I extend my warmest welcome and greeting to all who have come to this website hoping to learn more about the annual “Great Shravasti Buddhist Cultural Assembly” scheduled for this November.
Generally speaking, India is considered a special place for all Buddhists since the historical Buddha himself was from India. And among all the places that the Buddha lived and taught at in India, eight places have traditionally carried great significance. Among these eight is Shravasti. These days, the other holy sites such as Bodhgaya (site of Buddha’s enlightenment), Lumbini (site of Buddha’s birth) and Sarnath (site of his first teaching) are very well-known and popular destinations among pilgrims from around the world. In contrast, Shravasti is less known and even fewer pilgrims have been to it. This, to me is rather ironic.
Especially since Shravasti is the one place that the Buddha spent the longest number of years, teaching the Dharma to his disciples. Records tell us that the Buddha spent twenty-five rains-retreat in Shravasti – this is more years than anywhere else. As the Dharma is the most important gift that the Buddha ever gave us, it seems to me rather unfortunate that most Buddhists who go on pilgrimage in India often do not go to Shravasti and do not know anything about it.
Today, Shravasti is a sleepy little town, a town that most Buddhists have forgotten even as more and more Buddhist pilgrims are visiting the other more well-known sites. In the Buddha’s time, Shravasti was one of the six largest cities in India; serving as the capital city of the Kingdom of Kosala for more than a millennium. It is also where the famous monastery Jetavana was. So in selecting Shravasti, I hope more Buddhists will be made aware of this holy site and will come and experience the manifold blessings that surely have been in this place since the Buddha gave so many Dharma-teachings in this town more than 2500 years ago.
As for the program of our “Great Shravasti Buddhist Cultural Assembly,” my goal is to bring together Buddhists from all traditions and cultures to meet annually to share and celebrate the richness and diversity of Buddhist cultural traditions even as we are all united by the fundamental teachings of the Buddha. In particular, it is my sincere hope that like-minded Buddhists will gather annually at Shravasti to discuss ways and means of understanding with regards to Buddha’s fundamental teachings so that we Buddhists will become more effective in achieving the ultimate goal of bringing deep and genuine relief from suffering for all sentient beings without exception.
In the 21st century, the world has become much smaller and more inter-connected place so that any threat or harm to any population in the world or damage to the environment has a direct bearing on the rest of the world. We can no longer live in our personal wells, hopping around, pretending that it’s the entire universe. Therefore, not only do we Buddhists need to learn more about each other but ultimately we also need to go beyond Buddhism. The world that you and I live in now demands that we meaningfully engage those of other religions and faiths. We have to find ways in which we can all agree on working for the common good of all. Therefore, it is also my hope that after the initial five years of this “Great Shravasti Buddhist Cultural Assembly” (where the focus is on the Buddha’s fundamental teachings and the cultural traditions that have been associated with them), we can productively engage our sisters and brothers who are adherents of other great world religions or even those who do not identify with any specific organized religion or tradition.
With prayers and blessings,
His Holiness The Drikung Kyabgon Tinle Lhundup
Head of Drikung Kagyu Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.