To highlight saint-philosopher Atisa’s extraordinary contribution in popularising the message of Buddhism in foreign lands, the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) is hosting a three-day international conference and exhibition at its Janpath premises here beginning this Wednesday.
Apart from screening documentaries on Atisa’s life and the rich legacy he left behind, the exhibition will showcase photographs of monasteries, relics obtained from remote areas of Tibet and conduct a workshop on butter sculptures.
The show, “Atisa and Cultural Renaissance”, basically seeks to build a cultural bridge between India and China. Most significantly, it will emphasise the need to follow age-old Indian values and social conventions. Monks from across the globe will explain intricate details about Atisha’s philosophy of compassion and working selflessly for fellow human beings.
According to IGNCA member-secretary Dipali Khanna, the event is a celebration of peace, compassion, love and sacrifice symbolised by Atisa.
“Atisa is revered in many parts of Asia including China. As we seek to study the spiritual links between India and its neighbouring countries, the exhibition portrays the trans-cultural renaissance through photo-documentation. Everything related to his birthplace, which now falls in Bangladesh, Indian monasteries where he studied and was indoctrinated, and his sojourn to China and Nepal, where he lived for 13 years, will be extensively documented.”
Interestingly, three dozen scholars from Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University have been roped in for the exhibition. They will explain the exhibits to visitors in a colloquial language.
Referring to the December 16 gang-rape of a 23-year-old in Delhi, Ms. Khanna said even after the shocking incident when the girl and her friend were lying by the roadside nobody came forward to help them. “This exhibition will compel visitors to do some soul-searching and come to the rescue of fellow human beings who are in distress,” she said.
Noting that Atisa’s teachings are still relevant in contemporary times, International Academy of Indian Culture Research Professor Shashibala said crimes against women have seen an increase due to absence of values and spiritual path.
“We are attempting to rewrite a forgotten page in the history of India. It will highlight values and social conventions that are the need of the hour as the world is suffering from greed, hunger, violence and over-advancement of technology,” said Professor Shashibala, who has been conceptualising the exhibition for the past one year.
According to German journalist Christel Pilz, Atisa was a symbol of sacrifice. “He travelled from Bengal to the high altitude of Tibet at great personal risk. He knew his life will be cut short by 20 years but still he travelled to Tibet to cleanse and revive Buddhism there.”
Revered monk Tai Situ Rinpoche said the event will make visitors understand Atisa’s philosophy and derive inspiration from his life. “Atisa did so much for humanity in such a short span of time. His compassion, wisdom and work for humanity was indeed something to study and appreciate.”