About 600 delegates from across India gathered in Zimithang Valley, Tawang district, Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, on April 16-17 to discuss Nalanda Buddhism, the tradition that originated from the great Nalanda monastic university of India and which spread to the modern north. India, Bhutan and Tibetan cultural areas beyond. The conference aims to celebrate the historical connections of the peoples and religions of the region.
Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Pema Khandu, was among the participants in the event titled 'Nalanda Buddhism – Tracing the Source in the Footsteps of Acharyas: From Nalanda to the Himalayas and Beyond'.
According to Khandu: “Arunachal Pradesh is not only home to Buddhism but several religions including those that follow their own indigenous faith. I believe that every religion and faith should flourish and exist peacefully. I am proud that we Arunachalis are doing just that. (The Meghalayan)
The organizer of the event was the Indian Himalayan Council of Nalanda Buddhist Tradition (IHCNBT), an organ of the Indian Council of the Trans-Himalayan Sangha headquartered in New Delhi. The first day of the conference was marked by prayers led by His Eminence Lochen Tulku Rinpoche. The second day featured speeches from political and religious leaders.
After the traditional lighting of the butter lamps, keynote addresses were given by Lochen Tulku Rinpoche and His Eminence Thegtse Rinpoche. The afternoon consisted of teachings on travels and insights from the great masters of Nalanda and Guru Padmasambhava. In the evening, delegates discussed modern challenges to Nalanda Buddhism, before concluding with performances by a Himachali dance group and a singer from Ladakh.
Conference delegates included Buddhist teachers and scholars from Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, North Bengal, Densa Monasteries of South India and 35 delegates from various parts of Arunachal Pradesh.
In his speech, Khandu noted the importance of the venue for the conference, saying, "Zemithang, as you may all know, is the last Indian frontier through which His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama entered India in 1959. Therefore, holding this conference here is significant. (The Hindu)
“The main pillar on which Nalanda Buddhism rests is the principle of reasoning and analysis. This means that we can even bring Lord Buddha's teachings from the perspective of reasoning and analysis. This logic is based on science and perhaps Buddhism is the only religion that gives this freedom to its followers,” Khandu said. He praised the people of Arunachel Pradesh, home to around 162 Buddhists, according to a 000 census, saying, "Fortunately, they have preserved their culture and traditions with religious fervor." (The Hindu)
In his remarks, Khandu also urged conference participants, especially the youth, to pay attention to the challenges that Buddhism is supposed to face in the 21st century.