Modi vows to develop Bodh Gaya as Buddhist world’s spiritual capital


BY S VENKAT NARAYAN Our Special Correspondent

Pic saved as V1: Narendra Modi offers prayers at Maha Bodhi temple at Bodh Gaya in Bihar, India, on Saturday.

NEW DELHI, September 6: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen on developing Bodh Gaya in Bihar state the Buddhist world’s spiritual capital.

(Bodh Gaya is where Siddhartha Gautama had attained enlightenment over 2,600 years ago under the Bodhi Tree and became the Buddha. The town is 110km from Bihar’s capital Patna. It is a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists. Current estimates put the number of Buddhists in the world at 526 million, or about 8% of global population.

(While Buddhists are scattered across the globe, they live in large numbers in China, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Bhutan, Laos, Mongolia, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore).

Describing Bodh Gaya as the "land of enlightenment," Modi said on Saturday said his government will develop the site as the spiritual capital for it to serve as a civilisational bond between India and the Buddhist world.

He was speaking at a Hindu-Buddhist conclave, attended by some 360 Hindu and Buddhist delegates, including Buddhists from Sri Lanka and 22 other countries.

"I recognise how Buddhists all over the world revere Bodh Gaya as a place of pilgrimage. We in India would like to develop Bodh Gaya so that it can become the spiritual capital and civilisational bond between India and the Buddhist world.

"The government of India would like to provide all possible support that its Buddhist cousin nations need for the satisfaction of their spiritual needs from this holiest of holy places for them," he said after visiting Mahabodhi Temple.

Describing Buddha as a "crown jewel" of India, he said he revers the Buddha as a reformer of not only Hinduism but also the world, who gave a new world view and vision which is critical for survival of all.

"This quality of Hinduism in India was a product of many great spiritual masters and chief among them was the Buddha. And this is what sustains the secular character of India," he said. The enlightenment which the Buddha attained in Bodh Gaya also lit the light of enlightenment in Hinduism.

He said he as Prime Minister felt good to visit the holy place after Jawaharlal Nehru and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, noting that it was special to be here on Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna.

He said both Gautama Buddha and Lord Krishna taught the world so much, as Krishna gave his message before the start of the great war in Mahabharata and Buddha repeatedly emphasized on rising above warfare.

"The message by both of them was about establishing Dharma," he said, adding that both of them gave great prominence to principles and processes.

"Gautama Buddha gave the eight-fold path and the Panchsheel, while Shri Krishna gave invaluable lessons of life in the form of Karma Yoga. These two divine souls had the strength to bring people together, rising above differences. Their teachings are most practical, eternal and are more relevant in this day and age than ever before," he added.

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