The wings to awakening

A gathering of distinguished media personnel, selected from predominantly Buddhist countries in the Asian region assembled in New Delhi for the Asian Buddhist Media Conclave on ‘Mindful Communication for Conflict Avoidance and Sustainable Development’, organized by the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC) in New Delhi where the importance of having a Buddhist media network that promotes mindful communication to suit Buddhist teachings for critical application was stressed.

Those delegates raised their voice for a communication strategy to distinguish itself from regular commercial ideology and hype-driven crowded media space with the motive of infusing Buddhist morals into the mainstream of Media in a well-organized manner. It was underlined that a communication model that helps people to achieve harmony and contentment in life should be evolved with the active support of Media partners in the region.

Modern communication tools

A large number of scholars representing many countries including Sri Lanka, India, Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal, Bhutan, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, contributed to this Media conclave at the invitation of the IBC during 27 - 28 August at New Delhi Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) auditorium as a co-sponsored project.

Over the course of two-day sessions, Speakers at the Media conclave discussed as to how Buddhism and other philosophies of Indic heritage can be brought into popular culture of the young people and use of modern communication tools and techniques to bring the message of Buddhism to them in an easy and understandable manner for betterment of the youth and the entire society in general.

 

The inaugural ceremony was represented by the Secretary to Ministry of Buddhasasana, Chandraprema Gamage as the Guest of Honour. The Sri Lankan delegation comprised members of academia, artistes and media veterans, representing mainstream Media institutions. IBC Secretary General Ven Dr Dhammapiya Thera of India in his inaugural address said that mindfulness is very much necessary for Media personnel to create a peaceful society by disseminating positive perspectives of the Buddha’s teachings which are immortal and truly practical.

Practical way of life

The Thera also added that mindfulness in journalism can be a way forward since it is at the very heart of Buddhist teachings and its practical way of life. Vice Chairman of Vivekananda International Foundation and senior political and economic analyst, Shri S Gurumurthy in his keynote address lamented that Media has now become illiterate institutions because they concentrate only on what is happening today. The televisions are trying to outperform others and newspapers are not read by people until they carry catchy and sensational headlines, he said

He further added that the Media has to invite them to read more and more unlike journalism that prevailed 20 years ago. The people have lost interest in reading. He added that Media is being led by illiterate television channels and the people cannot have a proper understanding of any subject by just looking at them superficially. The people should read different viewpoints to have a proper understanding of developments taking place in the society.

“We need a philosophical alternative from ideological gas chambers. We have to investigate as to how society thought thousands of years ago to live in peace. We need to create a powerful and penetrative intellectual alternative drive, by the philosophy which is based on dialogue,” he said.

The conference continued with various sessions with speakers ranging from journalists to experts in different professions, including the film industry. Dr Dorjie Wangchuck a Bhutanese scholar and a former Media Advisor to the Royal family in Bhutan speaking on the ‘Mindful Communication for Conflict Avoidance and Sustainable Development’ giving an Indic Buddhist approach opined that a person need not necessarily be happy, instead, he can be content as specified in Buddhist teachings. “He may not be happy, but could be content, because it is his karma that decides,” he said.

Middle path journalism

Dr Dorjie noted that Media should play a role in taking the ‘value society’ to the next generation. The middle path journalism should promote the path of contentment which is also the key to sustainable development.

“Our Media communication system comes from the west where individualism is promoted, but social values should actually receive the pride of place in Media since they play the key role in moulding a cultured and civilized society and a country,” he said.

Media Advisor to the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army and the Secretary General of Sri Lanka Press Association, Sisira Wijesinghe in his contribution to the Session 1 on the first day endorsed the project for establishment of a Buddhist Media network and a training module for new breed of journalists, interested in incorporating Buddhist values into the mainstream Media. He also cautioned that such training programmes be implemented with much care since Buddhists, for example, in Sri Lanka are getting more and more puzzled as efforts are being made to give distorted interpretations to Buddhist teachings. Those interested sections have gone to the extent of even infiltrating the community of Buddhist monks, due to so-called ‘commercialization of Buddhism’.

Wijesinghe also admitted that Media can play a key role in promoting techniques of mindfulness in the society as well as in their own Media reportages. For this, he asserted that as a priority Asian communicators and their mindsets should be decolonized since they still feel that they are subjugated and not on par with the abilities of westerners. This is a priority that has to be addressed. “This perception is extremely active in my own country and a brainwashing towards this end among journalists should be made first in the right direction.

Flames of hatred

He also briefed how prime time of electronic and social Media networks tend to fan the flames of hatred and violence in the Sri Lankan society with least regard to the high moral values that have been cherished by Asians for generations. He added that all scholarly talks and intellectual deliberations on a multitude of timely topics such as non-violence, harmony, reconciliation, co-existence, universal kindness, and compassion are largely aired late in the night after the majority of the budding youth have fallen asleep. These programmes cater to a certain home-confined audience and would not in any way assist in inculcating the principles of compassion and non-violence in the hearts of younger generations whose resources can be used positively.

Dr Kalinga Seneviratene, a Buddhist scholar based in Singapore stressed that the Buddhist community should evolve a formidable media network to counter what he perceived as often negative reporting of crises in mainstream media outlets, such as the Rohingya displacements in Myanmar and a series of other incidents that took place in Sri Lanka and a few other countries.

 

Veteran Film Producer and journalist Jayantha Chandrasiri Chandrasiri speaking at a session on ‘Mobilizing Asian Buddhist Film Makers’ said that Buddhist movies of higher standards are not produced or encouraged for production in the region. “Buddhist world does not show much interest in producing high standard Buddhist movies as they do not receive due recognition or perhaps the cooperation of relevant supporters,” he said.

Financial assistance

He emphasized the need for establishing a Fund for Buddhist filmmakers to help Buddhist film producers in Asian countries. He proposed this fund should be handled by an eminent committee to select suitable directors and producers for such films and financial assistance for the production of such films should be extended.

“A program should be implemented within Buddhist countries to share the cinematic experience of Buddhist films among each country. The latest Buddhist film “Yasodara” of Professor Sunil Ariyarathna has earned plaudits from a large number of people in the country. My film “King Dutugemunu” was based on a true story of a great Buddhist king in Sri Lanka who is very much respected and held in high esteem.

The veteran journalist and founder of Inner Path Festival of Buddhism in Delhi Aruna Vasudev also addressed the Media Conclave. IBC Deputy Secretary General Dr Damenda Porage welcoming the delegation said that the aim of the Media Conclave was to bring media personnel and scholars in the region together and stimulate them to discuss and formulate necessary guidelines for this noble task.

This rare Media Conclave in New Delhi gave an opportunity to media professionals and scholars alike to debate, discuss and engage in dialogue about the intersection of Buddhism and journalism, both of which principally focus on the ‘present moment’ in their own way. The sessions were chaired by Dr Kalinga Seneviratne, Mr Rajiv Mehrotra, Mr Aspi Misty, Mr Chaminda Perera and a few others. Minister of State for Home, Government of India, Shri Kiren Rijiju was the Chief Guest at the closing ceremony where a summary of the deliberations was presented to the attendees. Shri Malay K Sinha, Director General, IBC raised the vote of thanks.

(The Sri Lankan delegation included Dr Daminda Porage, Jayantha Chandrasiri, Sisira Wijesinghe, Chaminda Perera, Waruna Liyanage, Shirley Anil de Silva, Ashan Paranahewa, Wijayananda Rupasinghe, Ruwan Harishchandra and Senarath Yapa Bandara.)

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