Barbara Maas, a renowned wildlife biologist and conservationist trained in Cambridge, andher team are busy making a video to be distributed across Buddhist monasteries of Vietnam. Its message is direct: rhinos are being poached in India and Vietnam is the hub of the illegal trade in rhino horn.
The connection the video seeks to establish is shared faith and Sangha edicts pertaining to protection of nature. With several conservation efforts failing in the past, this is an innovative attempt led by Maas, a German Buddhist who has worked at the Serengeti national park in Tanzania and with the New Zealand government.
Maas is one of the many strands at the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC), a nascent body of 320 monastic and lay Buddhist organizations across 39 countries that met in Ayyuthaya, Thailand, this month. This rare platform, headquartered in Delhi, is built on the belief that faith should have a voice in global concerns. The body is of the opinion that Buddha’s teachings could resolve issues ranging from climate change and nuclear proliferation to poverty and war.
When Buddhist leaders met at the ancient ruins of Wat Maha That, one of the oldest temples in Thailand, they renewed a pledge to continue their mission with vigour. “We are not evangelists of Buddhism. We are here to spread awareness about it,” says former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh whoserves as an IBC “global envoy”.
The gathering is eclectic — Bhutanese princess Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuk, Ladakh monk and IBC head Lama Lobzang, Ugandan monk Bhante Buddharakkhita, American Jonathan Raichart who runs academic courses on Buddhism in Sao Paolo and, of course, Maas. Then there are abbots from Mongolia,Vietnam,Thailand, Cambodia and other nations. “We are not here to control politicians,but to get the Buddhist perspective into politics,” says Lankan businessman Jagath Sumathipala.
Buddhism is integral to India’s soft power push given its unique position — it can bond with the nations in the vast swathe across East and South-East Asia where it is the prominent faith. IBC’s “samvad” conference held in New Delhi last year saw PM Modi visit Bodh Gaya.
IBC’s big victory was its presence at the Paris climate convention last year.Insiders say it has come a long way — in 2011 when the first confederation was held in Delhi, it drew the ire of China because the Dalai Lama attended the event. Some say it resulted in India-China border talks being called off. But Ashok Kesang Wangdi, senior executive director on policy planning of IBC, clarifies: “We have nothing to do with Tibet.”
SOURCE : TOI
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