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Exhibition turns spotlight on ‘Lotus Sutra’

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ENLIGHTENMENT ON A SCROLL: Governor S. S. Barnala inspects a manuscript at an exhibition on the ‘Lotus Sutra’ in Chennai on Thursday.
ENLIGHTENMENT ON A SCROLL: Governor S. S. Barnala inspects a manuscript at an exhibition on the ‘Lotus Sutra’ in Chennai on Thursday.

Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: Buddha’s meta understanding of life and his messages about peaceful coexistence have been compressed into a four-day exhibition that began at the University of Madras on Thursday.

The exhibition, organised by Bharat Soka Gakkai—the Indian affiliate of the Soka Gakkai International in Tokyo, Japan — puts the spotlight on the ‘Lotus Sutra,’ considered the highest level of teaching in Buddhist philosophy, and which deals with peace and harmonious coexistence.

This is for the first time that the city is hosting an assemblage of rare artefacts, calligraphic and pictorial representations and replicas of birch bark and palm leaf scrolls on the Lotus Sutra. The material has come from as varied sources as the Cambridge University Library, Columbia University Press, Lushun Museum Collection (China), the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland and the National Archives of Nepal.

A visitor to the exhibition is likely to wonder whether the prescience of many Buddhist maxims have grown in relevance over the years, almost directly in proportion with the passage of time.

In fact, in a message conveyed to the organisers, M. S. Swaminathan, chairman of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, said the event was timely, as society was witness to “growing violence in the human heart…Small minor incidents lead to mega violence.”

It was unfortunate that this (violence) was happening at a time when science and technology opened up opportunities for everyone to lead a healthy life, he said.

Inaugurating the exhibition, Governor S. S. Barnala said Lotus Sutra was among the most important and influential scriptures of Buddhism, whose philosophy advocated peace, pacifism and ahimsa.

Madras University Vice-Chancellor S. Ramachandran said the Lotus Sutra profoundly affirmed the realities of daily life, and that naturally encouraged an active engagement with others and society as a whole.

“One of our chief aims is to dispel the misconception that Buddhism is about reclusiveness and renunciation of all things mundane,” said Asit K. Barma, a volunteer of Bharat Soka Gakkai.

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