The world is debating whether the 21st century would be Asia’s century … (though) there may be differences over which Asian country would the 21st century belong to … but an aspect possibly overlooked by those having this vision is that without Buddha, 21st century can never become Asia’s century,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi told delegates at the International Buddha Poornima Diwas Celebrations 2015 in New Delhi on May 4, 2015.
Poornima Diwas was organised by the International Buddhist Confederation with the support of Union Ministries of Home Affairs and Culture. Modi said that the Buddha’s message of love and compassion would help Asia inspire the world as it deals with all-round strife and bloody conflicts. “Buddha is the one who will make Asia a source of inspiration for the world that is dealing with various problems. People are killing each other … a large part of the globe is witnessing bloody strife … in such a scenario, it is Buddha’s message of compassion and non-violence that will show the way to the world,” said Modi.
At the colourful event attended by over 2,000 people, it was announced that the Buddha Poornima or Vesak would now on be an annual event to be celebrated officially by the Government of India. A national committee will be set up under the chairmanship of the Minister of State for Culture, with IBC as the coordinating and implementing organization, and its Secretary General as ex officio convener.
The Culture Minister has also recently announced that the Government is committed to building a grand Holy Relic Vihara in Delhi to consecrate the Kapilvastu relic currently housed in Delhi’s National Museum. In addition, a 130-hectare Buddha Charita Path park in the middle of Delhi will be jointly developed by IBC and a national committee of experts and eminent personalities to showcase the Buddhist heritage of India and also as a walkthrough of Buddha’s life and teachings.
The celebrations this year were historic indeed. Four eminent scholars who have contributed a lifetime of dedicated work to the preservation of Buddhist philosophic knowledge, art, culture and heritage were honoured by the Prime Minister. They are: Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, art historian, eminent scholar and author; Dr. Lokesh Chandra, chairman of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and eminent scholar, historian and author; Prof. Krishna Nath, eminent Buddhist scholar; and, Prof. Rama Shankar Tripathy, eminent Buddhist scholar. “Buddha’s three-word message—‘Be your own light’— said Prime Minister Modi, carried more weight than all management journals, lectures and books put together.
“We should be inspired by his teachings on compassion, working with consensus, welfare of others and sacrifice,” he said. He underlined that Buddha had prescribed an eight-fold path to salvation—right view, right thought, right speech, rightconduct, right livelihood, right effort, right consciousness and right concentration On the personal front, the Prime Minister recalled how during his visits abroad, most host countries took care to incorporate a visit to a Buddhist temple into his programme. Recalling Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang’s visit to his native village Vadnagar in Gujarat, he said archaeological excavation had found the remains of a monastery there. “At Devni Mori in Gujarat, archaeologists have discovered a casket containing Buddha’s relic.
I hope a big Buddhist temple will someday come up at the site,” he said. The Minister of State for Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation, Dr. Mahesh Sharma and the Minister of State for Home Affairs and the Chairman of the Celebration Committee, Shri Kiren Rijiju were also present. Ambassadors of Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and representatives of US, Singapore, Thailand, Bhutan, Slovenia were among those present. Ministers Rajyawardhan Singh Rathore, Prakash Jawadekar, MPs Anurag Thakur, Thubsten Chewang, Ramdas Athawale, Tarun Vijay, Sudhanshu Mittal, Hindu spiritual leader Swami Chidanand Saraswati of Parmarth Niketan, Jain saint Acharya Lokesh Muni too were present.
A large number of monks, nuns and followers of Buddha Dharma from all over India attended the event. Special enclosures with large screens were placed in the lawns of the Talkatora stadium for the latecomers who could not be accommodated in the stadium, though it is one of the largest in New Delhi. The cultural programme began with the Mangalacharan- chanting of sutras in Pali and Sanskrit traditions, songs by the Himalayan School students, songs by the children of the Shakya community and songs by the Ladakhi children’s choir from the Mahabodhi Higher Education School, Chandigarh.