Proponents of Maitreya Project heartless, arrogant

by Jaime McLeod, Lewiston, Maine, USA, The Buddhist Channel, Sept 11, 2007

I was appalled to read the article "Giant Buddha's Tough Love Will Drive Out Poor."

Had his remains not been cremated, Shakyamuni Buddha would surely be rolling in his grave to learn that people who purport to be working in his name plan to displace as many as 20,000 struggling farmers in order to build a 500-foot bronze Buddha statue at the site of his death in Uttar Pradesh, India.

Though the Tathagata admonished the sangha during his lifetime against making or worshipping images of him, statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have been a part of traditional Buddhist spirituality for centuries. That is all well and good.

Altar images, stupas, thangkas, and even the massive Buddha sculptures found carved into mountains and cliffs throughout Asia, can be beautiful and inspiring, but they should never distract us from the fact that Buddha is alive in each and every living being, and in evey atom and molecule of the universe.

To shove aside livng Buddhas who are trying to scratch out a living in their ancestral homes in order to construct a cold metal memorial -- whether to a dead man, or one who is yet to come -- is unconscionable.

The people behind the Maitreya Project should be ashamed of themselves for even thinking about perpetrating such a supreme act of arrogance.

Placing the exaltation of one's religious beliefs above the genuine needs of human beings is a sorry, wicked thing that debases those who perpetrate such actions and, by association, debases the Buddhadharma.

No less troubling than the project's total indifference to the people who make their homes in Uttar Pradesh is the fact that the structure is expected to cost 250 million -- more money than those same farmers likely make in all of their lives put together.

With so much material inequity in the world, surely the Maitreya Project can think of better ways to spend 250 million.