(TibetanReview.net, Dec21’23) – Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, on Dec 20 inaugurated a conference of followers of different traditions of Buddhism from across the world at Bodh Gaya, the place in the Indian state of Bihar where Buddha Shakyamuni attained enlightenment over 2,500 years ago. The forum aims to identify and emphasize the shared benefits of study and practice across all traditions, while nurturing an appreciation and understanding of the unique strengths of each tradition.
The Dalai Lama had launched a five-year Bhikkhu exchange programme in Bodh Gaya last December to promote active dialogues between various traditions and schools of Buddhism for mutual understanding and communications between the two traditions of Pali and Sanskrit, noted the timesofindia.com Dec 20.
The First International Sangha Forum, held under the theme of “Bridging Traditions, Embracing Modernity: A Dialogue on the Buddha’s Teaching in Today’s World” was addressed by Sangharajas, Abbots and heads of major Buddhist institutions.
More than 2,000 sangha members from at least 35 countries, including Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Tibetan, Bhutan, Nepal, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Russia, and Mongolia, are taking part in the three-day conference.
The main focus of the conference, which is being organized mainly by the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Delhi-based International Buddhist Confederation (IBC), is to augment ongoing dialogue and collaboration among practitioners of the Pali, Sanskrit and Tibetan Buddhist traditions.
The aim of the Forum is to hold a dialogue on role of Buddhism in the 21st century and to discuss how to create understanding and cooperation among the array of Buddhist traditions, declared the event’s moderator, Ven Mahayano Aun.
The forum’s secretary, Ms Wee Nee Ng, said the purpose of the event was to establish collaboration between the Buddhist Pali and Sanskrit traditions and to discuss what it means to be a Buddhist in the 21st century.
Director General of the IBC, Abhijit Halder, reminded the gathering that at a time when warfare had broken out in several parts of the world, the primary focus of the Dharma was to develop compassion and wisdom. The Buddhadharma is part of the world’s culture; it teaches us how to live in peace with prosperity and compassion. We need to shift our attention to what will make human beings more compassionate and peaceful, he said.
In his address, the Dalai Lama told the assembly: “The essence of both the Pali and Sanskrit traditions is altruism. The most important thing is to cultivate bodhichitta.”
“Bodhichitta is a precious practice. … Help other beings; become a Buddha for them. By cultivating peace of mind within ourselves we’ll make a practical contribution to peace in the world.”
Representatives of the several Buddhist traditions addressed the assembly. They included Ven Ru-Jing, Abbot of the Bliss and Wisdom Monastic Community, Taiwan; and Phra Dhambodhivong, Chief Abbot of the Royal Thai Monastery, Bodhgaya, representing the Thai Sangharaja and the royal family, Thailand; Ven Khenpo Sonam Bhumden, Chief of Research and Translation, Office of Jé Khenpo, Bhutan; Ven Kumdin Na, Member of the State Sanghamahayanayaka, Yangon and Deputy Sangharaja of Myanmar; Shadjin Lama, Geshé Lobsang Chödak, Head Lama of the Kalmyk Buddhists of Kalmykia, Russia; The Ven Tri Mingzen a representative of the Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha; Most Ven Dr Warakagoda Gnanarathana Mahayanake Thero, the Mahayanake Thero of Asgiriya Chapter of Siyam Maha Nikaya, Sri Lanka; Preah Iddhimuni Moeng Sang, the President of the Cambodian Buddhist Monk Society, USA.
His Eminence Khambo Nomun Khaan, Geshé Jetsun Dorje, Abbot of Ganden Thekchenling Monastery, Mongolia, sent a message that was read on his behalf. He congratulated the organizers for bringing together such an assembly to discuss the role of Buddhism in the 21st century.
Others who addressed the assembly included Mr Pema Khandu, the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, and Mr Shri Tashi Namgyal, Executive Councillor, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council.
After the conclusion of the event on Dec 22, the Dalai Lama will lead a world peace prayer session with delegates of the event at Mahabodhi Mahavihara on Dec 23.