Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Buddha Purnima, Buddhism, India, China and Japan

Last Saturday we saw the full moon at night. It was Buddha Purnima. I remembered the CD of Buddhist music I had purchased last year. I remembered the Vipassana meditation course I did in Igatpuri in 1996. Ten days of silence. No reading, no writing, no speaking, no newspapers, magazines or television. When I entered the commune Atal Bihari Vajpayee had just resigned as PM of India. When I came out Deve Gowda was the PM. I remember how I was taught to observe my feelings. How I was told of impermanence and the inevitability of change. It was my first true exposure to Buddhism. As a young schoolkid I had learnt about the Buddha when I was in Class IV or V. It was only after going through ten days of Vipassana that I realised how shallow my knowledge of Buddhism had been.

Looking at the map we see that from Myanmar to Japan a large belt of nations which try to follow the tenets of Gautama Buddha and the eight fold path he had discovered.

A year ago I happened to read some words of Hu Shih, former Chinese Ambassador to the U.S.A. A google search could locate for me the exact words. Here they are:
"Never before had China seen a religion so rich in imagery, so beautiful and captivating in ritualism and so bold in cosmological and metaphysical speculations. Like a poor beggar suddenly halting before a magnificient storehouse of precious stones of dazzling brilliancy and splendour, China was overwhelmed, baffled and overjoyed. She begged and borrowed freely from this munificent giver. The first borrowings were chiefly from the religious life of India, in which China's indebtedness to India can never be fully told."

He had also said: "India conquered and dominated China culturally for 20 centuries without ever having to send a single soldier across her border."

Communist China did try to clear her debt to India when she attacked us in 1962 and took over large tracts of land thanks to Jawaharlal Nehru's inability to see the writing on the wall. This, after China had destroyed many monasteries and killed thousands of Tibetans and forced the Dalai Lama to seek refuge in India. It was heart warming to read the above words. Even today the Chinese continue to puzzle the world as they try to distance themselves from the cruelties that they perpetrated in Tibet and Tiananmen square. Something that they conveniently forget when they remember the assault that another Buddhist nation, Japan, had launched on them and the horrible unimaginable cruelties that Japanese troops perpetrated. Truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction.
The May issue of Dailyzen , the internet magazine I subscribe to.


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