Editor’s Voice – Issue III, September 2013

We are glad to present the third issue of Buddhist Voice. The second issue was well received by the readers and many readers took initiatives of forwarding the issues to their friends and e-groups. Even the cover page photo and link to the website was shared by hundreds of readers on Facebook.  One of our friends, who is a social marketing media experts, estimates the reach to about 30000 facebook visitors, besides our mailing to more than 50000 readers. This puts more responsibility on the editorial board to present the best reading material in our e-magazine.  The editorial team has also decided to come-out with theme based issues in future so that more focused reading material can be given to the readers.

 During the last one month, many good and bad incidences happened in the Buddhist world. We are yet at the same stage in investigation of blasts at Mahabodhi Temple, Bodh Gaya as during last month. Although one of the Pujari who was missing since blast day has been arrested, however, investigating agencies have not reported any major clue towards reaching to the culprits. It is matter of great concern to us.

On the full moon day morning of the August, 2013 Dr. Narendra Dabholkar was murdered in Pune, Maharashtra State in India. Dr. Narendra Achyut Dabholkar (1st November 1945 – 20th August 2013)  was an Indian rationalist and author from Maharashtra State in India. He was the founder-president of Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS) [Committee for Eradication of Blind Faith and Superstitions – CEBFS], an organization set up to eradicate superstition. After working as a medical doctor for 12 years, Dr. Dabholkar became a social worker in the 1980s. He was involved with movements for social justice. Gradually, Dr. Dabholkar started focusing on eradication of superstition, and joined the Akhil Bharatiya Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (ABANS). In 1989, he founded the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (i.e. CEBFS) and campaigned against superstitions, confronting dubious tantriks and claims by holy men who promised ‘miracle cures’ for ailments. He criticised the country’s “godmen”, self-styled Hindu ascetics who claim to perform miracles and have many followers. Between 1990–2010, Dabholkar had taken part in agitations in various movements demanding equality to Dalits, against caste discrimination and in naming the Marathwada University after Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. He wrote books on superstitions and their eradication, and had addressed over 3,000 public meetings. Though he was not a Buddhist by religion, he was against all the ritual superstitious practices; indirectly, he was following many principles of Buddhism. We strongly condemn the murder of Dr. Dabholkar and hope that Government will ensure that the culprit will be found and punished as per the prevailing law in India. The Maharashtra State government, after the murder of Dr. Dabholkar cleared an Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Ordinance to replace a Bill that had been approved by the cabinet but had lapsed before it could be taken up in the assembly. The Bill has been pending for eight years. We hope that soon the Ordinance will be converted into a regular law and Government ensures that even if the Ordinance is challenged in Supreme Court it will remain as a law as many organisations having vested interest are not in favour of Anti-Black Magic Bill. It was noted that mainly followers of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar (Ambedkarites) were in forefront in carrying out all sort of protest against the murder of Dr. Dabholkar.

On international front, it is good news that Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha is being developed into an international tourist centre. Lumbini, presently in Nepal, not yet fully developed tourist centre.  Good news is that soon Lumbini will have an international Airport and other modern infrastructure suitable for a international tourist centre. Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF), a well funded Chinese association wants the whole city to be developed as Lumbini Cloud. APECF has all support from Nepali Government. China is getting busy in building an international Airport at Lumbini Cloud with direct flights for major Chinese cities, as well as restaurants and hotels to cater to international tourists to Lord Buddha’s Birthplace.  As reported in The Wall Street Journal’s latest issue, India appears to be uneasy as China expands its influence in its backyard, tapping into the Tourist Potential place. The Government of India could have taken the initiative to develop Lumbini into world standard tourist place long time back. However, the indifferent approach by Indian Government towards all Buddhist sites even in India is a major concern to the Buddhist in India. Even the help extended by the State Governments is not given to any Buddhist religious place.

Recently, Russian President Mr. Vladimir Putin visited Ivolga Datsan, the main monastery of the Buddhist Traditional Sangha in Russia. During his address he highlighted the long and important history of Buddhism in Siberia, and spoke of how he valued his relationship with the head of Russian Buddhists, Pandito Khambo-Lama Damba Ayusheyev. He expressed that Russia is probably the only country in Europe where Buddhism is an official religion. There are up to 1.5 million Buddhists in Russia, mainly in the Siberian Republics of Buryatia and Tyva, and also in Kalmykia.

In 1197 A.D., Nalanda, the world’s oldest University was ransacked and destroyed by foreign invaders led by the Turkish Bakhityar Khiliji because the “giver of knowledge” was a strong pillar of Buddhism and attracted students from all over the world, including countries such as Turkey and Persia. The invaders burnt to ruins the magnificent library and other architectural masterpieces of the Nalanda University. The decision to revive the Buddhist University at Nalanda was taken at the Second East Asian Summit in 2007 and 16 countries signed a declaration in support of it at 2009 Summit in Thailand. The project envisaged to have international collaboration and its governing board includes, inter alia, George Yeo – Former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, Prapod Assavavirulhakarn – Professor at Thailand’s Chulalongkorn University and Wang Bangwei – Professor at Peking University, China. However, the issue is that old Nalanda was essentially a Buddhist place of learning promoting Buddhist beliefs and philosophy – the new architects are ironing out a creation of ancient Nalanda with a modern twist to include subjects that are taught in general universities thereby denying the Buddhist niche that Nalanda epitomized. Now it is to be seen that if Nalanda is to be revived, it must remain as a Buddhist University, both in its aims and objectives, promoting Buddhist idealism.

It would be outrageous if this new initiative of a group of people led by Nobel Laureate, Dr. Amartya Sen, a Professor at Harvard University, were to achieve what the iconoclasts could not do; erase old Nalanda from public memory that is still kept alive by the well preserved ruins of that outstanding Buddhist University.

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