| The Dalai Lama on his way to inaugurate the Buddhist Sangha Conference at the Buddha Smriti Park in Patna on Saturday. Picture by Deepak Kumar |
Patna, Jan. 5: “Lucky Man” from Vietnam, as he identified himself, has fallen in love with Patna in his first tryst with the city.
The middle-aged man was among around 220 Vietnamese to visit Patna for the Buddhist Sangha Conference that began at Buddha Smriti Park today.
“Patna is a beautiful place and this park is amazing. I am lucky to be associated with the Dalai Lama and now with this city,” he told The Telegraph as other members of his group showed off a huge framed photograph of the Buddha they had brought all the way from Vietnam.
The conference, which will focus on the contribution of Buddhist Sanghas in the 21st century, has attracted more than 500 nationals from at least 17 countries, including US, UK, Taiwan, Denmark, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Myanmar, Korea and Cambodia.
“Patna has never seen so many foreigners at one time earlier. There are more than 500 and the number will go up during the three-day event,” an official of the art, culture and youth affairs department said.
Chan Panna, a Buddhist monk from Cambodia, said the event was enlightening. “I have been to Bodhgaya but this is my first visit to Patna. This is a stunning park. The sight of so many Buddhist priests and monks from various countries is amazing,” he added.
Lobsang Sangay, the first Prime Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, was also among the guests. “I have been to Patna twice before. It is nice to see the city holding a conference that is attended by the Dalai Lama,” he said.
The conference started with Buddhist chants by the monks and words of appreciation for the state government, and particularly for chief minister Nitish Kumar, by the high priests from Japan, Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka for hosting the event.
The Dalai Lama inaugurated the conference along with Nitish in the presence many Buddhist high priests. The spiritual leader said he was privileged to visit Patna. “Bihar is on the path of development. Both technical and spiritual development are taking place in the city,” he added.
Nitish said: “This place (park) used to house a prison. We have preserved a part of the old structure. The prison housed many freedom fighters. During the JP Movement, deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi and I had spent some time here. Once the prison was shifted, there were proposals to build a market or a multiplex. But we decided to build a facility that can draw people from across the world. Bihar is the land where the Buddha attained enlightenment and we decided to dedicate this place to him.”