I was sitting with my group of rapporteurs in the lobby when His Holiness the Karmapa smiled and gestured, it was probably because he noticed this petite girl in a green chupa amidst a foreign crowd. I almost froze in realization that the holy figure I always wake up to and pray for is right next to me, sitting casually with his entourage. In that brief period, I maneuvered my disoriented mind into soaking the moment of pure bliss and fortune, and prayed.
International Buddhist Confederation kicked off today at Hyatt Regency, in New Delhi. There were around 250 eminent Buddhist figures including Lamas, Rinpoches, Khenpos and other religious leaders across 30 countries. It is spearheaded by Asoka Mission in New Delhi, under the leadership of venerable Lama Lobsang, also the director of the premier Buddhist institution.
I will try not to read like a news report and jot down the key points of today’s gatherings to my utmost capacity.
After the recitations of heart sutra in different languages, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s video message was played onscreen. He spoke about the importance of emphasizing on inner peace and inner values more than material accomplishments. Most of us, he said, desire genuine happiness, but the ways to find out the right path is often murky and distorted. He stressed upon using our gifted faculty, that is human intelligence to choose and cultivate the ability to reason, reflect and practice.
Fast forward to the inter-faith dialogue in the afternoon which was chaired by author Rajiv Mehrotra, there were leaders from different religions including Muslim, Hindu and Christian who shared their common interest in communal harmony and world peace. Now, there are couple of inspiring quotes I would like to share from the respective leaders.
Karmapa Rinpoche: In the 21st century, there has been a lot of material development. Most of us tend to believe that this could bring us genuine happiness. The actual root is not outside but inside our mind. The core of virtuous and non-virtuous deeds starts and ends with our own mind. The essence of Buddhism is living in harmony and peace with every sentient being. We as Tibetans are facing this tragic and sad phase of our history, and I think it would be safe to credit our ability to withstand these hard times to our religion that teaches patience, perseverance, positivity and hope. And most importantly, it is good to have such gatherings to show our support and respect to different religions. But if we are doing this for a public display and not genuinely respecting our brothers and sisters from different religions, it wouldn’t be right. If we aren’t believing the things we are talking about over here, and just go back home and do nothing, there’s no point. We have to take an integral part in functioning those beliefs.”
From the Hindu leader: “I think most of us are born into religions and therefore feel obligated and sometimes forced to practice our religion. We must have the right to choose our own religion, we must make informed choices. I think up to the age of eighteen, he or she shouldn’t be enforced with a religion but they should be given a freedom to choose what they want to believe in. Let the children grow into universal values of humanity than denominations. And like His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, if somebody decides not to follow any religion and is still happy. So be it. We are all linked and locked together. There is no us versus them, that’s narrow-mindedness. We are all one, these boundaries are created by self-centredness and egos. This gathering is a great message to the humanity, the masses should reflect on this display of harmony. Worship your own and respect all. Sometimes, we don’t understand our own religion and we start to criticize other religion. It is as Mahatma Gandhi puts, if you want to bring a change, be the change. You should not only work for peace, but be a working peace. If I’m in peace, I will exude peace and only peace shall ensue. If I’m in pieces, then I could only share in pieces. ”
From the Archibishop: “Purity of heart, forgiveness and non-violence are the values Jesus revered and spoke about. I think these kind of congregations are inspiring for everyone around the world to value respect and harmony between different religious traditions.”
Considering the recent violence reportedly perpetrated by Buddhist extremists towards Muslims in Myanmar, there was a sense of tension, aggression and grief that came through the Muslim leader’s speech.
“Violence perpetrated in the name of religion should be resisted. Now, how to implement this resistance? Conferences like these should be frequent to unite different religions. Five lakh Muslims were killed in Myanmar recently, Hindus and Muslims are fighting. Quran not just address to Muslims but all human beings. I deeply respect Dalai Lama for his enormous display of understanding and harmony by visiting the mosques. I was disheartened when none of leaders from the Buddhist sanghas addressed their concerns with regards to the violence in Myanmar then. And then, one of the Buddhist leader from Ladakh came up to me, showed respect and offered his condolences. I felt good to see him show such a kind gesture. Dalai Lama’s message to the world is peace. We should all be in peace and not harm others in the name of religion. “
And then it was the Sri Lankan monk’s turn. I was captivated by how he put forth his thoughts.
“While I was coordinating the inter faith dialogue couple of years ago, I realized that all religions basically have the same message, they are talking about the same thing. We could all talk about respecting these different religions but are we really practicing it? I think you need three Ds to implement that. You need the real DESIRE to understand different religions. When I see other religious leaders, I put myself in their shoes and think about how they serve others and practice compassion. And then you need the DRIVE. You should be able to do something about it. You should be careful not to talk ill of other religions. The third one would be the DETERMINATION to be able to sustain that meaningful endeavour.”
Chaired by his eminence Situ Rinpoche, there was an interesting discussion in the evening on calligraphy and Buddhist art from Nako, Tibet and Ulchy. It followed with an amazing presentation by an erudite painter on art works displayed on the caves of Ajanta and Ellora.
Tai Situ Rinpoche is himself an accomplished calligrapher and an art-lover. He made us crack up in between the sessions with his beautiful sense of humour. He said and I quote, “Painting is an expression of heart without words. When I was being trained by my tutors, I had to write with a sharpened stick. We enjoyed writing, though it wasn’t that comfortable. Writing is an art. Now a days, people don’t write, they just type. And sometimes they don’t type, they just push buttons. (laughs) So that’s why, most of them have such a bad handwriting. You couldn’t read them.”
Before I retreat, allow me to end this post with a quote from his eminence Situ Rinpoche. “You can’t expect clean water from a dirty pot. You can get clean water from a clean pot.”
Have a beautiful day, my friends.