NEW DELHI — There has been much talk about the 21st century being the “Asian century,” but Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a symposium here Thursday that will happen only if people embrace the ideals espoused by Buddha.
Modi was speaking at “Samvad — Global Hindu Buddhist Initiative on Conflict Avoidance and Environment Consciousness.” Samvad is a Hindi word meaning “dialogue.” The three-day conference is being held by the Vivekananda International Foundation, a public policy think tank, in cooperation with the Tokyo Foundation and the International Buddhist Confederation. Attendees include former Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Minoru Kiuchi.
“I see Lord Buddha doing to our collective spiritual well-being what global trade did to our collective economic well-being and the digital internet did to our collective intellectual well-being,” Modi said. “I see Lord Buddha in the 21st century across national borders, across faith systems, across political ideologies, playing the role of a bridge to promote understanding to counsel patience and to enlighten us with tolerance and empathy.”
Modi said the teachings of Buddha fit the conference’s themes of avoiding conflict, environmental awareness and the concept of a free and frank dialogue.
The Indian leader also touched on the issue of climate change, calling it a pressing global challenge. Modi said addressing the problem requires collective human action and a comprehensive response.
On the subject of conflict avoidance, he expressed concern that “intolerant nonstate actors now control large territories where they are unleashing barbaric violence on innocent people.”
On promoting dialogue, Modi highlighted the need to move from an ideological approach to a philosophical one. “The essence of philosophy is that it is not a closed thought, while ideology is a closed one,” he said. “So philosophy not only allows dialogue but it is a perpetual search of truth through dialogue.”
Modi said it was his “firm belief that the solution to all problems lies in dialogue.”