His Holiness the Dalai Lama giving speech at first International Sangha Forum,on December 20, 2023, in International Convention Centre, Bodhigaya, Bihar, India. (Photo: TPI)

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Bodhgaya, Bihar — His Holiness the Dalai Lama inaugurated the First International Sangha Forum in Bodhgaya, in the state of Bihar, on Wednesday. More than 2,000 sangha members and participants from 33 countries, including Sangharajas, Abbots and heads of Buddhist institutions, will take part in the three-day forum and which will focus on the Buddha’s Teaching in Today’s World.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet inaugurated the International Sangha Forum – “Bridging Traditions, Embracing Modernity: A Dialogue on the Buddha’s Teaching in Today’s World” on December 20, 2023, in International Convention Centre, Bodhigaya, Bihar, India. The Ganden Tripa Lobsang Tenzin Rinpoché, Jangtse Choeje Gosok Rinpoche, Sangdong Rinpoche, Ling Rinpoche, Kundeling Rinpoche, the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Shri Pem Khandu, and high Lamas and Geshes of Buddhists Institutions presented at the event.

The event was moderated by Ven Mahayano Aun, Ms Wee Nee Ng, Secretary of the International Sangha Forum, gave a welcome speech and Abhijit Halder, Director General of the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC), and other dignities gave speeches including Shri Pem Khandu and Shri Tashi Namgyal, executive councilor, Ladakh Autonomy Hill Development Council, Leh.

Then His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressed the gathering by saying, “I pay homage to the Buddha with my body, speech and mind. Today, we are gathered in this sacred place where Buddha Shakyamuni attained enlightenment. And although we are living in a degenerate era, the Dharma he taught still shines bright.

“The Buddhas do not wash away unwholesome deeds with water, nor do they remove the sufferings of beings with their hands, nor do they transplant their own realization into others. It's by revealing the truth that they help beings to become liberated.

“We make suffering for ourselves due to our destructive emotions. Because of ignorance we create negative karma. This is why the Buddha taught, ‘Do no wrong; cultivate virtue.’ So, we need to generate a good heart and avoid doing others harm. Instead of ill-treating them, we should help people and bring them benefit, doing that will bring us peace of mind, which, in turn, will enhance our physical well-being.

“To act out of anger or attachment is a mistake. The essence of Dharma is to study what is taught, to reflect on what you’ve learned, and to apply what you’ve understood within yourself. If you cultivate an altruistic attitude, the awakening mind of bodhichitta, you’ll be able to fulfill the goals of yourself and others. “Thinking, may I generate bodhichitta, call on all sentient beings as your guests at the feast of enlightenment. Cultivating bodhichitta is a powerful practice. Along with it we can engage in the six perfections and the four ways of gathering disciples. The focus is serve other sentient beings. Do that and the world will become a friendlier, more peaceful place.”

“Bodhichitta is a precious practice. I’ve found it’s been very helpful for me,” His Holiness revealed, “so I ask all of you too to keep it mind. Help other beings; become a Buddha for them. By cultivating peace of mind within ourselves we’ll make a practical contribution to peace in the world.

“I have observed the advantages that cultivating bodhichitta and the wisdom understanding emptiness can bring and I can attest to their practical value from my own experience. I haven’t developed single-pointed concentration, but if I had, I think I would make great progress. In the meantime, bodhichitta brings inner strength and confidence. It gives us the courage to work for all sentient beings.”

“In order to share experience with others, you have to have experience to share. These two principles, the awakening mind of bodhichitta and the wisdom understanding emptiness are the core of my practice. I invoke them every day from the moment I wake up. This way I gather merit and purify mental defilement. I continuously make a prayer to be of service to others as long as space endures. Being of benefit to others is the way to lead a meaningful life.

“If you wish to help others, you need to discipline your own mind. I ask my Dharma friends to take this to heart. I was born in far-off north-east Tibet and was brought to Lhasa to study as a small child. Now I can feel the impact these practices have had on me, which is why I’m able to share them with you. I urge you to reflect on bodhichitta and the wisdom understanding emptiness.

“The essence of both the Pali and Sanskrit traditions is altruism. The most important thing is to cultivate bodhichitta.”

Shri Pema Khandu, Hon Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, India, saluted His Holiness, as well as scholars, monks and nuns. He said, “I thank His Holiness for blessing this assembly by his presence and for setting us an example. I am grateful that forums like this, that fulfil His Holiness’s vision of bringing the Pali and Sanskrit traditions together, are being held. And I am happy to be able to take part in this sharing of knowledge and wisdom. We try not only to cultivate the Buddha’s teachings within ourselves, but also attempt to make them the basis of policy."

Ven Khensur Jangchub Choeden, Secretary General IBC offered words of thanks.

The forum will be addressed by Sangharajas, Abbots and heads of Buddhist institutions. More than 2,000 sangha members and invited guests from 33 countries, including Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Tibetan, Bhutan, Nepal, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Russia, and Mongolia, will attend the conference.

According to the organizers, "the primary focus of the conference will be to augment ongoing dialogue and collaboration among practitioners of the Pali, Sanskrit and Tibetan Buddhist traditions."

"The conference aims to identify and emphasize the shared benefits of study and practice across all traditions, while nurturing an appreciation and understanding of the unique strengths of each tradition. Moreover, the conference will consider what it means to be a Buddhist in the 21st century," they added.

His Holiness will also participate in a World Peace Prayer Session with delegates in the morning of December 23, 2023 at the Mahabodhi Stupa in Bodhgaya.