PATNA: Allaying fears about the perceived threat to religious freedom in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said there is no problem in practising one’s religion, and that the potential for conflict arises when radical elements try to force their own ideologies on others.
He was speaking to the delegates of a Hindu-Buddhist conference at the Maha Bodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, where he came to attend the International Buddhist Conclave.
At the conclave, he said his government would develop Bodh Gaya as a spiritual capital, so that it could serve as a civilisational bond between India and the Buddhist world. Personally, he said, he would call the country “Buddhist India”.
“We in India would like to develop Bodh Gaya so that it can become the spiritual capital and civilisational bond between India and the Buddhist world. The government of India would like to provide all possible support that its Buddhist cousin nations need for the satisfaction of their spiritual needs from this holiest of holy places for them,” Modi said.
“I feel very blessed to be here at Bodh Gaya. After Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, I have the opportunity to visit this sacred place,” he said.
Seeking to draw links between the philosophy of Krishna and Buddha on the occasion of Janmashtami, Modi said, ”Shri Krishna gave his message before the start of the great war in the Mahabharata and Lord Buddha repeatedly emphasised the need to rise above war.
“Gautama Buddha gave the world the eight-fold path and the Panchsheel, while Shri Krishna gave invaluable lessons on life, in the form of Karma Yoga. These two divine souls had the strength to bring people together, rising above differences” he added.
Describing Bodh Gaya as “the land of enlightenment” he said, “Buddha gave the world a complete system of morality; he was a great teacher of equality.”
Referring to Buddha as the “crown jewel” of India, he said, “The Indian nation accepts all the ways of worship of all religions. This quality of Hinduism in India was a product of many great spiritual masters, chief among them being Buddha. And this is what sustains India’s secular character”.
Modi was received at Gaya International airport by Bihar Governor Ram Nath Kovind and Food Minister Shyam Razak, as well as a host of senior state BJP leaders.
In view of the politically charged atmosphere in the state, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar didn’t go to receive the Prime Minister at Gaya, and preferred to keep his other engagements instead.