Buddhist Forum – communist China’s first international religious gathering

In pictures: World Buddhist Forum

Hundreds of monks and scholars are visiting the eastern city of Hangzhou, but Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has not been invited.

The officially atheist communist party keeps a tight rein on all religious activities, fearing a possible challenge to its authority, says the BBC’s Dan Griffiths in the Chinese capital.

The Dalai Lama has nominated his own Panchen Lama, who has disappeared and is believed to be under house arrest.

China appointed Gyaltsen Norbu in his place in 1995.

China's chosen Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu

Gyaltsen Norbu made a rare public appearance
Comment: I hope this is the beginning of an ‘anant’ (infinite) dialogue eventually leading to religious diversity, pluralism & inclusivity for all. To that end I hope Dalai Lama achieves his ‘wish to set foot in Tibet again in his lifetime’.
Talking of Equality through Diversity of religious belief, practice and promotion pasted below is my e-mail to Hindu Council of UK which speaks for itself.
Date: 13/04/06 09:25:34
Subject: RE: Religious Ideologies’ Impact on the "Unity in Diversity" Policy
Thank you for the dissemination which I thoroughly enjoyed digesting – a well researched and well constructed and presented argument which, in my view, may have been even more persuasive for other religions or faith systems had you, in the truest essence of Unity & Equality through Diversity, also included other embodiments with Rama, Krishna, Buddha, and Jesus.
One minor correction: As regards Plurality, as championed by Jaybhai Lakhani, there may have been an inadvertent omission of a letter ‘n’ in "Pluralism of one God but with many facets versus an exclusivism of one God where that one God becomes "one God too many".
Finally, I particularly favoured your stance on ‘Exclusivism’ and especially your, intuitive and well-thought-through, challenge to the, much mis-used, word ‘tolerance‘ in interfaith. It was also very refreshing to see, after a very long time, the inclusion of the extremely introspective concept (first explained by Shree Krsna in Bhagavad Gita) of ‘action in inaction’ and ‘inaction in action’ which then was exemplified by Gandhiji.
Well done. Keep up the crusade.
Kind regards
—–Original Message—–
From: Hindu Council UK [mailto:office@hinducounciluk.org]
Sent: 12 April 2006 17:31
To: HCUK Network/Associates
Cc: For Your Information Only
Subject: Religious Ideologies’ Impact on the "Unity in Diversity" Policy

A lecture by Anil Bhanot at the Gaudia Mission UK’s centenary celebrations at Friends House Euston on the scriptural guidance in the context of modern day policy.

Gita’s "Unity in Diversity"
Religious Exclusivism

"5000 years ago Lord Krishna says:
Gita Chapter10/Verse6:



"Maharishya sapta purve chatvaro man vas tatha
Madhbhava mansa jata yesham lok inah prajah"



"The seven great Rishis (sages) and the four ancient  Manus (1st Man ) endowed with My power, were born of My mind, and from them have come forth all Mankind."


5,000 years ago, Krishna reminded us that the seven great Rishis or the divine prophets: Bhrigu, Marichi, Atri, Pulah, Pulastya, Kratu and Angiras who set the active order on earth were born of His Mind, they are the different phases of cosmic Reality, different phases of consciousness, grades of evolution and through them Brahma the creator imparted the eternal knowledge of Dharma (one’s duty) for all Mankind, Krishna reminds us in this stanza of the four ancient Manus also, Svarochisha, Svayambhu, Raivata and Uttama, the first four men created to civilise the four original races on earth, the Caucasian, the Chinese, the Red Mongloid and the Negro, which to this day, are represented in the ancient Swastika as 4 dots in each of its arms, which are then prayed to, for the welfare of the entire mankind. The four Manus were the first administrators on earth, each starting a system of civilisation around the globe. Indeed the Swastika sign has been found from the Middle East to the Americas, where the Hopi Indian Americans used to worship it. It would seem that the four ancient Manus began all civilisations around the globe but somehow, perhaps, with the passage of time and the catastrophes that befall the earth from time to time, some of us have forgotten our roots, we have forgotten perhaps that the world at one time was one family, Vasudevaya Kutumbkum, but what is certain now, however, is that we have no alternative but to learn to move towards that one principle, of one family, in the present global village.

However, whilst religion is a deeply personal matter, it is one’s own journey towards one’s God or a desire to go home, as it were, if we look at the last 2000 years of history, God and religion have been used for political motives, to trespass, to conquer, to loot, to kill. Some people found that God and religion were the most potent weapons and this gave birth to exclusivism, an ideology that only one religious path is true and that others need to be condemned and conquered. It gave the conqueror the highest support, a divine ally, and then the rest of the conquering seemed easy, it was heroic to subjugate the infidels. This is not just history, the practice is still alive but may be in more subtler forms.

Just two years ago, when the Incitement of Religious Hatred Act was in the draft stages the Home Office issued a guidance circular where in one paragraph they wrote that whatever is in the scriptures will not be covered as an offence for the purposes of this law, e.g. the Bible and the Quran say that other Gods are false and that each will have the right to its own exclusivity. I asked them where in the Bible or the Quran Jesus or Mohammed said that "Other Gods are false"? They could not find any reference to Jesus for saying that. Then the Home Office changed the guidance notes to say that some people ‘interpret’ the Bible and the Quran as suggesting that other Gods are false. Our discussions then moved onto the aggressive conversion methods emanating from such interpretations but reverting back to my point on exclusivism it was clear that any exclusivity clauses are insterted into religions by man, not by God and we now need to remind people not to worship Man’s ideologies but try and stick to the God’s pure revelations.




