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Arunachal gets country fourth Buddhist centre

Itanagar: Arunachal Pradesh, where around 13 per cent of the population follows Buddhism, has got its first full-fledged Buddhist centre after Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

The Central Institute of Himalayan Culture Studies at Dahung in West Kameng district, where a majority of the people follow Tibetan Buddhism, is now a full-fledged central institute, according to its founder Tsona Gontse Rinpoche.

The institute, conceived by Rinpoche in 2000, had received the nod of the Union Cabinet on May 26, 2010 with a project cost estimated at Rs 9 crore and recurring annual cost of Rs 124.86 lakh. "It began with a central government grant of Rs 97 lakh and has since grown into a good institute to fill the vacuum in imparting education on Buddhism," Rinpoche said.

"I had pursued the Centre to establish such an institute considering the large number of Buddhist population residing in the Northeast," he said. He pointed out that with only 25 faculty members and limited infrastructures, the institute has so far produced two batches (18 each) of Shastri (equivalent to BA in Buddhist Philosophy) degree holders.

Besides teaching arts and crafts for self-sufficiency and sustainable development and preservation of ethnic identity to foster national integrity, the institute has been inculcating an awareness on the ecological balance and preservation of natural resources, he said.

He said the other three institutes are: Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, a deemed university, Central University for Tibetan Studies, Sarnath, Varanasi, and Central Institute for Higher Buddhist Studies, Leh.

Rinpoche said 30 acres of land was provided by the Bugun community free of cost for the institute which has been running on an ad-hoc basis for over a decade and henceforth would be completely funded by the MoC.

The Buddhist population of the state resides in the region`s Tawang, West Kameng, remote regions which are close to Tibet and near the Myanmar border.

Tibetan Buddhism is practised in the first three regions while Therevada Buddhism reigns supreme in the lives of people living near the Myanmarese border. Rimpoche earnestly believes that the institute will soon turn into a deemed university.

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