Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate a two-day Buddhist summit in New Delhi later this week. Buddhist delegates from some 30 countries are expected to attend the conference, which will focus on the theme “Responses to Contemporary Challenges from Philosophy to Praxis.” The conference, expected to draw more than 170 delegates, was planned for 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
India’s union culture minister, G. Kishan Reddy, made the announcement on Monday, saying, “Eminent Buddhist monks, scholars, ambassadors, and diplomats from various foreign countries will take part in the summit, which will be hosted by the Union Ministry of Culture along with the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC).” (Hindustan Times)
Reddy noted that as the birthplace of Buddhism, “it is our responsibility to showcase our Buddhist history and heritage to the wider world and the conference is in line with that vision of the country and the current government led by PM Modi.” (Hindustan Times)
Delegates are expected from Cambodia, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and elsewhere, according to IBC Director-General Abhijit Halder. When asked whether a delegate from China would attend, Halder responded that invitations had been sent to institutions and not to governments. Regarding Chinese institutions, he said: “An invitation was sent but no specific response has been received.” (Hindustan Times)
When asked whether His Holiness the Dalai Lama would attend, Halder said, “We have sent the invite but due to [his] health issues, we are still awaiting confirmation.”
According to a source close to the Dalai Lama, “Since he is senior in age, his mobility is restricted and he needs assistance. There is a lot of security around him. It is for these reasons that confirmation on his attendance hasn’t been received yet.” (Tibetan Review)
Keynote speakers at the event will include Dr. Robert Thurman, a former monastic in the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism and previously the Je Tsongkhapa professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University, and His Holiness Thich Tri Quang, the deputy patriarch of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha.
The conference is expected to cover topics including Buddhism and peace, the environmental crisis, health and sustainability, Buddhist pilgrimage, the preservation of Buddhist relics, and the preservation of the Nalanda Buddhist tradition.
Additionally, delegates will travel to a number of Buddhist sites within India. According to Reddy: “Delegates may visit different sites and the government of India will help coordinate their visits so that we can showcase our monuments and sites associated with Buddhism.” (Hindustan Times)
Last month, India hosted a similar summit under the auspices of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), highlighting India’s role in the history of Buddhism and its future as a destination for travel, pilgrimage, and diplomacy. As the COVID-19 pandemic recedes from the forefront of people’s minds, Buddhist and political leaders in India hope to vastly expand the country’s role as a global hub for tourism and spiritual and intellectual exchange.
According to a 2011 census, India is home to 8,442,972 Buddhists. Maharashtra, the home of the Navayana or Neo-Buddhist movement started by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, is home to the vast majority of India’s Buddhists with some 6,531,200 adherents. The union territory of Ladakh is the home to the country’s highest percentage of Buddhists with some 39.65 per cent of the people there following the Dharma.
PM Modi to launch ‘first of its kind’ Buddhist summit in Delhi (Hindustan Times)
Dalai Lama likely to attend global Buddhist summit in New Delhi next week (Tibetan Review)
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