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Two-Days International Symposium on Scholarship for Studying Buddhism in India

Group Photograph at the Conclusion of the Symposium, New Delhi, 21 July 2019. © IBC
The International Symposium on Scholarship for Studying Buddhism in India was convened by Committee on Academic Research and Education of International Buddhist Confederation, New Delhi, at Hotel IBIS, Aerocity, New Delhi, on 20-21 July 2019.

Buddhist scholars were invited from 10 different countries, namely, Cambodia, Bhutan, India (host), Malaysia, Myanmar, Mongolia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Vietnam to discuss the modalities and other aspects related to sponsoring scholarship to foreign nationals to study Buddhism in India.

At the inaugural session, Ven. Dr Dhammapiya, Secretary General, IBC, addressed the participants about the proposed plan of providing scholarship for studying Buddhism in India. He said that the symposium was convened to discuss and work out modalities with regard to eligibility criteria, courses to be offered in Indian universities and monasteries, quantum of scholarships etc. He also raised the discussion on scholarship for Indian students who want to study Buddhism at the universities in Buddhist countries outside India. The important question, however, what should be expected from this scholarship provision in terms of religious service, propaganda and so forth.

As a Chief Guest, Shri Akhilesh Mishra, Director General, ICCR, began his special address by a question why non-Buddhists like him should study Buddhism? Answering this question is his elaboration on the fundamental principles of Buddhist philosophy that followed. He touched upon the Four Noble Truths (Cattari Ariyasacca), the Law of Dependent Origination (Paticcasamuppada), the Common Characteristics (Samannalakkhana), and related verses of the Path of Dhamma (Dhammapada).

He also recalled the purpose of the establishment of ICCR in 1950 as a cultural wing of government of India for the strengthening of cultural relations between India and other countries. In regarding scholarship for Buddhist studies in India, he mentioned that ICCR provided 4,000 scholarships to foreign nationals every year to study in India in various subjects which also included Buddhist studies.

Shri Mishra further said that he would wait for the outcome of the symposium and the recommendations that IBC would submit to ICCR, then ICCR would forward the same to the government of India for consideration on the scholarship for Buddhist studies in India.

Notably, Preah Dhammaghosacarya Prof. Ven. Dr Khy Sovanratana, Vice Rector of Preah Sihanoukraja Buddhist University (SBU), Phnom Penh, was also invited to attend this special symposium among great Buddhist leaders. At the first session, he raised a question on the limited number of admission of foreign nationals to the Department of Buddhist Studies, University of Delhi that was said in the presentation of Prof. K.T.S. Sarao, Head of that department, during the first secession.

However, such a restricted number of foreign nationals (10% of total seats available), Prof. Sarao replied, was imposed by the government of India and he had no authority in changing it. He suggested that IBC should raise the issue with the government of India.

Preah Dhammaghosacacarya was one of the panellists in the second session in the afternoon which discussed an interesting topic on "Making India a Major Centre of Buddhist Studies: Opportunities and Challenges". In his presentation, Preah Dhammaghosacarya focused on two main points i.e. the foundation of Buddhist schools in Delhi and the promotion of Buddhist universities through information vouchers across the globe especially Buddhist countries.

The third session of the first day was "Presentation by Representatives of Buddhist Monasteries and Institutions in India". In the second day, first secession was on a Panel discussion on "Assessing Buddhist Studies in India: Some Case Studies for Quality and Improvement" and the second session on "Building a roadmap for implementing the proposed decisions, discussing future plan for expansion, exchange programmes, funding strategies and any other suggestions.

On the sideline of the symposium, Preah Dhammaghosacarya met with Cambodian students and head monks of Cambodian temples in India. He also paid a brief visit to Kururattha Khemararam (ask Wat Khmer New Delhi) located in Andheria More village, Mehrauli, on the outskirts of New Delhi, to inspect the re-construction and renovation of the temple under the leadership of Preah Samanarangsi Tep Vuthy, a newly appointed head monk of the temple.

The International Symposium was concluded in the afternoon, 21 July, with valedictory speech by Rev. Bhante. B. Sri Saranankara Nayaka Mahathera and vote of thanks by Shri Govind S. Khampa (Executive Director, IBC). The symposium was followed by the meeting of the Empowered Committee of the IBC.

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