Seminar on "Relevance of Buddhism in Today's World" Held at Mukherji College, New Delhi, India
On February 20, 2007 scholars, writers, and students attended a two-day seminar to discuss the relevance of Buddhism in today's world at Shyamam Prasad Mukherji College (SPMC) in Punjabi Bagh, New Delhi. The event was hosted by the Buddhist Studies Centre at SPMC.
In his keynote address, the distinguished Buddhist scholar Dr. Lokesh Chandra stated, "Buddhism teaches us to appreciate life." He underscored the urgent need to study and imbibe spiritual values "in today's consumer-driven world where one witnesses the dwarfing of the human consciousness." While the world has largely focused on economic growth, he stressed that it is also essential to develop the spiritual self. During his lecture, Dr. Chandra displayed an image of China's Great Wall showing a Buddhist mantra written in Sanskrit, indicating that the soldiers at that time used Buddhism in their daily life. He also explained how karuna (compassion) that is accepting of another's point of view and pragya (wisdom) or awakened, vibrant intellect are both integral to strengthening one's spiritual self and ultimately to one's growth and happiness.
Speaking on "The Pragmatic Approach to Buddha's Teachings," Dr. Varsha Das, Director of the National Gandhi Museum, emphasized that each individual may embrace values and ethics but needs to begin putting them into action which, she said, is the process of "putting Buddhism into practice." As an example, Dr. Das explained that words can positively or negatively impact situations and even lives. In our daily interactions, how we address people and what words we choose determine whether we will be happy or miserable. She quoted Nichiren, who said, "Misfortune comes from one's mouth and ruins one, but fortune comes from one's heart and makes one worthy of respect." Dr. Das stated that Buddhism serves to answer the question, "What does it mean to be human?" and enables an individual to create positive value and manifest the highest ethics. To explain further, she introduced a quote from SGI President Daisaku Ikeda: "To be human is not merely to stand erect and manifest intelligence or knowledge. To be human in the full sense of the word is to lead a creative life."
Swami Gokulanandji from the Ram Krishna Mission, who delivered both opening and concluding remarks, said that from Buddhism one can learn the way out of misery--by giving up the ego and accepting that all human beings are interconnected and interdependent.
The exhibition "Building a Culture of Peace for the Children of the World," created by SGI and staffed by SPMC student volunteers, opened on the first day of the seminar. Over 600 college students and teachers viewed the exhibition. Salma, a first year student, was so inspired by one of the exhibit panels that quoted from the Old Testament, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," that she initiated a dialogue with a neighbor who had not been on speaking terms with her family for years. While guiding visitors through the exhibition, Bharathi, another first year student, said she herself learned how to become part of a community. "I now understand how we can work for peace for all people."
Established in 1969, SPMC is an all-female college mostly serving students who live in the west Delhi area and have limited access to higher education. In 2005, the school began a Buddhist Studies Centre with an aim of providing spiritual and value-creating education for its students. The college also offers courses on Gandhian studies and has a Nehru Studies Centre.
[Adapted from a report from Bharat Soka Gakkai, India]