Narendra Modi visits Buddhist Shrines in Japan

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A Bhikkhu’s Bouquet for Indian Premier

The celebrated visit of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to Japan, stirred considerable interest everywhere in the world. This was the Indian PM’s first official visit to Japan. But, as a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk, long resident in Japan, I am able to discern some facets of this recent visit as Buddhists in Sri Lanka, do in fairness to all Buddhists and to those who believe in religious tolerance.

Prime Minister Damodardas Modi, is widely reputed as a staunch Hindu devotee.

Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Japan quite impressively demonstrated that he possesses a tremendous admiration for Buddhism and for Buddhist culture as well.

In the course of his visit to Japan, one of his priorities was to go on a pilgrimage to the ancient city of Kyoto, a spiritual centre. This special devotion they have towards Kyoto, is quite similar to the religious deference Sri Lankans have towards Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa.

The Indian Prime Minister, in the company of his Japanese counterpart – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, toured the city of Kyoto, Premier Shinzo Abe, was quite happy to take his intimate friend around the city of Kyoto. Kyoto has a rich history. It was the eighth capital of Japan. This is the city of ancient Nijo-jo castle, containing the Imperial castle.

The Indian Prime Minister was especially drawn to Kyoto’s Buddhist Shrines. Kyoto area is a sacred location, possessing more than 2000 temples and shrines.

The Prime Minister toured the city and visited many temples there. One of the shrines he visited was Kinkakuji – the golden pavilion. Dating back to 1394, this shrine has a deep appeal to devotees.

Kyoto city is globally reputed for some of its Zen Shrines. Kyoto’s “Kare-San-Suyi” is one of these well-known temples, that has won the admiration of many, all the world over.

What impressed me mostly was the news, that Prime Minister Modi, had lunch in Kyoto, with the members of a Buddhist Association at their cordial invitation.

These ardent visits by themselves would have been sufficient for us to get a fair idea of the devotion; the Indian Prime Minister has for Buddhism. But over and above this kind of amble proof, he indicated the high deference he has for Buddhism and its culture, by an official act that would have surprised many.

The pleasant surprise is the agreement PM Modi entered into with his Japanese counterpart Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The agreement was that the Government of Japan and the Indian Government should collaborate to transform and develop the Indian city of Benares, so that it will be as glorious as the Japanese city of Kyoto.

There will hardly be any Buddhist or any other devotee of spiritual culture who will not feel an overwhelming joy at this formal decision.

Benares, is the city where Buddhism was truly born 2014 years ago. It was at Migadaya, Saranath in the heart of Benares, that the Buddha, declared his spiritual manifesto “Dhammacakka Pavattana Sutta” (The sermon of the Turning of the Wheel), proclaiming to humanity the truths he realised as the Supremely Enlightened Buddha.

Prime Minister Modi, through this agreement, declared one of his priorities which is to restore one of the world’s foremost Buddhist cities – intimately associated with the origin of Buddhism. This way, the first official visit of the Indian PM to Japan brings about a new beginning of Buddhist renaissance, in the land of the Teachings of one Supremely Enlightened Buddha.

Buddhists should realistically appreciate the value of the Indian PM’s visit to Japan and must felicitate him for his great gesture.

Incidentally Prime Minister Modi, celebrate his 64th birthday on the 17th of September 2014. The pleasant surprise for us, Sri Lankan Buddhists is that it marks the 150th Birth Anniversary of Ven Anagarike Dharmapala, who brought about a new Buddhist awakening.

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