RAJGIR, Bihar: Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama today inaugurated ‘International Conference on Buddhism in the 21st Century’, a conclave of various Buddhist traditions at Rajgir International Convention Center (RICC) in Rajgir, Bihar. Dr Mahesh Sharma, Union minister of Culture, Government of India, accompanied His Holiness on the dais for the inaugural session.
The three-day conference, aimed at renewing contacts and discussing Buddhism’s perspectives and responses to global issues, is organised by the Union Ministry of Culture and the Nav Nalanda Mahavira University based in Nalanda, Bihar.
Over 400 spiritual leaders, erudite scholars and students from 30 different countries including Sri Lanka, Burma, Taiwan, Thailand, Bangladesh, Uganda – representing both the Sanskrit and Pali traditions – are participating in the conference.
Delegates from Tibetan Buddhism include Gyalwang Karmapa Rinpoche, Jangtse and Sharpa Choejey, Kartok Gertse Rinpoche, Jonang Gyaltsab Rinpoche, Nor Thartse Khen Rinpoche, Drigung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche and representatives of Bon School as well as Ven Karma Gelek Yuthok, Kalon of the Department of Religion and Culture.
In his keynote address, His Holiness the Dalai Lama spoke about the oneness of the entire 7 billion human beings and their universal desire for happiness. “All seven billion human beings desire happiness. Happiness cannot come from fear and anger. Therefore, we need compassion, love and friendship to foster feelings of mutual trust and belonging,” His Holiness said.
His Holiness also spoke about religious harmony and described India as the greatest example of different religious traditions co-existing harmoniously. His Holiness further added that all major religious traditions, despite philosophical differences, espouse the universal message of love and have the same potential to bring peace.
His Holiness expressed his sorrow at the growing trend of violence in the name of religion across the world. “We are experiencing joy and spiritual bliss today in this hall. However, at this very time, people are dying of violence in the name of religion in parts of the world. Religion should be a source of happiness and contentment, not violence,” His Holiness said, and called on India to take more effort to promote their unique culture of religious harmony elsewhere in the world.
Referring to himself as a ‘son of India’ who sustained on Indian food and is educated with the rich ancient knowledge of India, His Holiness paid tributes to the Indian masters and lauded India’s effort to revive its Buddhist culture. “As someone who have studied ancient Indian knowledge for the last sixty years, I feel that modern education is not sufficient to bring genuine happiness. We should pay more attention to the ancient Indian knowledge to solve the emotional crisis prevailing in the world. Therefore, Buddhism is highly relevant in the 21st century and we should start teaching it as an academic subject rather than just treating it as a religion,” His Holiness asserted.
His Holiness further emphasised his call for analytical meditation and reasoning in the pursuit of Buddhist teachings, recalling the Buddha’s own advice where he says ‘Just as you rub, cut and burn gold to test its purity, so should you examine my words and not accept them out of devotion.”
Dr Mahesh Sharma, Union minister of Department of Culture and Tourism, thanked His Holiness the Dalai Lama for consenting to inaugurate the conference.
Calling India as the seat of Buddhism worldwide, he said India is the only country where most of the holiest Buddhist sites are located and described India as the seat of Buddhist learning and knowledge.
“His Holiness the Dalai Lama has devoted his entire life to Buddhism and to the cause of humanity. Similarly, we have to make Buddhism purposeful and fruitful to humanity. Buddhism only for divinity is not sound,” he said.
He called for socially engaged Buddhism and added that the deliberations expressed by the scholars and luminaries in the conference would pave the way for engaged buddhism in the years to come.
The welcome address of the conference was delivered by Mr N K Sinha, Secretary, department of culture, and the introductory address was delivered by Mr M L Shrivastav, Vice Chancellor of Nav Nalanda Mahavira University.
During the inaugural session of the conference, His Holiness also released the 41-volume Pali Tripitaka reprinted by the Nav Nalanda University, and inaugurated the University’s new department of Buddhist Science.
In the afternoon, His Holiness participated in an open discussion of Buddhist leaders and sangha from various countries and traditions. Buddhist scholars from Sri Lanka called for more contacts between Tibetan Buddhism and Sri Lankan Universities while other Buddhist leaders urged the need for a universal Buddhist scripture.
Following the meeting, His Holiness attended a panel discussion on resolving conflict and peace building.
The three-day conference include discussions, seminars, and deliberating on how to create a balance between economic development and conservation of nature and environment with secular ethics.The conference will conclude on 19 March.
President Pranab Mukherji is expected to attend the concluding ceremony of the conference.