Spreading the Buddha’s message through film

By Edwin Ariyadasa

Rohan L. Jayatilleke's contribution to the Sunday Times on January 9 threw considerable light on the early archaeological processes, set in motion to rediscover the site of Prince Siddhartha's Birth, 2635 years ago.

In the concluding segment of his essay, writer R.L.J referred to Basantha Bidari, the chief Nepali archaeologist at the Lumbini site. Incidentally, I am currently in the process of translating into Sinhala Mr. Bidari's profound treatise on Lumbini-with his permission of course.

Mr. Bidari visited Sri Lanka, during the Vesak season of 2010, on an invitation extended to him by the Sambuddhatwa Jayanthi International Buddhist Film Festival Organization which is jointly formed by the BMICH, National Film Corporation and The Light Of Asia Foundation. Mr. Bidari received a special award from President Mahinda Rajapaksa, at a ceremony held at the Presidential Secretariat. The event was organized by Sambuddhatwa Jayanthi International Buddhist Film Festival to present awards to those (both local and foreign) who participated in the Buddhist Film Festival in May 2010.

In conventional terms, The Buddhist Era is calculated from the Great Demise of the Supremely Enlightened Buddha. He attained the status of Supreme Buddhahood, 45 years prior to his Great Demise. Therefore this year marks the 2600th year of Buddhahood. But in conventional terms this year 2011 is the 2555th year of the Buddha era. In other words it was 2600 years ago, that Ascetic Siddhartha, transformed himself into the status of the Supremely Enlightened Buddha-and it was 2555 years ago that the Buddha's Great Demise occurred.

As things are today, the world is ready to receive the Buddha's eternal message. Mankind has begun to feel keenly, the need for the Buddha's soothing, compassionate teachings. The world is conflict-riven. Though there has not been a World War 111, after 1945, more than 256 armed conflicts have raged.
Man's destructive capacities have burgeoned. So advanced is modern man in his destructive prowess, that, today he can unleash in just six seconds, the devastation that was wrought during the six years of World War 11. There is hardly any place on earth, where terror does not lurk, to claim human lives in cold blood.

Given the context of human existence of this character, we have to traverse a path that will enable modern man to rediscover the quintessence of the dispensation of the Compassionate Buddha.
Those archaeologists rediscovered the sacred birthplace of Prince Siddhartha, guided by Emperor Asoka's edifices. Today, when we celebrate the 2600th anniversary of the attainment of Supreme Enlightenment by Ascetic Siddhartha, modern man has to re-discover the essence of the Buddha's teachings.

The Sambuddhatwa Jayanthi International Buddhist Film Festival Organization, has prioritized this human need to keep modern man informed about the Supreme Message of Compassion, declared by the Buddha 2600 years ago. This message has to be taken to the global community, in a universal language. And, we are all agreed that thelanguage that people can universally understand is cinema.

In the run-up to the 2600th Buddhatwa Jayanthi in May this year, the Sambuddhatwa Jayanthi International Buddhist Film Festival held two International Buddhist film festivals. In May 2009, the first International Film Festival was held with both local and foreign film-makers taking part. Local entries in the category of short-films numbered 141. Eighty-eight foreign entries were received. In addition, Feature Films, and Mobile Films too were received. In the local segment, "Sachcha Matha" "Attammage Vastuwa" and " Towards Enlightenment" were adjudged the best three entries.

Of the Foreign Films, "The Oil Lamp"(Animation- Malaysia), "Heart Sutra"(Japan) and "Sneaker Karma"(Japan) earned the top three places. However finally, all entries that were adjudged "acceptable" were given awards at the Presidential Secretariat.

The participants meanwhile formed a group called "Cinema Sansadaya"-(Film Circle) and now have the opportunity to participate in seminars, conferences and workshops-entirely free. A special workshop on Animation Film Making is currently in progress.The creative enrichment they receive, it is hoped will in turn, be reflected in their cinematic creations.

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