By Tsering Choephel
DHARAMSALA, 20 December: The Tibetan spiritual leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, formally launched the inaugural First International Sangha Forum (ISF) today at the International Convention Centre in Bodh Gaya. The three-day conference from 20-23 December is jointly organised by the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the International Buddhist Confederation and the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s South East Side Coordinator’s office, according to the Dalai Lama’s official website.
Titled “Bridging Traditions, Embracing Modernity: A Dialogue on the Buddha’s Teaching in Today’s World” – the conference gathers over 2000 Buddhist leaders and practitioners from 37 countries, including Tibet, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Korea, Russia, Laos and Mongolia.
The first-ever ISF aims to “strengthen the harmony among the different Buddhist traditions” said the moderator Ven Mahayamo from Thailand, adding that “This is even more crucial now in this 21st century where we are more connected than ever before.”
At the opening introduction of the forum, Siling Tongkhor Rinpoche of Sera Mey Monastery outlined the objectives and process of the 3 days gathering. He said that over three days, “The Buddhist practitioners across traditions of Pali, Sanskrit and Tibetan coming from diverse ethnic and countries will engage in dialogue and discussion of views, experiences and knowledge with each other.”
The discussions among the 50 distinguished guest speakers and moderators will also cover the “significant relevance of Buddha’s teaching in the 21st century and how the general public can embrace the teachings of Buddhism in their practical day-to-day lives” Tongkor Rinpoche added.
Following the conclusion of the conference, a world peace prayer session will take place on the morning of December 23 at the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India. This temple holds immense significance in Buddhism, being the sacred site where Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, is believed to have attained enlightenment beneath the Bodhi tree. The Dalai Lama will lead the congregation during this prayer session.