On 24 May 2016 IBC hosted a ten-member delegation from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, headed by Mr. Pham Manh Lam, Chief of the Ministerial Office of the Ministry of Information and Communication. The delegation was accompanied by Ms Nguyen Thi Sen, Attache in the Embassy of Vietnam in New Delhi.
For this meeting, that took place over lunch, IBC invited Prof. Geshe Ngawang Samten, Vice Chancellor of the Central University of Tibetan Studies, Sarnath, Ven. Sonam Lama, Member of the Legislative Assembly of Sikkim, Mr. Maling Gombu, General Secretary, Minority Cell, BJP, Mr. T. Prasad, IAS (Retd.), Minister, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh, Mr. R.D. Maurya, National President, Akhila Bhartiya Maurya Mahasangh and Mr. Hetpal Singh Sakya, Ex-National President, Akhil Bhartiya Shakya Mahasabha. The IBC leadership was represented by the Secretary General, Ven. Lama Lobzang, along with Deputy Secretary General, Prof. B.L. Mungekar and Chairperson of the Global Outreach Committee, Mr. Lalit Mansingh. Mrs. Arvind Manjit Singh, CEO, Mr. Kishore Thukral, Executive Director (Communications), and Ms. Vichitra Sharma, Media and PR Coordinator were also present.
Welcoming the delegation, Ven. Lama Lobzang appreciated the contribution of the National Vietnam Buddhist Sangha (NVBS) in the formation of IBC, right from the stage of its conceptualization. He informed the visiting delegation that besides His Holiness Thich Pho Tue, the Supreme Patriarch of NVBS who is a Patron of IBC, other senior leaders of NVBS are members of our Supreme Dhamma Council as well as of the Presidium and the Governing Council. Through them, in the years to come, we look forward to further engagement with Vietnam, by setting up an IBC chapter, and undertaking and organizing joint projects and programmes.
Mr. Pham Manh Lam thanked IBC for organizing the meeting at such short notice, and introduced each member of the delegation individually.
Ambassador Lalit Mansingh recalled the historical ties between Vietnam and India, and said that even in recent times the two countries have shared a close relationship. He recalled the role of Ho Chi Minh in the Non-Aligned Movement, and said that the late Vietnamese leader is regarded as a great hero even in India.
Prof. B.L. Mungekar recalled the visit of the IBC delegation to the UN Day of Vesak celebrations in Ninh Binh, Vietnam in May 2014. He said that India is unique in its cultural, philosophical and linguistic diversity, and that given the extent of IBC’s membership, our organization is the biggest forum for spreading Buddha’s message and Buddhist values across the world. He spoke about Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and the mass conversion to Buddhism led by him. Dr. Ambedkar, being the father of the Indian Constitution, ensured that Buddhist values, such as liberty, equality, justice, fraternity and compassion were enshrined in it. Today the world is suffering from many ills and is looking towards Buddhism as a panacea, because it is the only philosophy based on compassion. He appreciated the struggle of the Vietnamese people for freedom and peace from 1962 to 1974, and also the fact that the National Vietnam Buddhist Sangha had been a strong pillar of IBC since its initial stages.
Prof. Geshe Ngawang Samten told the delegation that although Buddhism declined in India in the 13th century, Buddhist culture is deeply ingrained in Indian culture. India never invaded another country, nor imposed its philosophy or culture on anyone. Yet other countries embraced Buddhism of their own volition. Buddhism is received as a religious, philosophical and educational system as well as a science. It has many dimensions. Today western scientists and educational philosophers are working with Buddhist philosophy and systems. As a result the principles of scientific study and approach have changed. In the United States, 27 states have accepted Buddhist mind training as a part of their education curriculum, thus leading to a change in the education policy. The very core element of the Buddhist doctrine is to transform ourselves by destroying the negative elements within ourselves, and by building on the positive elements. Thus, rather than rituals, we must work on our minds to improve ourselves.
Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Hai, a member of the delegation, wanted to know about how IBC communicated its aims and objectives to the public at large, and whether the organization received any support from the government.
Ambassador Lalit Mansingh replied that IBC is an independent and autonomous body that receives some support from the government. The aim of IBC is not to convert people to Buddhism or to promote Buddhism, but to provide a common platform to the Buddhists of the world to come together and look for solutions to issues of global concern.
Mr. T. Prasad, Minister, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh, added that in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh, people are more interested in the social and cultural meaning that Buddhism provides to the lives of the poor and the downtrodden.
In reply to another question from Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Hai, Mr. Kishore Thukral informed the visiting delegation that member organizations and IBC chapters that wanted to organize programmes under the banner of IBC, had to do so strictly in keeping with the aims and objects of the organization as laid down in the Constitution. He gave the instance of IBC, Sri Lanka which is planning to organize a Dialogue on Vinaya between senior monks of the Theravada and Mahayana traditions. This is in keeping with the aims and objects of IBC, one of which is to deepen understanding among different Buddhist traditions by fostering the familial character of the Dhamma.
The meeting ended with a formal vote of thanks by Mrs. Arvind Manjit Singh.