of the day, we and our conference partners and friends raised and committed to a total grant-making fund of $824,000. In the past week or so we communicated to the 56 applicants the grant awards. When the grant documentation is complete, the results will be available on our website’s grant making page.

What a fine conclusion to a worthy conference, with many projects underway or starting soon to assist numerous communities.

Again, with gratitude! 

Norman S. Oberstein, Chairman of the Board
Liz Lewinson, Chief Executive Officer