Leh accords grand reception to ‘Pad Yatra for World Peace’

Source: statetimes.in

LEH: A number of religious and political organisations of Leh accorded a grand reception to Pad Yatra at Shey, as around 200 monks, nuns and laypersons from Thailand reached Leh after a strenuous month-long ‘Pad Yatra (peace march) for World Peace’ from Bodhgaya via Dharamsala to Ladakh on foot.

The delegates of Pad Yatra started their journey from Bodhgaya last month after offering prayers at sacred Mahabodhi temple. After having an audience with Dalai Lama in Dharamsala and seeking his blessings on 25th May, the Sangha members embarked on a month-long spiritual journey on foot towards Ladakh, crossing the high Himalayan terrain. The yatra was led by lord Abbot of Royal Thai Temple, Singburi province in Thailand, Phrateppariyattisuthi Thongsuk and was organised in collaboration with Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre (MIMC), Leh. This was the 4th consecutive year of historic Dhamma Pad Yatra.

A number of leaders from different communities also took part in concluding part of Pad Yatra, for about 10 Km from Shey village to Central Institute of Buddhist Studies (CIBS) Choglamsar, and prayed for world peace. President Ladakh Gonpa Association, Gelong Shatup Chamba; Skyabje Tokdan Rinpoche, Dy Chairman LAHDC Leh, President Municipal Committee Leh Dr Isehy Namgyal, Vice President Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA) P T Kunzang, LBA Youth President Konchok Stag, LBA Women Wing President Rinchen Lamo, President Anjuman-Moin-Ul Islam Dr Abdul Qayom, President Anjuman Immamia Ashraf Ali Barcha, President Christian Association Dechen Chamgha, President District Congress Committee Tsering Namgyal, President Bar Association Leh Mohd Shafi Lasu, President All Ladakh Tour Operators Association Tsetan Angchok, Chief Patron Sindhu Darshan Yatra Samiti, Sr. RSS Pracharak Indresh Kumar and a number of people received the delegation of monks, nuns and laypersons on their arrival in Leh and also took part in the last leg of peace march.

Congratulating the delegates for a successful month-long Yatra for World Peace, founder-President MIMC, Bhikkhu Sanghasena expressed gratitude to all leaders from different communities of Leh for extending a warm welcome to the delegates from Thailand.

The Pad Yatra concluded at CIBS with inauguration of a three-day International Conference on ‘World Peace’, ‘150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’, and ‘Preservation of Cultural Heritage of Himalayas’ in Acharya Nagarjuna Auditorium of CIBS. The conference is being organised by MIMC in collaboration with Save the Himalayas Foundation, New Delhi; Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, Nalanda; Central Institute of Buddhist Studies (CIBS), Leh and Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, Leh.

Chakma Assn: Lending voice to a community in distress

Source:- deccanchronicle.com

As they are Buddhists they faced religious persecution in Bangladesh and fled the hill tract in 1964-1965.

Bengaluru: The Chakmas are ethnic people settled in Chittagong hill tracts, and are predominantly located in Bangladesh, and Mizoram, Tripura, and Arunachal Pradesh in India.

As they are Buddhists they faced religious persecution in Bangladesh and fled the hill tract in 1964-1965. The Indian government gave them asylum in India and set up relief camps in Arunachal Pradesh.

It has been more than five decades since they have settled in India, but they often face hostility from the local population in Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram, as they fear the influx of Chakmas may change the demography of the region.

In order to secure the rights of the tribe and to lend a helping hand to the community settled in Karnataka, the Chakma Students’ Association of Karnataka was formed in 2014.

The NGO has been running on donations and has become a temple for more than 400 people settled in the city from the community.

“In the weekly or monthly gatherings at the Cubbon Park or the Mahabodhi temple, we discuss the issues concerning the tribe. The entire idea took birth because in a cosmopolitan city like Bengaluru there was no student body that could have looked for Chakmas,” says Abhish Chakma, president of the association.

The association lends a helping hand to the Chakma students from Bangladesh as well.

In a tragic incident on December 31, 2016, a student from Tripura succumbed to injuries after he fell from a building in the city.

“We sent his body to his hometown through flight. At that stage, a lot of people came forward to help. We not only keep our culture alive in Bengaluru, but also protest against the injustice meted out to us in the North East,” he added.

To instill the sense of unity, the association has been celebrating their festivals like Bizu and even organises sports activities.

Abhish is grateful to the city police for being considerate towards the demands and struggle of the Chakmas.

“Apart from providing venues like Town Hall and Freedom Park for our protest, they ensured security for us. The state government has also supported North East festivals and we hope that this affection continues,” he remarked.

A few years ago, the association through the state government sent a memorandum highlighting the plight of the tribe in the Arunachal Pradesh to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the foreign ministry also.

“Our script and language are not recognised in the Public Service Commission exams. Our schools were burnt in Mizoram. In 2015, the rules were amended to give preference to the Zo-ethnic students. We are deprived of technical education and the government jobs. We are treated as second class citizens,” Abhish lamented.

He wants to make the association strong and expects that the government would pay heed to their voice that was often stifled.

