New Delhi. Around 5,000 monks and nuns from around the world, including from India will be gathering in Bodhgaya from December 2 to 12, 2023 for the 18th International Tipitaka chanting Programme. As a precursor to this event, a symposium was held at the National Museum today on “Revival of Buddha Dhamma in the Land of Origin”, organised jointly by the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC) and the Light of Buddha Dharma Foundation International (LBDFI) of Berkeley, US, which is leading a pilgrimage this week of 40 international monks to many Buddhist sites in India.
Starting her pilgrimage in India, Dr Wangmo Dixey, Executive Director of LBDFI said, “today is an auspicious beginning as we start our Dharma Training Wheel program with 45 monastics from Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, India and Tibet. We begin our journey here, in Delhi, the capital of the homeland of Buddhism, and start by reciting from the Dhammapada, the profound text that has guided countless individuals on the path of wisdom and enlightenment. This will be followed by Tipitaka chanting which is awakening the sound of the Buddha in the sacred place of the Buddha. Subsequently, the international Mahasangha will participate in a Peace Walk in the footsteps of the Buddha- a 14 km stretch in the Jethian Valley.
Speaking about the LBDFI, Dr Dixey, mentioned that for 18-years they have been organizing pilgrimages for monks and nuns from around the world for restoring the Buddha Sasana in India. The Buddha Sasana is the culture of Buddhism, established by the Buddha himself and transmitted through the centuries by the Sangha of Venerable Monks and their lay supporters. The aim of the organization is to revive the holy places of the Buddha by bringing international monks here and reciting the teachings in their original form. It is also an attempt to bring the Sangha together and organize Dhamma talks by eminent Buddhists.
The LBDFI is also reviving the Buddhist circuit tours and promoting sites in Orissa, Assam and Bihar. Dr Dixey added that they were keen to partner with the State governments to set up gardens using fragrant plants as mentioned in the ancient Pali canons. Dr Anirban Dash, Director, the National Mission for Manuscripts at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) today called upon scholar and researchers to carry out geographical mapping of Buddhist Acharyas globally, linking them to literature, archaeological sites, and the regions they travelled for spreading the Dhamma. The key names are known to all, but we don’t have the narratives linked to them as prevalent in those countries. There are several documents scattered all over the world, it is important to collate them, he explained.Highlighting four pertinent points, he said Bhagwan Buddha gave his sermons in Indian languages, much later these teachings got translated into Tibetan, Chinese and with the spread of Dhamma, into other languages. The original language in which it was written and taught were Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit. It is time we get scholars and researchers to work on ‘the root scripts and literature’ so that the teaching reflects the ancient knowledge that is deeply connected with India, and not rely on translations of the Dhamma. He further added that Dhamma is a philosophical school, an “ideas, not a religion in the western sense, not dogmatic! Therefore, it is intrinsic to most Indians; in our culture and our way-of-life.”Dr Dash pointed out that the inscriptions on Ashoka Pillars and other structures that the Emperor constructed to spread the Dhamma need to be translated in contemporary languages- Hindi, English and regional for widespread dissemination. Replicas of these may be introduced in public spaces to encourage wider discussions.
Similarly, young scholars can take up the task of researching literature connected to various Buddhist sites in different states of India. Another important area for research, he flagged, was developing texts connecting Jataka tales with specific archaeological sites.
He also said there was an urgent need to research and develop literature connected to various Buddhist sites in India which would go a long way in standardizing the narrative of tourist guides at the historical places.There is a profound resurgence of Buddhism, both cultural and spiritual reawakening that transcends time, noted Mr Abhijit Haldar, Director General of IBC. The teachings of the Buddha have stood relevant across centuries, he added.He mentioned how the IBC and LBDFI had collaborated to ensure celebrations of Buddha Purnima this year at the Indian embassy in Washington and at the White House. Mr S K Mishra, Chairman, Indian Trust for Rural Heritage, and Development (ITRHD) informed that the Trust had set up an academy for the management and conservation of Buddhist Heritage in rural areas. Its focus will be on developing lesser-known Buddhist sites to build awareness and encourage maintenance of these places. Ven. Shartse Khensur Jangchup Choeden Rinpoche, Deputy Secretary General IBC spoke about the importance of Buddhist thought in these times of strife, violence, and intolerance.