India, China organise conference on Buddhism

by K J M Varma, PTI, June 18, 2011

Beijing, China -- India and China today sought to rediscover their centuries-old close cultural and religious ties by jointly organising a conference on the impact of Buddhism in Asian countries.

Inaugurating the conference, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said, "Buddhism defines Asia as a unique space.

Over its long history, it has been the most inclusive, most tolerant and most accommodative way of life when it comes to fostering diversity, solidarity and oneness across Asia".

"This is implicit in the forms of Buddhist architecture. Tales of deliverance by the Buddha have been replicated in arts and sculptures across Asia," he said.

The two day Conference titled ''Buddhism: Mapping Asia''s History and Culture'' was being attended by scholars from India, China, Japan, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.

Recounting Bihar''s contribution to the religion, Kumar said that it could be called the cradle of Buddhism.

"The term ''Bihar'' itself derives from the Sanskrit word ''Vihara'', which has relations with Buddhist viharas," he said.

About the revival of the famous fourth century Nalanda University, specialising in Buddhist studies, he said it represented the best of the tradition of academic activities.

"Scholars from Nalanda University, such as Bodhidharma took Buddhism to other parts of the world including China, Korea and Japan. Chinese pilgrim, Xuanzang has left detailed accounts of Nalanda," he said.

He said his government was fully committed to the establishment of the Nalanda International University.

"Government of India is making budgetary provisions for the university. Though the university is being established in Bihar, it will have an international status," he said adding that the Nalanda mentor group includes scholars from Singapore, China and Japan.

Many countries including China have shown interest in financing the construction of the university. China has announced a contribution of USD one million for the project.

"Maintaining this university would be a source of great pride and prestige for us," he said.

In his address, Yogeswar Verma, Deputy Director General of Indian Council of Cultural Relations, which sponsored the conference, said, "Buddhism defines Asia and when we talk about Asia, India and China are the two most ancient living civilisations with rich cultural heritage, where Buddhism brought many nations and civilisations together."
"In this context, it is indeed important to delve into and rethink together the thoughts and concepts of this age old philosophy," he said.

India and China simultaneously held a Yoga summit at the Chinese city of Guangzhou. Over a 1000 Yoga enthusiast attended the training sessions being conducted by yoga guru B K S Iyangar.