Amid China row, global Buddhist scholars meet

November 27th, 2011 - 8:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Pratibha Patil New Delhi, Nov 27 (IANS) Amid Chinese objections, a four-day Global Buddhist Conference began here Sunday to mark the 2,600th year of Buddha’s enlightenment, with the Dalai Lama saying the meeting has given a “crucial opportunity for Buddhists” to interact with one another.

China had reportedly objected to the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama taking part and urged New Delhi to cancel the meet, attended by about 900 Buddhist scholars and others from 46 countries.

A televised address by the Dalai Lama, who made India his home in 1959 after fleeing his homeland, was made available at the conference in which he welcomed the need for such gatherings.

“The conference has provided a much needed and crucial opportunity for the Buddhists to meet,” he said. “We need to foster and encourage exchange of knowledge and experience.”

The Dalai Lama, who lives in Dharamsala, is expected to come to New Delhi Nov 30 for the valedictory address.

India’s refusal to axe the Buddhist meet has reportedly led to the postponement of boundary talks between special representatives of the two countries in New Delhi, coinciding with the Buddhist conference.

The organisers had invited President Pratibha Patil to inaugurate the conference and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as a guest of honour. But the two decided not to attend.

China has strong sensitivities about the Dalai Lama, whom it regards as a “separatist”.

A week ago, the president’s office called the organisers to tell them it may not be possible for Patil to attend the function, a well-placed source told IANS.

Instead, Sikkim Governor Balmiki Prasad Singh presided over the function and Karan Singh, a scholar and president of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), was the guest of honour.

A 40-strong contingent of Chinese Buddhist scholars was expected. But with Beijing’s objection, only eight have come, Ashok K. Wangdi, a member of the organising committee of the conference, told IANS.

“It’s unfortunate, this attempt to give a political colour to a religious function”,” said Tempa Tsering, Dalai Lama’s chief representative here.

Added Wangdi: “The overriding theme of the conference is to commemorate the 2,600th year of Buddha’s enlightenment. The conference aims at evolving a collective Buddhist response to pressing global challenges like climate change, violence and pressures of modern living.

“It is first and foremost a religious event. We are very upset by China’s attempt to politcise it,” he said.

Among the countries which have sent representatives to the conference are Taiwan, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Mongolia, Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar.

India, where the Buddha attained enlightenment, is home to nearly eight million Buddhists, according to the 2001 census report.

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