Refreshing the long gone memories of Buddhism

By Fawad Ali Shah, Daily Times, Aug 18, 2009

KARACHI, Pakistan -- There is not even a single monastery in Pakistan, which once remained a hub of Buddhism.

It is said that this part of the subcontinent where Gandhara civilisation nurtured has an eminent place in the theology of Buddhism. However, the sad part of the story is that not even a single place of worship for Buddhists exists in Pakistan.

Several years ago, Swat and other parts of NWFP, where terrorism is reigning, used to be the hub of Buddhism and are said to be the birthplace of the second Buddha.

Goethe-Institut Pakistan on Monday organised a visual presentation of Buddhist relics in order to give the citizens of Karachi some knowledge about the historical background of the subcontinent and the Buddhism and Gandhara civilisation under the title, 'Gandhara: The Buddhist Heritage of Pakistan'.

The presentation that was delivered by Assistant Director, Department of Archaeology and Museums, government of Pakistan, Mehmood-ul-Hassan focused on the life of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha and the development of the Buddhism in the region.

He supported his arguments by the presentation of visuals of some of the relics of that era.

Citing evidence from the history Hassan informed the audience that Buddha was born somewhere on the border of the India and Nepal.

Buddha was as a humble and peaceful person who opted for winning hearts by love, he added. He showed a Stupa of Arathi who according to him lived in the times of Buddha.

Despite having 1,000 children Arati used to butcher children of others.

"Once parents whose lonely son was abducted by Arati went to Buddha for help," he narrated the story from Mythology, adding that Buddha kidnapped one of her children.

She requested Buddha to release him and in response Buddha asked her to think about the pain that the parents of the children would feel after you kill their children, he said adding, Arati regretted her past doings and converted to Buddhism and later on became a spiritual healer, who would heal skin diseases.

He also displayed visuals of the relics of Buddhism, showing the death of Sidartha and his imaginative times in paradise, where the gods surround him.

He said Buddhism was heavily destroyed in the region after the invasion of White Huns.

These people had some commonalities with Hinduism and they promoted Hinduism in the region.

"After invasions of these people Buddhists started migrating to Far-East Asia," he went on to say.

He said second Buddha was born in Swat and that is the reason why this region is rich with Buddhist relics.

Answering a question he said that Buddhism in the later stage was greatly influenced by the Greek mythologies.

The statue of Buddha in Bamyan has been destroyed.

He hoped that the government would soon introduce courses of arts and heritage in the schools and colleges so that students could know about their culture and heritage.

"We have no other option but to save these relics, these are our cultural identities," Hassan said.