Saturday, February 5, 2011

Massive 2,600 year old Buddhist Monastery

Heidi Vogt (AP)
Mes Aynak Afghanistan China Copper MineBuddha statues inside ancient temple in Mes Aynak, Afghanistan. This archaeological site is located at the world's second-largest unexploited copper mine in Logar province. China Metallurgical Group Corp. will destroy it in three years.

MES AYNAK, Afghanistan — It was another day on the rocky hillside, as archaeologists and laborers dug out statues of Buddha and excavated a sprawling 2,600-year-old Buddhist monastery. A Chinese woman in slacks, carrying an umbrella against the Afghan sun, politely inquired about their progress.

She had more than a passing interest. The woman represents a Chinese company eager to develop the world's second-biggest unexploited copper mine, lying beneath the ruins.

The mine is the centerpiece of China's drive to invest in Afghanistan, a country trying to get its economy off the ground while still mired in war. Beijing's $3.5 billion stake in the mine -- the largest foreign investment in Afghanistan by far -- gets its foot in the door for future deals to exploit Afghanistan's largely untapped mineral wealth, including iron, gold and cobalt. The Afghan government stands to reap a potential $1.2 billion a year in revenues from the mine, as well as the creation of much-needed jobs. More>>

World's largest Buddha, now demolished, Bamiyan, Afghanistan (OSProductions LLC).

Massive 2,600 year old monastery discovered
Seven & Macpherson Wisdom Quarterly (COMMENTARY)
Wisdom Quarterly has been sitting on this explosive story awaiting further confirmation. It establishes what we have been saying for years: The Buddha was born in Lumbini Garden far to the west of Nepal on the outskirts of the Indian frontier. (Dr. Ranajit Pal places the exact birthplace in Seistan-Baluchistan, in the vicinity of modern Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, all of which are now steeped in Islamic rule and war).

Bamiyan Buddha, Afghanistan

The basics are simple; the modern situation is dire. Buddhism is presumed to be 2,600 years old. (People have been rounding down to 2,500 for more than a century). There was no time for Buddhism to be born, move west along the trade routes, and become established in a far off hinterland (Gandhara) of the Indian empire. Instead, that area recognized its native famous native son, even though he launched his teaching, the Dharma, far to the east near the greatest holy city of that time, Varanasi. It is comparable to a young person from Hicksville heading to Hollywood to pursue a music career. As that person's fame spreads, the ones to make the biggest deal out of it are those in his home state.

What the startling archeological find at Mes Aynak reveals is a full monastic temple complex (vihara), with massive Buddha statues. They must have taken centuries to develop as art forms in the Gandharan style -- always assumed to be a later Grecian metamorphosis from earlier Asian examples, which now seems to be turned around -- to say nothing of how long they took to construct.

It is well known that the Buddha discouraged the making of idols, resisting the tendency of people to place emphasis on him as a person. Instead, he redirected attention at the timeless liberating Dharma. The Dharma -- that is, realization of the Dharma, enlightenment -- was symbolized by a wheel, a Bodhi tree, stupas (encasing the relics and funerary remains of enlightened individuals), the swastika, and other symbols.

Only later were depictions of the Buddha's body and image allowed to develop and encouraged as reminders of the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha (in this case, noble disciples).

Photo of the Buddha, appearing Central Asian (Indo-Iranian)

"Noble" is a key term. It is thought to signify warrior (kshatriya) caste status, out of which the Buddha and many of his disciples emerged. The Buddha did not support the Brahminical/Vedic caste system. But in far off Kapilavastu where he grew up, the nobles (warrior or ruling caste) were in conflict for supremacy with the brahmins (priestly or educated class).

Brahmins eventually ascended to the top of the hierarchy by serving as advisers to rulers. The educated class does not rule directly by force as do royals. It rules by using rulers as puppets hamstrung and utterly dependent on ministers, advisers, planners, functionaries, and operatives.

Map of ancient trade routes from Alexandria, Egypt to Indian centers of learning.

The Buddha changed the meaning of "noble" and even the term "brahmin." He emphasized that both meant superior in terms of virtue, worthiness, and spiritually accomplishment. This does not happen by birth but by one's actions (karma). Caste status is set in stone by birth. Deeds undertaken now, rather than results of former actions enjoyed at birth, allow anyone, whatever their circumstances, to become ennobled and worthy of salutations, gifts, reverence, and deference.

Eventually there were many "Alexandrias" in Greater India.

Another word for "noble" is aryan, a much maligned term that originally meant something as basic as Iranian. The Buddha was an arya, a noble one, not in the later sense of being enlightened, virtuous, and worthy of honors. He was literally an arya because he had been born in the aryan land, on the frontiers of the prosperous India of that time.

