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PM Modi’s visit to Lumbini is part of India’s rise as a civilizational state

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has arrived in Lumbini

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has arrived in Lumbini—the birth place of Gautam Buddha in Nepal, to kick start festivities on the occasion of Buddha Purnima.

The visit is of enormous geo-cultural importance in part of consolidation of India as a modern civilizational state.

By visiting Lumbini, on a day when the entire Buddhist universe is focusing on the founts of a great faith revered by nearly seven per cent of the world’s population, the Prime Minister is making a bold statement—India is the core of Buddhism, and seeks to revive its natural connectivity with the global Buddhist ecosystem.  

PM Modi is consciously leveraging India and Nepal’s enormous soft power on account of the two countries’ shared Buddhist heritage which spread its branches into China, South Korea and Japan, and simultaneously in South  and Central Asia via the ancient Silk Road, as well as Sri Lanka.

In reviving India’s standing in the international Buddhis network, Modi inaugurated in Kushinagar, the place where Gautam Buddha attained Nirvana,  an international airport seven months ago. Other sites which are likely to receive extraordinary attention include Bodh Gaya, where Buddha attained Nirvana. Right now, the epicentre of global Buddhism, if it has to regain its rightful glory , needs a long overdue makeover. Other famous sites related to Buddha’s life include Sarnath near Varanasi, where the great soul delivered his first sermon. Buddha attained nirvana in Kushinagar and was buried in Piprahwa in Uttar Pradesh.

With great missionary zeal, Buddhism left an indelible impression in Sri Lanka, the centre of the Theravada school. The faith spread along a branch of ancient Silk Road which passed through Kashmir. Buddhist scholars, especially  Kumarajiva, who was born in Kashmir, spread the faith in China, by translating Sanskrit texts into Mandarin. Once seeded and developed in China, an Indian monk called Malananda played a key role in disseminating Buddhism in Korea and Japan.

The journey of Malananda is legendary. The monk belonged to Gandhara, now in northern Pakistan — one of the major hubs  in South Asia, from where Buddhism spread its wings across the vast Asian continent. After crossing  the mighty  Karakoram mountains through the Gilgit valley, Malananda headed for Hunza — the pretty town on the edge of the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan and the Xinjiang region of China. It was along this northern branch of the ancient Silk Road that he entered China.

With the backing of the East Jin dynasty of China, Malananda began his voyage to Korea. He landed at the port of Beopseongpo, on the Yellow Sea in  348AD . It is widely believed that the monk was an emissary  from East Jin to King Chimnyu of Baekje kingdom in Korea. Consequently, backed by royal patronage Mahayana Buddhism spread in southwest Korea. Being a major maritime power, the Baekje Kingdom became a springboard for Buddhism’s outreach  further into East Asia and Japan.

Buddhism also made a seamless entry into Tibet via the passes in Sikkim. All the major schools of Buddhism have roots in India.

The Gelukpa School, headed by the 14th Dalai Lama has a seat in Dharamshala the Nyingma and Sakya schools also have their key monasteries along the  the Himalayan belt in India.

During his Lumbini visit, India and Nepal are expected to  sign five Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) including one between the  Indian Educational and Cultural Foundation  with Lumbini Buddhist University and another with the Tribhuvan University to institutionalise the study of Buddhism.  

Also Read: PM Modi kicks off Nepal visit with prayers at historic Maya devi Temple in Lumbini