The story of the Italian Buddhist Union began in 1984 by initiative of Vincenzo Piga, one of the foremost protagonists of the project, and a few Buddhist centers operating in Italy at that time, who started to meet and define the basic articles of constitution of an umbrella association for all Buddhist entities in Italy.
The Statute resulting from these meetings was signed by nine Buddhist centers on 17 April 1985. The objective was to establish an association of multi-denominational Buddhist centers that could serve as sole interlocutor with the Italian government and institutions. Nine other centers joined the next year, and more thereafter, to the point that 54 centers are now part of UBI.
From day one, UBI set out to be a Buddhist centers union that supports and represents the Buddhist movement as a whole, while respecting all historical guiding principles.
Its main goals are to unite and assist different Italian Buddhist groups, disseminate the teachings and practices of the Buddhist doctrine, foster collaboration between the different schools, facilitate dialogue with other religious communities as well as cultural and academic institutions on topics of common interest, cultivate relations with the European Buddhist Union, the World Fellowship of Buddhists, and with other international Buddhist organizations.
The UBI joined the European Buddhist Union in 1987.
In the following years, the UBI undertook to seek recognition as a Religious Entity, and thereby sign an agreement with the Italian government pursuant to article 8 of the Italian Constitution. On 3 January 1991, by a presidential decree later amended on 15 June 1993, the UBI obtained official recognition as a religious entity. Although negotiations for the Agreement with the Italian Government took longer than expected, as the first meeting did not actually take place until 1998, the first agreement was signed in 2000, and thereafter amended in 2007, before finally being approved by the Italian Parliament in 2012 (Leg. Dec. 45/2012 of 31 December) also thanks to the rising popularity and media coverage of the visits and public appearances made during those years by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. The agreement, approved concurrently with that for the Italian Hindu Union, set an important milestone as this was the first time the Italian Government ever signed an agreement with religious denominations outside of the Jewish-Christian doctrine. A legislative proposal on religious freedom has been presented several times over the course of the last Parliamentary terms, with no luck, although the need for such a measure has become increasingly apparent as Italian society continues to evolve, driven by globalization and changes on the international scene.
In 2014, it became possible for natural persons to designate the Italian Buddhist Union as beneficiary of the 8×1000 contribution on their personal tax returns, and thereby allow UBI to fund worship, social welfare, cultural and humanitarian projects up to the total amount of directly designated contributions, and allocate donations received by other means solely to support humanitarian projects in Italy and abroad, including projects initiated by non-Buddhist associations, entities and institutions.
The UBI represents Buddhism through an approach characterized by open-mindedness and dialogue with other religions, including the Catholic church, with which it has had and continues to have a direct relationship, especially through the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and Italian regional districts. UBI and its centers, in fact, actively participate in interreligious meetings held in major Italian cities.
The UBI is also present in Italian schools through activities aimed to provide information on the Buddhist faith and philosophy, workshops, practice and meditation sessions.
Moreover, thanks to the 8×1000 contributions, and in collaboration with non-profit organizations, it sponsors humanitarian and social projects aimed to support the most vulnerable people, the affirmation of human rights and citizenship rights in Italy and abroad.
We also support projects that promote respect for the environment, human and social sustainability, the right to work and social integration of all citizens, regardless of their being born in Italy or abroad, and for the development of a green, sustainable economy. That is why we work in dialog with different Italian and foreign research entities, universities, agencies, organizations and institutions capable of developing activities and projects that are in consonance with our values, and apt to create a new social, cultural and human paradigm.