SINGAPORE | From the Himalayas to the Korean DMZ to the South China Sea, the balance of power in Asia appears to be shifting. But beneath the rhetoric, have the fundamentals really changed ? In East–West Center International Media Conference in Singapore, an expert panel of journalists, policy analysts, and academics examined the situation from…
Indian Buddhism scholar Suchandra Ghosh said on Friday the flow of populations between India and Myanmar are linked to the shared Buddhist culture prevalent in its border regions.
Speaking at the conference on ‘India-Myanmar relations: Way Forward, Prof Ghosh said, “The study of Buddhism in this region is not just a look back to the past but holds the key to developing people-to-people contacts between the two countries.”
She said the Buddhism of the Harikela region stretches to Lower Myanmar and Arakan (now Rakhine) and links to what is now Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar region and Tripura, where the Pilak stupa holds testimony to the civilisation of that period.
“The potential for people-to-people contact now is linked to our shared historical heritage of Buddhism,” she said.
Buddhism scholar Mrinal Kanti Chakma said India-Myanmar Buddhist contact is as old as the Buddha.
millions of Buddhist pilgrims from ASEAN countries including Myanmar visit Indian Buddhist sites and some contribute to temples and facilities in these sites like Bodh Gaya
‘Buddhism represents a two-way wave of cultural communications between India and Myanmar,” Prof Chakma said.
“The exchange in the post-colonial era has been substantial, like Vipassana got transmitted to India, the place of its origin, back from Myanmar,” said Chakma. “Now not only India but the West has taken to meditation in a big way.”
Chakma said millions of Buddhist pilgrims from ASEAN countries including Myanmar visit Indian Buddhist sites and some contribute to temples and facilities in these sites like Bodh Gaya.
“But since foreigners cannot create trusts in India, they have to go through locals, some of whom undermine the interests of the donors,” Chakma said, adding that the Indian government must look into the problems of these pilgrims in Indian Buddhist sites,” he said.
“These problems are not huge and can be solved with some effort, but they must be solved before they become a problem,” he said.
Chakma insisted that foreign Buddhist organisations must be allowed to form trusts to build and maintain temples in Bodh Gaya and other places in India which hold significance for Buddhism.
“Some Buddhist trusts have been heavily taxed, but this is awful because they are not profit making organisations,” Chakma said.
Chakma said many Buddhists from south-east Asia including Myanmar want to create a peace and harmony village in Buddhist sites in India.
“I appeal to the Indian government to help create such a village and also set up a directorate of Buddhist sites to handle such facilities.”