Welcome Back, Sakyamuni

by SONAL SRIVASTAVA, Times of India, Dec 5, 2011

New Delhi, India -- The first-ever Buddhist Festival Of Performing Arts concluded in New Delhi recently. Director General ICCR, Suresh K Goel speaks to Sonal Srivastava on Buddhism in South Asia.

Why did the Indian Council For Cultural Relations (ICCR) hold the First Buddhist Festival of Performing Arts recently?
Buddhism travelled from India to South East Asian countries through different routes. A lot of trade took place through the Silk Route; part of the silk route was also used by the Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Hiuen-Tsang. Interestingly, there are a lot of cultural similarities in the countries where Buddhism is a prominent religion. For instance, in Singapore and China, there are very colourful lion and dragon dances. In India also, there are similar dances in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh. The hand gestures in these dances are similar.

I realised that Buddhism, wherever it travelled from India, also carried cultural influences with it. Music and dance are inspired by spiritual and cultural beliefs, and if there is a common belief in Buddhism, there will be similarities. Gradually, Buddhism evolved from being a philosophy and became a cultural phenomenon as well. So, what better way than to explore this idea through a festival of performing arts, and that too, in the country where Buddhism was born?

What are the factors driving Buddhist revival? Celebrity interest?

Celebrities make for an interesting headline, nothing more. The countries in which there is an upsurge of interest in Buddhism, are actually places where it has always been present.
Buddhism talks about tolerance, peace and mutual understanding; it is against conflict. In the sixth century, it rebelled against prevalent hard-line ritualism. It had a soft structure that helped accommodate people from different cultural backgrounds into its fold. Today, people are looking for peaceful existence within society. Buddhism has always been a strong force. In some countries, Buddhism has become a part of the social structure, so any threat to Buddhism really meant threat to society.

Why did the Chinese reportedly object to the Buddhist meet?
Chinese objections were because of the presence of the Dalai Lama. I don't think that culture can create any kind of friction - on the contrary, it can only strengthen relationship between two people. We were not dealing with the Buddhist congregation, so we didn't face any difficulties.

The Chinese are investing in the Nalanda project. Do you think it's their attempt to impact spirituality in the region?
The Nalanda Project is a multilateral one in which ASEAN countries have a stake. India is piloting the project. Buddhism has a shared history and culture, especially among countries where it is still prominent. Most Buddhist pilgrimage sites are in India. We should recognise the importance of Buddhism as a link between India and South East Asian and East Asian countries, and work on promoting the knowledge which Buddhism offers, without getting into a trap of trying to influence each other. Buddhism has a very special place in India because it was born here. It's like a building block of relationships at an international level.

How did Buddhism influence Indian and Chinese societies?
In the beginning, Buddhism remained centred in India; slowly, a lot of Hindu influence began to creep into Buddhism. Buddhism came about as a rebellion to the brahminical cult, but there was a slow absorption of Hinduism in Buddhism. There is an 'Indianness' to all religions that thrive in the country and it pervades all religions, no matter where they come from. Even Christianity in India is different from Christianity in other countries.

Buddhism is a strong phenomenon in Chinese society. There was a period when Buddhist monasteries were attacked, but later there was a resurgence. Today, a lot of original source material on Buddhism is available in China.

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv. Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/norbuchatbot. Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv