Millennium Post

Civilisational samvad in Yangon

Dialogue of civilisations and through it, a deeper and lasting coalition of civilisations and of cultures is what is needed in order to create and restructure future global alignments. The increasing challenges to the dimensions of civilisations as we see them today are making leaders – intellectual, political, religious and spiritual - think seriously about how to address these.

Inheritance, faith, culture, and expressions which elevate and sustain civilisations are increasingly faced with a situation, in many parts of the globe, where they are being compelled, or gradually driven to a situation in which existence itself becomes a challenge. A situation has arisen in which the prized civilisational possessions and experiences are either denounced or attacked by a powerful section within or from a greater and rabid intolerant world view externally. In a world where, despite great material progress and advancement, despite greater connectivity, despite a deeper inter-connectedness conflict and predatory tendencies abound, where civilisations are not sought to be understood and internalised but rather eradicated, the need for dialogue, for coalitions and for efforts to collaborate and to seek to greater strength in common tenets and approaches between civilisations has never been greater.
In fact, in the past, India has been, not only been a civilisational originator of ideas, of arts and of ways of life but also a carrefour, where new ideas, new approaches from across the globe found expressions. Her messages of philosophies, of her ways of life and of living, her approaches to the world around, her approaches to the evolution of mankind, her structures and methods of conflict avoidance, of preserving a unique relationship with nature, between nature and man, positioned her in a unique way across much of the ancient world. The Hindu and Buddhist epochs, especially, saw a rich churning out of these fundamental positions that showed the way towards sublimating our individual and collective existences.
These two religions have common origins and have retained their mutual symbiotic relationship and continue to believe in dialogue within and outside as the normal way to create and sustain human consciousness and avoid conflicts. Best suited to work for a conflict free world, as Prime Minister Modi described it, 'Buddhism and Hinduism have great contribution in sowing the seed of a conflict free world', these two religions also regard nature as sacred and therefore are also perfect instruments to spearhead our collective effort to generate greater environmental consciousness and to preserve the environment and our inherited ecology.
Not only did the Southeast and Far East Asian civilisations have a robust exchange and intermingling with India, but the West – reflected then in her highest wisdom in Greece and in her thinkers and philosophers – too sent across her thinkers and explorers of the inner realms to India to learn the deeper mysteries of life. The description of Apollonius's visit to India, for example, – whatever may be its historical dimensions – is indeed a fascinating story of this civilisational quest. It was the capacities for the inner quest, the inner masteries and through these the capacity for evolving an outer mastery and an external balance of life and of living, that the eastern civilisations had evolved with India as the fountainhead of radiating wisdom, which had attracted thinkers and advanced minds across the ancient world and continued to pull thinkers of our times.
Aldous Huxley, Romain Rolland, Emerson and Isherwood are a few examples that come to mind as being among the most articulate and the most tenacious in their quest for trying to discover India's civilisational wisdom through her philosophies. Masters like Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Ananda Coomaraswamy and others, with their vast knowledge and experience, further opened the doors creating an enabling environment for this quest.
In the Bharatiya civilisational traditions of thought: transformation, balance and harmony, have always been among the principal corner stones of civilisational sustenance and growth. Civilisational west had absorbed this in the past when its then dominating religions were attuned to, derived from and inspired by civilisational India and beyond. Over the centuries, however, when those indigenous religions were superseded, marginalised and eliminated, the west lost with them, its openness to nature and the attributes of compassion, harmony, balance, and the cohesion between nature and man.
Today, when India works to regain a global standing in the realm of thought and of matter, that had been among her distinguishing dimensions in the past, Prime Minister Modi's initiative of Samvad (dialogue) a global initiative for conflict avoidance and environmental consciousness, assumes great significance. Launched in September 2015, with the New Delhi based Vivekananda International Foundation spearheading the effort, Samvad has essentially initiated a Buddhist and Hindu civilisational dialogue, a dialogue which aims at evolving a larger coalition of civilisations and of cultures and to work towards a more harmonious world structure.
The second Samvad had taken place in Tokyo with both Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Abe expressing their thoughts on this continuing initiative and the third Samvad, to be held in Yangon on August 5-6, 2017, in partnership with the pre-eminent Sitagu International Buddhist Academy, the Myanmar Institute of Strategic Studies and the Japan Foundation, will see the initiative take off in Myanmar, a land over which Buddha himself presides. This mega initiative in Yangon reminds one of another initiative long past, when Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, in 1951, as president of the Mahabodhi Society of India, had taken the lead in ensuring that a permanent loan of the sacred relics of Buddha's two chief disciples - Mahamogallana and Sariputta – was made from India to Myanmar. Dr Mookerjee himself visited Yangon a few times and came as a special invitee of Prime Minister U Nu in 1951 when the sacred relics were finally enshrined at the historic Kaba Aye Pagoda. At the Yangon Samvad 2017, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will join a host of thinkers, religious practitioners, seers, monks and scholars from India and from across the world to deliberate on the civilisational contributions of Buddhism and of Hinduism and on the need to restate those in the present. State Counsellor Daw Aung San Su Kyi is slated to participate in the inauguration of the Dialogue.
This unique initiative envisioned by Prime Minister Modi expresses his own distinct vision of India's civilisational potential to restate that ancient wisdom which was her hallmark in the past and which can still be her unique contribution to mitigating the present multi-dimensional crisis before mankind.
(Views are strictly personal.)

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