Scholars discuss relevance of Buddha in modern world

New Delhi : More than 900 Buddhist scholars, leaders and practitioners from 46 countries Sunday began deliberating the relevance of Gautama Buddha’s teachings, 2,600 years after his enlightenment, at a four-day Global Buddhist Congregation here.

The venue at Hotel Ashok sported a riot of saffron, burgundy and ceremonial colours as monks and senior lamas from 46 countries like Nepal, Vietnam, Korea, Mongolia, Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Germany flooded the premises.

In a televised message, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who will attend the convention Nov 30, to deliver the valedictory address, said: “There have been many opportunities for Buddhists to come together and to discuss issues of common concerns.”

“The congregation has provided a much-needed and crucial opportunity. Now, and in the future, we need to encourage and foster an exchange of knowledge and experience among our different traditions and improve communication among us,” the spiritual leader said.

Addressing the conference, Ven Lala Lobzang, the president of the Asoka Mission, said: “This is the first time where Buddhist leaders, practitioners and scholars from all over the world have gathered in the land of Buddha.”

“The world is dealing with a crisis – namely violence, social and economic depravity, environemntal degradation and discord between and within communities and nations,” Ven Lama Lobzang said.

“We will discuss ways to promote world peace, find ways to deal with social crises and the development of Buddhist pilgrimage circiut between Kushinagar and Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh),” Lobzang told IANS.

The president of the Asoka Mission said: “Buddhists all over the world said the congregation should happen in India as it was the land of Buddha.”

Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree at Bodh Gaya, in Bihar, 2,600 years ago.

The lama said all the sects of Buddhism were being represented at the congregation.

The conference began with a prayer in the Pali tradition and Sanskrit tradition – and a welcome address by lama Gaden Tripa Rizong Setrul Rinpoche, the chairman of the organising committee of Asoka Mission.

The morning sessions which introduced the delegates to the conference were addressed by Lyonpo Minjur Dorji, minister of home and culture affairs of Bhutan, Sakya Rinpoche, Indonesia’s director general of Buddhist affairs, and Sakya Rinpoche, “mahanayaka” (supreme leader) representing Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

The delegates offered flowers at the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat around 1.30 p.m.

A special session in the afternoon was attended by a select group of supreme patriarchs, heads of delegations, representatives of Buddhist sects and orders – to deliberate on the formation of an international Buddhist confederation.

The day’s proceedings ended with a cultural show at Hotel Lalit in the evening. The conference will turn the spotlight on environment Monday.

In the coming days, the conference will host key sessions on the preservation and development of the faith, Buddhism as a remedy to anxiety and depression, ethics and values and the relevance of the Buddhism in a fast changing world.

The relevance of Buddhism in politics, society, conflict and violence will dominate the discussions Nov 29 while Nov 30 will see the Dalai Lama lead prayers services representing different sects like the Buddhist, Bahai, Christian, Hindu, Islam, Jain, Judaism and Sikh.

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