"I think this message of tolerance and understanding is of great relevance today, as we see the tragic results of enmity and hatred towards other faiths leading to violence and destruction, and great loss to societies.
"This message of tolerance is of equal importance in the East and West alike," Rajapaksa said after laying the foundation stone of the 'Sanchi University of Buddhist and Indic Studies' here.
Recalling Mahatma Gandhi as the greatest son of modern India, he said people on both the sides of the country have duty to spread the message of non-violence, peace and compassion to the world which is "trapped in material-based progress".
Rajapaksa pointed out profound contribution by Dr BR Ambedkar for the revival of Buddhist thought in India and his efforts to incorporate Buddhist and Indic values in the modern day governance systems of the country.
The Sri Lankan President criticised conventional education which led to ruthless competition and wasteful consumption and said that a complete education must involve self awakening.
"It is our long-held tradition that a complete education must involve the awakening of the self and the cultivation of self knowledge and wisdom and help fashion one's life for the greater good of humankind," he said.
Rajapaksa said the University will revive Buddhist and Indic studies based on the ancient concepts of teaching, self enquiry and traditional knowledge.
"It will fulfill a much-needed role in our region which is today troubled by the ill-effects of commercialisation, urbanisation, de-forestation and intense competition.
"We believe it will seek ways and means to revive the traditional concepts of social responsibility," the Sri Lankan head of state said adding that the University seeks to follow unique path of higher education based on classical Indian Universities like Takshila and Nalanda.
Earlier in the day, Rajapaksa along with Bhutan Prime Minister Jigme Yoser Thinley visited Sanchi Stupa, where relics of Lord Buddha are kept before laying foundation stone for the university aimed at promoting mutual relationship between Asian countries.
"Both our countries have benefitted from the spark of civilisation that came with the dawn of Buddhist practice of our nations," the Sri Lankan President said from the bullet proof enclosure specifically made for VVIP security on the stage.
He also hoped that the university will act as a beacon of light for the region which battles against intolerance and hatred, separatism and ethnic prejudice, terrorism and violence, and social inequality and exclusion.
Referring to the rich mutual ties between India and Sri Lanka, Rajapaksa said that both the countries government will contribute towards the success of this university.
"It is important to recall that we in Sri Lanka have always considered India as a friendly land and people… "The federal structure and the emergence of states has not erased our vision of India as a single land of friendship with the great bonds of history," he said adding that tradition of embracing all of India in friendship will continue to enrich mutual relations.
The foundation stone laying ceremony was done by Rajapaksa, Thinley, MP Governor Ram Naresh Yadav and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan amid chanting of vedic mantras by priests and blowing of conches.
Addressing the gathering initially in Hindi and later in English, Bhutan PM said this university will help in enriching cross pollination of ideas between various faiths.
Chief Minister Chouhan announced allocation of 100 acres of additional land to the University to open study centres of other nations faith.
"In fact, there is a need for studying the philosophical foundations of our religion afresh so as to improve our lives by practising them.
"Today we need to reapply the tenets of Buddhism in our lives and it is towards this end that the Madhya Pradesh Government has taken the initiative to establish this university," Chouhan added.
As a special feature, a group of artists of police band played national anthems of three nations -- Sri Lanka, Bhutan and India-- at the end of the programme.
Artists also presented various colourful folk dances by Goud and Korku tribal dancers.
Scores of Buddhists and villagers from nearby areas have put colourful flags and other decorative items along the roads leading to Sanchi from Bhopal and other areas.
Rajapaksa came here by helicopter from Bhopal, about 45 kms from here, where he was received by the Madhya Pradesh Governor and Chief Minister.
At Sanchi, the VVIPs were received by Laxmikant Sharma. Leader of Opposition and MP from Vidisha (which includes Sanchi) Sushma Swaraj could not attend the function as she was not keeping well.
A number of scholars from various Asian nations attended the function.
Rajapaksa later flew back to New Delhi from here via Bhopal.
Sanchi: Laying the foundation stone of a Buddhist University here, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Friday said tolerance is of "equal importance" to both East and West as enmity and hatred lead to violence and destruction.
First Published: Friday, September 21, 2012, 16:09