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PM launches year-long celebrations to mark Buddha's 'nirvana'

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, May 13 (UNI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today launched year-long celebrations to commemorate the 2550th anniversary of "Mahaparinirvana" of Lord Buddha with a call for charting a path of development "that is more accommodative of others, more inclusive, more compassionate, less materialistic and less acquisitive." "Our path to progress and development must be mindful of the need to maintain a balance between human needs and nature, between man and enviornment, between the desires of present generations and the needs of future ones," he said while inaugurating the celebrations at a colourful function, attended by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Buddhist thinkers and philosophers and monks.

"Our commitment to building a more inclusive society harmonises with the Buddha's message of a just society," he said.

In this context, Dr Singh said ''we need a firm societal commitment to the service of the poorest of the poor and to rid our nation of poverty, ignorance and disease. We have to make government more transparent and humane, more caring and honest, he said''.

"Today, when once again superstitious belief and blind faith threaten to capture the minds of our people, the wisdom and rationality underlying the thinking of the Buddha have a new relevance," he said, while tracing the legacy of Buddhism to the world. He said the Buddha's teachings encourage one to question, and examine prevailing norms and accepted notions. "Such an approach can regenerate our mind and open it to new ideas. The gathering crisis of bigotry, ideological closemindedness and fanaticism pose a danger to civilisation...To have and nurture the ability to think, to question, to reason and seek a solution through peaceful means, is the lasting lesson of the Buddha. It still has relevance in our modern times, and will always have relevance to human existence," he added.

Saying that Buddha's concept of 'Nirvana" meant the end of the state of suffering and not the extinction of life, he said if "If we can, as a society, find a new path to progress, we can considerably reduce the vulgarity and violence we see in our society." He said Mahatma Gandhi and Dr B R Ambedkar, inspired by the teachings and life of the Buddha, gave a new meaning and relevance to the ancient wisdom in modern times.

Ms Sonia Gandhi said Lord Buddha's message was one of universal benevolence, of love for all. "We seek to actually imbibe compassion and moderation in his teachings." She said the Buddha's teachings were an integral party of our national heritage.

Union Minister of Culture and Tourism Ambika Soni said the year-long celebrations would be people-centric so that the message of the Buddha reached across the country. A sum of Rs 10 crore had been earmarked in the Union Budget for the celebrations in different parts of the country associated with the life of Buddha and Buddhism.

An international conference on Buddha's teachings would be held in November this year.

The celebrations would culminate at a valedictory session at Kushinagar, where the Buddha attained 'nirvana.' Rev Jangtse Choeje Rizong Rinpoche, the Lama of a sect of Buddhism also spoke on the occasion. The teachings of the Buddha "are scientific and have attained universal appeal and application which does not harm or hurt the feelings of any other faiths,'' he added.

UNI SH PA PC1850

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