The I International Buddhist Forum “Traditional Buddhism and Challenges of Modernity” was attended by over 600 people from 13 countries - India, China, Nepal, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Mongolia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Czech Republic, Laos, Bhutan, Cambodia, Republic of Belarus. Nearly 200 participants were from different regions of the country (Moscow, St. Petersburg, the Altai Republic, the Republic of Bashkortostan, the Republic of Kalmykia, the Republic of Sakha Yakutia, the Republic of Tyva, Zabaykalsky Krai, Irkutsk Region, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Novosibirsk Region, Primorsky Krai, Tomsk Region, etc.), and nearly 250 participants were from the Republic of Buryatia. Participants included representatives of science, authorities, politicians, religious figures and monks.
Official delegations of foreign states were headed by:
- Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Thailand to the Russian Federation H.E. Mr. Sasiwat Wongsinsawat
- Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the Russian Federation Ms. Liyanage Janitha Abeywickrema
- Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of India to the Russian Federation Kapur Pavan
- Secretary of State, Deputy Minister of Cults and Religions of Cambodia Mr. Say Amnann
- Deputy Chairman of the National Front of Laos Mr. Senamatmontri Chanthavong
- Deputy Chairman of the Supreme State Committee for Buddhist Sangha of Myanmar Honorable Mr. Bhaddanta Samvarabhivamsa
- Deputy Chairman of the Buddhist Association of China, Abbot of the Yonghegong Temple, Beijing, China, Mr. Hu Xuefeng
The event took place in Ulan-Ude on August 17-19. The organizers are the Buddhist Traditional Sangha of Russia, the Government of the Republic of Buryatia, and the Foundation for the Promotion of Buddhist Education and Research with the support of the Roscongress Foundation.
“The forum was attended by more than 600 people, over 150 foreign participants, as well as representatives of all regions of Russia where Buddhism is present, representatives of science, authorities, politicians, monks, and teachers of our monasteries. I would like to note the importance attached to this forum. As part of the opening of the forum, there was an address by the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, and Speaker of the Federation Council Valentina Matvienko. There is a large international participation here: 13 countries with a high-level representation of delegations, which shows the importance, relevance, significance and timeliness of the issues that we are raising here,” said the Head of the Republic of Buryatia Alexey Tsydenov.
On the first day of the forum, the participants held discussions on the development of Buddhist education and international cooperation of countries where Buddhism is widespread, the position of this teaching in modern society and the information space, the preservation of cultural and historical heritage, and oriental medicine.
“The forum, of course, turned out to be very extensive. Traditional Buddhism, which is present in Russia, it is and will be. Many foreign representatives of the Sangha admired the fact that all our heads of the datsans gathered together and amicably discussed a large number of issues, participated in prayer services. We have shown that we have traditional Buddhism,” said Dymbryl Dashibaldanov, rector of the Dashi Choinkhorlin Buddhist University named after D.D. Zayaev. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Kingdom of Thailand to the Russian Federation, Sasiwat Wongsinsawat, during his speech on the first day of the forum, noted that the
challenges of our time are very relevant for today’s world, which has become vulnerable with unprecedented challenges and uncertainties.
“For these reasons, let me express my congratulations to the Government of the Republic of Buryatia, the Traditional Buddhist Sangha of Russia, the Foundation for the Support of Buddhist Education and Research, as well as other partners for organizing this significant event. Being a Buddhist, I agree with many respected scholars who define Buddhism not only as a religion, but also as a philosophy and science. The basic values and principles of Buddhism are universal and timeless. Buddhist philosophy offers us ways to work on the mind, emotions, relationships and perception of everything that happens in order to eradicate suffering and unhappiness in life. In a broader context, Buddhist teachings and principles can minimize the use of destructive methods and actions that lead to conflicts. In this way, Buddhism can promote harmony, peace and solidarity to overcome global challenges now and in the future. Ladies and gentlemen, I am convinced that we, the representatives of various religious academic organizations gathered during this forum will finish our work successfully, exchange views in the framework of fruitful discussions. I wish all people relief from their problems and suffering. In conclusion, let me invite you all to visit the exhibition “In the Land of the Emerald Buddha”, which is being held at the National Museum of the Republic of Buryatia until September 3. This exhibition includes more than 170 works of art and paintings by Russian artists depicting Buddhism in Thailand and showing the way of life of the Thais, which for many centuries has been determined by Buddhist teachings and principles. I hope that these works of art will inspire you to travel to Thailand, and also show how important Buddhism is for the lives of people in my country. Thank you so much!” Ms. Liyanage Janitha Abeywickrema, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the Russian Federation: “
Honorable figures of the Buddhist religion, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends! With great respect and pleasure, I would like to thank you for organizing this event. As Buddhists, we live in different parts of the world. We promote in our daily activities the faith that was created by an enlightened person - the Buddha. It is a great pleasure for us to observe how the world is developing, how Buddhist values help to overcome international crises because Buddhism provides a means to overcome these difficulties and problems. We have all gathered in order to understand that the conscious citizenship of each of us is combined with what the Buddha told us about. Today, this resonates with such important words of our time as sustainable development, environmental protection, overcoming conflicts.
We need awareness of how we live before we reach the end of our lives. The Buddha teaches us that any crisis, any problem gives us the opportunity to consciously solve this problem. This makes it possible to create new practices for solving environmental problems, human interaction with the animal world through the practices of enlightened people. The Buddha gives us answers to many questions that we face today. We must fully understand what the Buddha taught us 26 centuries ago through his understanding of enlightenment. He became the man who launched the most significant revolution in the history of mankind. This is a revolution in creating a social structure of responsible attitude of each person to society.
