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  • Sanno Banba

Flame of Hope Takes Center Stage at World Buddhist Gathering in Bodhgaya, India




 


Flame of Hope India Mission 2023

I landed at the airport in Bodhgaya with the Flame of Hope to participate in the International Sangha Forum, held at the invitation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Ryokyu Endo, Flame of Hope Ambassador from Japan, was scheduled to give a speech in front of approximately 2,000 Buddhist monks and scholars from around the world.

Bodh Gaya, a small town where the Bodhi tree is located, is where the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment.


Mahabodhi tree in Bodhgaya


The purpose of the forum was to bring together Buddhist monks who have developed their teachings in different parts of the world and share their activities, experiences, and deepen their understanding of each other.


This was the first time in history that such an event was held.


At the opening ceremony, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was present and gave a blessing and a talk. Over the next three days, selected monks from 35 countries gave speeches and participated in a question-and-answer session.




His Holiness the Dalai Lama with approximately 2,000 monks

The theme of “Buddhism and Modernity” was the focus in the afternoon of the second day of the forum. Ryokyu Endo took the stage to give a speech and also served as moderator for the session.  

Ryokyu had been joking around with the setup crew and making them laugh from the outset. 

To my surprise, he told the other speakers, “Our theme is modernity and Buddhism. Let’s do whatever we want. Let’s do it like a rock concert. Let’s destroy tradition. Let’s create something new! That’s what Buddhism is all about!”


Ryokyu is telling session members “Let’s do it as Rock concert!”


The speakers and presenters, who seemed nervous at the forum where high priests from all over the world were gathered, responded happily, “Yes! That’s right!” 

I felt that the speakers for this part of the forum were filled with a more youthful energy than the others.

1) Indonesian Theravada Buddhist monk, Venerable Dhammavuddo, “Modernity: The Intersection of Buddhism and Technology”.

(2) Tibetan Buddhist monk, Geshe Tabke, on “Buddhism as science, philosophy and religion”

3) Thai Theravada Buddhist monk, Venerable Patiphol, on “Gamification of Buddhist learning”

(4) Korean Buddhist monk, Venerable Ja Hong, on “The use of modern technology and media in disseminating Buddhist teachings and practices.l”.

Every speaker was interesting, but the way the chairperson, Ryokyu introduced them before their speeches, was also unique.

He introduced each of them by mentioning something about their backgrounds that was particularly impressive or moving, something that could not be seen just by reading their profiles (actually, this was the result of Ryokyu interviewing them the day before the forum, in which he said, “Sorry,  I’m not interested in your title or position, tell me your story).

Finally, Ryokyu gave a speech and demonstration titled “A unique way to share the Dharma in the 21st century.”

The audience applauded him warmly before he began his speech, perhaps because they were already excited by his chairmanship.


Ryokyu’s speech filled the venue with smiling faces.


After the speeches, Japanese participants said, “You have raised the reputation of the Japanese group! “You got the most applause!”

 In fact, many participants said, “Ryokyu’s speech was the most interesting and fun to listen to.”   

After his speech, monks from various countries came to talk to not only Ryokyu but also to us, the members of the Flame of Hope team. Many of them said that they would like to learn too.



The “Flame of Hope” live in Kyoto was shown in the venue. The prayers of 2,000 people were newly added.

Having listened to the speeches of high priests from around the world and seeing the reactions of monks to Ryokyu’s presentation, I realized with amazement how rare it was that we had been learning and practicing something that we had taken for granted. And now I have no doubt that the teachings we have are the most advanced and developed in this era.

On the fourth day, monks from all over the world gathered at the Maha Bodhi tree, where Shakyamuni Buddha was enlightened, to pray for world peace with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. 

The Heart Sutra was chanted by monks from around the world, and at that  moment, I wondered if this forum was the beginning of the “Flame of Hope” leading the world into a new dimension. 

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