Bodhgaya, Bihar, India – Following the successful conclusion of the three day International Sangha Forum, delegates gathered this morning beneath the Bodhi Tree to make prayers for world peace. His Holiness the Dalai Lama came from the Tibetan Monastery, Ganden Phelgyeling to join them. Reaching the west side of the Mahabodhi Temple he greeted Sakya Gongma Rinpoché and Jangtsé Chöjé Rinpoché, who were seated to his right. He waved to the crowd and then greeted the Ganden Tri Rinpoché who was seated to his left.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama arriving at the Mahabodi Temple to join in prayers for world peace in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India on December 23, 2023. Photo by Tenzin ChoejorWelcoming His Holiness, the eminent guests and respected Sangha members Siliing Tongkhor Rinpoché declared:
“We have gathered here in the shade of the Bodhi Tree recalling that this is where the Buddha attained enlightenment. Let us draw strength from the teachings he gave, which remain relevant and timely today. Amidst the unending challenges facing the world, let us focus on the shared purpose of bringing solace, compassion and a sense of oneness to all in need.
“In the hallowed vicinity of this ancient temple may our prayers transcend borders resounding as a call for peace, compassion and healing. Bodhgaya where enlightenment took place centuries ago is a beacon to a brighter future and a more compassionate world.
“As we join our hands in prayer may this gathering bring humanity enduring strength, and may the blessings we invoke today bring comfort to many and spread like ripples around the world. May our prayers be filled with the wisdom that originated here.”
Ven Mahayano Aun announced that on this occasion prayers would be chanted of by representatives of 11 Sangha communities from the Pali and Sanskrit traditions. “We are all followers of the same Buddha,” he added, “May our prayers contribute to peace and harmony among all living beings.”
His Holiness the Dalai Lama lighting a lamp to open the gathering at the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India on December 23, 2023. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
First His Holiness and then Sakya Gongma Rinpoché, Jangtsé Chöjé Rinpoché, the Venerable Abbot of the Royal Thai Temple, Bodhgaya, Ganden Tri Rinpoché and the Deputy Sangharaja of Myanmar were invited to light a lamp of wisdom to give an auspicious opening to the gathering.
President of the International Buddhist Council (IBC), Bodhgaya, Geshé Ngawang Tenzin Gyatso gave a welcome address.
“On behalf of the IBC I welcome you to this land of enlightenment. First of all, let me express deep gratitude to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for blessing us by his presence and for presiding over this gathering. I also welcome the Sangharajas from different countries. The International Sangha Forum, as well as this meeting today, fulfilling the vision of His Holiness, have been coordinated by the South-east Asia representative of the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
“Our primary focus has been to establish an ongoing dialogue and collaboration among the various Buddhist communities belonging to the Pali and Sanskrit traditions. This is a day for joy and happiness as we witness members of these traditions praying together for the welfare of all humanity.
“Once again, I thank His Holiness for imparting the true teaching of the Buddha and for rejuvenating the whole world by revealing the ancient wisdom of India rooted in compassion and wisdom. May the teaching of the Buddha remain long in our hearts and may all our teachers live long and in good health.”
Sangha members of eleven different countries taking turns chanting prayers for world peace at the Mahabohdi Temple in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India on December 23, 2023. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
There followed prayers for universal peace chanted by Sangha members from India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Cambodia, all of whom prayed in Pali. Monks from Taiwan recited the ‘Heart Sutra’ in Chinese. Monks from Korea, Japan and Vietnam chanted the ‘Heart Sutra’ in their respective languages as they beat a wooden fish to keep their rhythm. Lastly, Tibetan monks recited the ‘Prayer of the Three Continuums’ and the following verse:
May there be happiness in the world, may harvests be abundant,
Increasing the production of grains; may spirituality flourish;
May we achieve all happiness and benefit
And fulfill all our heartfelt desires.
Before chanting the ‘Heart Sutra’ in Tibetan, they recited this ‘Praise to Prajnaparamita’ by Rahula:
Homage to the Perfection of Wisdom, Mother of all
Buddhas of the three times,
Which is beyond words, inconceivable, inexpressible,
Unproduced and unobstructed, in the nature of space,
The objective domain of self-aware wisdom.
