Masking the truth
Bodh Gaya, Bihar (India)
Why did the Buddha choose to manifest in such a dusty, polluted, nasty place?
The answer is obvious: Because the place and its people really, really needed it.
Or, maybe not so obvious: at the time of the Buddha's historical life (about 500 years before Christ; that is, historical life, as opposed to his many thousands of other lives), perhaps Bodh Gaya, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were not the dusty hell-holes they now are.
I have not written much lately; carpal tunnel syndrome keeps me off the computer for more than an hour a day (barely enough to answer emails). I'm in the middle of a trip to Buddhist India - first Sarnath, to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama teach and wander among the ruins of an ancient Buddhist monastic complex; then Bodh Gaya, Nalanda, Rajgir and possibly Sanchi; then finally, the Dalai Lama's teachings in Dharmsala (March 3-14).
It is weird, considering that Muslims destroyed the place about a thousand years ago, to sit among the peaceful ruins with chanting monks, and hear the local mosque's call of "AllahuAkbar." It's even weirder to encounter Muslim beggars (less common than Hindu beggars, but still to be found). I feel like saying, "Hey guy, why are you asking ME for money? I'm an infidel, the devil incarnate, a member of the degenerate West. You've got the one true way, the only true religion! How could an unbeliever like me possibly help you? There's the mosque, go talk to the big guy and tell him your problems."
Besides, your ancestors knocked down all the nice architecture in the area....don't blame me for the town being a smoggy, dusty pile of beggars. Enjoy the piles of rubble and your superior faith.
I have noticed that, at none of the ruins destroyed by the invaders - Sarnath nor Bodh Gaya nor Nalanda (at the time the largest university in the world, with 10,000 monk students) - at none of these is the truth about their demise told on the plaques or sign-boards. The origin, the rediscovering and reconstruction, yes - but the signs are strangely silent as to why these places (immense complexes of beauty) had to be restored in the first place. It was not natural decay, by a long shot.
In fact it's hard to imagine how the invaders (some Turkish, some Persian, some Afghani), without benefit of a modern wrecking ball, even managed to decimate such massive stone complexes. They must have had tremendous energy, and tremendous hatred, to tear down what amounts to a small city devoted to the study and worship of another faith.
What kind of PC history-rewriting campaign is going on, that no one is allowed to mention (for the public record) the destruction of temples, monasteries and Buddhist universities?
I understand that in early February a nearby small town has a Sufi festival with ecstatic saints, lots of singing and joyful music. Maybe I can catch some a different side - a more mystical one - of Islamic tradition there. At any rate, after Karmapa's departure there was an immense energy vacuum and I am ready to see a few local Buddhist sites, then push off to new horizons.
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