His Holiness the Dalai Lama attends an International Buddhist Sangha Conference

January 6th 2013

Patna, Bihar, India, 5 January 2013 - This morning His Holiness the Dalai Lama met a group of more than 200 Vietnamese, monks, nuns and lay-people. In his advice to them he began by clarifying what it means to be a Buddhist today:

“Just putting on yellow robes and shaving your head is not sufficient to consider yourself a Buddhist. Even repeating the formula for taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha by itself is not sufficient. What we have to know is what the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are.”


His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking to a group of Vietnamese Buddhists in Patna, Bihar, India, on January 5, 2012. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
He explained that the Buddha is not like a god, permanent and absolute from the start. He was also a sentient being like us who became purified and accomplished through steady practice. He showed us how to purify and train our minds and transform them from being under the sway of destructive emotions to the fully purified omniscient state of a Buddha. The mantra contained in the Heart Sutra reflects this progress.

“The Heart Sutra is the essence of the Buddha’s teaching. Why don’t you recite it together in Vietnamese and then we can have a question and answer session together? Let’s do without any more formality than that.”

A question was asked about His Holiness’s advice for people who face problems because they have ‘such bad karma’. He replied that he had problems too, that the whole Tibetan nation is facing real trouble just now. He said,

“You Vietnamese do not face any threat that your culture and language may become extinct, which Tibetans do. As followers of the Buddha, we know that whatever happens to us doesn’t occur without causes and conditions. We shouldn’t respond with anger and frustration. We should keep up our hope and determination. That way our good karma will increase and our bad karma will gradually disappear.”

Another question referred to the difference between the Vietnamese Buddhist tradition, which can involve a lot of burning paper and food as offerings, and Tibetan Buddhism, which seems surprisingly different. His Holiness replied that many people seem to view religious practice as a matter of ritual, ceremony and offerings, which is not the essence of what the Buddha taught.

The teachings found in the Tripitaka, the three collections of what the Buddha taught can be seen as promoting the Three Higher Trainings in ethics, concentration and wisdom. Ethics involves the self-discipline that protects us from making mistakes in our physical and verbal conduct. As for protecting our minds we need concentration and wisdom. Concentration takes time and tranquil conditions to develop, while wisdom involves dealing with reality. This is our main weapon for eliminating the ignorance that is the basis of our destructive emotions. There are two types of meditation, concentration and analytical meditation, which involves asking, what is the Buddha? what is suffering? and what are its causes? What is the nature of my own mind? This is the character of the Nalanda tradition of Buddhist practice.

His Holiness reminded his listeners that the Buddha had encouraged his followers to question what he had taught and not to accept it merely on the basis of faith. He said they too should examine what he had said to see if it made sense and only then consider putting it into effect.

His Holiness hosted a lunch at the State Guest House, where he was staying, for 15 delegates to the International Buddhist Sangha Conference from a variety of Buddhist traditions, including Sangharajas and their representatives from Bangladesh, Burma and Thailand.


His Holiness the Dalai Lama arriving at Buddha Smriti Park to attend the International Buddhist Sangha Conference in Patna, Bihar, India, on January 5, 2012. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee Chairperson, Bandana Preyashi welcomed His Holiness in the early afternoon at the gates of the Buddha Smriti Park and escorted him to the stage where the conference inaugural ceremonies were to be held. He greeted the delegates, among them several senior and elderly monks from Buddhist countries such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, India, Japan, Laos, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Thailand and Vietnam. His Holiness, the Chief Minister and other Venerables lit the ceremonial lamp and the Mangala Sutra was chanted in Pali and Tibetan to mark an auspicious beginning to the occasion. Mr Chanchal Kumar, Secretary, Department of Art and Culture, Government of Bihar, welcomed delegates and guests and expressed the hope that the conference would explore how Buddhist culture may contribute to creating a happier, more peaceful society for the twenty-first century.

Ven Tenzin Priyadarshi, Convener of the Conference, introduced the speakers, starting with Rev Ryojun Sato from Japan who gave the keynote address. He outlined the three main aims of the conference:
1. To create a society of ideal persons striving for moral and spiritual perfection;
2. To create a vehicle through which knowledge, wisdom and understanding of how to live a good life could be spread through society from generation to generation;
3. To create a democratically governed society of well-disciplined members.

Senior Buddhist elders expressed their words of blessing for the success of the conference. The Bihar Deputy Chief Minister, Sushil Kumar Modi explained that the creation of the Buddha Smriti Park had been the Chief Minister’s inspiration. The city jail formerly stood on the site and, when it was decided to replace it, several proposals, including the construction of a shopping mall, were put forward. However, the Chief Minister suggested paying tribute to Bihar’s cultural heritage with the construction of the Pataliputra Karuna Stupa and a park to commemorate the Buddha. Mr Modi expressed fulsome gratitude to the Chief Minister for his vision.

