Hate vs Love

The sight of two big cavities in the Bamiyan valley, Afghanistan, is what remains to remind us of the greatest ancient stone monuments ever built. The Buddhas of Bamiyan were built in the fifth century, and represented a unique blend of Greek and Buddhist art. Such was the grandeur of these statues that even the dreaded Mahmud of Ghazni had chosen to spare them. For 1500 years, these statues had survived repeated desecration from several invasions of iconoclasts that marked this land, which used to be a major Buddhist center of learning once. However on March 2001, these statues were destroyed by the Taliban. With dynamite and artillery, it took almost a month to level the collosal piece of art. “All we are breaking are stones,” said a Taliban leader. Clearly, it was beyond their demented minds to realize that these “stones” were priceless for their cultural, archeological and religious significance.

(Bamiyan: before, destruction and after. images: UNESCO, CNN, telusplanet)

In what I see as a befitting response from the world community, Maitreya international has embarked on a project to create the largest monument of Buddha ever. The Maitreya project website says:

“The goal of the Maitreya Project is to bring the greatest possible benefit to as many as possible, for as long as possible. As its focus, Maitreya Project is building a magnificent 500ft / 152m bronze statue of Maitreya Buddha. Constructing the statue – because the essence of Maitreya Buddha is loving-kindness and peace – will provide a symbol to bless and transform the mind and heart of everyone in the world. The statue will be located at Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, in northern India close to the place of the historical Buddha’s passing away. It will be constructed as a Buddhist cathedral for the public and will be designed to last at least 1,000 years so it can act as a catalyst for peace for a full millennium.”

It was earlier planned to be built at Bodh Gaya — place of Buddha’s enlightenment, but administrative difficulties led to a change in venue, which is now Kushinagar – the place of Buddha’s demise. I was first introduced to this project in the golden jubilee lecture series at IIT Kharagpur, around 3 years back. I was bowled over by the visuals and the sheer size of the project. It’s clearly a technical innovation on a grand scale, and is predicted to be the eight wonder of the world. To know more about the technical challenges involved you can watch this video (56k , broadband) from the Maitreya project website. This project is expected to be completed by 2011.

(Scale of the Maitreya project: Copper.org)

Maitreya’s name is derived from the Sanskrit ‘maitri’ meaning ‘universal love’. In Dalai Lama’s words:

In today’s world we need promotion of maitreya — loving kindness.

Monuments serve to inspire mankind. The statue of liberty reminds us of justice and freedom, while the Taj Mahal reminds us of timeless love. May be the Maitreya monument would remind us of loving kindness and peace, in an effort to counter hate — the hate which the Bamiyan valley reminds us of.