– Sandhya Regmi
(Founder President, BH Foundation)
(Published in KTM Post June 9, 2016)
The 4th International Buddhist Conference concluded in Kathmandu on 20th May, 2016, followed by the 2560th Buddha Jayanti celebration in Lumbini, with the central theme: Lumbini as the birthplace of Buddha, the fountain of Buddhism and world peace.
Its participants included venerable monks and respectable nuns, professors, educationist, cultural experts & archaeological, artists, research scientists, dignitaries, Buddhist scholars, devotees, enthusiasts from over 32 countries, and the government-level delegations from 28 states.
Discovering the Epicenter of World Peace
The conference was special in many ways. Based on the archaeological evidences, and historical facts, and relying on the scientific principles, the event reaffirmed Lumbini as the birthplace of Buddha, and origin of Buddhism and the fountain of world peace.
Presenting his research paper “New Archaeological Discoveries in Nepal’s Natal Landscape of the Buddha”, Professor Robin Coningham of UK’s Durham University concluded—based on the historical facts and their calibration with other contemporary archaeological evidence—that Buddha was born in Lumbini. He revealed that in 1896 General Khadka Shamsher and Dr. Anton Fuhrer had uncovered in Rumindei in the Terai a stone pillar with an inscription carved in early Brahmi script that read: “Beloved of the Gods, King Piyadasi (Ashoka) when 20 years consecrated came to worship saying here the Buddha Sakyamuni was born.” Belonging to the corpus erected by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka across South Asia, the pillar’s inscription confirmed the site as Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha.
Another research paper on the birthplace confirmation was presented by Professor Anil Shakya – Bhikshu ‘Sungandha’ – of Thailand’s Mahamakut Buddhist University. In proving the case, he highlighted the fact that the inscription engraved on the Lumbini pillar in 5 lines consists of 93 Brahmi characters, which includes: ‘HidabhagavamjatetiLumminigame: Lumbini village where the Buddha was born.’
The participants converged on the point of oneness of Buddha and Buddhism, and considered Lumbini to be the epicenter of world peace.
Being a deep admirer of Buddha’s teachings & philosophies, and being an artist of Buddha portraits, I felt privileged to take part in the conference. Besides, this conference provided me an opportunity to display my creations of Buddha portraits on canvas in the grand conference hall of Soaltee Crown Plaza.
The conference concluded in Lumbini on 21st May with a 10-point Declaration, endorsing a plan to promote Lumbini as the centre of Buddhist faith.
Tasks Ahead :-
The greatest challenge ahead is the effective execution of the Lumbini Declaration. At its core lies the issue of how to achieve the timely implementation of Lumbini World Peace City Master Plan. While the funding sources and investment modalities are expected to play critical role in shaping the process, importance of the following matters should not be underestimated.
1) Conserving Lumbini’s Environment
First and foremost, Lumbini should be free from environmental hazards. The main threat comes from the proliferating carbon emitting factories—particularly, cement, brick and steel industries—in the periphery. The emissions are putting both the social and the natural environmental health under serious threat of degradation in general, and the temples, monasteries and the 20 century old Ashoka pillar, in particular.
A comprehensive air quality assessment conducted at the Lumbini World Heritage Site and its vicinity by the WHO in 2013 showed that the PM2.5 (fine particles) touch unhealthy level of 270 µg/m3 which is 11 times higher than the WHO permissible level. The noise pollution too exceeds the standard of 50 dB and 40 dB at day and night-time respectively. The solid waste is ever increasing in Lumbini. As an Environmental Engineer, I am convinced that these conditions pose serious health hazards especially the respiratory and heart diseases on human beings and threats to biodiversity, and the ancient monuments.
Immediate and stringent legal actions should be thus taken by government, concerned ministries and Lumbini Development Trust to exclude all carbon-emitting industries established within the Lumbini Protected Zone – which is the region covering a 15 km aerial distance from the Lumbini Project Area. Furthermore, less polluting technologies, such as solar PV and electric vehicles should be promoted in the heritage site.
2) Globalizing Buddhist Education System
Buddhism’s another unique attribute to the society is education. In fact, the heart of Buddhism is education, and Buddha is synonym to Teaching. The Lumbini declaration endorses to promote Lumbini as the centre for International Buddhist studies with Lumbini Buddhist University as an international centre for its excellence.
Lumbini should be developed as an academic hub, establishing institutions covering studies and researches on Buddhism. Besides, it should be made obligatory to include Buddha and His Teachings in the curriculum of the educational institutions throughout the world, starting from the primary level. This would help induce and enhance students’ high moral principles.
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 Teachings have their own philosophy of holistic education that help understand the whole process of life through the inner-intelligence. They are solutions to ever-increasing human sufferings. Buddhism shows a secular and universal path to mankind in the most scientific approach for establishment of sustainable peace, happiness and prosperity. Albert Einstein once said – “If there is any religion that could respond to the needs of modern science, it would be Buddhism.”
3) Promoting Buddhist Culture and Heritage
Buddha was arguably the first scientist in the world to give scientific vision to humanity. To sustain Buddha’s teachings we have to promote and protect the historical sites, and also preserve them for the future generation.
Nepal should promote more academic researches, archeological excavations, restoration and conservation works and scholarly engagement in Lumbini, Kapilvastu, Devdaha, Ramgram, Tilaurakot and all the Buddha-related religious historical places, and develop them as tourist destination.
Besides, co-operations and coordination throughout the world are needed to preserve and promote Buddhist temples, monasteries, pagodas, sculptures, libraries, museums and art galleries. Most importantly the state needs to have strong political commitment and allocate necessary funds for these purpose.
More interactions, communications and events organization in collaboration with the international communities are needed. This could include seeking UN’s endorsement for celebrating Buddha Jayanti day and organizing international Buddhist conference annually in Nepal, and developing Lumbini as the Mecca of Buddhist Pilgrimage.