In his own address, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar mentioned that creation of the Stupa and the planting of saplings taken from the Bodhi trees in Bodhgaya and Sri Lanka recalled the Buddha’s enlightenment and teaching in Bihar while also representing Bihar’s future potential. Preservation of remnants of the old prison walls were a reminder of the Freedom Fighters from India’s struggle for independence and the social activists at the time of the Emergency who had been imprisoned here. He intends the Buddha Smriti Park and Stupa to represent Bihar as a land of transformation. He said that although Biharis may have some way to go in terms of material development, they are keenly aware of the great values embodied in their historical heritage and wish to implement them in the present. He stressed his intention to see the stupa become a centre of learning.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressing the International Buddhist Sangha Conference in Patna, Bihar, India, on January 5, 2012. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
His Holiness observed that as other speakers had spoken in their mother tongue he too would like to speak in Tibetan. He greeted his Buddhist brothers and sisters, dignitaries among the guests, and all those present who may not be Buddhist themselves, but admire Buddhist culture, and declared that it was an honour to be here among them. He praised the Chief Minister’s enthusiasm not only for material development, but also for the inner values inherent in Bihar’s history. He praised the Chief Minister for doing a great job in transforming a former place of confinement into a symbol of liberation.

“We have now reached the twenty-first century. Time goes on naturally and no one can stop it.” he said, “We cannot change the past, but we can plan for the future. In terms of material and spiritual progress, science and technology have focussed on material development, which is essential when so many remain materially deprived. However, along with material progress we also need to attend to our inner development. Thinking only of material development makes us insensitive to the problems of others. It gives rise to greed and deceit, which in many places is the reality today. Scientists and thinkers are concluding that one of the main causes of trouble in society is a lack of love and compassion. Therefore, one of our tasks is to raise awareness of the importance of compassion and pay more attention to promoting it. Although this is traditionally one of religion’s responsibilities, this is a responsibility we all have to shoulder as individuals. In the context of this conference, he said, we need to examine what contribution Buddhism can make to this.

“Since our religious traditions share a common goal, it is important that we encourage greater understanding and respect among them. I often express my admiration for the way different religious traditions, both indigenous and from abroad, have flourished side by side for centuries in this country. Inter-religious harmony has become an Indian cultural tradition that serves as an example to the rest of the world.”

Within the Buddha’s teachings he noted that there are many different instructions that accord with people’s different mental dispositions. This variety is an expression of respect for people’s different mentalities. However, we should not make the mistake of thinking that compassion is only something for spiritual followers to concern themselves with; it is relevant to non-believers too. In fact, compassion is important for everyone.

His Holiness expressed satisfaction at the Chief Minister’s intention to make the Pataliputra Karuna Stupa a centre of learning. He pointed out that the Tripitaka, the three collections of Buddhist scriptures can be viewed as dealing with Buddhist science, philosophy and spiritual practice. While the spiritual practice sections are a matter for Buddhists, the science and philosophy, such as the explanation of impermanence and momentary change, may be of interest to anyone. The Buddhist explanation of conventional and ultimate truth is evidence of a scientific approach to reality that can benefit all humanity.


Delegates attending the International Buddhist Sangha Conference held at  Buddha Smriti Park in Patna, Bihar, India, on January 5, 2012. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
“The creation of this stupa should not be seen as an opportunity to propagate Buddhism as such. We are not trying to convert others to Buddhism. But when a centre of learning has been established here, Buddhist science and philosophy can be among the subjects for academic study.”

Coming to the end of his talk, His Holiness joked that when the delegates had gathered earlier in the afternoon they were too hot, but at the end it was getting too cold. He concluded,

“I am pleased that the State of Bihar, in conjunction with the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee, has convened this conference. All our religious traditions teach about love and compassion, but the important thing is for us to put these instructions into effect, otherwise we risk falling prey to hypocrisy. We need to maintain faith in our own tradition, while cultivating respect for others. If, as Buddhists, we follow what the Buddha taught sincerely, we will naturally be of service to our human brothers and sisters.”

The session was concluded with words of thanks from the Chairperson of the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee and Gaya District Magistrate, Bandana Preyashi. She explained that the inspiration for the conference came about during consultations with His Holiness when he gave the Kalachakra empowerment in Bodhgaya in January last year. She thanked the many scholars and representatives of Buddhist communities in many countries for responding to the invitation to attend and expressed especial thanks to everyone who had contributed in whatever way to making the conference possible.
 

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