Global Hindu Buddhist Samvad: International Symposium on Experience of Democratisation in Asia, ‘Shared Values and Democracy in Asia’, Tokyo, 5 July 2018
Vote of Thanks by Dr Arvind Gupta, Director, Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF), New Delhi.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We offer our thanks and gratitude to Nikkei Inc., the Japan Foundation, the Nakamura Hajime Eastern Institute, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan, and International Buddhist Confederation for organising the international symposium on the theme of ‘Shared Values and Democracy in Asia’. Their great initiative, ability, generosity and meticulous planning has made this conference possible. The Vivekananda International Foundation was privileged to host the first session of the Hindu Buddhist dialogue in New Delhi and Bodh Gaya in 2015. We are honoured to have been involved in all the sessions organised so far. We will continue to remain engaged with our counterparts in different countries to organise such sessions in the future.

We are immensely grateful to Prime Minister Abe and Prime Minister Modi for their continuing support and encouragement. The global Hindu-Buddhist samvad was set up in 2015 as a result of their vision.

Friends,

We are living in a moment of a great transition. The post-war order constructed in 1945 by the so-called ‘victors’ of the Second World War has come under tremendous stress in the last few years. A multipolar world is emerging but the rules of the game are not clear. The realignment of political, economic and technological forces has resulted in turbulence and turmoil. The fruits of globalisation have been shared by only a few. The current economic model is leading to the deepening of inequality in the world, which creates conflict and strife.

Conflicts

In the last few years, the world has seen interminable conflicts involving large scale violence in which thousands have been killed, and many more maimed and injured. People are migrating from conflict zones in large numbers to areas lives in camps and ghettoes. A generation of children is growing which was born into conflict and has seen nothing but violence, poverty, hunger, pain and suffering. Women in particular have borne the brunt of the conflicts which they did not start. Many of these conflicts are going on unabated and threaten to engulf even larger areas.

New Organising Principles

We need new organising principles for the emerging world. We must not miss the chance. Our effort should be that peace and cooperation should the given priority in the emerging world order rather than conflict violence and war. Prime Minister Modi has in his news numerous speeches underlined the themes of Vasudhaiva Kuntumbkam (‘world is a family’), and Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah (‘let there be happiness for all’). We must find an alternative to the world order driven by greed and profit motives and based on competition and conflict, reckless exploitation of the resource. The Eastern religions, particularly Hinduism and Buddhism, offer a host of alternatives ideas which can help shape the new world order. It is necessary that differences between different ideologies are reconciled the through dialogue.

In the previous editions of the Hindu Buddhist Samvad series, some of the greatest minds and thinkers have articulated the principles on which the new order can be based. Several innovative, useful and practical suggestions have emerged. The key message of the Hindu Buddhist dialogue can be summed up easily – avoidance of greed, living the life in accordance with simple moral principles, respect for nature, an open dialogue between the religions, raising awareness about the need to avoid conflict and protect environment, introducing value-based education etc.

Democracy has been adopted by many countries. This is a positive sign. But the democratic experience of countries has been varied. Political democracy alone is not enough. Ensuring justice and equality is equally important. Democracy is no guarantee that conflicts can be avoided or that it will result in enlightened leaders coming to office. Democratic principles are violated with impunity by those who preach them. Climate change threatens the very existence of mankind. Environmental degradation has led to enormous loss of biodiversity, shortages of water resources, hunger and disease. The ideal of ridding the world of Weapons of Mass Destruction remains elusive and subservient to the geopolitical considerations. Cyber security is a new concern, which has so far defied solution. New threats are emerging which will require new approaches based on new global ethics.

The Hindu-Buddhist dialogue can provide an outline of the ethical principles on which the new order can be based. The world’s oldest religions have a lot to offer to help bring peace and happiness to the individuals, societies and nations. These ideas must be given due publicity. The awareness about what these religions have to say should be raised.

The VIF has brought out a book on the 2015 edition of the Hindu-Buddhist Dialogue. This is available for download on the VIF website. The global outcome of the Global Hindu-Buddhist Dialogue must be brought to the attention of the UN and the world. The dialogue amongst religions must become frequent and substantive.

Once again thanking the hosts, I wish the symposium all success.

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