Dalai Lama Opens Three-day International Conference on “Relevance of Buddhism in the 21st Century”
The three-day International Buddhist conference “The Relevance of Buddhism in the 21st Century: Perspectives and Global Challenges” was held over the weekend at the Rajgir International Convention Centre in Nalanda District, in the Indian state of Bihar. The conference was co-organized by Nava Nalanda Mahavihara (NNM), a deemed* university, and the Indian Union Ministry of Culture. His Holiness the Dalai Lama opened the conference by lighting a traditional lamp.
The conference, which hosted over 350 scholars, spiritual leaders, and monastics from 35 countries, including Bangladesh, Germany, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Nepal, and Taiwan, addressed a variety of contemporary topics, such as gender equality, female leadership, and the balance between economic development and conservation of the natural environment.
“This is for the first time in India that a Buddhist conclave is being organized on such a huge scale,” said Dr. Srikant Singh, who was in charge of media at the conference, dubbing it the “first serious academic discourse on Buddhism.” (Daily News & Analysis India)
In his keynote address for the occasion, the Dalai Lama spoke of the universal search for happiness and the pressing need for religious harmony: “All religious traditions should sit in harmony to know the truth, which is always unchanged.’’ His Holiness added that all religions have the same potential for peace, since they share a message of love: “All major religions may differ in philosophy, but they all carry the message of love and it is unthinkable to see to the source of compassion becoming the source of violence. If the medicine becomes poison, then there is no hope.” (The Indian Express, Phayul)
Citing India as an example of religious harmony, the Dalai Lama expressed hope that India would take an active role in educating the world. “For over 1,000 years, religious harmony has existed in India on the concept of ahimsa,” he said. “Today the entire world has become interdependent due to global economy and technology. So under such circumstances, we Indian[s] must now share our traditional value to the world in order to benefit the humanity.” (Payul)
When faced with emotional threat and challenges so unique to the 21st century, the Dalai Lama suggested seeking answers not by sedating ourselves, but through the study of ancient Indian psychology. “In today’s world, there is some crisis, crisis of emotion and the answer to it is not through drugs, or tranquilizer[s], or alcohol,” His Holiness observed. “For a solution, we must realize the crisis is on [a] mental level and the countermeasure should come from within the mind. Therefore, I feel Indian psychology is very relevant in today’s world.” (Phayul)
On the third and last day of the conference, the Dalai Lama visited NNM, where he opened the first department of Buddhist Science in Asia. He expressed happiness over the fact that Buddhism was now being equated with—and studied as—a science.
The closing address of the conference was presented by Indian president Pranab Mukherjee, who praised Nalanda University for its achievements and emphasized the relevance of Buddhism in today’s world. “No part of the world today is free from the scourge of violence . . . this crisis is all pervasive,” he noted, adding that, “Buddhism has had a deep influence on human civilization.” (The Hindu).
Want to know more about this conference? Keep an eye on our website for upcoming features by our Senior Writer Raymond Lam.
* A status of autonomy granted by India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development to departments of universities and performing institutes, which allows for full autonomy in determining course work, admission guidelines and fees.
3-Day International Buddhist Conference: All religions should realise that truth is same says Dalai Lama (The Indian Express)
‘Buddhism relevant in today’s era’ (The Hindu)
Dalai Lama describes himself as 'son of India' (Deccan Chronicle)
Dalai Lama Opens International Buddhist Conference (VOA News)
Dalai Lama to open three-day global Buddhist meet (Daily News & Analysis India)
India should actively promote religious harmony: Dalai Lama at Buddhist conference (Phayul)
What is a deemed university (NDTV)
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