Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India – The spiritual leader of Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama described himself as a "son of India" and hailed the secularism prevailing in the country. "I am living in India for the past 58 years and hence, I am a 'son of India'. In the field of secularism there is no other country like India," the Nobel Peace Prize laureate said in his speech after inaugurating an international seminar on Buddhism in Bihar's Nalanda district, on Saturday, 2017.
“India is the only country where all the world’s major religious traditions live together. Now Indians need to be more active in promoting religious harmony, especially in those places where conflict is going on in the name of religion. The time has come to share your longstanding traditional values of religious harmony and secularism.
His Holiness observed that a special feature of Buddhism is that it takes a scientific approach. “No other religious tradition states so clearly that simple faith is not enough. The Buddha encouraged his followers to examine and investigate what they are told. This is why Einstein suggested that Buddhism can augment modern science," he said.
"Indeed, many scientists today are showing genuine interest in Buddhism in general, and particularly in what Madhyamaka philosophy and the Buddhist science of mind have to say. “Over the last 1000 years we Tibetans have kept the Nalanda tradition alive. Now the time has come for us to share this knowledge with our Buddhist brothers and sisters, with non-Buddhists and even those who have no particular religious faith. “
On Sunday morning His Holiness the Dalai Lama drove to the nearby Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, which was established as a university in 1951. He was welcomed by the Vice Chancellor, Shri M.L. Srivastava. Before addressing more than100 students and faculty in the University's conference hall, His Holiness planted a Bodhi Tree Sapling and unveiled a commemorative plaque on a new administrative building.
"When I was in Tibet my thoughts were narrow. But when I moved out of my homeland and came to India, I developed a broader thought about Tibet as well as about the entire world. The Nalanda school of thought was an important aspect of Buddhism. Whatever I am today is due to the Nalanda thoughts", he said. The spiritual leader of Tibet stressed that good education would help develop tolerance among mankind and inculcate the habit of forgiveness. "Today's system of education is making us a consumer. The traditional mode of education was good," His Holiness added at Rajgir that is known globally for the Nalanda University, a historic seat of learning. The new Nalanda University, which has come up near the historic site, is also drawing international attention.
His Holiness recalled visiting the University in 1956, when he was in India participating in the 2500th Buddha Jayanti Celebrations organized by the Mahabodhi Society of India. "Chinese Premier Chou En-Lai was supposed to visit Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, but for some reason he was not able to do so. I was asked to go in his stead. At that time I was a Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People Congress of the People's Republic of China. Today, I visit you as a refugee."
Stressing the importance of applying themselves in their studies, His Holiness advised the students: "Merely wearing the robes of a monk or nun is not sufficient. You must also study seriously. Today, Tibetan nuns, having spent 18 to 20 years in rigorous study, have achieved the highest degree of Geshe-ma. They have become equal in scholarship to their monk counterparts who are Geshes. On the one hand Buddhism focuses on our inner world through the practice of meditation, but we also make extensive use of logic and reasoning. As a result, Buddhists in India, and here at Nalanda in particular, were able to rise to challenges from non-Buddhist traditions, taking them as an opportunity to develop and deepen their understanding.
"You should deepen your knowledge through listening to your teachers and reading a broad range of books. It is by comparing one point of view with another that you come to understand the subject matter more extensively."
Before returning to Rajgir, His Holiness presented the University with a statue of Buddha Shakyamuni and a Tibetan Thangka (scroll painting) that he commissioned featuring the Buddha in the centre surrounded by 17 great masters of Nalanda.
Back in Rajgir, His Holiness participated in the morning session of the second day of the International Conference on The Relevance of Buddhism in the 21st Century. He and nine senior monks from Sri Lanka, Thailand and Malaysia, and one senior nun from Thailand, took turns addressing the audience.
"I have really enjoyed this meeting," His Holiness told the conference. "I'm especially pleased to see how many people have come from different Buddhist countries. It's not an easy journey, yet the fact that so many of you have come shows your concern for the Buddhadharma.
"In this 21st century we are facing many problems of our own making. Humanity as a whole has a responsibility to find solutions to, for example, the violence and killing that is going on in many places and the unnecessary starvation stalking parts of Africa. Similarly, we have to learn to do more to take care of our environment," he said.
He added: "If the Buddha were able to transfer us to another planet once this planet becomes uninhabitable we could relax. But that isn't possible. This planet is our only home, so we have to take care of it. As Buddhists I believe we also have a responsibility to promote religious harmony. We should create opportunities to meet more regularly to exchange ideas. We can learn from each other."
His Holiness pointed out that observance of the Vinaya or monastic disciple and teachings like the Four Noble Truths are fundamental to all Buddhist traditions. He suggested that some followers of the Pali tradition might also find it helpful to pay attention to Sutras from the Sanskrit tradition, such as the Heart Sutra.
In conclusion, His Holiness thanked the Government of India, and the Ministry of Culture in particular, for organizing this important conference. As the session came to an end he presented each of his fellow speakers with a statue of the Buddha and a white silk scarf.
Buddhist monks and scholars from various countries are participating in the seminar 'Buddhism in 21st Century' being held at International Convention Centre, about 100 km from the capital Patna.
After a quick lunch, His Holiness left for Gaya. From there he flew to Bhopal where he was received on arrival by the Honourable Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shri Chouhan Singh, who welcomed him on behalf of the people of the state.
On Monday morning, His Holiness visited Turnal to participate in the Narmada Sewa Yatra, an initiative of the Madhya Pradesh State Government dedicated to the saving of water and the conservation of the Narmada River. In the afternoon, the spiritual leader delivered a talk on the 'Art of Happiness' in the auditorium of the Vidhan Sabha---the State Assembly.