The 7th International Dharma Dhamma Conference was organised by India Foundation in collaboration with Sanchi University of Buddhist and Indic Studies on 3-5 March 2023 at Kushabhau Thakre Hall, Bhopal. The conference was attended by approximately 300 scholars from 15 countries and was themed on “Eastern Humanism in the New Era”. 41 distinguished speakers addressed the conference while 105 scholars presented their research papers on various sub-themes of the conference.
The Hon’ble President of India, Smt. Draupadi Murmu, was the Chief Guest for the Conference. The Conference was also graced by Shri Mangubhai Patel, Hon’ble Governor of Madhya Pradesh, India and Shri Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Hon’ble Chief Minister, Madhya Pradesh, India.
Dr. Neerja Gupta Director, Vice-Chancellor, Sanchi University of Buddhist and Indic Studies, welcomed the Hon’ble President of India and all the guests, eminent scholars, academics and students to the Conference. In her remarks, she stated, “It’s our duty with our academic fraternity to bring out the truth with genuine research”.
Swami Govinda Dev Giri Maharaj, spoke on the concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ which has its roots in India and the value that is given to knowledge, learning and wisdom in this great land. He said, “This is the land which always embraced the whole world as one family…this is the land which has been a centre of attraction for the whole world…this is the land of learning; the land of wisdom”
Shri Shivraj Singh Chauhan, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, focused on moral values. “Not only in congregations of scholars, but in every village of India, even today, in every facet of moral duty, each child follows the mantra i.e., let there be victory of Dharma, defeat of adharma, a sense of good faith amongst all living beings and universal wellbeing,” he said.
Shri Mangubhai Patel, Hon’ble Governor of Madhya Pradesh, spoke of India’s ancient wisdom in solving contemporary problems. “In the social sphere, Buddhist thought is important for the well-being of humankind. To tackle global issues and protect humanity from problems such as extremism, imperialism and the negative effects of climate change, it is only Indian knowledge and the philosophy of Rishis which can provide pathways to solutions for these problems in contemporary times,” he said.
In her address, H.E. Draupadi Murmu, Hon’ble President of India, said that “Progress of individuals and society with the spirit of friendship, compassion and non-violence as well as free from attachment and hatred, has been the main message of eastern humanism. Personal conduct and social order based on morality is the practical form of eastern humanism. It has been considered the duty of every person to preserve and strengthen such a system based on morality”.
The Ministers Session was chaired by Shri Ram Madhav, Member, Governing Council, India Foundation. Ministers from four different countries including India were the speakers for this session. These were: H.E. Ugyen Dorji, Hon’ble Minister of Home and Cultural Affairs, Royal Government of Bhutan, Hon. Vidura Wickramanayaka, Hon’ble Minister of Buddhasasana Religious and Cultural Affairs, Government of Sri Lanka, Hon. Prof. Dr. Ir. Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati, Msi., Vice-Governor of Bali, Indonesia and Smt. Usha Thakur, Minister of Culture, Government of Madhya Pradesh, India.
Shri Ram Madhav initiated the session highlighting the unique nature of the humanism that was born within the Indic Civilisation. He said that, “Over this long history, in this journey of civilisations, we have also come up with the idea of humanism which is not human centric but humanity centric. Whatever is there, is divinity; everything is divine, sarvam khalvidam brahman. This idea that everything is divine is at the core of the humanist discourse in eastern religions and eastern traditions.
Hon. Ugyen Dorji in his address spoke of the importance of applying eastern humanistic thought in our worldview moving forward. He said that, “As the world moves into the new-era, a post COVID-19 chapter, it is imperative that we examine our values and beliefs to ensure that we move forward with compassion, wisdom and empathy”.
Hon. Vidura Wickramanayaka highlighted the urgent need for action from this generation. He said that, “All these isms (socialism, capitalism etc.) have negated the very essence of humanism and we have forgotten about the real “ism”. That is why we are in an economic collapse, political mayhem, cultural degradation, environmental collapse. We have to rectify this. If not us, there won’t be anybody”.
Prof. Dr. Ir. Tjokorda Oka Artha Ardana Sukawati, Msi. spoke about the lessons to be learnt from the disharmony of recent times. He said, “Balinese humanism emphasises the responsibility that falls in our hand which dictates both harmony and disharmony in life. Hence, the recent disharmony should be treated as a moment for humans to contemplate our roles in the realms of religiosity, humanism and ecology”.
Smt. Usha Thakur spoke about the inherent value of nature and its resources in their purest forms. She said that, “The amount we take from earth, it is a matter of ethics and humanism that at the very least we must return that amount back to earth. Any knowledge, till it doesn’t become wisdom and lead to behavioural change, will remain meaningless”.
The keynote session in the Dharma Dhamma Conference was chaired by Mr. Come Carpentier, Distinguished Fellow, India Foundation. The speakers of the session were, Swami Govinda Dev Giri Maharaj, Treasurer, Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, India, Ven Kotapitiye Rahula Anunayaka Thera, Professor and Head of Department, Department of Pali and Buddhist Studies University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka and Mahamahopadhyay Sri Sadhu Bhadresh Das, Akshardham New Delhi, India.
Mr. Come Carpentier, initiated the session with a brief overview of the similarities between the intent of the concept of humanism in the west and the humanistic philosophies of the east. He said that originally, humanism was really intended as a new form of learning which would take into account many forgotten texts from antiquity. He spoke of western antiquity which means essentially Greek and Roman schools of thought, that would challenge the realm of theological supremacy. It would no longer be about man’s relationship to God but it would be a matter of man’s own many fold pursuits and abilities.
Swami Govinda Dev Giri Maharaj, in his address, said that, “Really speaking the difference (between Dharma and Dhamma) is only, according to me, verbal. The words are different but the essence is the same. This is the mischief of so many colonial scholars, that they have tried to take Pali away from Sanskrit, that they have tried to give more emphasis to the difference, in spite of the similarities that both ideas have. Therefore, let us first look at the similarities”.
Ven Kotapitiye Rahula Anunayaka Thera, noted that, “Building trust in each other helps us to live without fear and doubt. Morality is crucial for a just and law-abiding society. One should be generous, to respect the opinions of others without thinking that only one’s own opinion is correct.”
In his address, Mahamahopadhyay Sri Sadhu Bhadresh Das stated, “As we enter this new era of rapid change and challenges, it is essential that we come together to explore solutions that are rooted in humanism…to chart a course forward that is grounded in deep respect towards interconnectedness of all life”.
Plenary and Parallel Sessions
There were five plenary sessions in the conference where 41 distinguished speakers from various countries participated. They addressed the conference on the theme, Eastern Humanism in the New Era. There were also 15 parallel sessions in the conference where scholars presented their papers on sub-themes of the conference. Thus, the 7th edition of Dharma-Dhamma Conference explored the role of eastern humanistic thought in guiding the world out of the turbulent times and charting a course of peace and harmony moving forward.
The conference was successful in putting forward the similarities between the dharmic and dhammic philosophies. It highlighted the united will of both traditions to heal the spiritual, social, mental and economic fabric of society by sharing their vast wealth of wisdom, thereby contributing to the creation of a new a world order more resistant to future adversities and challenges.