Revival of the Dhamma: The Annual 10-Day Tipiṭaka Chanting Ceremony at Buddhagaya

'Revival of the Dhamma: The Annual 10-Day Tipiṭaka Chanting Ceremony at Buddhagaya and the revitalisation of the holy places of the Buddha'

Mrs. Wangmo Dixey, MA, Chief Excutive Director, The light of Buddhadharma Foundation International, USA

Dear Respected delegates, Bhantes, Professors and lecturers.

I am not an academic student of the Theravādin tradition, so it is a great honor to have been invited to address you today. I thank Venerable Professor Dhammassāmi for extending it to me.

I am here today to tell you a little about the work of the Light of Buddhadharma Foundation International (LBDFI). LBDFI was founded in 2004 by my father, Tarthang Tulku, a Tibetan teacher who has now lived on the West coast of America for the last 38 years. The Foundation has continued the vision that inspired him when he first came out of Tibet and settled in Varanasi where he taught at Sanskrit University. The holy land of India is blessed as the birthplace of the teachings of the Lord Buddha and is graced by sights sacred to his memory and certain in their authenticity. The Foundation has come into being to help in the task of revitalizing those sites and encouraging the development the Saṅgha of Indian monks to join those who now grace the countries of the Theravādin world.

Last year, we had the great good fortune to be able to sponsor the chanting of the Tipiṭaka at Bodhagayā with an International gathering of monks from Myanmar, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Thailand. It is extraordinary to think that the words of the Buddha were chanted at the site of the His enlightenment daily for over 1500 years and yet following the abandonment of the temple in the 13th century it was not chanted again on a regular basis until this ceremony was established on the 2550th Buddha Jayanti. Truly this marks the beginning of a new tradition of chanting in the ancient manner. To recognize this development the elders from all the Theravādin temples in Bodhgayā agreed to make the chanting ceremony an annual event. This in turn has inspired LBDFI to continue its sponsorship of the ceremony and to offer all participants printed copies of the Tipiṭaka which will assemble into the entire canon over the course of the next six to nine years.

This distribution of books forms part of the core endeavor of LBDFI, for we see that the education of monks is a central theme in the revitalization of the Buddhadharma in the holy land of Aryadesha. We also believe that the International Chanting Ceremony will grow steadily in size and prestige, and attract increasing numbers of venerable bhantes and bhikkhus from all over the Theravādin world along with their attendant devotees. Never again will bhikkhus from the land of India itself feel alone and without support in their noble endeavor! Furthermore, we hope and expect that new bhikkhus will seek ordination when inspired by the sight and sound of the mighty Saṅgha chanting in unison under the Bodhi tree.

Our efforts to support the education of monks have two more themes which I wish to briefly describe to you. The first is that every evening during the event we have organized dharma talks, which from next year will focus on the texts actually being chanted during the ceremony itself. The chanting of the Buddha's words is itself of great value, and as Venerable Dhammasāmi pointed out to us in one of his addresses this year, it is an ancient tradition that traces back to Lord Buddha himself. Alongside the chanting, however, we hope that the bhikkhus will listen to the discourses, in English and Hindi, on the meaning of what is being chanted. We have also filmed these talks, and will make them available to all via our web site where they can be downloaded for later study.

Of course these efforts at education will rely centrally on one factor, which is a good working knowledge of the sacred Pāḷi language. In this regard, we have also commenced work on the construction of a Pāḷi Training Institute in Sarnath, where we hope that senior and experienced bhantes from all over the Theravādin world will come and share their wisdom and experience with novice and monks in India. We also hope to be able to offer language classes to monks of all denominations and also encourage academics expert in the Pāḷi tradition to come and give language classes and seminars to the monks. Indeed one of my major purposes in being here today is to make contact with those of you who feel able to support our endeavors in this Institute, as the reintroduction and proper growth of the Buddha sāsana in India will require long term and concerted effort. We would like to encourage each and every represented university to make contact with us so that we can materialize the aim of making this a world class institute of learning.

A final element of the work of LBDFI is to revitalize the holy sites that form the pilgrimage circuit suggested by the Lord Buddha himself and recorded in the Mahāparinibbāna sutta. This year marks the beginning of this work, for we have opened new toilet/shower facilities in Bodhgaya, but we hope to be able to sponsor further improvements in the ancient Bodhgaya region and also in the other sites important to the history of Buddhism, most notably at Sravasti, Vaishali, Rajgir, Nalanda, and Sarnath itself. It is also very heartening to hear that both the State and Central Governments of India have well developed plans to improve access to these ancient and holy places.

From its very beginning, the Saṅgha relied on its interaction with pilgrims and lay followers for sustenance and support. We hope that our work will serve to encourage pilgrims to visit these holy sites of India in ever increasing numbers, and by so doing restart the virtuous cycle that supported the great Saṅgha of residents at these sites in ancient times. We also hope that we can support from our own resources experienced monks to reside in these places so that pilgrims that come even now will be able to seek guidance and instruction from bhikkhus who understand the history of what happened there and embody the teachings that were transmitted.

Revitalizing the Buddha Saṅgha within the holy land of Aryadesha is a long and noble task. I hope very much that my brief comments have given some inspiration, and that some of you will be able to visit the ceremony in Bodhgaya and assist us in our attempts to revitalize the Bharati Saṅgha in the land of its origin.

Thank you again for the opportunity to speak to you.

[1] Presented at The International Conference of All Theravāda Buddhist Universities held at The International Theravāda Buddhist Missionary University, Yangon, & at Woodlands Hotel, Poppa Mountain Resort, Bagan, Myanmar, 9-12th March 2007.