Inaugural session of International Seminar on India’s North Eastern Region and Buddhist Heritage – Bridge between South Asia and South East Asia

Inaugural session of  International Seminar on India’s North Eastern Region and Buddhist Heritage – Bridge between South Asia and South East Asia
February 27 08:42 2016 Print This Article

Inaugural session of  International Seminar on India’s North Eastern Region and Buddhist Heritage – Bridge between South Asia and South East Asia

The inaugural session was attended by delegates and observers from 12 countries (list attached), including the Deputy High Commissioner of Sri Lanka, the Deputy Chief of Mission of Laos, the Deputy Chief of Mission of Vietnam and the Political Consular of Vietnam.


The Chief Guest on the occasion was Shri Manik Sarkar, Honourable Chief Minister of Tripura. The Guests of Honour were Shri Ananda Prasad Pokharel, Honourable Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation of Nepal, and Ven. AthuraliyeRathanaThero, Member of Parliament from Sri Lanka.

The important points mentioned by the speakers were as follows:

  1. Lama Lobzang, Secretary General, IBC– welcome speech: It is a matter of great pleasure and pride for us that leaders, both monastic and lay, as well as scholars, thinkers and opinion makers of repute have gathered in Agartala to deliberate on the ways in which we can forge greater unity within a region that is defined not only by geographical contiguity, but also by a shared history and culture. North East India is a confluence of ideas, philosophies and wisdom that have converged and flowed in this entire region, from one part to another, for many centuries. Through this seminar we seek to re-explore and revive these ancient cultural and spiritual linkages for the betterment of the lives of all our brothers and sisters who inhabit the nations that comprise South Asia and South East Asia.
  2. Shri Sabyasachi Dutta, Director, Asian Confluence – theme presentation: Historically Tripura was a big empire in this region that, on the western side, spanned up to parts of West Bengal, many parts of present day North East and in the east, bordered the kingdom of Hawa in present day Myanmar. Thus we have gathered in the capital of a state that is part of the bridge between South Asia and South East Asia. Despite diversity there is a common strain that runs through this entire region. There are common geographies, common traditions, etc. In order to balance out between diversities and commonalities, we have chosen 3 underlying themes for this seminar:
  • Revisiting the geography, i.e. understanding where the North East region is in the context of South and South East Asia
  • Going back to the fundamentals, i.e. recognizing the relevance of Buddhist heritage
  • Seeking answers, i.e. looking for the way forward for answering the pressing questions of our times

The North East lies in the middle of a long series of river basins – Indus, the Gangetic plains, Brahmaputra, Mekong and Irrawady. They are all contiguous river basins with very little high mountains in between, and flanked by the mighty Himalayas on top. Thus South and South East Asia, despite political borders, is one contiguous land mass in the underbelly of the Himalayas. This has enabled the migration of peoples, thoughts, genes, plants connected by an interconnected system of rivers. India’s North Eastern region lies between two formations, namely South and South East Asia. This may not always have been understood because often the discourse about the North East is that it has seven separate states that were formed quite recently. Thus one of the themes is to highlight this region as a part of a bigger geography.

There are many Buddhist sites in the North East that need to be explored. We also need to celebrate the confluence of political will, economic might and knowledge based on the timeless values espoused by our masters and spiritual traditions. As we go forward in our common quest for peace and prosperity, we also need to seek answers to questions such as “what is our relationship to each other” and “what is our relationship to the environment”.

  1. KhySovanratana, Executive Member, Governing Council, IBC (Cambodia): Most people, especially those living in Cambodia, don’t even know that Buddhism exists in North East India. This conference will highlight the existence of Buddhist heritage and culture and re-emergence of Buddhism in this part of the region.
  2. Most Ven. Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, Member, Supreme Dhamma Council, IBC (India): Conferencessuch as this are wonderful because great speakers, scholars, thinkers and religious heads come together with their ideas, thoughts and vision regarding various issues in society. However, there is very little follow-up later.She expressed the hope that there will be some back-up to put some of the ideas that will be presented at this seminar into practice. People are needed to come together to seriously work for this specific region.
  3. Ananda Kumaraseri, Former Director General, ASEAN (Malaysia): As human beings, it is our responsibility to take care of our planet. Buddha’s teachings are relevant for human beings as they are different than others and have ability to think in a way and at a level that other sentient beings cannot. Education must incorporate the development of the mind. So instead of dwelling on the historical past, we should focus on some of the challenges and opportunities that we need to look at.
  4. AthuraliyeRathanaThero, Member of Parliament (Sri Lanka):Ven. AthuraliyeRathanaThero emphasized mainly on the need to act together in order to protect Mother Earth, specially focusing on climate change.He proposed to the Honourable Chief Minister Shri Manik Sarkar and the Government of Tripura to adopt renewable energy and sustainable development.
  5. Shri Ananda Prasad Pokharel, Honourable Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (Nepal): At the beginning of his address, the Honourable Minister conveyed the message of the Honourable Prime Minister of Nepal,ShriKhadga Prasad Sharma Oli who, on behalf of himself and the Government of Nepal, extended warm wishes for the best success of the seminar. Shri Pokharelemphasized the relevance of the teachings of Lord Buddha, and drew the attention of the audience to the connection between the Buddhist ideas and culture of Assam, the North-East part of India, and Nepal. He also spoke about the various Buddhist heritage sites in Nepal, and said that he had come to Agartala to express his solidarity for the success of this seminar, as well as to reaffirm thedevotion and dedication of the Government of Nepal to Buddha Dharma and to Buddhist culture. According to him this is a symbol of the good relationship between India and Nepal.
  6. Shri Manik Sarkar, Honourable Chief Minister of Tripura: The Chief Minister thanked the organizers for choosingAgartala as the venue for the international conference. Heemphasized on the need to implement Buddha’s teachings in order to face and fight against the challenges that the world is facing today. He further said that: “Religion is a way of life and it is personal, and should not be linked with the State and political parties.” He also stressed on the need to develop connectivity in the region through roads, air, water and telecom, and to promote education and culturalexchange. There is also a need to encourage and develop trade and commerce between North East India and the countries of South and South East Asia.
  7. Dr. Dhammapiya, Director, Dhammadipa Foundation, Tripura – vote of thanks: Ven. Dr. Dhammapiya delivered the vote of thanks. He thanked the Honourable Chief Minister for sparing his valuable time and all other outstation guests for coming to Agartala for the first seminar of such international importance in the city.
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