After the global wave of the coronavirus pandemic of previously unforeseen proportions ended, we see that all people from all spheres of society have opened their minds to the fact that we cannot solve this problem on our own. We can only solve it together. And overcoming crises of this size becomes possible only through collective actions. We can do this, overcome such crises, only thanks to each other’s help. With the end of the pandemic, we all see an economic crisis looming in the world, which lowers the standard of living of many people below the poverty level. There are a lot of vulnerable groups in society, such as the disabled, children, and uneducated youth. Neither the Government, nor the private sector, nor civil society can solve these problems on their own. Sri Lanka has overcome complexity after complexity in the economic sphere over the past 20 months. But Buddhist awareness allows the country’s leadership to keep the economy in their hands. Anguttara nikaya spoke about how the world can solve its problems without creating a new debt. We need to create a world where people can pursue their happiness without creating economic problems and increasing economic debt. Currently, the Sri Lankan Government is developing a new economic policy based on Buddhist approaches in order to ensure public-private partnership. Buddhism demonstrates how such fundamental crises and problems can be overcome based on the historical experience of our country in order to ensure the future of Sri Lanka. Relations between Russia and Sri Lanka are overcoming a new stage of their development. We see how interaction and the mobility of people between our two countries are increasing. We see how education turns out to be one of the most important aspects of the development of modern societies and civilizations. I have heard that there are a lot of religions in Buryatia, there are a lot of peoples living here who live in harmony with each other. And on behalf of the Sri Lankan Government, I would like to inform the representatives of the forum that Visakha Day will be held on May 22, 2024. We invite you there. And we hope that the life of all participants of this event will be trouble-free. We wish success to all participants of this event.”
On the second day, the guests of the forum went to Ivolginsky datsan — the largest Buddhist temple complex located in Buryatia to participate in the traditional conference “The phenomenon of Pandito Hambo Lama Dashi Dorzho Etigelov”. The participants of the event discussed the messages of the Hambo Lama and worshipped his imperishable body: during meditation in 1927, he went into a special state in which he still remains.
“It really was the most representative forum on Buddhism in the territory of the Russian Federation. Our task was to bring together representatives of Russian and foreign Buddhist communities, scientists, as well as people interested in Buddhism and its modern development. I think it was successful,” said the director of the Institute of Asian and African Countries of Lomonosov Moscow State University, President of the Foundation for the Promotion of Buddhist Education and Research Alexey Maslov. The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of India to Russia, Mr. Kapoor Pawan,
shared his impressions of participating at the first International Buddhist Forum, and also spoke about new trade and economic areas of cooperation between India and Russia.
“I would like to note that this is the first international Buddhist forum that is being held. And I am very glad to be a part of it, to take part in it. I was very glad to see representatives of Buddhism from different countries. Our delegation came to the forum in large numbers, many monks arrived. The way they conducted the discussions showed us, for future opportunities, how we can solve the challenges of Buddhism in the world. We also met with the leadership of the Republic of Buryatia, discussed new areas of our cooperation. We are ready to supply any products to Russia, in particular to Buryatia. This is my first visit to Buryatia. We conducted our analysis, research and identified priority product categories: spare parts for cars and agricultural machinery, pharmaceutical products, agricultural products, and tractors. We are ready to supply all this to Buryatia, if there is a need and a request from the republic. We are also ready to supply equipment for the mining industry.”
The program of the third day of the forum included an open discussion: the moderators of all eight discussions presented the results of the work carried out.
The forum resulted in the adoption of a resolution
announcing the beginning of work on the creation of an international association of Buddhist studies and education in order to strengthen the community of Buddhists and researchers from different countries. In addition, the development of a unified academic information platform and a system that would provide a general access to materials and books on Buddhism in libraries around the world will begin, as well as the publication of a scientific journal in the field of Buddhist studies.
Within the framework of the forum, an agreement was signed on the establishment of a Consortium of Universities on Buddhist Education, whose participants will be Banzarov Buryat State University, Kalmyk State University named after B.B.Gorodovikov, Tuva State University, Dashi Choinkhorlin Buddhist University named after Damba Darzha Zayaev and the Aginsk Buddhist Academy. The Consortium of Universities will be engaged in the formation and implementation of joint research and educational programs in the field of Buddhist theory and practice, publication of the results of their work in scientific journals, conferences and seminars, as well as joint training of highly qualified personnel.
In turn, Banzarov Buryat State University signed a cooperation agreement with the Institute of Asian and African Countries of Lomonosov Moscow State University. In accordance with the agreement, the parties will expand cooperation in the field of educational activities.
In addition, the Ministry of Sports and Youth Policy of the Republic of Buryatia, the Shaolin Temple Wushu Training Center of the Shaolin Temple and the Republican Public Organization “WUSHU Federation of Buryatia” signed an agreement of intent on cooperation and interaction in the development of the sport “Wushu”. Within the framework of the agreement, the parties will exchange experience through official visits of managers and working meetings. Training, internship and retraining of employees and athletes are expected.
On the eve of the forum, Buddhist teachings were held in Buryatia, the guests of which were presented the methods of training meditative practices and the Teachings of the White Tara: lectures, the gift of the lunga and the recitation of the mantra, the ritual of the long life the Tse Do, as well as the analysis of the mandala.
The forum was held as part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Buryatia, which is one of the world centers of Buddhist culture, the center of Russian Buddhism and plays an important unifying religious and cultural role in spreading the Buddhist religion, strengthening international cooperation of Buddhists and establishing ties with other countries through cultural exchange. Subsequently, it is planned to hold the I International Buddhist Forum on a regular basis.