Nirvana is unique and exclusive to Buddhism

The Telegraph of Nepal, May 25, 2008

Kathmandu, Nepal -- The Sri Lankan Embassy in Nepal in close cooperation with the Nepal-Sri Lanka Cultural, Social and Economic Forum May 25, 08, organized a highly academic program in Kathmandu on the topic “Pluralism in the Buddha’s Teachings: From Exclusive Nibanna to inclusive Vimutti”.

Professor G.A. Somaratne, Professor in Pali and Buddhist Studies at the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, was specially flown in Kathmandu as the special guest to talk on the said topic.

Professor Somratne obtained his doctoral degree from North Western University, Evanston, Illinois, USA under the guidance of Professor George D. Bond.

His doctoral research thesis was “Freedom of Mind: A study of Buddhist Concept of Vimutti in the Pali Nikayas”.

Welcoming the academic gathering, the Sri Lankan Ambassador to the Nepali Court, H.E. Sumith Nakandala said that in the entire South Asian region, including Nepal as well, an intense debate was currently on as regards the exploration of the inner meaning of what the words like Pluralism and Inclusiveness denoted?

“Roots of pluralism and inclusiveness were not at all a new phenomenon for our region”, Ambassador Nakandala stated.

He said that “South Asia has been one of the bed-rocks for the existence of pluralism and the need thus today is to rediscover it in its all shades”.

He further said that, “The Embassy of Sri Lanka in Kathmandu has embarked on a unique experience of looking at inventing alternative avenues to rediscover the common heritage of pluralism in South Asia”.

According to Ambassador Nakandala, “the central underpinning of the teachings of the Gautama Buddha revolved around pluralism”.

Talking on the salient features of the talk program, Ambassador Sumith said that the idea was to ignite the brains of the South Asian intellectuals and then lead them all to the journey of truth.

The key note Speaker, Professor Somratne-the gifted Sri Lankan intellectual- during the course of his speech on the topic said that “South Asia is still one of the best examples of pluralism and democracy in practice and that varying cultural, religious, social, economic and political communities in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka have co-existed interdependently since ancient times”.

“In Nepal, the land of Buddha by birth, Hinduism, Buddhism and various forms of folk religions co-exist in peace and harmony”, Prof. Somratne said.

According to the eminent Sri Lanka scholar, Buddha in the sixth century B.C itself had theorized and applied pluralism in his dispensation.

In an oblique manner the Sri Lankan intellectual indicated that both the concept and the practice of pluralism were in vogue in South Asia centuries ago. In saying so he implied that the West began to practice pluralism pretty later that South Asia.

Talking on the state of the attainment of Nibbana (Nirvana), Professor Somratne says, “the state of Nibbana is unique and exclusive to Buddhism and that Nibbana is the total destruction of lust, hatred and delusion”.

“It is the total freedom of mind from defilements, impurities, views, ideas, conceits, concepts, attachments, likings, and beliefs”, the Sri Lankan scholar continued.

With its attainment, goes on Prof. Somratne, one does not engage in such comparisons as “I am better, I am equal, and I am worse”.

“There is no fire like lust, no monster like anger, no net like ignorance and no stream like craving”, Professor continues defining Nibbana.

The degree of pluralism and democracy, as Buddhism envisages- adds the Professor-depends entirely on to the extent we humans think, speak and act to reduce our greed, hatred and delusion.

“Pluralism could genuinely either by those who practice generosity, compassion, and wisdom or by those who have destroyed greed, hatred and delusion from their person and mind as well”, Professor Somratne continued.

Making his concluding remarks, Prof Somratne quotes Emperor Ashoka who says, among others, “One should not only honor one’s own religion and condemn the religion of others, but one should honor others’ religion for this or that reason and that in so doing, one helps own religion to grow and renders service to the religions of others too”.
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