Gita Chapter4/Verse7:



"Yada yada hi dharamsya glanir bhavati bharat
Abhy utthanam adharmasya tada tmanam srijami aham"


"Wherever there is a decay of righteousness and a rise of evil, I embody myself and come to earth to re-establish the righteous order"


Apart from the several embodiments we know of like Rama, Krishna, Buddha, and if I may be allowed to add Jesus, who all gave very similar messages of the one core spirituality, of the same one divine order, those who do not know of their roots, of the four Manus for instance, those people continue to preach exclusivity of their one religion, one path being the only true path, which to an extent is fine when it does not affect others but the problem comes when we try to interact, live together, then we cannot have one calling the other liar, without proof and purely based on a power-based ideology.



In Britain today the Government attempts to celebrate diversity, with some genuine political will. 5000 years ago, in the Gita, Krishna elucidated a way of life with diversity at its core, the diversity that leads to the same one goal.

Gita Chapter7/Verse21:



"Yo yo yam yam tanum bhakta shradhaya rchitum ichhati
Tasya tasya chalam shraddham tamev vidadhamy aham"


"Whatever form any devotee worships me in, I encourage his faith and accept it as steady. I care not for the form but the purity of his thought in worship."






"Ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathar bhajemy aham
Mum vartma nuvertante manushya partha sarvashah"


" In whatever way men identify with me, whatever righteous path they may choose, ultimately they all come unto me."


 i.e. diversity, with the same aim in thought, leads to the same end.

Religions are similarly diverse to suit the varying temperaments, different circumstances. They are simply "groups" of people and even in the current set of legislation the Home Office steered clear of defining religion – it would be a minefield to attempt to define religion and so they left it as "groups of people following a certain practice of faith". For the religious hatred act, the word religion is not defined as Hindu, Muslim or Christian but simply any group of peoples. In fact when you look deeply into the current legislative processes and ask yourself why the civil servants could not define religion or curtail freedom of speech or compromise someone else’s human right over the other or over a group of others then you see how finely the scriptures of Ancient India are written, in terms of one’s human rights they are faultless, and I find that we just keep having to repeat in legislation what was written thousands of years ago or what was said by divine beings. Even with Jesus Christ I have not yet come across anything that suggests he preached exclusivity of the religion. It is when, his followers, who add words like "he died for the whole world, and unless you follow him you are condemned to hell or the more modern version that you still have "hope" for your salvation, implying that you still have the choice to convert! It is the exclusivity clause that men put into religions that becomes the cause of religious strife. The problem is that these religious people, who are all very good people, really nice, very charitable, feel that in order to be passionately devout they must hold onto the exclusiveness of their religion, that by believing that only they are following the true path, they are somehow more religious, more pious and therefore closer to God.



Plurality, a concept that our Education Director Jay Lakhani champions in his lectures across the UK, some of these people say is an unacceptable ideology, because it can lead to what they call as Relativism, where anything goes without any proper methodology, and therefore the whole idea of plurality can be dangerous in diluting an accepted practice, that they will be left with nothing in the end. They feel insecure. Yet Pluralism will actually strengthen their true faith. Pluralism of one God but with may facets versus an exclusivism of one God where that one God becomes "one God too many". Only last month we saw a man in Afghanistan condemned to death for converting from Islam to Christianity, before he was saved by political pressure. Both Christianity and Islam have one God, only in their exclusivist brand it is one too many. This is the harmful effect of exclusivism and we have to challenge it. It is unacceptable. Even the word tolerance in interfaith is unacceptable when it implies that actually it is in my magnanimity that I am tolerating other false religions that I would sit with them on the same table with them but won’t accept them as true. Of course most enlightened people in the exclusivist strand of religions are not like that, they do respect others as true but there are still a lot more of the ones who do not.

Exclusivism is actually the attachment to religion, a clinging, and yet the enlightened souls in every religion, the Yogis, the Swamis, the Buddhas, the Momins, the true Saints, all preach that only when the mind finds non-attachment that is free from nature’s bondage, that you truly discover God, a non-attachment that sees the same divine spark in all, regardless of religion, a non-attachment that learns not to cling but to forgive, a non-attachment that not only talks of mercy but practices it, a non-attachment that will always love thy neighbour, a non-attachment that turns the other cheek, a non-attachment that can see action in inaction and inaction in action.

There is a unity in diversity and exclusivism has no place in it. We need to lift the conscious levels of those religions which seem bound and confused, in this ill-fated ideology.

True unity lies in the divinity of Man where we are all sons and daughters of the same Kingdom of Heaven.

Gita Chapter6/Verse9:



"Suhrn mitra ryudasin madhyastha dvesh bandhushu
Sadu shvapi ch papashu sambudhya rivshishyate"


"Spiritual excellence means to understand the equanimity that is woven through friends, foes, well-wishers,
neutrals, the righteous and the impious alike."






Anil Bhanot – 9 April 2006

Note: H E Kamlesh Sharma, the High Commissioner of India spoke on India’s spiritual reservoir and Suraj Sehgal of Sevasangh Ashram London gave a short talk. The Gaudia Mission UK follow Lord Krishna’s teachings and celebrated their 100th anniversary in the UK.





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3 responses to “Buddhist Forum – communist China’s first international religious gathering

  1. sillygloop

    Religion can be used as a noble tool to unify people as there is always many ways to reach the same goal…may events like these lead to peace and reconciliation and global unity soon!

  2. Anant M

    Yes indeed Vijay.
    Taking of religious equality and unity through diversity, may I wish you and you extended family Puthandu Vazthukal or a Very Happy, rejoicing and rewarding Tamil New Year

  3. sillygloop

    Puthandu Nalvazhtukkal to you and your dear ones too. May this year bring love, peace, joy and prosperity in equal measure!

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