"Namo Buddha. We are graduates of NTI in Nagpur. We are happy to inform you recently we arranged a three days retreat in Pallavoyal village, 70 kms from Chennai in Tamil Nadu. NTI has trained over 500 people from over 18 states in India.
"This was the first of its kind retreat in Tamil Nadu, it brought together Ambedkarites from various districts of Tamil Nadu, well wishers from Sri Lanka including Dhammachari Jinasena, and others including Dhammachari Viradhamma of the San Francisco Buddhist Centre. The ex-students of Nagarjuna Training Institute (NTI) constituted the core of the retreat organisation, arrangement and co-ordination. Over 120 men and women participated in this retreat.
"The major components of the retreat were Group Meditation, Dhamma Talks, Buddhist Formalities, Chanting Buddhist songs, Group Discussions and Buddhist Cultural Activities, it was a great help to revive Dhamma in the South India.
"In the beginning of the retreat, a small meeting was arranged between Buddhists from Sri Lanka and people in Tamil Nadu to clear misperceptions about current ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. Media and hardliners across the strait are trying to fuel enmity on religious lines and propaganda is trying to show that Buddhists in Sri Lanka are pro-war and are party to present war in Sri Lanka. This propaganda is creating negative impression of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, and the people inclined towards Buddhism in Tamil Nadu, mostly the followers of Babasaheb Ambedkar, get confused about role and involvement of Buddhism. However, Sri Lankan delegates made it clear that majority of the Buddhist monks and laities do not support the war and they are extending the humanitarian help to the people affected by war in North Sri Lanka.
"The theme of the retreat was why Babasaheb Dr. B. R. Ambedkar chose Buddhism, and his key points regarding Buddhism. Dh. Lokamitra gave two talks, which were followed by discussions in the small group. Dh. Lokamitra also introduced two meditation practices.
"Tamil Nadu is a new situation for Buddhism, though it has the 100 year history of revival of Buddhism initiated by Pandit Iyothee Thass, who hailed from the untouchable castes, and saw in Buddhism the potential to end caste system. There is an overwhelming response to the teachings and people are keen to explore Buddhism.
"The images of the Buddha are found all over Tamil Nadu. The images are very beautiful and of artistic excellence. At one place, the famous image of Manimekalai, the famous Buddhist nun in Tamil literature, was also found.
"In all, Tamil Nadu like most of the states of India is having huge potential for revival of Buddhism and this retreat is one of the initiatives, there is so much still remains to be done to make Buddhist teachings available to millions of people here. The members of the Sakya Hostels took tremendous pains to make this event a great success.
"Thanking you, with all our metta. Dhammamitra S. Jayasridhar, Visuddhalok, Tamil Nadu".
The photograph shows Lokamitra, who led the retreat, with some of the participants from Sri Lanka. Tomorrow we report on developments in ATMT, the women's Dhamma and Social project in India.