Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Buddhism and Modern society

National Seminar on

‘Buddhism & Modern Society’

On behalf of the Department of History & Tourism Management and on my personal behalf, it gives me immense pleasure to extend you all a hearty welcome to this National Seminar on “Buddhism and Modern Society” (Relevance, Problems and Perspectives). This seminar is organised by us with the major financial support of the Indian Council of Historical Research, Govt of India, the UG.C Unit of Kakatiya University and the Dept of Culture, Govt of Andhra Pradesh.

The dynamics of Indian culture and civilisation based on the seemingly opposite principles of ‘continuity and change’ drew the attention of the modern scholars both foreign and native to undertake serious research on many of its aspects since the past two centuries. The pre-independence scholars were classified as imperial and nationalistic, whereas the post independence scholars subscribing to many sectional interests are divided into numerous groups. Different interpretations from the perspectives of Marxist, Subaltern, Dalit, Gender etc., have come to light on the already established facts making the issues more complicated and controversial than before. Indian culture has accommodated the rise of many religions since ancient past from time to time. Of all these ancient religions of India, Jainism and Buddhism took the shape of formal religions by the beginning of the first millennium A.D. conforming to the principles of modern religion. Buddhism became more popular soon because of many favourable factors. The foremost of these factors could be obviously ascribed to the nature of the path shown by the Buddha which is known as the Middle Path i.e., a path which was easily understood and followed by one and all without any exclusive rights or privileges for any community or individual based on his/her birth. Buddhism was not only popular in India, it rose to the status of an international religion adopted by neighboring countries and the countries of South-east Asia, Central Asia etc.

Buddhism had influenced every aspect of human life like Art, Literature, architecture in these countries besides their respective religions. Buddhism which stood steadfastly for Dhamma has a universal appeal and its strict moral codes are relevant to all times. But Buddhism lost its vigour and vitality by seventh and eighth centuries A.D. on account of many historical reasons. As a natural process, the Buddhism spread with by branching off like Hinayaana, Mahayaana, Vajrayaana. In India, it is finally absorbed by the dominant Hindu religion. However, Buddhism continue to live in the essence of later Indian religions which came up in India like medieval Saivism and Vaishnavism and the Bhakti philosophy. The spread of Islam in other parts of Asia has wiped out Buddhism which preached Non-Violence and Peaceful Co-existence for attaining Nirvaana. Buddhism could not withstand militant Islam in those regions. The spread of Christianity supported by imperialist powers in the modern times also became a major threat for the existence of Buddhism which is basically a simple atheistic religion.

The modern times are witnessing unforeseen challenges to the peaceful co-existence of various communities besides the individual freedom to pursue one’s own path of salvation. Materialism and Consumerism have reached an all time high mark in its negative countenance blowing away all the niceties of our so far well guarded cultural and religious values. It is time that the intellectuals professing various schools of philosophy to interact with another and address the issues relating to the values like tolerance, mutual respect, love, spirit of sacrifice and understanding to promote human dignity, righteousness and justice.



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