– Sandhya Regmi
(Founder President, BH Foundation)
(Published in TRN Friday Supplement on December 12, 2014)
In the sacred birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama—after the long-lost Lumbini got inscribed on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage in 1997—a series of international events have been taking place over the past one-and-half decade. The first international Buddhist conference entitled “Lumbini in the New Millenium” was organized by the government of Nepal in 2001. Then the World Buddhist Summit was organized in 2004, by the government and Lumbini Development Trust under the theme of “Lumbini: a Symbol of Unity in Diversity – the Fountain of World Peace. The third International Buddhist Conference on Promotion, Protection & Preservation of Buddhist Culture & Heritage in the historical garden of Lumbini was organized in November 2014 jointly by the Sitagu International Buddhist Academy of Myanmar and the Teravada Buddhist Academy ‘Vishwa Shanti Vihar’ of Lumbini Buddhist University of Nepal.With its universal appeal and timeless value no other venue may stand for such events compared to the sacred garden of Lumbini. It is the heart not only of all the Buddhists but also of every peace lover across the world. And such events enhance the image of the sacred garden and the glorious heritage of Nepal, the fountain of peace—the glory of mankind and the world’s top class pilgrimage site.
The author had had the privilege to join the 2014-conference. Venerable monks and respectable nuns from over 32 countries across the world were the lime lights of the event. Besides, its participants included professors, educationist, cultural experts, UNESCO-affiliated archaeologists, UNEP-affiliated climate experts, research scientists, dignitaries, officials of governmental and international non-governmental organization, educational institutions, Buddhist scholars, Buddhist organizations and communities. The occasion, among others, provided a golden opportunity for many enthusiastic participants like me to listen to and interact with the educational, intellectual and spiritual Gurus. The event ran through a series of intellectual sessions on Buddhist Heritage, Buddhist Culture, Buddhist Educational System, and environmental conservation & sustainable development of Lumbini.
For me—as an enthusiast in Buddhism, and an admirer of Buddha’s teachings & philosophies—the 3-day conference offered a rare opportunity to enrich myself with Buddhist Education, Buddhist Culture and Self-Enlightenment. It blessed me with the insight into the teachings and philosophies of Buddha. I felt as if I were living in the monasteries for ages. Neither I am an expert on Buddhism, nor I was clad in the maroon gown, nor was chanting the religious hymns, nor had been living in detachment and isolation from the society. Yet, with Buddhism in my heart and the Buddha in me, the occasion provided a moment to experience the Self–Enlightenment leading me to a meaningful life of wisdom, peace and harmony. I felt extremely spiritual.
Despite born in a Hindu family, I have very high regard for Buddha and Buddhism. In fact, I view Buddhism as the highest pedestal of all religions and philosophies in the world. Buddha always humbled himself even after his ‘Enlightenment’, and conveyed his disciples and followers that he was no God, no Teacher, no Preacher, and asked them never to worship him as the Almighty, rather follow the path of ‘Dharma’ and ‘Shangha’. I hold this philosophy to the utmost.
I concur with the view that Siddhartha Gautama the Buddha is not only the light of Asia but the light of the world. By following his steps, we can lighten the world that is overwhelmed with the darkness: the darkness of sorrow, misery, ignorance and impurity. My love, passion, respect, and dedication to Buddha and Buddhism have inspired me to actively participate in conferences like these in future and to spread Buddha’s message of oneness in peace, harmony, and happiness across the whole world.
Buddhism does not rely on the concept of Heaven (Swarga) and Hell (Narak), or Man and God. Everyone is equal. This sharply contrasts with the other religions that believe in a Creator the Almighty Lord positioned and crowned high in Heaven and all the human beings down below on Earth creating a ‘Laxman Rekha’—an unbreakable concrete barrier between Man and God. In Buddhism, all ordinary men and women born, and grown up as a human being can in their course of life attain Enlightenment and become a Buddha themselves. Attaining Buddhahood is to become the Awakened One to the noble truth.
Buddhism’s another unique attribute to the society is the education. In fact, the heart of Buddhism is education, and Buddha is synonym to Teaching. Buddhist teachings go beyond formal educations in universities and institutions—where one earns degrees merely for bread-and-butter and for comfortable and luxurious physical life. In contrast, the Teaching has its own philosophy of holistic education that helps understand the whole process of life through the inner-intelligence. It focuses on eliminating the darkness within oneself.
The teachings of Buddha bonds one’s morality and conduct with meditation, and wisdom. It is directed towards developing in us the seed of spiritual nobility and fostering true humanity into life. The teachings include the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eight Fold Paths, which are the greatest way in transforming an ordinary human being into an enlightened person. This ultimately helps the society, and the whole world to live in peace, harmony and happiness.
In our age, the necessity for Buddha‘s teachings has only grown up. Today’s overly materialistic world has only pushed the world towards darkness in life. A large section of our society has gone void of moral principles. Human sufferings including stress, depression, suicide and other extremities are only growing. A day does not unfold without tragic incidents of women abuse, child abuse, human trafficking, drug addiction, and murder. Terrorism is growing in all forms and manifestations.
Promotion of the truth helps establish peace in the world. The teachings can play instrumental role in awakening us and in developing in each of us self-awareness, wisdom, and compassion to our fellow being. S by adopting Buddhist teachings in our daily life, most of those problems can be solved.
The supreme heritage we inherited from Buddha is Dhamma. Unlike any other religion, the teaching of Buddha, focuses on the substance and procedure to discover the truth and peace in this materialistic world.
Introduction of Buddha’s teachings in our education system can induce and enhance high moral principles. If we incorporate the Buddhism studies and culture in curriculum of our schools from the very primary level, our children could benefit. And we need to put in place a system where one could put into practice Buddha’s Teachings.
Besides, we all should strive to preserve the heritage of mankind. This too can be achieved through Dhamma. By preserving and promoting Buddha’s teachings, protection and promotion of Buddhist culture and heritage is possible. Additionally, Nepal can and should be projected as a Sacred Pilgrimage for Peace, Harmony & Happiness across the whole world.
Realization eventually dawns in each and everyone’s life that we ourselves can become Buddha, Dhamma and Shangha. It is called the grand awakening. Let us all strive to protect, preserve and promote Buddhist Cultural Heritage and to unitedly work together to contribute to make the world a peaceful and prosperous place to live by spreading Buddha’s message of love, kindness, compassion, forgiveness and equanimity.