Landmark Buddhist forum aims for harmony, peace
By Zhao Huanxin (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-04-13 05:43

HANGZHOU: A harmonious world begins in the mind that's the theme of an international Buddhist forum held in China for the first time since the religion came to the country 2,000 years ago.

The first World Buddhist Forum, which opens in the capital of East China's Zhejiang Province today, will hear at least 1,000 monks, researchers on Buddhism and dignitaries from 30-odd countries expound on how the religion could contribute to social harmony and world peace.

"The forum represents a new and active endeavour by Buddhism to contribute to harmony," said event spokesman Qi Xiaofei.

"We'll try our best to offer avenues to as many people as possible to discuss and deepen the understanding of the forum's theme."

Qi, also secretary-general of the China Religious Culture Communication Association (CRCCA), said all religions are treated equally in China.

Apart from Buddhism, China's main religions include Taoism, Islam and Christianity.

But Buddhism has a relatively more profound influence among Chinese people, Qi said, because its teachings of equality, benevolence and harmony are similar to the concepts of peace and harmony in traditional Chinese culture.

Advocating the Buddhist spirit and applying the religion's wisdom will help people achieve peace of mind, and facilitate the realization of lasting peace in the world, he told a press conference.

That explains why the China Buddhist Association and the CRCCA adopted the theme "A harmonious world begins in the mind" at the forum they co-sponsored, Qi said.

Participants will exchange views on unity and co-operation among Buddhists, and discuss the religion's social responsibilities and peace mission, he said.

The forum was initiated in 2004 by eight Buddhist leaders from Hong Kong and across the Taiwan Straits and won support from Buddhist communities of more than 40 countries, including South Korea, Japan and Thailand.

To be specific, organizers said, the meaning of the theme is two-fold.

First, it holds that people from different countries, ethnic groups and religious beliefs make concerted efforts to build a harmonious world with lasting peace and common prosperity.

Second, it preaches that a pure mind contributes to a pure land, a tranquil mind contributes to a tranquil people, and a peaceful mind contributes to a peaceful world.

The gathering will run till Sunday in the nearby city of Zhoushan, where monks will dedicate a solemn ceremony praying for world peace.

Some of the monks will visit Shanghai on Monday and attend a "Buddhist Symphony Concert," according to Qi.

When asked about the possibility of holding international forums on other religions, Qi said holding an international religious meeting entails the consensus and support of the believers as well as public understanding and co-operation.

"Things happen naturally if conditions are ripe," he said.

Jia Qinglin, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, met some of the participants last night.

He believed the forum will help enhance exchanges between Buddhists in different countries and contribute to building a harmonious world.

(China Daily 04/13/2006 page1)