Sitagu Sayadaw Aggamahāpaṇḍita
Dr. Ashin Nyanissara (D. Litt., Ph. D)
Founder and Chancellor
Sitagu International Buddhist Academy
Sagaing Hills, Sagaing
Today’s meeting is intended to provide what is needed in the world. The world is needy in many aspects. The needs in the world are so many that it is difficult to mention them all here. Nevertheless I would like to mention two of them - spiritual need and material need. Providing the material need should be taken care of by government and non-government organizations, while religious organizations are responsible for providing the spiritual needs. All religions but Buddhism are Theo-centric religions. God is the centre of their teachings. However Buddhism is a Homo-centric religion of which mental, physical and verbal behaviors are the centre of teaching, and consequently it encompasses all human needs in life. Therefore human needs would be well provided if the teaching of the Buddha could fill the heart of every man.
Dissatisfaction wears people out while Dhamma relaxes them. Thirsty craving enslaves people while Dhamma liberates them. Dhamma extinguishes the fire that burns the world internally as well as externally.
What should be done for the world is to help people in need, to make people to be at peace, to free people from bondage, to contribute what we have to other people, to sympathize, to forgive, to be patient, to keep our egocentric views aside and yield to selfless views.
(61) eminent scholars from (25) Buddhist Universities around the world are gathering at this International Theravāda Missionary Buddhist University today in order to share their valuable knowledge and opinion on effective teaching methods. These methods are to aim precisely at how we could provide people with their needs that I aforementioned.
In my opinion, the Buddha’s teaching is not to convert people of other religions into Buddhism. Dhamma is about reality in life. As a matter of fact, Dhamma is life itself. If there is any conversion at all, Dhamma converts dissatisfaction to satisfaction, violence to peace, darkness to light, revenge to forgiveness, egotism to altruism, intolerance to tolerance. Then only will this be a true conversion. On top of all that most importantly Dhamma Educated Scholars should enlighten the world of ignorance — the world which is ignorant of the ultimate reality and noble truth; they should educate the uneducated world the world which lacks the education about ultimate reality and noble truth. The Buddha said, “Andhibuto ayaṃ loko.” As he said, the world is ignorant and is lack of education about ultimate reality and noble truth.
Enlightenment and education were the aims of some Buddhist kings some 2000 years ago who built great educational institutions. Asokārāma Buddhist Institution in Pataliputta, modern Patna in India, built by the Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century BE must be a good example in this aspect. We still benefit from the education of that institution. The Buddhist missions that reached the entire India, Greek, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, Libel, Sri Lanka, and around South-East Asia were from that institution. Moreover, Venerable Nāgasena from Punjab, who lived around the 5th century BE, was one of the most outstanding scholars of Asokārāma. His intelligence, his mastery of the Piṭaka, his method of debate, his open mind in discussion, his profound and clear answers to the deliberately sophisticated questions asked by Greek King Milinda (Menander) were of a very high ideal for generations of students.
With the downfall of the Mauryan Empire, there was a drop in public esteem for Theravāda Buddhism in India. The Questions of King Milinda is attributed to Venerable Doni from Sri Lanka whom we owe a great deal for his systematic compilation work. Notably serious and sustained research is essential in universities. King Devanampiyatissa, the contemporary to the Emperor Asoka, built Mahāvihara Monastic Institution in his royal garden Mahāmeghavana in Anuradhapura, the center of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. Venerable Buddhaghosa and Venerable Dhammapala, of Indian origin, were famous scholars of Mahāvihara where they wrote many commentaries and sub-commentaries on Piṭaka. Thus in the history of Buddhism the role of Asokārāma in Pataliputta and Mahāvihara in Anuradhapura are not less important than that of modern Buddhist universities. Moreover we should always respect and follow the effective systems of those ancient institutions when we run the Buddhist universities.
I have just mentioned some remarkable facts from the history of Buddhism at this conference in order to draw your attention to the fact that universities, academies, and institutes are necessary not only in the propagation of the Buddha Dhamma but also in the preservation of it. And also I would like to emphasize that we should train skilful teachers, who are well-versed in the theory and practice so that these teachers in turn will train exceptional students like Nāgasena, Buddhaghosa, Nāgarjuna, Asvaghosa, Vasubandhu, etc. Venerable Ānanda was a reciter of whole Tipiṭaka. He lived 40 years longer than the Buddha. The students he trained were also the reciters of Tipiṭaka and leaders of the Second Buddhist council. Likewise, Venerable Upali excelled all others in Vinaya. The students he trained were well-versed in Vinaya like him, and became efficient leaders of the Buddha dispensation till the Third Buddhist council.
Therefore, I would like to conclude here with a resolve that we, sons of the Buddha, will walk hand in hand on the common super highway which is the promotion and preservation of the Buddha Sāsana. We will untangle the tangle in the mind of people like King Milinda who was confused with the Philosophies of East and West. And we will train our students in a way that Venerable Upali and Venerable Ānanda trained their students who could skillfully promote the Buddha Sāsana.
May the teachings of the Fully Enlightened One prevail long in the world!
May all beings always honour the teaching of the Fully Enlightened One!