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Message of tolerance has great relevance today: Rajapaksa

By Ashwini Shrivastava and Manish Shrivastava
September 21, 2012 16:22 IST
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Laying the foundation stone of a Buddhist University in Sanchi, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday said tolerance is of "equal importance" to both East and West, as enmity and hatred lead to violence and destruction.

"I think this message of tolerance and understanding is of great relevance today, as we see the tragic results of enmity and hatred towards other faiths leading to violence and destruction, and great loss to societies. This message of tolerance is of equal importance in the East and West alike," Rajapaksa said after laying the foundation stone of the Sanchi University of Buddhist and Indic Studies.

Hailing Mahatma Gandhi as the greatest son of modern India, he said people on both sides of the country have the duty to spread the message of non-violence, peace and compassion to the world which is "trapped in material-based progress".

Rajapaksa pointed out the contribution by Dr B R Ambedkar for the revival of Buddhist thought in India and his efforts to incorporate Buddhist and Indic values in the modern day governance systems of the country.

The Sri Lankan president criticised conventional education which led to ruthless competition and wasteful consumption and said that a complete education must involve self awakening.

"It is our long-held tradition that a complete education must involve the awakening of the self and the cultivation of self knowledge and wisdom and help fashion one's life for the greater good of humankind," he said.

Rajapaksa said the University will revive Buddhist and Indic studies based on the ancient concepts of teaching, self enquiry and traditional knowledge.

"It will fulfill a much-needed role in our region which is today troubled by the ill-effects of commercialisation, urbanisation, de-forestation and intense competition.

"We believe it will seek ways and means to revive the traditional concepts of social responsibility," the Sri Lankan head of state said, adding that the University seeks to follow the unique path of higher education based on classical Indian universities like Takshila and Nalanda.

Earlier in the day, Rajapaksa, along with Bhutan Prime Minister Jigme Yoser Thinley, visited Sanchi Stupa before laying the foundation stone for the university aimed at promoting mutual relationships between Asian countries.

"Both our countries have benefitted from the spark of civilisation that came with the dawn of Buddhist practice of our nations," the Sri Lankan President said from the bullet-proof enclosure specifically made for VVIP security on the stage.

He also hoped that the university will act as a beacon of light for the region which battles against intolerance and hatred, separatism and ethnic prejudice, terrorism and violence, and social inequality and exclusion.

Referring to the rich mutual ties between India and Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa said that both the governments will contribute towards the success of this university.

"It is important to recall that we in Sri Lanka have always considered India as a friendly land and people.  The federal structure and the emergence of states have not erased our vision of India as a single land of friendship with the great bonds of history," he said adding that tradition of embracing all of India in friendship will continue to enrich mutual relations.

The foundation stone laying ceremony was done by Rajapaksa, Thinley, MP Governor Ram Naresh Yadav and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan amid chanting of Vedic mantras by priests and blowing of conches.

Addressing the gathering initially in Hindi and later in English, the Bhutan PM said this university will help in enriching cross-pollination of ideas between various faiths.

Chouhan announced the allocation of 100 acres of additional land to the university to open study centres of other nation's faiths.

"In fact, there is a need for studying the philosophical foundations of our religion afresh so as to improve our lives by practising them. Today, we need to reapply the tenets of Buddhism in our lives and it is towards this end that the Madhya Pradesh government has taken the initiative to establish this university," Chouhan added.

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