- Buddha statues impermanent:
- Should Buddhists keep mum?
- Manpreet Singh
- Buddhism Today News Service
The world Buddhist community appears to be divided in its
reaction to the unfortunate loss of the worlds most precious Buddha statues in
Afghanistan which recently fell prey to Taliban militias mindless fundamentalism.
These Islamic fundamentalists call the statues as "false idols" and against the
spirit of Islam, and thus destroyed them, including the worlds two ancient towering
Buddha Bamiyan statues with tanks, canons and rockets.
While the whole world is shocked at the Talibans action Buddhist
community seems to be divided as to how to react to this situation in context of
Buddhas teachings of anicca and compassion. Consequently, a myriad of reactions and
interpretations of Buddhas teachings fill their response.
Buddhism Today started a "Special Guest Book on Buddha
Statue Destruction in Afghanistan" last week to record the Buddhists and worlds
citizens reaction to this unfortunate incident in history.
The Special Guest Book aims to record Buddhists and worlds
reaction as the debate is growing amongst the Buddhist circles; the statues are
impermanent, should Buddhists complain or keep mum on the issue? The response has been
active and here we bring you some of the reactions and interpretations forwarded by people
from all over the world.
Those believing strongly in Zen school, giving the theory of anicca,
want Buddhist community not to be attached to the statues as all things are bound by
impermanence, and pray for the peace and prosperity of one and all, even of the Talibans.
But the general feeling of hurt and anger at this act of Taliban is widespread amongst the
ordinary Buddhists world over, and the secular minded people.
Shousie Hanayama from New Jersey feels that this event should be
forgotten, but sees in this an opportunity to spread Buddhas teachings:
"Unfortunately, the Buddha statues in Afghanistan will be destroyed by human beings.
But everything is impermanent. Therefore, we better leave the attachment for the Buddha
statues in Afghanistan. Of course, it's tragedy for us. However, one of the reasons of the
tragedy depends on us. We had better spread the teachings of Buddha worldwide."
One Buddhist asks others to ponder on Buddhas teachings at this
hour: "The mind is naturally pure and radiant. But external objects pollute the mind,
Thought, influence of senses, And mental faculties or defilements. The last word of our
teacher: Behold, O disciples, I exhort you. Subject to change are all component
things. Strive on with diligence."
Jivananda Ong, from Malaysia, also observes the impermanent aspect of
Statues and all things: "All component things are impermanent. The statues will be
destroyed by human beings or by the power of the nature. We should not be very sad on this
matter. Because it is natural. It will go sooner or later. All conditioned things are
However, Tran Nguyen Nhu, feels that Buddhas theory of anicca is
being misinterpreted as destruction. He tries to put Buddhas teaching on anicca in
right perspective, "I strongly disagree with those Buddhists who consider that Buddha
statues are only "stones" and that their destruction as making stones into
pieces. Although the Buddha claims that He is only the Path-Pointer and does not ask us to
worship him as God, there is nothing wrong in making His statues as well as worshipping
them as symbol of enlightenment. What I am worried about is that some Buddhists may have
misinterpreted the Buddha's theory of impermanence (anicca) as destruction. When He says
all things and phenomena are impermanent, He does not mean that we have to destroy our
body and properties, nor let others do so to ourselves. He simply tells us the fact that
things get changed or transformed. Under any sad circumstances, one should not react
violently or unwisely. What we have to do is try our best (but not
"indifferent") to improve things in a positive way. The Buddhists should stop
misinterpreting Buddha's teaching of anicca as destruction either by self of others. As a
Middle Path, Buddha's teachings are well-known as avoiding two extremes of permanent and
Tran Nguyen Nhu further exhorts Buddhists to show courage and stand
actively and compassionately for justice: "I suggest all Buddhists should actively
react with "compassion" in protest against any fundamental acts of religious
intolerance, especially towards Buddhism, in the future. Otherwise, all Buddhist heritage
would be smashed at any time, like those of Nalanda and other holy Buddhist places in
India. Dont be a silent observer to destruction of Buddha statues! One should not do
any harm or injustice to others but also dont let anyone do so.
Again I would like to request that all Buddhists should show the courage, right effort in
protecting Buddhist culture and heritage. React with wisdom and compassion."
Thich Nhat Tu, a Vietnamese monk, now in India, sees this unfortunate
incident as "the darkest" in the world in the new millennium; the biggest
calamity after the Indias deadliest earthquake in March which left over one lakh
people dead. He advises: "The Buddhists should not react violently or create hatred
against the ignorant Taliban militia, otherwise there will be no difference left between
them and the Buddhists. We should work towards world peace."
