Buddhism advocates the purification of the mind but it is not spiritual extremism.

For the 22nd consecutive year, over tens of thousands of scheduled castes undertook to observe the five precepts at a Buddhist Conference held in Nanded Town in Maharashtra, India. The Conference was organized by "Akhila Bharatiya Bauddha Dharma Parshad" (A.B.B.D.P) and was held on January 10th and 11th of 2009. The opening ceremony held on January 10th, commenced with the hoisting of the Buddhist flag by Ven. Aturaliye Ratana Thero, who was the Chief Guest. Following, he addressed the gathering in an opening speech. Over 60 Indian monks also took part in the event.

By Ven. Athuraliye Rathana

(January 22, New Delhi, Sri Lanka Guardian) “It is not easy to see such large numbers of Buddhists congregated, even in my mother land in Sri Lanka. Dr. Ambedkkhar is undoubtedly a Bodhisatta, and a leader, having a vision for the future, and he exercised great skill and wisdom. He was born into the low caste, created by ancient Brahmins. Being a renowned scholar in law and politics, he renounced his life of luxury to work for the down trodden.

He believed that these low caste (scheduled class) people who suffered for millenniums, must find their freedom, and therefore worked relentlessly, under difficult situations to free them from the shachles of a tight caste system. Accomplished in every way, he was able to advise the Government of India to insert the Dharma Chakra of Emperor Asoka to the Indian National Flag, and also was able to design the emblem of the Asoka Lion, as the state emblem. He instituted legislature to safeguard the educational facilities of the children of the scheduled castes and made it possible for them to enter universities.

I visualize Dr. Ambedkkar as a Bodhisatta, aspiring for Buddhahood. The two main personalities of the Buddhist renaissance of the modern era who enter my mind are , Ambekkar of India and Anagarika Dharmapala of Sri Lanka.

Milinda College which he initiated has produced statesmen who can lead the nation. Today Engineers and Doctors have emerged in large numbers, for the benefit of India. He emphasized, education as a necessity for a person's growth in ethics and morals. There was another similar leader and I repeat and that was Anagarika Dharmapala of Sri Lanka, without whom Buddhism and Sinhala nation would have been wiped out.

Buddha Dharma points the way for the upliftment of the down trodden. By instilling loving kindness, and compassion (Metta,Karuna) in a person, his or her mental outlook can be changed from one of depression and despair to one of liberation and exultation. The theory of creation divided human beings. It drastically fell down with the advent of Buddhist doctrine. The Buddha instituted a society of righteous individuals, comprising of all castes and creeds. There were kings and princes, rich land owners highly educated Brahmins and slaves and outcasts in his disciple community.

Buddhism advocates the purification of the mind but it is not spiritual extremism. It is not a “lone battle.” The culmination of mental purification is the supreme bliss of Nibbana – a “blowing out” and extinguishing of craving, for selfhood, which yields to selfless sacrifice, to alleviate suffering of others. Such a person lives for the benefit of others.

It was the golden era of India when Buddhism reached the highest peak. It was not only for India, but for the whole of Asia. It was an intellectual renaissance of the entire human history. Buddhism spread through out the length and breadth of Asia without shedding a drop of blood. Sri Lanka became, famous around the world because it became the repository of Buddhism. The state and the masses truly observed the Buddhist principles, as a result they were able to overcome poverty. Our ancient history has a record of the tanks and irrigation systems, arts & crafts and industries, and an education system, that grew into prosperity during that era.

When India was at its peak level in Buddhist thinking, it was transmitted to other parts of Asia, giving leadership to the world. Even though reduced to archeological remains now Nalanda, Wikremasila, Thaksala speaks volumes to the ancient splendour. India gave wisdom to neighbouring Asian countries. Arts and literature, medical sciences and astrology brought culture and civilisation to its people. Can a Buddhist renaissance of the like come back? Can Buddhist India give leadership to the world again?

There are many things that India can do towards this cause.

