Friday, December 25, 2009

Buddhism's Lost Cause: Lessons from History Pt1

Despite the much said popularity of Buddhism in the West and the revivalism of it in most Asian countries, there had been much decline in the state of Buddhism ever since the days of the Buddha. And I blame it on Buddhists themselves for not knowing the history of Buddhism and what causes its decline especially in her country of birth, i.e. India. If we are aware of history, we will know that Buddhists and Buddhist sites have been plundered, destroyed and taken advantage of by other religions. Many Buddhists texts and scriptures have been burnt and not even one was spared. For all we know, there could had been scriptures that had been lost forever. This is saddenning but I am going to make extracts of relevant paragraphs from one book by Chan Koon San entitled "Buddhist Pilgrimage" so that Buddhists all over the world may realise the fate that befell our Buddhist forefathers and the suffering they had to go through. And I hope that by sharing these historical facts, I pray that Buddhists are able to appreciate the Buddha's kindness to us and visit those holy Buddhist sites at least once in your lifetime. I know that many people had gone to Bodhgaya, but not many people have been to Lumbini, even though they had been to Nepal several times. And still even far far less people visit Kapilasvastu, the ancient capital of the Sakyans. It is so sad when I came to know that Buddhists have almost forgotten of Kapilasvastu. At least there was development around Lumbini with a few hotels there and several guesthouses. But Kapilavastu was almost left there alone in the middle of a jungle. No guesthouses, no hotels, no visitors! I understand that not many tour operators organise to go there because of the dirt and dust along the way. And it is quite a distance away from Lumbini.

I will not be surprise that this site and some of the surrounding sacred sites such as Kudan will soon be totally forgotten and it will suffer the same fate that befell Lumbini and Bodhgaya before these sacred sites were discovered in the 19th century. All the excavation by historians will all go to waste. And if Buddhists do not appreciate their own historical cultural sites, do you think other religions will pay much attention? They will not give a damn to our historical significance. Excuse me for my language. Even in Lumbini we can see Christians coming to establish schools there but their real intention is to spread their gospel. And when the muslim turks destroyed our monasteries and Sanghas, they were already successful in establishing the muslim community there at the Lumbini district. There are actually many muslims there today. In the article I will extract from the book I mentioned, you will read about the savagery of the turks and what they did to Buddhists and Buddhism. What I wrote about the turks is not my own creation. It is stated in the book. You can do your own research based on the extract. If the book is not correct, do let me know, ok?

But my intention is not to invoke in you a feeling of anger or anything like that. All that had happened, had happened and gone in the past. There is nothing we can do about it, but we can protect what we have now. What I mean is Tibet.

In our time and age, Tibet's Buddhism is in danger of disappearing. For example, what used to be a triving palace with much activities, the Potala Palace is now very much like Lumbini. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is no longer there and it is only a place for visitors and tourists. For me, it is sad to see the palace empty, devoid of its spiritual practices and msot importantly devoid of the His Holiness the Dalai Lama. If Buddhists are not able to protect this palace, it may one day become like the palace of King Suddhodana in Kapilavastu, i.e. in total ruins. You can only see pieces of bricks of the foundation. But the Chinese Government is saying that they have brought development to Tibet. That may be true but material advancement has come at the expense of spiritual decline. Is that what we want?

So, my intention for this post and the next few parts is for us Buddhists (Therevadins, Mahayanists, Vajrayanists) is not to cause any hatred or anger or revenge, but merely to educate and to strenghen the unity amongst Buddhists. Once we are stronger and united, we could come together and support the causes that prolong the Buddha sasana such as in the case of Tibet. Hopefully the many holy monasteries in Tibet will still be there and not as ruins for our future generations to see, just as we now see the ruins of Lumbini and Kapilavastu. I pray that Buddhists come to their senses and realise the importance of being able to withstand the onslaught and pressures from others. If Buddhists are weak, Buddhism will be the first major world religion to disappear. Sometimes I think Buddhists have themselves to blame. When confronted with issues like the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, there are some Buddhists who even thinks this is in accordance with the teaching of Buddhism on impermanence and all these people do is watch and say " impermanence... impermanence...".

I am not saying we should involve in physical or verbal fights and, seriously we must be careful not to involve ourselves in any activities of revenge. The consequences of revenge could be even more dire to us. So, NO REVENGE, please. It is not the principle of Buddhists to fight or to wage any war. That's one reason Byuddhists are so easily exterminated by other religious faiths. We rather be killed than to kill. It is one of our strength but also our weakness. That's why in many cases, even recent ones, Buddhists are the ones who are at the receiving end of suffering. We could only watch and console ourselves by the reality that all things are impermanent. And leave things to karma. Indeed, the Buddhists karma is heavy. But heavier still are those who kill and plunder and destroy Buddhist images and sacred texts. I can't imagine their destiny. But we have to forgive them. It is not their fault. The fault is ignorance and we have that too, unfortunately. So we say it was due to our own weakness or karma, and stop at that. But that does not mean we cannot learn from history and strengthen ourselves internally. That is the challenge for us Buddhists.

However, what we could do is to make our voices heard louder in the international community. The World Buddhist Fellowship and other worldwide Buddhist organisations should play a stronger role in the international arena. Have a say on world issues (such as the global warming) if necessary. People may dispute this but in our age and time, I do think that the role of a Buddhist Sangha is no longer confined to the monastery. The Dalai Lama is one of the few prominent Buddhist playing that role. And yet there are Buddhists who raise questions about this role he is playing. You see what I mean? Buddhists are destroying themselves by not being in harmony.

As for me, I am playing my role here to educate the Buddhist masses with my blog.

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