Revisiting Timeless Teachings Through 2560th Buddha Jayanti
The 2560th Buddha Jayanti (anniversary) remained very colourful this year (2016/2073) as hundreds of monks, nuns and scholars representing Australia, Europe, America, East and South Asia arrived Nepal to celebrate the occasion in Kathmandu and Lumbini from May 19-21. This gala event, organised by the Ministry of Culture and Civil Aviation of the Government of Nepal, gave the impression of a festival of a special kind. For two days (May 19-20), Hotel Soaltee, as the venue of the 2560th Buddha Jayanti, remained the attraction of many believers from home and abroad while celebrating the international conference on the main theme of Lumbini Nepal: the birthplace of Lord Buddha and the Fountain of Buddhism and world peace.
This slogan was first adopted in 1998 at Lumbini while convening the World Buddhist Summit. This time around, the phrase ‘Fountain of Buddhism’ has been added, which was not there in the 1998 Summit. In any case, judging from different perspectives, the 2560th Buddha Jayanti has added a new chapter in the history of Buddhism and Lumbini. It was clear that the government was successful in bringing hundreds of foreign delegates to Nepal and hosting such a mega event for the sake of the Buddha, Lumbini and the Buddha’s timeless teachings. The Lumbini Bouddha University (LBU) played an effective co-host, facilitating the paper presentation part of the programme.
The inauguration programme was addressed by Prime Minister Oli. The presence of senior-most Bhikku Aswaghosa, Prof. Yuko Wakahara and other dignitaries was highly appreciated by the audience and believers outside the venue. The prime minister’s inaugural speech was informative and highly encouraging as he outlined the significance of the Buddha and his teachings in today’s troubled world.
The audience gave strong applause to Ven. Rahul Bodhi Mahathera, a representative from India, when he emphatically said that the Buddha was born in Nepal. It looked like his audience in the hall and millions outside wanted to hear it from some authority of his status at a time when different claims are often read and heard. Although India as a government didn’t participate in the conference, Mahathera’s words were significant to assert the historic truth.
Ven. Shyalpo Tenzin Rimpoche, chairman of Dharmodaya Sabha with his dharma institutions running in several countries - Nepal, India, Singapore and the USA - encouraged the government and people of Nepal by reminding them that Nepal is the home of Buddhism. He asserted that at a time when the world is troubled with many conflict spots here and there, Lumbini offered a space to nourish peace, harmony and prosperity.
One star attraction was Ani Chholing, the singer-nun, who presented several notes, including her trademark Fulko Aankhama... That gave bread to the audience packed in a ‘house-full’ hall. Out in the open, several glimpses were presented to welcome the delegates from more than 25 nations and scores of national and international organisations. In the evening, chosen Nepali artists presented a colourful variety of cultural programmes amidst applause and appreciation from the equally colourful audience.
Speaking as the chief representative from the Chinese Buddhist Association, Ven Yin Chung focused on the main teachings of the Buddha - compassion and knowledge or wisdom. He emphasised on the need to make these noble teachings as part of the Nepali culture.
The main highlight of the conference was the presentation of papers, and there were more than two dozens for the first day and a few on the second day to conclude the Kathmandu programme before heading to Lumbini for the final session and Buddha Jayanti celebrations. Prof Naresh Man Bajracharya, the vice chancellor of Lumbini Bouddha University commenced the programme with speakers from Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and UK, among others.
Main speakers for the day were Ven. Shyalpo Tenzin Rimpoche, Prof Singh from Delhi University, Prof Robin Cunningham from Durham University, Prof and Rector Fra Anil Shakya (Bhikkhu Sugandha) from Bovor Nives Monastery, Bangkok, Thailand. All of them highlighted on the need to make Buddhism the world religion to counter violence, ignorance and disputes of all kinds and establish peace.
Prof. Robin Cunningham threw light on the latest findings from Tilaurakot, ancient Kapilvastu, the Shakya capital, where the Buddha had spent 29 years of his life as a crown prince and successor to the throne of king Suddhona. Cunningham said Tilaurakot provided enough artefacts and other proofs to establish it as an urban settlement against the Piprahawa monastic complex unearthed on the other side of the border and claimed as ‘Kapilvastu’.
Nepal’s image enhanced
Finally, on the final day of Buddha Jayanti, an international conference was held at Lumbini, where President Bidhya Bhandari and many high profile personalities graced the ceremony. A declaration was also adopted focusing on the need to internalise the Buddha’s teachings and make Lumbini a real foundation of faith and peace for all mankind. By organising this event, Nepal improved its image in the world arena considerably. Lumbini also attracted the attention of the world community in order to complete the Kenzo Tange Master Plan that has suffered slow pace due to a host of reasons for the last three decades.