They ended with this concluding verse:
With the coming of the Buddha in the world
The teaching shines forth brightly like the sun
The custodians of the teaching are harmonious like siblings
Through them may the teaching flourish for long.
Bhikkhu Pragyadeep, General Secretary of the International Buddhist Council, Bodhgaya offered words of thanks:
“His Holiness the Dalai Lama and guests—monks, nuns and lay-people from 33 different countries—today we have assembled beneath the Bodhi Tree, the sole witness of the enlightenment of Siddhartha Gautama. This is the first time that representatives of so many lands have gathered together here in the shade of the Bodhi Tree. We hope there will be many more such assemblies in the future.
A view of the crowd gathered to join in prayers for world peace at the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India on December 23, 2023. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
“It is His Holiness who has explained Buddhism in such a way that it has attracted great interest. Due to your efforts many people in different parts of the world are paying attention to what the Buddha taught. Your presence brings Buddhism alive for people. Therefore, we pray you will live long.
“Many scholars among representatives from 33 countries have presented papers to the conference, full of knowledge and intelligence about consciousness and so forth. We thank you for the inspiration you have given us.”
Ven Mahayano Aun expressed the hope that with a shared commitment to the Dharma and a collective aspiration for world peace the prayers said today would spread love, wisdom and compassion around the world leading all sentient beings to live in peace and harmony.
“May all our efforts contribute to the flourishing of the Buddha’s teaching,” he added, “and may all beings find peace and happiness. This concludes our prayers for the world beneath the sacred Bodhi Tree.”
His Holiness made an impromptu request to address the assembly:
“All of us, including you my Dharma friends gathered here, know that the unique aspect of the teaching of the Buddha is that it deals with dependent arising—pratityasamutpada. When you combine this with the aspiration to attain nirvana, or liberation, you tread the paths of Arhats and Solitary Realizers. But when you combine it with the awakening mind of bodhichitta your path leads to Buddhahood.
“In the Nalanda tradition masters such as Nagarjuna have shown that we should examine the teaching of the Buddha in the light of reason, not relying solely on faith. I was born in the remote north-east of Tibet, but I came to Lhasa to study the Dharma with my tutors. By using my own intelligence through study and reason I discovered how profound were the Buddha’s instructions. In my daily practice I focus on bodhichitta and an understanding of emptiness. So, I can tell you that the Buddha’s teaching is not only vast and profound, it is also practical and effective in terms of inner development.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressing the congregation gathered at the Mahabodhi Temple to join in prayers for world peace in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India on December 23, 2023. Photo by Tenzin Choejor
“As is indicated by the ‘Heart Sutra’ mantra, we aspire to reach Buddhahood by following the five paths. We are not confined to merely saying prayers, we must follow the direction shown by Nagarjuna and others and examine the teaching in terms of reason and logic. I have acquired good experience of both bodhichitta and emptines such that I can say I have reached the path of accumulation and hope to reach the path of preparation.
“From my own experience I have learned how practical the Buddha’s teachings are. If you integrate them with your mind, you’ll see their effect, which ultimately results in the attainment of Buddhahood. In other words, the Buddha’s teachings are vast and profound.
“I myself am a follower of the Buddha. I have studied his teachings, but I have also meditated on them. Through study and practice I have gained experience of how vast and profound they are. As a person with such experience, being here at this sacred place where the Buddha attained enlightenment, I feel most fortunate.
“None of us wants to suffer; we all want to be happy, but those who cultivate the causes of happiness through actually practising the path are few. Remember, the Buddha told us that the Enlightened Ones don’t wash unwholesome deeds away with water, and they don’t remove the sufferings of beings with their hands, nor do they transplant their own realization into others. It is by teaching the truth of suchness, revealing reality as they have experienced it, and the means to pacify restless minds, that they liberate beings. What’s more he stated, ‘You are your own master.’
“I can see how we rid ourselves of negative emotions, the causes of suffering by applying the teachings within ourselves. I can feel the impact the Dharma has had on my mind. If you too practise, if you study and practise, you’ll see how doing so brings about peace of mind. When you understand how mental afflictions can be subdued, you’ll see how we can reach the final goal of enlightenment by following the path.
“This is what I wish to share with you—that we should integrate the teaching of the Buddha within ourselves. Thank you.”