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Consulate General of India, Hong Kong Hosts “Prajña” Series on Buddhist and Sanskrit Studies

The consulate general of India, Hong Kong has launched a three-part seminar series on Sanskrit and Buddhist studies and literature. The series is titled “Prajña” and pays homage to the shared concept of transcendent insight in both Buddhism and Hinduism. This series about the Indic spiritual heritage launched this month and will continue until March.

Standing Buddha, sculpted in the Mathuran school of ancient Buddhist art. From National Museum, New Delhi

On X (formerly known as Twitter), the consulate shared news about the event, stating: “The word ‘Prajñā’ or ‘प्रज्ञा’, means wisdom – not as a collection of empirical knowledge but an intuitive experience of ultimate reality.” The consulate sees this series as helping to fulfil its objective to extend India’s outreach to Hong Kong-based scholars of Buddhism and Indic studies, and deepen dialogue with religious communities in the Special Administrative Region (SAR).

On 22 January, the inaugural lecture of Prajña at the consulate was given by Dr. Patricia Sauthoff, assistant professor at the Department of History at Hong Kong Baptist University, with a Q&A and open floor discussion session moderated by Dr. Tony Chui. Dr. Sauthoff’s keynote focused on “Healing and Tantra in Sanskrit Literature,” with particular attention given to the historical use of mercury in Ayurvedic treatments as well as how formulae and methodologies often transcended “sectarian” boundaries (if they ever existed) between historical Buddhism and Hinduism.

Dr. Patricia Sauthoff with Dr. Tony Chui on 22 January. Image by the author

As part of promoting this series, the Indian consulate shared on social media the hashtag, “#cultureunitesall,” captioning an image of a Mathuran standing Buddha, and reposting the Ministry of Culture’s image of Maha Bodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya.

In February and March, the consulate will hold two more seminars to complete the lecture series, with lecturer Dr. Amrita Nanda of The University of Hong Kong’s (HKU) Centre of Buddhist Studies (CBS) giving a speech about “Introduction to Buddhist/Sanskrit Texts” next month. Finally, in March, Dr. Bill Mak, senior member of Robinson College at Cambridge University, will be giving a lecture titled, “History of Indian Studies in Hong Kong and China.” This talk will be moderated by former pro-vice-chancellor of HKU, Prof. C.F. Lee.

Right to left: Nagendra Shrestha, consul-general of India, Hong Kong Satwant Khanalia, Shobhana Rajesh Iyer, and Arup Gupta. Image by the author

On 25 January, the consulate hosted an Indian Classical Musical evening at the Xiqu Centre, in Hong Kong’s cultural hub of West Kowloon. The performance was held at the Tea House Theatre and attended by the consulate corps, representatives of Hong Kong’s Indian community, and members of Hong Kong’s Buddhist Studies community, including Dr. Georgios Halkias, director of CBS, Dr. Bill Mak, and Buddhistdoor Global. The event was a celebration of ragas, which constitute the ancient and classical musical traditions of India.

The performance was led by senior musicians Shobhana Rajesh Iyer, Arup Gupta, and Nagendra Shrestha. Iyer is Hindustani classical vocalist and founder of Raag Raagini Creations in Hong Kong. Gupta is a Kolkata-born percussionist and tabla player who has performed around the world and is a guest performer for the City Chamber Orchestra of Hong Kong. Shesthra is a professional singer-composer with over four decades of experience in the Hindi and Nepali music industry, and has composed music for many Nepali and Indian artists. Songs included Ganesh Vandana (invocation to Ganesh), Dasavataram (rendition from Geeta Govindam in Raag Malika), and Maithreem Bhajata (this is a song calling for world peace and was performed as the concert’s final act).   

A small booklet containing remarks on the series, as well as the three speakers’ lectures, will be published by the consulate after the final talk.

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