Shambhala’s Newest Knight
by Rick Friele, Secretary, Shambhala Netherlands
Honoring the occasion of Acharya Han de Wit’s 70th birthday and the publication of his latest book, Buddhism for Thinkers, a symposium was organized by Shambhala Netherlands around the theme of Buddhism as the source of the art of living. Addressing about 220 Buddhist and non-Buddhist participants, Acharya Han de Wit presented alongside three well-known Dutch and Belgian Buddhists from Zen, Theravadan and mindfulness traditions. The topics discussed included Buddhist views on the art of living and on society.
Also during this symposium, on behalf of the Dutch King Willem Alexander, the mayor of Oegstgeest bestowed the Royal Honor of Knight in the Order of Oranje Nassau upon Han. Acharya de Wit received this award primarily for his contribution to establishing Buddhism as a living tradition in the Netherlands during the past 40 years and secondly for his work for the Tibetan people of the Yekundo Region (which includes Surmang) through the Gesar Fund, and for his foundational work on contemplative psychology. The speakers and many people in the audience felt that this royal honor was in fact an important recognition of the social and cultural value of Buddhism for Dutch society.
The symposium ended with a celebratory presentation of Buddhism for Thinkers. This small book engages in a dialogue between western philosophy and Buddhist thought. Han felt it necessary to write this small pioneering book because most (academic) philosophers and intellectuals in the Netherlands are unaware of the existence of a whole tradition of sophisticated Buddhist thought on mind, experience, knowledge, ethics, society and so on. Buddhism is considered to be a religion, therefore unscientific, and hence not to be taken too seriously, or at best that Buddhism is only about mindfulness and compassion. He wrote this book together with Jeroen Hopster, a bright young philosopher who had no knowledge of Buddhist thought himself.
Altogether it was a joyful and important day for Shambhala and for Buddhism in the Netherlands.
Congratulations, Acharya Han de Wit!