Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Buddha walks at Nagaloka

Readers of FWBO News will know of the remarkable ‘Big Buddha’ statue recently unveiled at the Nagarjuna Institute, TBMSG’s main training centre in Nagpur, Central India.

Mangesh Dahiwale writes with further news of the unveiling ceremony, an inauguration message from Sangharakshita, and a translation of a beautiful poem by Daya Pawar, the well-known Marathi women's poet.  He says -

"Nagaloka is located in Nagpur, which is the nerve centre of revival of Buddhism in India after the Great Conversion movement that Dr. Ambedkar initiated in 1956. The aim of the Nagarjuna Institute based in Nagaloka is to train people from all over India in Buddhism and social transformation through peaceful means. The training comprises Buddhist teachings, meditation and community life, besides responses to social situation in India which is largely dominated by caste attitudes. So far, Nagarjuna Institute trained over 500 people from 20 states, and they are actively working in all over India. Their work involves teaching the Buddha Dhamma, and some of them do extensive social work in terms of running hostels and schools.

"Nagarjuna Institute is also emerging as an important centre for interaction of Buddhists from all over the world. It hosted the International Network of Engaged Buddhist (INEB) conference in 2005, and International conference on "Buddhism in Modern World" in 2006. Buddhists from various denominations and nationalities have visited Nagarjuna Institute, notable amongst them are teacher and monks from both the east and west, which also includes Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh and Sulak Sivaraksa.

"To add to the serene atmosphere of the Nagaloka, an open shrine was envisioned with an unique image of the Buddha that will inspire people to follow in the footsteps of the Buddha as the teacher of the humanity. This vision was actualised when on 12th and 13th December 2009 a 32 foot high brass statue of the Buddha walking (on a 28 foot mound and base) was inaugurated at Nagaloka. It is estimated that between 40,000 and over 100,000 visited the Nagaloka campus that day.

"For many years we have wanted to have such a statue at the centre of Nagaloka but until recently that wish remained a mere dream; now it has been actualised. Lokamitra says that it has been one of the most difficult project he has been involved with in during the 31 years he has been living in India, but at the same time the most personally inspiring.

"Urgyen Sangharakshita sent the following message for the inauguration.

After his Enlightenment, the Buddha spent the rest of his life walking from town to town and village to village. Wherever he went he taught people the truth he had discovered. He taught them regardless of caste, education, or social position. By his inspiring presence he also encouraged people to live without fear.
Years ago, the revered Dr Ambedkar, the inaugurator of the Dhamma revolution, expressed a wish that there should be a Walking Buddha, instead of the usual image of the seated, meditating Buddha.
I am therefore overjoyed to learn that a 32 foot high statue of the walking Buddha in abhaya [fearlessness] mudra has been erected at Nagaloka and I heartily congratulate all who have been involved in this historic project.
In particular I congratulate Dhammachari Lokamitra, who originated the project, Wen Kwei Chan, the gifted artist who constructed the image, Ven Kuang Shin, the main donor, Ci Xiong Li, the second main donor, and the other generous donors.
The Nagaloka Walking Buddha will, I am sure, draw visitors and pilgrims from all over India, and indeed from all parts of the world. It will serve to remind us not only of the Buddha and his life but also of the fact that his teaching is a practical one, and one that is to be implemented for the benefit of all.

"The vision of Dr. Ambedkar’s was immortalised in the Marathi poem by Daya Pawar:

“I never see you sitting in
Jeta’s garden
sitting with eyes closed
in meditation, in the lotus position,
in the caves of Ajanta and Ellora
with stone lips sewn shut
sleeping the last sleep of your life.

I see you
walking, talking,
softly, healingly,
on the sorrow of the poor, the weak,
going from hut to hut
in the life-destroying darkness,
torch in hand,
giving the sorrow
that drains the blood
like a contagious disease
a new meaning.”


They are still appealing for funds to complete the landscaping works - please visit www.justgiving.com/nagalokabuddha if you would like to donate.

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