But there are people like Toh Tin Lam from Singapore who think that a
stricter and concrete action would be better to teach Taliban some sense than the mere
expression of dislike to their actions in words, "I hope that Buddhists should take
more practical actions discouraging further destruction of Buddhist heritage -- don't just
pray and hope for their turning for the better!
Buddhist countries and organisations should stop all your aids to the Taliban Muslim
leaders. Stop all dealings with them-- stop giving them
the revenue via tourism and businesses. And offer prayers to rescue their souls from the
Intellectuals and academicians aside; the general feeling amongst the
ordinary Buddhists and worlds secular citizens over the statues uncalled destruction
has been one of outrage, anger, compassion and regret.
"It's a shame; quite a timid and the most shameful act I ever
heard," writes Dhananjaya Bandara from Colombo. Meanwhile reacting sadly and strongly
writes Nhi Phan from the United States of America, "I was really shocked when I got
the news about the destruction of Buddha statues in Afghanistan. For me, those Taliban
people are not human beings, they are kind of animals (actually worse than that), they
don't even have brains. That's all I have in my mind now. Please let me know if I can do
anything to prevent them doing such stupid things."
Thich Nu Nhu Nguyet from Taiwan does not see any religious
justification behind Talibans action of destroying statues, "The ultimate goal
of all religions is to bring loving-kindness to all human beings. Religious people do not
condemn or teach people in society to be violent. But the immoral action of Taliban
government to destroy the Buddhist statues at Afghanistan is the act of violent and
Islam does not teach hatred says Bianca Vermeij from Amsterdam,
"It does'nt help the Islam or the Islamic people to do so and it is a loss to the
world. And if Buddha doesn't mean anything to the people in Afghanistan, then please let
the statues have their destination in another country. If Allah is wise Man, which I think
he is, then he would never have destroyed something which is so valuable to some people,
especially when it is invaluable to the Taliban. I see this as an action of hate and Allah
didn't preach hate either. Of course everything is impermanent, but let it go in its own
Condemning the Taliba actions Huong Huyen CHan tue bi asks Taliban
militia to reflect on their misdeeds and repent what they have done to wash away their
bloody hands, "We Buddhists feel sad to know that the tallest Buddha statues have
been destroyed completely in Afghanistan by bloody hands of ruling Taliban. What will
remain in Afghanistan if you Taliban live without understanding, loving-kindness, but only
doubt and hatred towards other religious heritage??? We strongly condemn your destruction
of Buddhist heritage particularly and world heritage generally. Please wash and stop your
bloody and destructive hands! The World will remember you...."
Saying that Buddhist culture and religion is relevant in all the times
to come, Dr. Manohar Lal Sharma in India questions Talibans courage in destroying
the statues. "A brave neither disrespects nor frightens others. As a matter of fact,
no one has the right or claim to destroy religious/ spiritual and civilizational heritage
of others. The right thinking people do not approve of the conduct and behaviour of the
perpetrators and operators of religious intolerance. Disruption and destruction of
heritage do not glorify any person, cult or any religion. Brave people do not behave like
this. Buddhist philosophy is valid and relevant for all times to come and the same cannot
be wiped out overnight in this way."
To Toan Vu in Texas Talibans act reminds atrocities of the past,
"The barbaric acts of the Afgan Taliban reminds me of the medieval periods (from 10th
to 17th century) of Indian history, when the invaders, in the name of "Islam",
killed millions of Buddhists and Hindus, destroyed all the temples and statues of these
two religions. We must be aware that fanatic monotheistic religions do not threaten world
Hai Hanh, from Australia, wants Buddhists to pray for the wrong doers
who destroyed the statues, "It is very sad when hearing about destruction of Buddha
statues in Afghanistan. Although the Buddha statues have been destroyed but Buddhism
followers/layers and Buddhists always believe that Buddha really is in their heart and
destroyers will bring bad karma. But according to Buddhism, Buddhists will pray for
destroyers so that they could be steadily changed from bad karma to good karma."
Zoran, from Croatia, sums up (and wisely too) his explanation of anicca and compassion:
"All worldly phenomena are impermanent. The statues are impermanent too. We all know
that. But it does not mean that we should be completely inactive. Otherwise such things
like the destruction of the statues will happen again. Barbarism can be stopped. Because
barbarism is impermanent too. Barbarism should be made more impermanent than the