Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The rock-cut temples of Buddhism

Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson, CC Liu, Wisdom Quarterly
Bezeklik ancient Buddhist rock-cut temple monastery complex (chinatouronline.com)
Tiger's Nest Buddhist Monastery perched on cliff, Bhutan (MichaelFoleyPhotography/flickr)
Rock-cut Buddha, Luoyang Shaolin Temple, taken during the "Kung Fu and Buddhism Tour by Cycle" through China in 2013 (Great-wall-hikers/flickr.com)
Kwan Yin, Yungang (G-W-H)
It is characteristic of Buddhism that temples were built by carving them directly into mountains out of bare stone -- a feature known as rock-cut architecture, particularly in ancient India.
This was accomplished in some advanced way that cannot be explained today, for it was a time when there were presumably no lasers, power drills, grinders, sanders, or diamond-tipped chisels.
Mountain-sized Buddhas, Bamiyan
The first were in Afghanistan beginning at the time of the Buddha. His family was apparently living in the area, the northwestern frontier of greater "India" (Bharat) beyond Gandhara.

There are stunning examples in the spectacular Afghan archeological sites of Bamiyan and Mes Aynak, the jaw-dropping caves of Ellora and Sanchi in Buddhist India, and China's Bezeklik and Yungang grottoes.... Of course, one cannot lose sight of the official "largest" Buddhist sites in Borobudur, Java, Indonesia and the rock-cut marvels of the Cambodian jungles at Angkor Wat and "lost medieval cities" (livescience.com) such as Mahendraparvata discovered in 2013. We are assured by the enlightened and psychic Buddhist master Ven. Jumnien that more such stone sites remain in the jungle to be found.

Giant and Buddhist missionaries Datong, Yungang Grottoes (Great-wall-hikers/flickr.com)
Magnificent rock-cut architectural finds: stupa at Mes Aynak, Afghanistan (ranajitpal.com)
"Copper Well" (Mes Aynak), Afghanistan mineral mine treasures (AP)
World's largest Buddhas, Bamiyan, Afghanistan
The real Kapilavastu, the Buddha's hometown, was close to modern Kabul (Kapil). For the ancient country's capital, seat of the Shakyan janapada (the "foothold" of the Shakya clan's territory) may have been Bamiyan, a site famed not only for rock-cut caves and monastic dwellings but also the most massive Buddha statues in the world.

Bojjannakonda cave (Adityamadhav83/AP)
It was rich because it was on the Silk Road between India to the east and Central Asia to the west. Right from its inception Buddhism traveled the route west into ancient Greece and onto China. It is said that one of the first things the newly enlightened Buddha did was send out 60 enlightened missionaries in all directions; they were wandering ascetics spreading the "good news" of liberation from all suffering.
Cliffside Bamiyan Valley, Afghanistan, overlooking adobe "pueblos" in the distance (wiki)

Much of desert western China features magnificent rock-cut Buddhist architecture which is little known today. Islam supplanted the Dharma and obscured its Buddhist past. Much of the architecture is now in a part of the Great Walled Empire (China), known as the restive Uighur Autonomous Region. Like Buddhist Tibetans from the Tibetan Autonomous Region, Muslim Uygurs want nothing to do with colonial communist/capitalist Han Buddhist Chinese rule.

Buried treasures at Mes Aynak (Andy Miller)
At 2,600 years, the oldest Buddhist temple complex yet discovered and largest -- with a central area of one square mile -- is at Mes Aynak ("Copper Well"). 

However, most of it is still underground as an archeological site never to be excavated if China (through its Chinese Metallurgy Company) has its way. China will be the next empire to invade Afghanistan, according to Afghans, after the ancient Greeks with Alexander, the British, the Soviets, and the Americans.
  • Scientific research in "forbidden archeology" suggests that technologically advanced tools were in the possession of someone as explained by Micheal Cremo, David Hatcher Childress, and others.
Buddha Grottoes, China (Great-wall-hikers)
While characteristic of Buddhist sites, rock-cut technology did not remain exclusive to the East, having made its way to Petra and widely practiced in Cappadocia, (Anatolia, Asia Minor) Turkey, particularly in the soft stone of Derinkuyu. But no other religious movement did so much to generate and exploit this practice -- we would guess with help from above, namely, the akasha deva loka (space deva world).


Buddhism spread from Afghanistan
Dazzling new finds from Mes Aynak and Tepe Naranj near Kabul
Ranajit Pal, Ph.D. (ranajitpal.com)
Mes Aynak vihara, Trapusa (Brent E. Huffman)
"The discoveries cover more than 1,000 hectares and have unearthed [Buddhist] temples, monasteries, and about 1,000 statues, which cannot be compared with finds from any location in Nepal.

Smaller Buddha, Bamiyan
"The site is about 20 km from the Indian border (pre-partition) and was probably within ancient ‘India.’ The RigVeda names many rivers and tribes of Afghanistan, which shows that it was a part of Vedic India.

"The new discoveries unmistakably indicate that Buddhism spread from Afghanistan and northwest India, not eastern India or Nepal. The discoveries at Bamiyan, Mes Aynak, and [Greco-Buddhist] Hadda highlight the primacy of Afghanistan and Gandhara in early Buddhist history."
Gold-covered statues of "Copper Well" (Mes Aynak) archeological site, Afghanistan

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