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Varsities must have free atmosphere: Prez

Press Trust of India  |  Nalanda 

Universities and academic institutions must have free atmosphere devoid of prejudice, violence or any doctrine for unhindered intellectual pursuit, President said today.

Speaking at the valedictory session of the 'International Buddhists Conference' here, Mukherjee said the ancient learning centres in Nalanda, Taxila and Vikramshila attracted great minds in forms of students and teachers from all over the world.

These were not merely places of learning, but were a confluence of four civilizations- Indian, Persian, Greek and Chinese, he said at Rajgir's International Convention Centre in Nalanda district.

"The essence of these universities was open mind, free discussions. The acharyas and upadhyays encouraged students to pose questions, before a proposition was to be accepted and followed by them.

"If there cannot be free atmosphere in a university, in an academic institution then what type of lessons we can give to our students. Education means development of mind, constant interaction with teachers and fellow students. An atmosphere must be free from prejudice, anger, violence, doctrines.It must be conducive to free flow intellectual persuasions," Mukherjee said.

Speaking about terrorism, the President said it is not just an action, but also a "mental aberration and an expression of a twisted and a perverted mindset" and nations must think together on how to deal with this menace.

"The crisis (of terrorism) is all pervasive. It is not confined to causing injuries to fellow citizens (but), it is the wanton destruction of values, of the heritage, of the assets which have been built over centuries through generation," he said, referring to destruction of Buddhist sites by Taliban in Afghanistan.

(Reopens DEL-69)

Observing that no part of the world today is free from the scourge of violence, President stressed on the relevance of philosophy of Buddhism to establish peace.

"No part of the world today is free from the scourge of violence. This crisis is all pervasive. The basic question being raised today is how to stop this wanton destruction and come back to sanity," Mukherjee said.

He said Gautam Buddha had a profound influence not only on the human civilisation but also over contemporary history as he noted that even Mahatma Gandhi admitted of being a practicing Buddhist.

"The philosophy of Buddhism is as relevant today as ever-especially as the world grapples with complex problems that seem intractable. Buddhism has had a deep influence on human civilisation," the President said while citing the example of mighty emperor Ashoka who is remembered as 'Dhamma Ashoka' in the history rather than 'warrior Ashoka'.

Recalling an incident of Rabindranath Tagore writing to noted world intellectuals after noble laureate Albert Einstein was "driven" out of Germany by the Nazis for being a Jew, Mukherjee said the eminent writer-poet was upset over it.

But one intellectual sent a beautiful reply stating that human history had never been dominated by an emperor or any conqueror, the President said.

"Don't worry, if the history in the past was not dominated by Chengiz Khan or Tamerlane, the present history will also not be dominated by brown shirts of Hilter, black shirts of (Italian dictator Benito) Mussolini and not even the red shirts of (Joesph) Stalin (of the USSR), but by man who had no shirt- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi," he said.

Hecongratulated the Nava Nalanda Mahavihara University for opening the first ever Department of Buddhist Sciences in the world.

Mukherjee also expressed happiness that the varsity has published the entire Pali Tripitaka (texts or words of the Buddha) in 41 volumes in the Devanagari script.

He stated that these initiatives will go a long way in popularising the tenets of Buddhism. They will help the coming generations to easily connect with the supreme ideals of humanity, forbearance, discipline and compassion, he added.

"Once these values are adopted by more and more scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and leaders in letter and spirit, he had no doubt that they will work togear up to address the skepticism and cynicism that ails modern societies, " the President noted.

(Reopens DEL-75)

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said, amid

"intolerance" and extreme conflicts across the world, teachings of Gautam Buddha are very relevant today.

"When the world is witnessing violence all around and the peace is getting disturbed, in such a situation, Buddhism can show a path. Gautam Buddha has advocated peace and has asked to follow the middle path. In such a time, the teachings of Buddha are very relevant," he said.

Kumar also emphasised on having a 'Centre for Conflict Resolution' at the Nava Nalanda Mahavihara University and said land has already been allocated for it.

First Published: Sun, March 19 2017. 20:07 IST