International Buddhist Conference: Lumbini in the limelight

Lumbini, like Mecca, could be a must-visit pilgrimage destination for Buddhists spread across the globe. The development of infrastructure and promotion and marketing at the international level could ensure that this becomes a reality soon

“Janme chha Buddha Nepal ma/Shanti ko diyo balera/Bishwoma shanti failauna…”

These soul-stirring lyrics of a song sung by Jannakabi Keshari Dharmaraj Thapa resonate in the hearts and minds of all Nepalese, living in Nepal and abroad.

The song describes Lord Buddha’s birth in Nepal like a lighted lamp spreading peace and harmony all over the world.

This melodious song, with very simple lyrics, conveys the greatness of Lord Buddha, born on Nepali soil and known throughout the world as the ‘Apostle of Peace’ and ‘The Light of Asia’.

Nepal’s decision to host the upcoming ‘International Buddhist Conference’, a three-day conference that is slated to take place in Kathmandu and Lumbini starting today coinciding with the 2560 Birth Anniversary of Lord Gautama Buddha, could not come at a better time.

Given the present scenario where the world’s population is struggling against political, economic and social upheavals, there is a need to remember and heed Lord Buddha’s message of love, peace, non-violence and tolerance.

War, climate change and man-made disasters are proving to be obstructions in the progress of human civilization.

By putting into practice some of his basic teachings (like kindness to all beings, peaceful co-existence and charity) in our daily lives we can make our world a little bit better and nicer places to live in.

Though Nepalese are proud of the fact that Lord Buddha shared the same soil they were born in, one cannot confine Lord Buddha’s identity to one country alone. He embraced the whole world and He belongs to the whole world.

He is theirs who embrace Him wholeheartedly and whose lives He touches, irrespective of caste, creed, nationality and race.

Nonetheless, Nepal as well as Nepalese feel blessed to be linked with Lord Buddha’s birth.

This International Buddhist Conference being held in Kathmandu on 19th and 20th May and culminating with a grand Buddha Jayanti celebration in Lumbini on 21st May will have the participation of learned scholars, academicians and eminent luminaries.

During the two-day conference in Kathmandu, they will be presenting their papers and voicing their opinions on different aspects of Buddhism and Buddhist teachings.

Altogether 24 working papers on Buddhism, including six from Nepal, are scheduled for presentation by imminent scholars and personalities. These presentations and scholarly discussions are expected to foster an interest in Buddhism and ignite new ideas and thoughts among learned minds attending the conference.

Altogether 13 countries (with sizable Buddhist populations) are sending delegates to attend the conference under the leadership of their Minister of Cultural Affairs.

In addition, the conference will also see the participation of international and charitable organizations, celebrities, academicians and media.

This conference, which is going to be a mega-event for the country, is a wonderful opportunity for tourism stakeholders as well as the Government of Nepal to highlight Nepal as an important destination for Buddhist pilgrimage and to popularize Buddhist Circuit which lies both in Nepal and India (Lumbini  where Lord Buddha was born, Bodh Gaya-where He attained enlightenment, Sarnath  where He delivered His first sermon and Kushinagar  where He attained Nirvana).

The organizers of the conference  the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Lumbini Development Board, Gautam Buddha University of Lumbini, Nepal  need to highlight the importance of Lumbini as Lord Buddha’s birthplace and work towards making it the centre of Buddhist philosophy and learning for all international Buddhist communities.

Promoting Nepal globally as the land of Buddha’s birth and an important centre of Buddhism will give a much needed boost to spiritual tourism in the country.

A steady stream of Buddhist pilgrims visiting Lumbini will help develop this sleepy Terai town to one of the major spiritual destinations in the world (like the Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Tirupati Temple in India and Jerusalem in Israel).

The development in tourism will lead to the creation of jobs and improved socio-economic condition of the locals. As of now, only Kathmandu and Pokhara remain prime destinations in the tourist circuit.

Lumbini, as the birthplace of Lord Buddha, stands to become the most-frequented destination in Nepal as well as South Asia if stakeholders from the tourism industry and the government pull out all stops to develop and promote this historical town.

Apart from UN’s contribution, there has been growing support from nations with a sizable Buddhist population like Thailand, Japan, China, South Korea, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka in developing this native land of Lord Buddha.

Though the government is doing its bit in promoting Lumbini, yet more could be done to speed up the development of this sacred land.

Lumbini, like Mecca, could be a must-visit pilgrimage destination for Buddhists spread across the globe. The development of infrastructure and promotion and marketing at the international level could ensure that this becomes a reality soon.

The present International Buddhist Conference offers a wonderful platform for this end and the Government and tourism stakeholders should make the most of it.

Lama is a tourism entrepreneur.