Buddhism - When Buddhism Met Vedanta
by Purnima Coontoor
Vedanta and Buddhism have the solution to combat the problems of depression, violence and conflict in society as they connect you with inner strength through meditation,” declared Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to a packed audience of Hindu sadhus and Buddhist monks who had gathered at the Art of Living International Centre, Bangalore, for the Global Conference on Vedanta and Buddhism organised by the foundation in February. The spiritual leader went on to draw parallels between the two seemingly contrary disciplines. When Buddha spoke of shunyata (emptiness), and Adi Shankara about poornata (fullness), both of them were referring to the same truth of the oneness of creation, he said.
At the inaugural session of the conference, the elegant Vishalakshmi Mantap reverberated with Vedic chants, bugles and drums, as spiritual leaders from across the globe walked up to the stage together in readiness to debate the similarities between Vedanta and Buddhism over the next two days. As sunlight streamed into the spectacular meditation hall, monks in maroon and orange and Veda pathashala students in white and yellow who lined the aisles symbolised the two most prominent doctrines of the East. Over 700 delegates from Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan, Ladakh and from various parts of South India comprised the audience.
The galaxy of spiritual leaders on stage included Dhamma master Hsin Tao, founder of the Museum of World Religions and president of the Global family of Love and Peace; Sri Sri Ravi Shankar; Dr B K Modi who is the president of Maha Bodhi Society of India; Swami Agnivesh, president of world council of Arya Samaj; Wathurawila Siri Sujatha Thero from Shri Naga Vihara Temple, Sri Lanka; Rajyogini Sudesh Didi who is the director of European centres, Brahma Kumaris; and Swami Swatantranandji from Rishikesh. Celebrities offstage comprised Lama Lobzang, president, Ashoka Mission; Dr DR Mehta of Maha Bodhi Society and Dr Mano Mettanando Laohavanich, Buddhist master, among others.
All of them were united in giving a clarion call to the societies of the world to promote peace, truth, justice, equality and compassion in the world.
Jointly organised by the Art of Living and the Maha Bodhi Society, the two-day conference aimed at building complementary roles for both traditions to resolve problems facing the world. Deliberations on the same were held during the various seminars spread over two days. Statues of Adi Shankaracharya and Buddha were unveiled in the campus. The seminars were interspersed with sessions of chanting, singing and meditation.
On the second day, an MOU for peace was signed by Sri Sri and Dr Modi. They pledged to promote understanding between the philosophies of the two traditions, encourage comparative studies and work on social issues.
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