By Dr. Sudhanshu Tripathi*
Adding a fresh chapter in the traditionally rich cultural heritage ever-evolving as mutual friendship between India and Sri Lanka even prior to independence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 12 May warned the international community against the growing “arc of violence”, that has emerged in the South Asian region.
He further said that the biggest challenge to sustainable world peace is rooted in such mindsets as being reflected in the shape of vicious hate and macabre violence propelling terrorism and religious fundamentalism of all hues and forms in the entire world, and not necessarily from the on-going conflicts between the nation states. Speaking as the chief guest at the International Vesak Day celebrations in Colombo, Modi said that the ideologies of hate and violence and their proponents in the region are going against the spirit of mutual dialogue and debate and, therefore, continuing to cause violent deaths and horrible destruction of unimaginable magnitude.
“The menace of terrorism in our region is a concrete manifestation of this destructive emotion. Sadly, these ideologies of hate and their proponents in our region are not open to dialogue and hence only open to causing death and destruction”, PM Modi said.
Fortunately, the South Asian region is blessed to have given to the world the invaluable gift of Buddha and his sacred teachings. Bodh Gaya in India, where Prince Siddhartha became the Buddha, is the sacred core of the Buddhist universe. Lord Buddha’s first sermon in Varanasi set in motion the wheel of Dhamma. Indeed, India’s key national symbols have taken inspiration from Buddhism. Buddhism and its various sects are deep seated in the country’s governance, culture and philosophy. The divine lessons of Buddhism spread from India to all over the world. The worthy children of King Ashoka, Mahindra and Sanghamitra toured from India to Sri Lanka as the noble messenger of Dhamma to spread the biggest gift of the Buddhist treasure i.e. peace and non-violence.
In fact, Vesak is one of the most sacred of days and is, indeed, one of the biggest days of the year and is celebrated by Buddhists all over the world. It is a religious and cultural festival in Sri Lanka; a day for humanity to revere the birth, the enlightenment and the Parinibbana of Lord Buddha, the “Tathagatha”. It is celebrated on the day of the full moon in the month of May. Buddhists commemorate the important events that took place in the life of Lord Buddha on this day. The first is about birth of Siddhartha Gautama in Lumbini in Nepal which took place under the arbor of Sat trees where queen Mahamaya gave birth to him. The second event relates to Siddharta Gautam’s supreme attainment as the Buddha, the Enlightened One. Finally, the third event is concerned with Lord Buddha’s salvation or Parinibbana over 2500 years ago at Kushinagar. Thus the Vesak is the day to rejoice in Buddha; a day to reflect on the supreme truth and timeless relevance of Dhamma, and the four noble truths which constitute the eternal truths to be overcome by all human beings and that runs in the form of persistent struggle of human survival against all odds.
Taking positive points of strength as enshrine in Lord Buddha’s Dhamma, PM Modi expressed his firm belief that Buddhism’s message of peace and non-violence is the only answer “to growing arc of violence all over the world. And, not just a negative notion of peace defined by the absence of conflict. But, a positive peace where we all work to promote dialogue, harmony and justice, based on compassion and wisdom. As Buddha said, nattisantiparansukham there is no higher bliss than peace.”
On Vesak, PM Modi also hoped that India and Sri Lanka will work together to uphold the ideals of Lord Buddha and promote values of peace, accommodation, inclusiveness, and compassion in the policies and conduct of both the governments. Indeed, this is the true path to free individuals, families, societies, nations and the world at large from the three poisons of greed, hatred and ignorance.
On this blessed day of Vesak, PM Modi exhorted the people of Sri Lanka to further consolidate India’s age-old cultural relations with Colombo, which may light the lamps of knowledge, and bring out all humans beings out of darkness, over-swept with ignorance, penury, commotion, violence and restlessness. And, ultimately, uphold the truth and further dedicate one’s self towards sincere efforts to follow the path of Lord Buddha, whose divine blessings are showering upon all as divine light and sweet fragrance all over the whole world.
*Dr. Sudhanshu Tripathi, Professor, Political Science, UP Rajarshi Tandon Open University, Allahabad (UP).