Friday, November 30, 2012

The Lost Lands of Buddhist Belief

Renuka Narayanan, Hindustan Times, Nov. 17, 2012; Wisdom Quarterly
French archaeological team on top of giant 4th century Buddhist stupa cut into mountain in Samangan province, Afghanistan, 2006. A historic site to the south and east is Mes Aynak now at risk from mining (John Moore/Getty Images).
Gandhara became Pakistan and Afghanistan
In today's religiously riven landscape, it's hard to imagine how Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, Sikhism, and Christianity took turns to water the land, each to its own degree. Of these, perhaps we know the least about Buddhism, because it originated so very long ago.

But around CE (Common Era) 406, it was recorded that there were 3,000 monastics of the Theravada school in Bannu at the Northwest Frontier of India [modern Afghanistan/Pakistan, ancient Gandhara]. 
In Peshawar, the grand pagoda built by Kanishka was so impressive that the opinion was, "Of the various pagodas in the inhabited world, this one takes the highest rank."
In the Punjab proper, across the river Indus, lay a region called Bhida where Buddhism flourished. 
The local people were very touched to see foreign Buddhists [from the West] and looked after them with great care and affection as the Buddha himself would have wished. Across the Land of Five Rivers, there were many monasteries with nearly 10,000 monks and nuns.
In Vrajamandal at Mathura, there were 20 monasteries on the banks of the Yamuna river. It was also observed that, "All the kings of the countries to the west of the desert [where the Buddha was born] are firm believers."

Buddhism began in India but Siddhartha came from the northwestern frontier (pakistaniat)

While everyday people gave utmost respect to Buddhist monastics, the monastics occupied themselves with "benevolent ministrations and with chanting liturgies, or sitting in meditation."

When wandering monastics arrived, they were welcomed at these monasteries with water, oil, and "the liquid food allowed after hours" and given rooms to rest in. More

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