The Buddha will smile on the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival this year when the 14th Dalai Lama attends the literary carnival on the eve of the discussion,"The Buddha in Literature' Jan 25. The festival, which is devoting a special segment to Buddhism for the first time, will take a look at the impact of the faith on lifestyles, literature, arts and culture.
Earlier, the festival had hosted Sufism and the Bhakti movement as topics of discussion at the festival, beginning at the Diggi Palace in Jaipur Jan 24.
A statement issued by the organising committee of the Festival quoted the Dalai Lama as saying: "Literature has played a major role in my life. Since childhood, reading has been of great importance to me and 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 said he was looking forward to attending the Jaipur Literature Festival and "meeting people writing and reading today".
Festival co-director Namita Gokhale said: "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 is 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."
The sessions on Buddhism spread over the five days will explore the origin of the faith 2,500 years ago to how it has evolved to reach out to the younger generations as a way of life and ethical code. A 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 their explorations 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," historian Nayanjot Lahiri said.
A session, "Women on the Path" will feature Ranjini Obeyesekere from Sri Lanka, Kunzang Choden from Bhutan, Ani Choying from Nepal and writer Swati Chopra on the place of women within Buddhist theology and issues they face on the spiritual path.
In the session, '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 host readings from poetry and prose and from the massive collection of Buddhist folklore about the previous incarnations of Buddha in human and animal form.
Spaeaking about her engagement with Buddhism, Ranjini Obeyesekere said, "The Dhamma as the Buddha taught 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."
'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 the meditative practices 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.
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."
The mornings at Diggi Palace will witness Buddhist devotional songs by Chukie Tethong and Tenzin Norbu, chants by the Drepung Loseling monks and hymns by Ani Choying.