World Buddhist Convention 2006
Nagpur (India), October 2006
Background: Buddhism completed its 2500 years in the 20th century, in 1956 to be precise. The same year there has been a unique historic revival of Buddhism in India by Dr.B.R.Ambedkar On this occasion, he converted half a million people to Buddhism on 14 October 1956 in Nagpur at Deekshabhoomi. That was by far the largest religious conversion. The conversions did not stop there. Since this historic event the conversion to Buddhism has seen growth abound. Initially the conversion movement was confined to Maharashtra. Today after 48 years, it has spread in India to almost all the states. The profile of the growth of Buddhism shows a phenomenal growth as can be seen from the Buddhist population according to the census of India.
In addition to the Buddhist population as reported in the census there is a huge population of SC/STs who practise Buddhism but do not report about their Buddhist status, neither in the census nor in any official records, primarily due to the fear of losing the reservation benefits in the central govt. jobs and in professional college admissions. This population could be classified as “Hidden Buddhist Population”. A great deal of propaganda is required to encourage practicing Buddhists to report themselves as Buddhists in the census. More so the hurdle of declaring dalits as Buddhists in the official records is already removed by the Govt. of India directive of 1990, which extends all the benefits of SC/ST reservation to the Buddhists in addition to Hindus and Sikhs.
Compatibility of Buddhism with the modern age
As is mentioned earlier, Buddhism today is 2548 years old. We can also see that the modern world has made rapid strides in the area of technology through scientific inventions, so much so that today’s world is known as “Scientific World”. Are the religious doctrines relevant in this scientific age? What about Buddhism, which is quite ancient comparatively? A cursory look at the tenets of Buddhism vis a vis today’s modern temperament would benefit one and all. Some of the essential features of Buddhism are, “knowledge” and “Cause and effect theory”. Gautama Buddha put lot of emphasis on knowledge, enquiry; so that he told his followers not to follow him blindly. Here is what he says in one of the sermons:
· Do not believe in what you have heard.
· Do not believe in doctrines because they have been handed down to you through generations
· Do not believe in anything because it is followed blindly by many.
· Do not believe because some old sage makes a statement.
· Do not believe in truths to which you have attached by habit.
· Do not believe in the authority of your teachers and elders.
· Have deliberations and analyse and when the results agree with reason and conduces to the good of one and all, accept it and live upto it.
As can be seen from above, Buddha’s approach was completely rationalistic. No other religious preacher/founder has ever given so much liberty to his/her followers. This makes Buddhism completely compatible with today’s scientific temperament. Here is what renowned scientist, Albert Einstein has to say about Buddhism:
If there is any religion that cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism. Albert Einstein
Buddhists, thus have a philosophy, a way of life, which is purely scientific and fit for usage in the scientific world. This is what Dr.Ambedkar has given us after a prolonged thinking.
In spite of such a scientific and rationalistic religion, the growth of Buddhism in India has not been so obvious. Its growth has not been so smooth. On the contrary, this great religion has suffered very badly at the hands of mythological, unscientific, superstitious faith in India in the past. This mysterious happening about Buddhism has to be studied in depth.
Current Issues/Concerns of the Buddhists
The legal status to the Buddhists as a separate religion in the constitution of India is one of the main issues of the Buddhists. This problem has been acting as a deterrent for the Buddhist movement to come up as a separate identity. As per article 25 of our constitution, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs are governed by the Hindu code. This must be changed. Buddhists must get a separate status under the constitution of India. Babasaheb Dr.Ambedkar, in order to spread Buddhism in India has envisaged a great deal of emphasis on creation of training facilities for Buddhist monks. Production of learned and dedicated monks is one of the basic needs of practice and spread of Buddhism.
Buddhist festivals or festivity for the Buddhists is another area of concern. Hindu festivals have considerable influence on the Buddhists. Babasaheb wanted gave 22 vows to the Buddhists during the conversion so that the influence of Hinduism is completely eliminated.
It has also been noticed that a general shyness is observed among the Buddhists especially among the elites. This observation needs to be analyzed and remedies identified.
In the last 48 years, there have not been enough efforts done to spread Buddhism among the different SC/ST/OBC communities. Very few communities among the Scheduled Castes have accepted Buddhism. Positive and specific efforts are required to spread Buddhism among the different communities as mentioned above.
In the history of 2500 years of Buddhism, various schools of thoughts have come up within the domain of Buddhism. The reasons for such a development could be many. Followers of different schools of Buddhist thought are now living in different countries. Coordination and communication among the various Buddhist schools need to be established.
Efforts are also required to standardize the Buddhist practices. At present different versions of Buddhists practices are being followed. There is a need of communication between Indian Ambedkarite Buddhists and the original Buddhists in India as well as abroad. The place of Buddha’s enlightenment, Buddha Gaya has been in occupation of the Hindus. The struggle to free this main Buddhist monastery is going on for more than a decade. The struggle has to be strengthened until this most important heritage of Buddhists is restored back to the Buddhists.
There are many such issues, which need to be brainstormed and an action could be prepared to address these burning issues of the Buddhists.
Ambedkarite Buddhists during the course of last 4 decades migrated to countries like U.K.U.S.A, Canada etc in a large number. These Buddhist NRIs established contact with their traditional counterparts in countries like Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka etc. Thus Buddhism revived by Dr.Ambedkar has acquired a global dimension. The issues relating to the Buddhist NRIs and also define/ensure the magnitude of their support to practice and spread Buddhism in India have to be discussed and solution found out. However the spread of Buddhism among the Indians is still too far away from the goals set by Dr.Ambedkar. He declared during the conversion ceremony on 14 October 1956 that efforts will be made towards a Buddhist India. The dream of Babasaheb has not been fulfilled. Action plan to achieve this goal must be drawn and action started thereafter.
A 2 day World Buddhist Convention is planned in Nagpur, India during October 2006 to review the Buddhist movement comprehensively. Feedback of the review will be collected from the followers, preachers, scholars, researchers of Buddhism. Based on the feedback, the future course of action can be planned. The detailed program along with program dates of the convention will be issued in due course.
Documentation: A souvenir will be brought out on the occasion of this historic convention. Resolutions will be read out and passed. The participants are requested to send their research papers on any of the subjects indicated in the attachment.
Participation : Delegates from all the countries of the world are hereby invited to attend this historic convention and share their experiences/views about the practice and propagation of the great religion given by the great master. Delegates from U.S.A, U.K, CANADA, JAPAN, GERMANY, THAILAND, MALAYSIA, SINGAPORE, AUSTRALIA etc. are expected to attend the convention
Arrangemets : Accomodation and meals will be provided to the delegates on both the two days.
Organisation : The convention will be organized by following committees:
· Advisory Committee
· International Organising Committee
· National Organising Committee
· Reception Committee
· Advertising and Media Committee
· Facilities Committee
The above committees will be set up shortly. Those who wish to volunteer for any of the above committees should notify.
For further details about the convention, please contact:
World Buddhist Convention 2006
262 Citadel Crest Green NW, Calgary AB, CANADA T3G 4W3
e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Ph. :403-615-4590 (cell), 403-289-8215 (home), 281-755-7247( C )
JAI BHIM! NAMO BUDDHAYA!!