  • This was in fact a decline of India's greatness, which had come in the time of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa, massive, technologically advanced societies with extraterrestrial contact (devas), which were eventually obliterated by nuclear arms and natural disasters, not the least of which was the drying up of great rivers. The Vedas, or Knowledge Books (as distinct from aveda or avidya which mean "ignorance") record the progress of the Indus Valley Civilization (later pronounced "Hindu" by British surveyors referring to the amazing diversity of "religious" beliefs of India all taken under a single term) and the many types of beings that visited, inhabited, and set up great cities around the Earth's "cradle of civilization").
He was a princely foreigner from the west who came to Magadha, India. He crossed a oddly unnamed river defining the limits of the land of his father's influence and came to the prosperous area of India, the largest and most vibrant cities in those times, in search of a guru.

There was bustling trade and interaction with his own homeland. They shared a language (Magadhi, or Prakrit, a form of Sanskrit-Pali, Pali being the simplification of the scholarly language that was never in popular use but rather reserved for the educated elite brahmins), perhaps not a dialect. But it was close enough the Buddha and others from the "Land of the Shakyas" were able to travel freely and adapt seamlessly.

The land back then was divided into mahajanapadas (footholds of clans or tribes or extended ruling families). These great territories were constantly in dispute, growing, and being taken over. Sixteen are spoken of as being relatively stable. The Shakyas's "kingdom" was crushed and overtaken in the Buddha's own lifetime. As much as he attempted to intervene and keep the peace between it and a related neighboring group, the Shakyas were slaughtered.

After the great Indus Valley Civilizations along the Indus and Saraswati rivers

Although he did not know until it happened -- in his efforts to intervene he realized it was futile and searched for the reason, finding it in a case of collective karma stemming from the spiteful poisoning of a river killing many fish in the ancient past -- had he stayed as a royal, he and many of the most famous Buddhist monks, to whom he was related, would have met the same fate.

Everything in the sutras suggests a foreigner of royal demeanor, much loved, admired for his tact and compassion and honored for his wisdom and spiritual accomplishments. The Buddha was not from nearby Nepal. Travel was widespread, and diminished over time as people became parochial. Because we assume we are at the apex of civilization, we think that however it is now, it is at least better than it was in the past.

But time and epochs of civilization are cyclical, rising, achieving greatness beyond our comprehension, and falling away. The past is always spoken of as a Golden Age, not the present. The future will worsen before there is again another Golden Age. The time between these cycles may be in the thousands of years or aeons. It is confounded by the fact that there are cycles within a cycle, and different locations are at different stages, and all of this is happening simultaneously.

The Art
The art is even more telling. We make images in our own likeness as time passes, moving away from the origins. However, using Burmese art as just one example, dark skinned South Asians depict the unknown early life of the Buddha with very Central Asian (Iranian, Persian, Afghan) characteristics and accents. There could be other reasons for this, but the tendency would have been to simply use royal Burmese details that locals would have understood.

The Problem
The problem is not the history. That will straighten itself out in time as people eventually come around to the truth. The problem is China. Formerly a Buddhist empire, now a Communist-Capitalist and officially atheist but promoting Roman-style Catholicism superpower, it now is all about money. It is not satisfied to have its main debtor-nation, the USA, attempting to pay off its debt in large shipments of Ameros or even a New World Currency.

It's interested in exploiting resources in second and third world nations, such as Afghanistan. It is not about to stand by and watch America and Russia divvy up the goods (war booty). The Chinese government-backed China Metallurgical corporation has gone in and forged its own contracts with the Afghan government to exploit the second largest copper mine in the world.

Unfortunately, in ancient times, temples were usually built near mines to have the material at hand for the construction of precious idols and artifacts. This is the case with Mes Aynak in the Logar province, Afghanistan (formerly Gandhara, India). The discovery of one of the largest and oldest Buddhist monasteries in the world is not about to stop atheist/Communist/Catholic China.

They have given war-torn Afghani archeologists three years to excavate before the site is demolished and the copper is plundered. (And where there's copper, there's gold as well). Afghani archeologists with their extremely limited resources and funding -- and Islamic government in no way interested in promoting Buddhism, Buddhist tourism, or revealing its own Buddhist past -- in return say three years is not even long enough to document and describe the discoveries.

Indus Valley Civilization
How could the past have been more glorious than the present? During 4300–3200 BCE of the copper age (chalcolithic period), the Indus Valley Civilization area shows ceramic similarities with southern Turkmenistan and northern Iran, which suggest considerable mobility and trade. During the Early Harappan period (about 3200–2600 BCE), similarities in pottery, seals, figurines, ornaments, and so on, document-intensive caravan trade with Central Asia and the Iranian plateau. [Ref.] Judging from the dispersal of Indus civilization artifacts, the trade networks, economically, integrated a HUGE area, including portions of Afghanistan, the coastal regions of Persia (Iran), northern and western India, and Mesopotamia. More>>

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