- On Buddhist Heritage Raises Outcry
- Manpreet Singh in New Delhi
As Islamic Taliban
militias mindless crusade brings down the Buddhas statues in Afghanistan
Buddhism Today talks to the Buddhists and academia and shares their hurt
feelings and perspectives.
An undated photo of
the world's tallest Bhuddha statue at Bamiyan in Afghanistan. (AP)
The news of Taliban Islamic militia
demolishing the Buddhist statues and masterpieces with canons and tanks in Afganisthan has
sent shock waves amongst the Buddhist community and civilized society world over. The
Muslim fundamentalists yesterday started destroying all the statues, including the two
massive Bamiyan Buddhas, carved into a sand stone cliff near the provincial capital in
Central Afganistan. Both these towering statues were carved around the second century and
one of them is the worlds tallest standing Buddha.
The extremist Muslim religious leaders see
these statues against the spirit of Islam and term them as false idols. Most
Buddhist countries of the world--Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka--and the US, Germany, France,
Iran and others have asked the Taliban extremists to halt this fundamentalist crusade but
they insist to continue with their plans.
There is a growing feeling of disgust
amongst the civic society and Buddhist community against this lunatic act of
Islamic fundamentalists. "Its a barbarian act. These people are destroying the
heritage of their forefathers. Theses statues have strong association with the people and
culture of Afganistan.," says an angry Indologist living in Indian Capital New Delhi,
Prof. Lokesh Chandra, a member of Indian Parliament for four times.
The former head, Department of Buddhist
Studies, Delhi University and general secretary of Buddha Triratna Mission, Bhikshu
Satyapal calls this development "a madness of the Muslim fanatics" and sees the
whole issue in a political context. "Its all political. This is not the
civilized way. Some Muslim religious leaders out of their madness think that by destroying
these statues they will destroy Buddhism. They are utterly mistaken."
The Buddhist member of Indias
Minority Commission in New Delhi, Rev. T.K.Lochan finds this act "very
unfortunate" and regrets: "It is sad not only for the Buddhists. The heritage
that represents two thousand years of old world culture would be lost. There is nothing
much the Buddhists can do in this situation. And we should not react violently. The whole
world is reacting and if someone doesnt listen to reason its very
Lieu Phap, a Vietnamese research scholar
in Buddhist Studies Department, Delhi University, says she can not understand what will
they gain from destroying the Buddhas statues. "I think may be theyre
crazy; or have gone out of their minds. I think these people do not understand and
empathize with the harmonious aspects of religious co-existence."
Dr. Bhaswati Sinha, a senior lecturer,
Department of Religious Studies, Panjabi University, Patiala tries to go deep into the
religious differences of principles in Islam and other religions. "The Islam may be
against idol worship but it is considered dogmatic to force your principles in
todays world where religions should exist in harmony. These fundamentalists may be
thinking that they are doing the right thing but personally I feel all religions teach us
to respect the others religious feelings."
Dr. M.L. Sharma, a reader in Department of
Gandhian Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh is shocked by this extremist act of
intolerance. "This act is not to be seen in isolation; tomorrow it can happen to
other religions too if people keep silent. Religious intolerance is a very unfortunate
thing. The Buddhist heritage does not belong to one country or countries, but to the whole
of humanity. There is a need to generate world opinion against extreme religious
fundamentalism to avoid such occurrences in the future. If religious fundamentalism is
allowed to grow it will reach a point of no return. Time is now, to check and
Indias national daily The Times
of Indias journalist, Jitender Kaushik sees this episode as an act of
"lunatic fringe" of Islamic leaders in Afganistan. "This is muck and
madness; once it begins there is no end to it. But this move is quite confusing
considering the fact that Taliban has been trying to stay out of the news and limelight
for the last two years; and now it acts like this to get international attention. Chances
are that the US might strike against Afganistan as it did against Iraq."
Prof. Lokesh Chandra is critical and
annoyed with the way India tackled the whole issue. "India behaved very softly
despite the Buddhist countries pleading her to take some action. India once again showed
its soft character and remained a silent spectator. Our country is a softy ice cream that
melts in the Indian heat."
He sees this incident in a wider
perspective and as an indicator of the worst things to come against Indic culture.
"This is just the beginning. Its an attack against Buddhism and Indic culture.
They are bent on destroying anything that is Indic. It is a barbarian attack against
civilized society too."
Most people are unnerved at this
development and feel helpless as the Taliban is not open to listen to reason and bow to
the world opinion and pressure. "When in the morning I read this news of
Buddhas statues being demolished I felt sad, hurt and helpless. But I will do my
bitI will tell everyone I meet that this is wrong and should be condemned,"
says Dr. Sharma.
Prof. Chandra bursts out: "The UNESCO
has done nothing; they are just interested in their fat salary checks. In the capacity of
an individual I dont feel helpless, my country is helpless-- it should have done
Meanwhile, Ven. Thich Minh Duc, in America
says: "I feel sad. I will tell the Buddhist community from Vietnam, Japan, China,
Korea and others to generate support against it. I will do something about it."
Rev. Thich Nhat Tu, a Buddhist scholar in
India sees in this incident a historical continuityflowing from the medieval ages to
the present. "Its not the first time that the Islamic fundamentalist leaders
have tried to destroy the Buddhist culture and idols. They have done it in the past too.
And the history is the witness that when the Muslim rulers conquered India they destroyed
the Buddhist holy places in medieval times."
About the motives behind the
Talibans sudden crusade against Buddhism Thich Nhat Tu reflects: "No religion
can be glorified by destroying another. And politically too, I dont think, Taliban
would get the world recognition if it aimed at this by destroying Buddhist culture."
(The author, an international freelance
journalist in India, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org).