It is certainly the dawn of the “Black Era” – the age of misfortune.
The world economy which centered around Europe and America is collapsing today. The life of the human race and natural resources are highly threatened. Global warming is an issue, all of which is the result of 4-5 centuries of “development” based on greed and acquisition. The world witnessed two world wars that covered the earth in blood and tears. Asia, Africa and South America were plundered mercilessly and dominated in the guise of development.

Melting of ice and the rising of the sea level will inundate many small islands. Floods and earthquakes are the order of the day. On the other hand bushfires and deserts are increasing in numbers.

The so called “development” based on greed and excessive utilisation of the natural resources of the world, cannot be stilled by one country. American environmental pollution is felt in Bengal, India, Sri Lanka. It is impossible to seek a solution from European or American cultural frameworks . Excessive consumption of meat, is a sacrilege of vegetation and animals. To build artificial towns that are only a travesty, is their motivation.

We cannot contribute to this kind of development plan any more. It is necessary to have a change of heart that recognises the value of human life, compassion, respect for the universal nature of co-existence. This is what should be the new thinking.” Instead of material gains which increases greed and desire for mere acquisition, we must look for a new dimension which gives tranquility and satisfaction to the mind. What the world needs today is the promotion of the quality of the human mind, in spirituality. Buddhism speaks about this development in unmistakable terms.

It is only the application of Buddhist principles that the future would be secure. The human mind can find peace and comfort only through Buddhist ethics. You in India are the generations that held the Indian culture and civilisation. It is your heritage, yet you suffered for thousands of years, and now the time is right to resurrect yourself and begin a new awakening. Based on Buddhism you will be able to bring back the glory that was once India.”

Ven Dr. Bhikkhuni Kusuma who was also a guest speaker at the conference, said that, women were victims of the social structure of ancient India. The Buddha’s first sermon speaks about two trends in society prevailing at that time. One was the extreme self mortification of Ascetics and the other was the extreme sensual indulgence of the lay society.

Women suffered terribly under those social conventions. The Ascetics hated women, because often the sight and sound of women could bring up their long suppressed carnal desires and they lost their Jhanic powers which they acquired with much time and effort. So the women were seen as the destroyers of spirituality. The lay society practised polygamy and the child brides, had no education. They fought each other for petty things. Being no match for the elderly husband educated in the vedas, the ignorant co-wives were treated as were sex symbols and pushed to the worst caste of Kshudras. It is to this society that the Buddha preached and soon the women raised themselves and became enlightened Arahants, equal in spiritual powers to the highest male monks. The monks and Nuns had similar status under the Buddhist dispensation. It was the Buddha who redeemed the women then and even now it is true. Theri Gatha gives ample evidence of the suffering of women and their liberation through the sublime Buddhist doctrine. Sri Lanka is the only country that received the Nuns order from India through Arahant Sanghamitta, daughter of Emperor Asoka. The Bhikkhuni Order flourished in Sri Lanka for ten centuries and disappeared.

With great effort and circumspection the Bhikkhuni order was revived in Sri Lanka, twelve years ago. I had the good fortune to become the 1st Bhikkhuni after a lapse of 1000 years. We must work hard to achieve our goal inspite of all obstacles. It is important to be educated in the Dhamma and also Pali Language and English Language. The world needs Dhamma teachers, as never before. I hope the Akhila Bharatiya Bauddha Parshadaya will have educational facilities for women and Nuns.

Ven. Dhamma Sevaka Thero who spoke next is the President of the Nyanalankara Sikshana Organisation. He showed how the Eightfold Path can be made use of for daily living.

Ven. Upagupta of Maharashtra and Ven. Guneratana of Maharashtra also spoke.
The greatest event of the conference is the unanimous acceptance of the proposal to condemn terrorism in Sri Lanka and in the SAARC regions.

Another event that made history at the conference is the establishment of the Indo – Sri Lanka friendship association. Ven. Aturaliye Rathana Thero was elected President of the association and the Secretary was Ven. Upagupta of Maharashtra. An executive committee of 31members representing the various provinces was also established.
- Sri Lanka Guardian

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