Lankans, Pakistanis can find common destiny in Buddhist Gandhara

Lanka Daily News, Sept 15, 2007

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka -- The Pakistan High Commission in Colombo launched the Sinhalese translation of the book Buddhist Gandhara- History, Art and Architecture written by Ihsan H. Nadiem.

The book has been translated by M.S Hussain, with an expert review by Prof. Anura Wickremasinghe, Colombo University. Author of the book, Ihasan Nadiem is a famous Pakistani archaeologist and museologist.

Besides remaining the curator and in charge of leading Pakistani museums, he is also well known to have raised the prestigious Pakistan Institute of Archaeological Training and Research (PIATR) at Lahore.

He has written nearly 20 books about the history, art, culture and heritage of all Pakistani provinces.

Addressing the book launching ceremony, in Colombo, the Pakistan High Commissioner Shahzad A. Chaudhry said: “We consider it important that the Sri Lankans in general, and the Buddhists in Sri Lanka in particular be aware of their rich heritage and shared bonds with the historical lands of Gandhara and Tkashisila that are even today held in great respect and dignity, and are a treasured part of our past, and present”.

Flashing back to the history of Gandhara in Pakistan, he said: “Buddhism reigned as a culture, as a philosophy, and as superior teaching from 6th Century BC to 6th Century AD in this region of Gandhara.

Chandragupa Maurya was the founder of a great empire. And it was his son the Great Emperor Ashoka, who not only converted to Buddhism but set up in Takshsila or what we call Taxila, now, the first great learning culture, the first and the most revered University on Buddhism.

And just as the rising sun is adorned with its bright golden rays, that spread its light all around, so were the priests, and the monks, taught at this great centre of learning, who spread far and wide, reaching the remote recesses of China, Japan, Korea, the South-East Asia and the entire contiguous regions with the message of the Buddha’s Dharma.

Coming back to the book, it is just another endeavour to spread a word of commonality, of shared past, of common bonds, of respect for our mutual heritage, of acceptance of diversity, of giving space to each other, of tolerating our differences and respecting those, of sensitising ourselves to the dignity and respect that each culture, each civilisation, each ethnicity and each religious entity deserves, since none exists in a vacuum, but is a continuity of a single march of humanity since inception. What we need is a reversion to our roots and fundamentals in each of our cultural, ethnic and religious divisions to re-discover the common message of hope, dignity and respect that draws out of the common essence of each religion and each deity.

We need to only retrace our roots to rediscover our commonalities. The Buddha’s message, epitomised in the vast reaches of the great Gandhara Valley of Pakistan can just be the beginning of one such journey.

To the people, who value the message of enlightenment of Buddha, we the Pakistanis invite you to join us in travelling this road to our common existence. In Takashsila, in Pushkalavati, and in the Greater Gandhara region, we may eventually find our common destiny.

May the message of Ahimsa be the common shared that ties the various cultures, ethnicities and religious divisions today into one common existence - as the humanity. God knows, we deserve it. Lets travel this common road.”