Gyalwa Karmapa at the First International Buddhist Conference in Mumbai (Bombay), India
Theme of the First International Buddhist Conference in Mumbai:
Buddhism & World Peace
Together with the Indian Union Minister for Information, Broadcasting and Culture, Mr. Shri S. Jaipal Reddy, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Mr. Shri Vilasrao Deshmukh, Gyalwa Karmapa was Guest of Honour at the conference.
About 900 delegates, mainly from India, attended the conference. Gyalwa Karmapa gave two speeches and together with the Organising Committee of the conference he led a Peace March with about 1000 participants through the city of Mumbai.
Hear the speech of Gyalwa Karmapa from Sunday, April 10, 2005 (MP3, 4:46 Minutes)
On April 9th and 10th 2005 His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa was invited to attend the First International Buddhist Conference at Ravindra Natya Mandir in Mumbai, Maharashtra India.
His Holiness was requested to participate in a panel of prominent Indian statesmen and academics from around the world to discuss the variety of topics encompassed in the category of Buddhism and World Peace.
Among the people in the forum were Shri Jaipal Reddy (Union Minister of Information, broadcasting and culture), Shri Vilas Rao Deshmukh (Chief Minister of Maharashtra), Shri R.R. Patil (Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra), Ramdas Athavale (Indian Parliament), Shri Babanrao pachpute (Minister of Forest in Maharashtra), Professor Christopher Queen (Dean of Students for Continuing Education in the Faculty of Arts and Science at Harvard University and author of several Buddhist publications) and Dr. Bhalchandra Mungekar (Member of planning commission and president of the organizing committee). There were around 1000 delegates and spectators in the auditorium as well as numerous national and private media sources, booksellers, vendors and other attendees outside the building.
This event was held in honor of the late Bharatratna Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. Dr. Ambedkar was a founding father of India who converted to Buddhism on October 14th 1956, whereupon he was able to use the teachings of Lord Buddha to emancipate the people of India who where oppressed by the Hindu caste system. Because of Dr. Ambedkar’s devotion to Buddhism and his ability to apply the teachings to the times in which he lived, he was able to begin a revival of the Buddha Dharma in India, the birthplace of Buddhism, which continues to grow today. Many of the people attending this conference are staunch supporters of Dr. Ambedkar’s movement and are in the forefront of the this resurgence of Buddhism in India.
His Holiness was asked to be the guest of honor on the first day of the conference, Saturday, April 9th. The conference began at 10 A.M. with a short introduction by Dr. Mungekar, followed by the ceremonial lighting of the lamp (see Karmapa Documentary project photos) in which His Holiness Karmapa was invited to initiate the proceedings. Soon after, His Holiness gave a short and pithy speech in regards to the topics of discussion. “I hope we will continue to be inspired by the vision of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar for a free society based on equality, fraternity and human values through the practice of the Buddha Dharma.” He then took the opportunity to thank the council and all attendants by presenting gifts to the panel members before giving his “aspirations and prayers for welfare and prosperity of all sentient beings as well as for World peace.” The closing of the inaugural addresses was given by His Holiness. He blessed the congregation with a prayer for World peace while everyone stood with hands clasped together in silence. After the Inauguration of the conference, there was a break for lunch. His Holiness used this time to meet with the numerous conference guests and audience members until the conference reconvened.
On the second and last day of the conference, Sunday April 10th, His Holiness was invited to be the Chief Guest. The moment he arrived on stage the audience spontaneously arose in reverence to His Holiness Karmapaji, as they affectionately called him, and stood with allegiance until he was seated among the rest of the panel members. One of the highlights of the evening was His Holiness’ address to the audience about “…. how to proceed for continued spreading of Buddhism for the benefit of the whole World.” He went on to say, ” Everyone wants peace in this World, and it can be achieved through cultivating compassion and an absolute knowledge of emptiness. It is not through improving the outer world in terms of raising living standards and the like that World peace could be attained.” His Holiness explained to the audience ” The lack of both compassion and emptiness is responsible for conflicts, warfare, racism and the like, as recent events of war, unrest, violence and terrorism in many parts of the World have shown.” He encouraged the audience by saying, “In order to overcome these problems one needs to do away with the notion of self so that, in it’s place, compassion and knowledge of emptiness can evolve.” He concluded by telling them about the importance of studying and practicing the teachings of Lord Buddha, especially at the present time. “Hence, I myself have resolved to make efforts in this regard so that Buddhist education becomes available to as many as possible, here in India and abroad.”
This First International Buddhist Conference of India was followed by a peace march led by His Holiness from the Ravindra Natya Mandir Conference Hall to the cremation memorial sight of Bharatratna Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. With a lamp in hand, His Holiness led over 1000 people through the streets of Mumbai that evening. The local police directed the traffic while His Holiness Karmapa, silently making wishes for World Peace, guided the multitudes to the cremation memorial sight. Upon arrival, His Holiness and several honored guests were permitted to enter the memorial building for a prayer service and offering to the late Bharatratna Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. The police waited outside keeping the frenzy of followers behind the gates that surround the memorial sight. Meanwhile, His Holiness Karmapa along with Dr. Bhalchandra Mungekar and several Therevadan Buddhist monks and teachers were continuing to pay their respects to Dr. Ambedkar. When the ceremonies where finished, His Holiness was escorted outside. The crowd being too much to hold back, they spilled in to the memorial grounds coming one by one to prostrate and receive blessing from His Holiness Karmapa. After finding him a chair to be seated in the garden, His Holiness gave his blessings to the outpouring of the masses before finally being led away by the local police to clear the grounds and the boardwalk area of Mumbai.
His Holiness made a deep impression on both those participating and those who attended the conference as spectators. The organizers of the event invited His Holiness to attend the next conference and encouraged him to keep his promise to work with the people of India to establish a solid foundation for the growth of Buddhism and Buddhist education. His impact was so powerful that it leads many to speculate that the followers of the late Dr. Ambedkar, who have been deprived of a spiritual leader since his death in the 1950’s, have found spiritual asylum in His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje.
First International Buddhist Conference in Mumbai (Bombay), India