Spreading the Buddha’s message
Indian Buddhist monks are sowing the seeds of peace and harmony between the two neighbours that are linked by age-old ties of religion and culture.
As Myanmar moves towards forming a new government, the monks of India and Myanmar have taken upon themselves the task of the smooth transition of the powers to the democratically elected government - but through the spiritual route.
“We are basically here for peace and harmony. Since everyone wants to live in peace, we from the Drukpa Lineage are praying for peace in this country which has strong roots in Buddhism,” Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche told me here.
Thirty-year-old Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche, who is leading a foot journey with 60-odd monks and participated in the peace summit here, is the spiritual regent to the Gyalwang Drukpa, the spiritual head of the Drukpa Order with over 1,000 monasteries across the Himalayas.
“This time, we have decided on a peace “padayatra” (journey on foot) in Myanmar as we did in many areas in India. We have also brought a sacred bone relic of the Buddha in this country to bless people. In the past one week, the relic - some 2,600 years old -- got an overwhelming response from the locals,” said Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche.
Tens of thousands gathered at the 2,500 years old Shwedagon Pagoda, which enshrines strands of Buddha’s hair and other holy relics, to pay homage to the bone relic.
Sitagu Sayadaw, the elderly spiritual guru of Myanmar, said the visit of the Indian monks would help strengthen the relations between the two countries.
“The Buddha relic comes from India, the birthplace of Buddhism but not the birthplace of the Buddha. The Buddha spent 45 years in India. Therefore, this is a very significant sign of peace and stronger relationship between the two countries -- Myanmar and India,” he said, on being asked about the relationship between India and Myanmar.
Indian Ambassador Gautam Mukhopadhaya, who also attended the prayer sessions in the Shwedagon Pagoda, said this would definitely help strengthen India-Myanmar relations.
“It’s a rare opportunity and definitely a meeting point of two traditions -- the Vajrayana and Theravada schools of Buddhism,” he said.
On bringing the sacred Buddha bone relic to this country, Mukhopadhaya said it was rare that the relic had been brought out of the Hemis monastery, the oldest monastery of the Drukpa Order in Ladakh.
“It’s very rare that the bone relic of the Buddha has gone out of the country. The people of Myanmar have a lot of faith in Buddhism. This event offers a platform of religious faith between the countries. This will strengthen the historical relations that have been there since the colonial period,” he added.
The bone relic arrived in Mandalay by plane on January 21 and it was carried across many prominent towns and villages by the monks of the Drukpa Order. It will return to India on January 29.
Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche, who is also the chairperson of Druk Padma Karpo Educational Society which runs the famous Druk Padma Karpo School of the Hindi film “3 Idiots” fame, said he prayed that the ties between the two countries would be better and more strengthened.
Founded in the 17th Century, the Hemis Monastery in Ladakh in India’s Jammu and Kashmir houses the most famous holy relics that are thousands of years old.
(Vishal Gulati is in Myanmar at the invitation of Buddhist spiritual leader Gyalwang Drukpa’s global charity ‘Live to Love’. Views expressed are strictly personal)