Message from Hon. Om Prakash Sharma
In the sixth century BC, great spiritual churning was taking place in China (Lao Tzu & Confucius), Greece (Parmenides & Empdocles), Iran (Zarathustra) and India (Mahavir & Buddha). The Buddha preached maitri, the relationship of harmony and karuna, mercy for all life.
Gautam went from one monastery to another to seek truth till he became tathagat, who had found the truth. Like other religions of Indian origin he believed that the truth was not dogmatic. The Buddha told Anand, his chief disciple, that he had given him a handful of truths, but besides these there are many thousands more truths than can be enumerated. Ashoka the Buddhist monarch, summed up his message in two word; self-restraint (samyama) and purity of heart (bhava-shuddhi). It was the adaptability of Buddhism that made it a leading world religion. Buddhist monks selflessly reached out to several major civilasations of the world with a message of love and peace. Hu Shih, a former Chinese ambassador to the United States, observed: India conquered and dominated China culturally for twenty centuries without having to send a single soldier across her border.
Buddhism was a reformist religion that rejected distinction of birth and sex. He was opposed to sacrificial rituals, as done by like several other movements preceding it. It was an accommodating religion that adapted to new environments and with due consideration to the sensibility of alien people who came in hordes to India, and the aliens in other lands. Some scholars do feel that though Buddhism gained in width, it lost in depth. However, it retained its character as an ethical religion. Buddhism had carried forward the karma theory of the Upanishads in some what modified form. Ashvaghosh asserted that karma-jam hi lok vaicitriyam- the diversity of the universe is born out of karma as against the position taken by the Uttarmimasa – janmadasya yatah- from Him is born the universe. It was not fatalism. Buddha emphasized the importance of self-effort with which one could become an arhat. It is the greatness of the Indian thought that five of the six classical schools of philosophy did not believe in a Creator of the material world. The ethical content of Buddism had an overpowering impact on the contemporary society. Finally, Hinduism and Buddhism met half way with the scriptures accepting Buddha as the ninth incarnation of Vishnu, as the Mahayana accepting Avoleketeshwar as incarnation of Vishnu as well. As observed by Dr. Radhakrishan, the Buddha became a maker of modern Hinduism.
During Buddhas time there were sixteen janapadas, half of them kingdoms and the remaining half republics. Buddhism, through the functioning of its Sangha, encouraged democracy within the order he had founded. He opened the nuns order by admitting Gautami, his step mother into it. Major decisions regarding the new order were taken at the four Buddhist Councils, through debates, discussions and consensus. One major contribution of Buddhism was a globalised revolution in the field of art and architecture, in the form of, statues, monasteries, caves, stupas and many other art forms. Many of the sites are part of the word heritage. Other sites are part of the national heritage which require sustained efforts to preserve them as cultural relics of the past through national and social commitment. I am happy to see the Buddhist Forum has taken an initiative in this direction. I wish them all success and appeal to organisations and the people to extend their wholehearted cooperation.
Om Prakash Sharma Former Governor of Nagaland