Brian Conroy is a gifted storyteller who comes alive when he sees people of diverse faiths, races, and backgrounds working together. Founder of the Buddhist Storytelling Circle, a group of storytellers from the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery who perform at interfaith gatherings, he first encountered Venerable Master Hsuan Hua in 1976 and took refuge with the Master in 1994. Bringing together his passion for storytelling with the wisdom of Buddhism, he writes traditional and contemporary Buddhist tales.
As a storyteller, Conroy has performed at festivals and conferences including the National Storytelling Festival, The Parliament for the World’s Religions, The Buddhist Storytelling Festival, and at DRBA monasteries. A life-time educator, Conroy taught theater and public speaking in the public schools in San Jose, California for thirty-five years. He received his B.A. and M.A. in Folklore from San Jose State University, where he also taught storytelling for ten years. He is the author of Stepping Stones, a collection of Buddhist parables, and Prince Dighavu, an adaptation of a traditional wisdom tale. His stories, e.g. “Captain Enlightenment!,” bring together wisdom and humor that speak to audiences of all ages.
Join us in conversation with this gifted storyteller!
I come to life when I see people interacting, or when I'm interacting with others. Specifically, I get excited when I'm involved with people doing meaningful work in a group setting. This could be interfaith gatherings, community service, environmental work, creative collaboration, or work parties of any kind. When I see people of diverse faiths, races, and backgrounds working together, I get especially inspired.
When I was twenty-one years old, I went to Europe on my own for two months. All I had was a backpack, three hundred dollars and a Eurail Pass. Meeting so many different kinds of people from different backgrounds expanded my horizons and opened my eyes. Throughout the trip I had to rely on faith and the kindness of strangers. The experience confirmed my belief in the goodness of others. It also taught me that a wealth of wisdom can be gained from others.
I'l never forget the love of my grandmother. She died when I was only ten years old, but I have strong memories of her. It seemed she spent her entire life giving to others. She was born in Sicily and came to the US when she was about nineteen. A year or two after she gave birth to her five children (my mom was her third child), her husband--my grandfather--died. She'd only been in the country for about ten years. Her English amounted to a handful of phrases, she had no marketable skills, no money, and five mouths to feed in Manhattan. For economic reasons she put all five of her children into a Catholic orphanage for three years. Despite all of the hardship she faced, she personified kindness. My most vivid memories of my grandmother are images of her offering me something: fruit, cookies, bread. She had so little and yet she gave so much. She taught me the impact of even the smallest act of kindness.
I don't really have a bucket list. I've been able to travel to all of the places I've wanted to go, and I've done most of what I've dreamed of doing. However, one of my favorite students from my years of teaching has set herself the goal of working for the United Nations. She's currently working for the Justice Department in Washington, D. C. I'd love to see her accomplish her goal. Since I've been with her family to support her at all of the milestones of her life so far, I'd love to be there when she begins her work for the UN.
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