Borobodur in Indonesia has the Potential to Epitomise Religious Tolerance in Asia


SINGAPORE IDN) – Thousands of Indonesian Buddhists went on a 4 km procession from Mendut monastery to the historic Borobodur temple in Central Java to pay homage to the Buddha on Vesak day. The procession on May 18 passed a number of mosques with streets lined up with hundreds of local Muslims.

Vesak, marks the triple anniversary of the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death. It is a public holiday in Indonesia that has the world’s largest Muslim population and this year the Vesak holiday came right in the middle of the Muslim holy month of Ramadhan.

Tension between Muslim and Buddhist communities across Asia, such as in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand, has been rising in recent times. Last October, two Muslim terror suspects were gunned down by the police in northern Sumatra, who were planning to bomb Indonesia’s Buddhist temples. Thus, there was much concern if the two festivals could co-exist peacefully.

Attending the religious ceremonies and a colourful cultural show with a Buddhist theme was Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin. Addressing the audience that included Buddhist pilgrims from neighbouring Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia, he encouraged Indonesians to maintain religious tolerance, saying diversity served as the glue that held the nation together. “Diversity is (our) strength, bolstered by democracy,” he said, adding that the core of all religious teaching was love, not hatred.

Indonesia is not officially an Islamic state though according to 2010 census 87 percent of Indonesia’s 270 million population are Muslims, while Buddhists account for only 0.72 percent. However, many Muslims, especially in Central Java, see Borobodur – which many say should be the eighth wonder of the world – as part of their heritage and are proud of the accomplishments of their ancestors.

Since the ancient temple was restored with UNESCO assistance in the 1970s, the Indonesian government has declared it as a national monument – not a Buddhist shrine – and Buddhists were allowed to use it as a religious shrine only on Vesak day. But, since President Joko Widodo came to power in 2014, this policy has changed and he has told Buddhists that they can use Borobodur for religious purposes anytime as long as they apply and get approval from the government.  

On May 18, after the official ceremonies, hundreds of Buddhist monks and devotees remained all night to chant from various Buddhists texts and this would happen more regularly here, now that President Widodo has been re-elected. His government is keen to develop Borobodur as a major Buddhist pilgrim site.

“Anytime the Buddhist community want to use Borobodur temple (President) Jokowi’s policy is to give us permission. With Jokowi the Buddhist community has felt easier to develop activities here,” Venerable Sri Pannyavaro, Abbot of Mendut monastery in Borobodur told Lotus News. He adds that a grand Esala Full Moon (marking Buddha’s first sermon) festival will be held there on July 14. “We expect to have about 20,000 pilgrims and we will chant from the Tripitaka (Buddhist cannon)” he says.

After President Widodo changed government policy on Borobodur temple, in 2015, Governor of Central Java Rizal Ramli has said that Borobodur could become a pilgrim site for Buddhists comparable to Mecca for Muslims. Perhaps he was pushing it too far as Borobodur temple is not a functioning Buddhist temple, with monks nor they have a Buddhist community in the vicinity to support a monastery. It is also not directly connected to the life of the Buddha, such as Buddhist pilgrim sites of Bodhgaya, Saranath and Kushinagar in India, a country where its Buddhist population is also below 1 percent.

A new Mahayana Buddhist temple and another Burmese temple have been built in Borobodur, which hardly have any local Buddhists. Many Asian Buddhists have criticized India’s attempts to expand Buddhist tourism by allowing foreign monasteries to establish temples around the shrines. They argue it does not create the required atmosphere and culture without an indigenous Buddhist community.

Borobodur temple complex is a large landscaped park protected by tall steel fences and armed guards. In recent years, local Muslim residents have added ‘homestay’ rooms to their houses and many small hotels have been constructed to offer accommodation to growing international tourists. There are many new restaurants catering to tourists. A meditation centre is being developed within the Borobodur complex.

According to official statistics Borobodur recorded 3.7 million tourist arrivals in 2017 and it is expected to exceed 4.5 million this year.

Buddhism thrived across much of Java and Sumatra between 6th to the 14th century, when the area was ruled by Srivijaya and Majapahit empires. These islands were major centres of Buddhist scholarship and learning, where pilgrims travelling between China and India spend months and years learning about Buddhism.

It was at this time that the Borobodur temple was built – in the 8th to 9th centuries during the reign of the Syailendra Dynasty. The main temple is a stupa constructed on three-tiered layers decorated with walls of rock carvings depicting Buddhist themes covering a total surface area of over 2500 square meters. Around each tier of circular platforms are 72 openwork stupas each containing a rock statue of the Buddha inside.

It is not clear how the Borobodur temple was lost to the world for centuries until in the 19th century an European Governor of Java rediscovered it. It is believed that the temple was covered by a lava flow from a close by volcanic eruption after which many saw it as just another mountain in this hilly region.

The great civilization that built Borobodur started to decline with the Majapahit kingdom when Buddhism became a Hindu Shiva cult according to Venerable Pannyavaro, and monks got involved in black magic. “Buddhist sangha  (monks) behaved like Brahmin priests and people resented such attitude,” he told Lotus News, adding,”(at the time) when Muslim traders arrived and they said in Islam in front of God everyone is equal, it attracted the ordinary people to Islam”.

