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Dalai Lama at Jaipur Lit Fest; Buddha in Literature key theme By Ritambhara Shastri

Posted on Jan 21, 07:33PM | UNI

Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama will be an integral part of the Jaipur Literature Festival 2013 that has 'Buddha in Literature' as the key theme this year.

Stating that 'Literature has played a major role in my life,' the Dalai Lama said, 'Since childhood, reading has been of great importance to me and I look forward to attending the Festival and meeting people writing and reading today.' The programme on each day of the five-day Festival from January 24 will open to the sounds of the various Buddhist chants.

On the first day, it will be chants by Drepung Loseling monks at the Diggi Palace, the main venue of the festival. On other days it will be Buddhist devotional songs by Chukie Tethong and Tenzin Norbu and hymns by Ani Choying.

On his ties with literature, the Dalai Lama said, 'I am often reminded of the immense kindness of the scholars of the past who translated a vast array of Buddhist literature into Tibetan.' The Dalai Lama's visit would be a prelude to discussions and readings on the theme 'The Buddha in Literature'.

Festival Co-Director Namita Gokhale said, 'Gautama the Buddha's impact on humanity lies beyond religion and theology. The entire fabric of Asian society from Central Asia and Afghanistan to China and Japan has been deeply influenced by the philosophy of Buddhism.

Today, Buddhism being a way of life for many people around the world, the internal journey of awakening and personal evolution is mirrored in the literature, art and cultural practice of Buddhism.

'Our sessions on 'The Buddha in Literature' are a tribute to the way of seeing and knowing taught by the Buddha,' Ms Gokhale said.

Stating that he was thrilled by the extraordinary programme on the Buddha and literature, Festival Co-Director William Dalrymple said, 'At Jaipur, we have a long tradition of studying the confluence of the two great streams of Indian literature and spirituality. Up to now, we have concentrated on the Sufi and Bhakti traditions; now we have the pleasure of wandering through the rich pastures of Buddhist literature.

'The presence of the Dalai Lama is a particular honour for the festival and a delight for me personally,' he added.

The session 'If You Meet the Buddha on the Road' will include discussions between Victor Chan, Karma Ura, Siddiq Wahid, Ranjini Obeyesekere and Nayanjot Lahiri on their experiences with Buddhism and exploration of the many paths of the Buddha's dharma.

The panel will speak simultaneously as scholars from a spectrum of cultures that make up the 2,500 year-long history of Buddhism and as practitioners whose lives have been shaped by its doctrine and worldview.

'To explore Buddhism through their lives and work will help comprehend the many elements that mark the encounter between Buddhism and modernity,' Nayanjot Lahiri said.

In the session 'Women on the Path', Ranjini Obeyesekere from Sri Lanka, Kunzang Choden from Bhutan, Ani Choying from Nepal and Indian writer Swati Chopra will discuss the place of women within Buddhist theology and the issues they face on the spiritual path.

In 'The Aesthetics of Impermanence', cultural historian Benoy Behl will examine the ethical and artistic underpinnings of the Buddhist creative legacy.

Ajay Navaria and Kancha Ilaiah will share Dalit perspectives on alternative paths to social justice in the session, 'God as a Political Philosopher: Dalit Perspectives on Buddhism.' 'Jataka Readings', a session with Hindi writer Gagan Gill, Ranjini Obeyesekere and R Sivapriya, will have readings from poetry and prose, the massive collection of Buddhist folklore about the previous incarnations of the Buddha in human and animal form.

About her engagement with Buddhism, Ranjini Obeyesekere said, 'the Dhamma as the Buddha taught it is not a dogma but a means to an end, which is happiness and peace of mind. Each individual can come to his or her own understanding of it.

'My own understanding has come from my reading of Buddhist literature. As a translator, I began to read it closely and had an insight into the complexity of the teachings put in such simple terms,' she added.

'The Buddha in Literature' will have author and critic Chandrahas Choudhury, Nadeem Aslam and Kunzang Choden presenting an impressionistic medley of writings interpreting the Buddha in literature.

Victor Chan, co-author of The Wisdom of Compassion with the Dalai Lama, will share insights on meditative practice and the importance of humour, optimism and forgiveness in the session, 'Journeys of the Mind'.

'The Dalai Lama is well-known as a champion of compassion and has stated that his religion is kindness. I look forward to talking about the practical life-lessons I learned from observing him, both in public and in private,' he said.

In the same session, Kunzang Choden, internationally renowned Bhutanese writer, will read from her books that bring alive the sights and sounds of her mountainous homeland.