Hundreds of the world's Buddhists gathered at an ancient temple in northwest China's Shaanxi Province on Thursday to open the World Fellowship of Buddhists' (WFB's) 27th general conference.
Congregating around a relic said to contain one of the Buddha's finger bones at the Famen Temple in Baoji City, more than 600 representatives from 30 nations and regions were in attendance.
The three-day event marks the first time the Bangkok-headquartered WFB has held its general conference on the Chinese mainland.
Buddhist leaders at the opening ceremony included the 11th Panchen Lama, Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu, and Nichiyu Mochida, chief abbot of Japan's Sogen-ji Temple.
Buddhism, which extols peace, compassion and virtue, has been an example of the exchange and two-way learning of different civilizations, wrote Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), in a letter read at the opening of the event.
The letter mentioned the journey of Xuanzang, a noted Buddhist monk of the Tang dynasty (618-907), to ancient India for Buddhist enlightenment, as one of the wonderful episodes of cultural exchange.
Yu said Buddhist tenets can help mankind tackle current challenges and hoped that Buddhist circles in various nations could make concerted efforts in promoting the mutual understanding of people in different nations and contribute more to lasting peace and prosperity in the world.
He said the focus of the conference on charity and good will, is significant because it reflects the shared attentions of Buddhists in different nations on enhancing the well-being of mankind.
Du Qinglin, vice chairman of the National Committee of the CPPCC, said at the opening event that China supports Buddhist circles to play a positive role in shoring up economic development and social harmony and encourages Buddhists and other religions to promote cultural exchange with other nations.
AN EVENT THAT BODES WELL FOR MORE EXCHANGE
Master Chuanyin, president of the Buddhist Association of China (BAC), said the event is a milestone for friendship between the BAC and the WFB.
It will help Chinese Buddhists play a bigger role internationally, Chuanyin said.
The last WFB conference was held in Yeosu City in the Republic of Korea in June 2012.
Mochida said current and previous conferences have made him sense a "deepening relationship between Buddhists in northeastern Asia and south Asia," and he has "come to think that all Buddhist believers in the world are going in the way of great solidarity."
The Panchen Lama hailed the WFB as an organization that has strengthened Buddhists' communication and the development of different schools.
He urged Buddhists worldwide to jointly strive for deepened exchange and cooperation and work together to boost environmental protection and safeguard world peace, among other issues.
The conference has been organized by the WFB and jointly sponsored by the BAC and Shaanxi Province.
Founded in Sri Lanka in 1950, the WFB aims to promote strict observance and practice of the teachings of the Buddha, secure unity and brotherhood amongst Buddhists, and organize humanitarian activities.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka, also sent a written message to the event.
"I am confident that the conference will not only help Chinese Buddhists to strengthen ties with the WFB and Buddhists worldwide but also contribute to world peace," Rajapaksa wrote.