Perhaps there are lessons to be learned here for Buddhists today. In Buddhist countries, especially Thailand and Sri Lanka, there have been many reports in recent years of monks indulging in black magic and commercial activity contrary to Buddhist teachings.

Today, the Indonesian Buddhists numbering about 1.7 million are largely a wealthy business community of Chinese descent and for two days just before the Vesak celebrations here, they provided a medical clinic for the local Muslim population. They have been doing this for over 20 years and this year – on May 14 and May 15 – 184 doctors and 294 nurses provided the services to over 8000 people. They offered free of charge general polyclinic medical treatment, as well as specialist services such as cataract and dental surgery.

The services are organized by Walubi an umbrella organization uniting Indonesian Buddhists. “We do these activities all over Indonesia every two months,” Dr Rusli, a senior member of Walubi told Lotus News.

Right now, in Sri Lanka – where the roles are reversed with the Muslim minority being the richest community in the country – there are lessons to be learned for the island nation’s Muslims  from the way Indonesian Buddhists are interacting with the majority community. Sri Lankan Buddhists have accused the Muslim of flaunting their wealth to proselytize among the majority Buddhists and not helping the poor – who are mainly Buddhists.

“We don’t say we are Buddhist (because) Buddhists in Indonesia don’t want to proselytize. We want to improve the overall Indonesian society,” he added.” We want to give Indonesians a good life not flaunt our wealth”.

Musahar Family in Gaya Faces Boycott for Converting to Christianity

Source: newsclick.in

Sanjay Manjhi, a poor dalit man in his late 40s, and his family, have been facing social boycott for converting to Christianity. Manjhi is a resident of Shahpur village in Gaya district of Bihar and is facing boycott by the Musahar community to which he belongs.

Manjhi said that he and his family members were being targeted after they converted to Christianity. He alleged that the villagers who targeted them were instigated by local Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal activists from the neighbouring villages. “We patiently tolerated their attacks initially. They taunted us, harassed and even abused us for converting to Christianity. However, there were no problems until 10 days ago, as till then we had neither reacted nor protested,” he said.

Manjhi said last week he was forced to approach the police and file a complaint against the collective social boycott by villagers following a diktat from his own community panchayat. “Some people from my Musahar caste had managed to pass an order for our social boycott. Following the order, we were stopped from using the community well and the handpumps for water, and later some youths from the village disrupted our electricity supply. All of these were done on the behalf of some activists of VHP and Bajrang Dal to put pressure on us to re-convert,” he sid.

The Gaya district police was forced to rush to the village after Manjhi lodged a police complaint against over half a dozen villagers for alleged social boycott, harassment and threatening them.

Manjhi, a landless labourer like most Musahars in Shahpur village under Barachatti police station in Gaya ,told Newsclick that he and his family were singled out for converting to a different religion. “We Musahars are dalits who follow social and religious rituals similar to tribals. My family and I voluntarily converted to Christianity. What is the big deal about it, and why are some Hindutva organisations trying to threaten us? We were Hindus only by birth, we had been treated as untouchables all our lives and hardly enjoyed any respect or dignity.”

Backing him, Ranjeev Bhuiya, a local water-rights activist, said Manjhi’s family was barred from using water from the well and handpumps, adding that this was an attempt to put pressure on them at a time when the drought-hit Barachatti block in Gaya was facing its worst water scarcity.

Manjhi and Bhuiya belong to the dalit Musahar community, one of the most marginalised sections of society for centuries. They live with their families in thatched houses, built on gair-majarua (government-unclaimed) land because neither they, nor their fathers or grandfathers, owned any land. For generations, they have been earning their livelihood as landless agriculture labourers.

Manoj Kumar Singh, Station House Officer in charge of Barachatti police station, said Manjhi and his family were targeted after they refused to give donation (chanda) for a Musahar tribal puja, saying they had converted to Christianity. “This angered some villagers, who had ordered social boycott. After intervention from the police, the issue has been solved”.

Singh also denied the accusation of involvement of Bajrang Dal or VHP in the matter. “We have no information about it so far,” he added.

Kamlesh Manjhi, a local villager associated with Bajrang Dal, said the decision to boycott Sanjay Manjhi’s family was taken unanimously by the villagers. After police intervention, villagers have now decided to allow them to use the water sources but would stick to their social boycott.

Sanjay Manjhi said he had informed police officials that Bajrang Dal activists had threatened him and his family to reconvert to Hinduism if they wanted to live in the village.

A local police officer told Newsclick on the condition of anonymity that some members of Bajrang Dal, VHP, and others religious groups have been visiting the village and putting pressure on Musahar villagers to ensure that Sanjay Manjhi’s family reconverts soon. He said, “This village of Musahars has become an important focus for Hindutva outfits in recent days, thanks to Sanjay Manjhi’s conversion to Christianity”.

Gaya Senior Superintendent of Police Rajiv Mishra said he had asked local police station officials to regularly visit the village and reach out to Sanjay Manjhi. “We will not allow anyone to put pressure on him and his family to reconvert,” he added.