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Sunday, 19 May 2013

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A peace message from India

The message comes last preceded by many other “items” relevant in this Thrice Blessed Vesak period. First a bouquet to the Bak Maha issue of Buddhist Times run by a female. Underscoring some very apt news items for the season, its lead story is on the cancellation of Pali as a subject from the Indian Administrative Services. The editor writes ”The presence of Pali as a subject at this examination was a major attraction that attracted young Indians to study Pali and Buddhism“. No doubt it contributed to arrest the decline of interest in Buddhism in India.

While pleading the Government to intervene in this matter, the newspaper carries a personal plea by Prof. Siddartha Singh of Pali and Buddhist University of Baranas Hindu University to save Pali. In another note by the same professor, informs that most Indian scholars are unaware that Pali is a classical language of India. He quotes a 2006 press release that lays down the criteria for a classical language of India (given here briefly).

* Of high antiquity --covering a period of 1500—2000 years
* considered a valuable heritage by generations of speakers
* boasting an original literary tradition

Buddha's teachings

The professor goes on that Pali language and literature fulfil the above criteria. Pali, the language used to encapsulate Buddha’s teachings as contained in the Tripitaka is a treasure trove of Buddhist knowledge and has become an important carrier of Buddhist propagation throughout the world. By this measure the Indian government is denying its own heritage”.

The editor herself, however, states “India has not done much to promote Buddhism although two founding fathers of modern India, Nehru was sympathetic to Buddhism and Ambedkar, the author of the Indian constitution converted to Buddhism.“

Needless to state that the attitudes at the top are mirrored in the average Indian society today. I experienced an incident in New Delhi, years ago when I inquired from my hosting women, two university lecturers, Hindu by faith, whether there were no “visible signs of Buddhism“ in India’s capital.

They said that they were only aware of a place called Buddha Guha at the eastern end of the city, close to a bend in the river Yamuna. And I was given the directions to which was added the information that a sort of monastery or higher learning place for young Bhikkhus too exists there.

Curious, I travelled there by Tuk Tuk to be confronted by a hillock on which reigned a massive Bo tree. My legs being in perfect condition then, I climbed the steps but was soon nearly pushed down by a stream of young saffron-robed monks coming down in all haste. They had files and all other writing paraphanelia with them. I envisaged them contemplatively going through the Buddhist texts at a place down below.

English class

I cannot remember the exact details now but finally I learnt from a source, probably the elderly sage up there that they were all rushing to attend an English class being conducted by a British or American Institute. That is all very well. But this was bad news for me.

“These young Bhikkhus, they are now not all interested in Buddha’s teachings. Nirvana they laugh at the very term. All they are interested in, is in learning English and ending up in America not in Nirvana.” That is on far as a stray example is concerned.

It is almost superfluous to state that the great religion of Buddhism has got swamped by Hinduism in the sub-continent and now is further swamped by modern currents.

Did the IAS (Indian Administrative Services) too begin to feel this pulse and come to the above decision of scrapping Pali, the vehicle language of Buddhism?

Trying to reach superlatives in positive and healthy avenues, is okay. Even there questions raise their heads.

For example, today Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka have begun to vie with each other, as to putting up the tallest Buddha statue or the largest meditation Hall. Recently travelling to Kandy along the Kaduwela road a board just hit me in the eye. ”The largest Bhavana Centre in Sri Lanka” it read and that in the middle of a hustle bustle town with men and women jostling frantically in the urban neighbourhood. Things seem to be getting prettily pickled.

We, the small fry that read these papers, only hope the news item is false. Or that the project would be vehemently opposed. The Government may oppose it, since it is headed by a major Buddhist fraternity .

I remember joining a foreign group who was visiting Colombo. Like me searching for Buddha Guha in New Delhi, a Buddhist foreigner in the group, a Thai. wished to see a Buddhist temple in Colombo and was taken to one. It just dazzled in beauty on scintillating waters against not only the natural nocturnal beauty of the capital but against the artificial make up of “Colombo by night” delivered by neon lights. But the visitor, a professor too, after getting into the vehicle raised a laugh, by stating that all what he saw there was “Tourist Buddhism“.

And now this supplement gives news of a Mega project about to be executed in Nepal, Prince Siddhartha's birth place. It is being championed by a Chinese group.

The title in itself is no compliment to us Buddhists as it pronounces Nepal to be the Mecca of every Buddhist! How would the Muslims feel if Mecca is described as the Lumbini of every Buddhist? The reaction would be simply disastrous. But the writer, Rana Maria Sala too could be a non-Buddhist.

Here she goes on:

“Now a new urgency is gripping the fate of Lumbini backed by a Chinese group but fiercely opposed by the local Buddhists and anti-Maoists”. A fantastic dream at the other end which another writer describes as a gold mine for Nepal. It is a Buddhaland replete with a vertical theme Park. However, many in Nepal are skeptical of the plan for they are fearful of commercialising Lumbini, just now a placid quiet place where one can marvel at the wonder of it all.

A Prince of peace born in these envoirons who years later preached a message of Peace and Metta and compassion that can salve many of today’s woes. He himself solved the Rohini river water issue between two parties, relatives of his but now poised to win a bloody war about to begin. On the island sited between two branches of the river.

“This hatred, has gone on to sermonise, would grow and grow and end up in nothing than eating up you both, kinsmen and born and bred on same soil, cease this hatred even now.”

How much does it fit our situation now embroiling the whole world! I have forgotten the Buddhist Times but that is for a good cause.

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