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Chinese Buddhists walk to Bodh Gaya from Nepal

A delegation of 170 Chinese Buddhists which walked all the way from Nepal to Bodh Gaya in Bihar arrived in the pilgrimage town on Sunday to join special chanting sessions of the Tripitak, Buddhism’s holiest scriptures.

patna Updated: Dec 04, 2018 23:51 IST
Anil Kumar Ojha
Anil Kumar Ojha
Hindustan Times, Bodh Gaya
Buddhist,Bodh Gaya,Nepal
The chanting has been organised by the International Buddhist Council and All India Bhikhu Sangh and was held at Kalchakra Maidan but also under the Mahabodhi tree, where Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment.(HT Photo)

A delegation of 170 Chinese Buddhists which walked all the way from Nepal to Bodh Gaya in Bihar arrived in the pilgrimage town on Sunday to join special chanting sessions of the Tripitak, Buddhism’s holiest scriptures.

The chanting has been organised by the International Buddhist Council (IBC) and the All India Bhikhu Sangh (AIBS) and was held at Kalchakra Maidan, but also under the Mahabodhi tree, where Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment.

The tree is on the premises of the Mahabodhi Mahavihara, a UNESCO world heritage site. IBC secretary Bhante Pragyadeep said the Tripitak chanting had been organised for world peace and concluded on December 12.

He said that the Chinese monks had made a brief stopover in Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha in Nepal – and then commenced the 15-day ‘padyatra’ to Bodh Gaya. They were carrying the Chinese version of the Tripitak, originally written in Pali, and donated it to the AIBS before joining the chanting, he said. Tripitak was translated from Pali into Chinese almost a century ago.

The route taken by the monks is said to be the same that fifth and seventh century Chinese travelers, Faxian and Xuanzang, had chosen to reach India. Apart from the chanting, the Chinese visitors will also attend programs at the Chinese monastery, located close to the Mahabodhi Mahavihara.

Figures vary, but an estimate of the US State Department’s 2016 International Religious Freedom Report places the number of Chinese believers of Buddhism, Catholicism, Daoism, Islam and Protestantism — the five permitted religions — at about 650 million.

Some 245 million Chinese — around 18% of China’s total population, practice Buddhism, which had travelled to China from India, during the Han Dynasty (150 CE)’s later decades of rule. According to Article 36 of China’s constitution, Chinese citizens ‘enjoy freedom of religious belief’.

But US-based think-tank Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) points out that while the Chinese government in February 2018 passed laws liberalising rules for registered religious organisations, it also imposed greater controls upon them. The visiting monks declined to speak to the media directly but answered queries with the help of the IBC secretary and interpreters.

Earlier on Sunday, monks from different countries, including Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Russia, had taken out a colourful procession from Thai Monastery to Kalchakra Maidan through the main roads of Bodh Gaya.

Chief monk of the Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee, Bhante Chalinda, said after the chanting session, all foreign monks, including those from China, will visit Jeshthivan (Jethian), in Gaya district where Lord Buddha and Magadh King Bimbisara are believed to have first met.

From there, they will undertake a padayatra to Venuvan in Rajgir, where Bimbisara gave Buddha a bamboo grove. The Chinese monks will also visit Nalanda and Gurupadgiri, before returning to Bodh Gaya on December 13.

First Published: Dec 04, 2018 23:51 IST