Nepal: Asian Buddhists meet in Kathmandu to face the challenges of modernity

The Himalayan Times, Mar 29, 2011

Monks, students and religious leaders met in the Nepali capital on 27-28 March. Buddha’s teachings and interfaith cooperation can be used against social ills caused by war and economic development. For a Japanese monk, “religion can give people a message of peace and solidarity.”

KATHMANDU, Nepal --  Asian Buddhists organised an international conference at the Center for Nepal Asia Studies (CNAS) in Kathmandu on 27-28 March. The purpose of the meeting was to see how the Buddha’s example and religion in modern society could bring about peace and solidarity in the world.

“Buddhism is born in the past,” said conference organiser Ramesh Dhungel. However, for him the meeting was an opportunity “to discuss the changes that are needed to ensure that religion can meet the challenges of modernity”.

Religious leaders, students and researchers from Nepal, India, Thailand, South Korea, Myanmar, Japan, Sri Lanka and Bhutan took part in the two-day event. In all of them, religious faith is increasingly forced to cope with social problems tied to war and economic development.

For Junichiro, a Japanese Buddhist monk, “religion can give people a message of peace and solidarity.”

“I was struck recently by the many messages of closeness and help for the victims of the tsunami were sent by various religious leaders, in particular from Pope Benedict XVI,” he added.

Only through religion can a culture of peace be achieved, he said, and there must be cooperation among all the faiths to spread it.

In the address that opened the conference, Nepali President Baran Yadav stressed the crucial role played by religion in bringing about peace and solidarity in the world, especially in war-ravaged countries like Nepal.

“The spirit of Buddhism is to spread peace,” he said. “The creation and development of a society where there is no fear and the message of the Buddha have had a fundamental role in the democratic constitution of Nepal. However, even if the Buddha was born in Nepal, the country is not yet at peace”. For this, “we must continue to work to achieve it.”