February 17, 2004
I am extremely happy, honoured and consider myself fortunate to be here today in the midst of representatives who have gathered from a number different Buddhist countries.
It is over 2500 years since the Mahaparinirvana of the Buddha. I consider it most fortunate that we, the same followers of the Buddha, are gathered here together. I remember the Buddha and pay homage to Him.
We are now in the 21st century. If we look back to the 20th century we could consider it to be one of the most important centuries in the history of mankind. In the 20th century we experimented and engaged in the development of various fields of human activities such as economy, politics, and science. As a result of these experiences we realized in the same century the importance of freedom, which so intrinsic to human beings, and the importance of individual dynamism and private ownership of businesses to improve the economy. In the same century people developed the new recognition about the importance of halting or lessening the tremendous destructive power of weapons that have been achieved through science. Because of these many experiences and difficulties of the 20th century we human beings have become matured in a way and have been able to utilize our intelligence and abilities to full extent. We are therefore able to see clearly that there has been a positive development in human approach and thinking when we compare the latter part of the last century to the earlier part. This is a source of hope.
In the beginning of the last century we had the misconception and wrong belief that only through science and technology, through physical satisfaction, through material progress alone that human happiness can be achieved. Much human energy and effort was put into material development. During the latter part of the century we realized that physical facilities or material progress alone was not sufficient. We came to recognize that the mental approach and change in the attitude was important in achieving human happiness and overcoming some of our suffering. At the same there was a recognition about the importance of non-violence, peace and the protection of the environment. This changed recognition or awareness came about as a result of our many experiences of the past century. Now at this time, the beginning of the 21st century, when we are able to see clearly the importance of changing our mental approach, developing internally, and developing the concepts of non-violence, peace and abolition of war from within, it is highly relevant for every religious tradition to promote the concepts of compassion, tolerance, contentment, and self-discipline. And therefore the different religious traditions play an important role in this modern time. It therefore obviously becomes extremely important to have good understanding and harmony among the different religious traditions of the world and put in a common effort to contribute for the benefit of humanity.
I believe that particularly in the case of the Buddha Dharma, which has been in existence for over 2500 years and which shares with the other religious traditions teachings such as compassion, kindness, and tolerance, and self-discipline has a special role to play in this modern time. This is so because unlike the other religious traditions, Buddhism propounds the unique concept of inter-dependence, which is close to modern science.
Amongst the Buddhists, generally speaking, there is the Pali tradition and the Sanskrit tradition. In the latter tradition, which flourished in the great and famous ancient university of Nalanda, the subjects of philosophy and logic were highly developed by the Buddhist scholars of the time. Therefore the Sanskrit Buddhist tradition becomes extremely important. In the recent past there has been a lack of contact and interaction amongst the Buddhists ourselves. In the future we need to exchange knowledge and experiences amongst the different Buddhist traditions themselves and improve communication amongst our ourselves. Our Indian Buddhists must take special interest and responsibility in the Sanskrit tradition of Buddhism which is mainly in existence in India.
Seizing this opportunity of our gathering I would like to express my hope that in the future we will be able to have more and better communication amongst ourselves and that from the Buddhists, irrespective of what tradition we belong to, that we will be able to contribute more effectively for human happiness and mental peace in the world.