“Monks and swamis are the best vehicles for social reform since a monk has no self interest,” said His Holiness Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Founder of the Art of Living at the inaugural session of the international conference on Vedanta and Buddhism at the Art of Living International Centre on Saturday morning. Gurudev further said that it was a wrong notion to think that monks and swamis should stay in isolation away from issues facing society. He reiterated his support to the Buddhist monks protesting against the military regime in Myanmar.
Seated in the elegant Vishalakshi Mantap meditation hall, over 700 delegates from Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan, Ladakh and from various parts of South India were engrossed with ideas put forth by the galaxy of leaders.
The opening session on Saturday saw an esteemed panel of speakers representing Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Among them were most revered Dhamma Master, Hsin Tao, Founder of the Museum of World Religions and President of the Global family of Love and Peace, His Holiness Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Hon B K Modi, President, Mahabodhi Society of India, Swami Agniveshji, President, World Council of Arya Samaj, Rev. Wathurawila Siri Sujatha Thero, Shri Naga Vihara Temple, Sri Lanka, Rajyogini Sudesh Didi, Director, European Centers, Brahma Kumaris, and Swami Swatantranandji, Rishikesh. The audience which comprised Ven. Lama Lobzang, President, Ashoka Mission and former member of National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, Government of India, Dr D.R. Mehta, Member, Governing Body, Maha Bodhi Society. Venerable D., Revatha Thero, Maha Bodhi Society, India and Dr. Mano Mettanando Laohavanich, Buddhist Master, advisor to the secretary general of Religions for Peace for the Buddhist affairs, Thailand also addressed the audience.
“Vedanta and Buddhism have the solution to combat the problems of depression, violence and conflict as they connect you with inner strength through meditation,” said Gurudev.
Organized by the Art of Living and the Maha Bodhi Society, the two- day-conference aims at building complementary roles for both traditions to resolve problems facing the world.
In his keynote address, the most revered Dhamma Master, Hsin Tao, Founder of the Museum of World Religions and President of the Global family of Love and Peace, conveyed his conviction in the power of inter-religious dialogue.
“We need to understand different faiths and deliberate on how we can work together,” he said.
Drawing parallels between the philosophies of the Buddha and Adi Shankaracharya, Dr. B. K. Modi, President, Maha Bodhi Society, India, declared that the country would progress only when it would adopt the two philosophies.
“A new vision and a new thinking is required along with great courage in order to move forward,” he insisted.
Swami Agnivesh, President, World Council of Arya Samaj, India, presented a 7- point-charter for world peace. He called for total nuclear disarmament, dialogue- oriented approach to resolving disputes, a war against poverty and inequality, non- violence, ban on intoxicants, a non-discriminating attitude and ban on racism and sexism.
While urging the audience to bring wisdom to the forefront of religious practices, Gurudev pointed out that there has never been a war between the six religions that have emerged from the Eastern part of the world.
“This is because we emphasize wisdom. Honoring wisdom which comes to us from time to time with different interpretations is a specialty of this part of the globe. The world needs to know how to celebrate differences.”
The conference opened with a grand procession with all the leaders from Vedanta and Buddhist traditions walking up to the venue accompanied by bugles, drums and flags. Rich Vedic and Buddhist chants created a serene atmosphere for the conference which saw a mixed audience comprising swamis along with Buddhist masters from India and abroad.
Another highlight of the conference was the unveiling of the statue of Lord Buddha at the lakeside amphitheatre of the Art of Living International Centre while a statue of the Adi Shankaracharya was unveiled at the Heritage School.The conference will continue on Sunday with deliberations on a scientific understanding of Vedanta and Buddhism and path to global peace. The sessions are open to all.