My son asked me...

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My son asked me: "Dad, how do you feel about the recent destruction of the large Buddha image?"

By Souksomboun Sayasithsena

After a pause - remembering a segment on TV showing the remains of the huge Buddha image turned into a big cloud of dust in the blink of an eye by a powerful explosion, despite efforts by world communities to stop it. I thought of the three characteristics of things: Impermanence, Dukkha, Anatta - a learned Buddhist will not be affected by such action?
It was an action that resulted from Greed, Anger, and Ignorance. Naturally, this will only lead to no peace, no tranquility.
This certainly is not the first time terrible things have been done to Buddha images. Such things have happened even in Buddhist countries. We can see the heads, hands, and other parts of images sold in stores, while the remaining parts of Buddha images lie scattered in the ruined Buddhist temples.
Not very long after the parinibhan of the Lord Buddha, the famous Nalanda Buddhist University was ransacked and burnt to the ground, together with the loss of the lives of many monks.
The sad thing about the destruction this time is that it was done by a government that professes another religion, not Buddhism.
In a TV interview, an envoy of this government tried to justify its action by asking the question: "Is this monument more important than the lives of two starving children?" How can this innocent monument be blamed for anything?
After this deplorable action, some comments were made: "Without this beautiful Buddha monument, many tourists will not go to that country, thus revenue from the tourist industry will be reduced." Others commented that for a long time to come, children of that country will be asking questions, such as: "What was there?" "What happened to it?" "Who destroyed it?" "And Why?"
Another sad thing is that it was a destruction of a very beautiful piece of art that marked a period when the people in this region had great appreciation for the Dharma.
Luckily, many thousands of pictures have been taken by all kinds of people who had the opportunity to visit this wonderful site. Thus it will not be forgotten.
One benefit for us Buddhists from this ignorant action is that it will be a good tool for the training of our mind on non-attachment, the core of the Dharma: sabbhe dharma nalang abhinive saya.
As Buddhists, we should try to overcome our vedhana feeling of this loss by seeking refuge in the triple gems: the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. And we should develop compassionate feelings toward those who are misguided.
For a learned Buddhist, the image is only a symbol. Before passing away, Lord Buddha said to Ananda, his closest disciple who was lamenting and worrying about what might happen in the future without the presence of the Lord Buddha: "Don't worry, Ananda. Those who see the Dharma will see me." And the Dharma will remain the Dharma whether anyone sees it or not.
HE discovered Dharma when HE became enlightened. Just like man discovered the use of fire, Buddha didn't make it up nor did he issue any decree to make Dharma what it has been for 2544 years; and it still is going strong. It is the law of nature. The most outstanding part of the Dharma is the "Four Noble Truths."
A Buddhist who is not aware of the "Four Noble Truths" and the "Eight-Fold Path" is compared to a driver without a map to show where he is going.
In his Ovadha Patimok sermon, the Lord Buddha told his disciples that they should "Do Only Good Deeds," "Avoid Doing Evil," and "Purify One's Spirit."
Attahi attano nadho - Buddhism is a self-help religion. It is a religion of wisdom, which is attained through serious practice of meditation - a mental awareness exercise.
A troubled mind is like lake water right after a big rainstorm. It is not clear. Therefore, one cannot see anything under the water.
A calm mind is like the water in the "Forest Pool." It is always clear. One can see the bottom. With a clear mind, one can see things as they are.
To be born into a Buddhist environment or to have come across Buddhism in one's lifetime is considered by many a great merit.
My vedhana feeling became overwhelmed when I read the book "The Buddha in the Eyes of Eminent Scholars" by Phra Sripariyattimoli of Maha Chulalongkorn Rajavidyalaya University. And the statement that I like most was by Dr. Albert Einstein.
A Cosmic Religion - The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal God and avoid dogmas and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unit. Buddhism answers this description? If there were any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism. - Albert Einstein, the Great Scientist of this Age.
Therefore, in answer to my son's question, part of me is saddened by the destruction of this image of the Buddha. However, as a Buddhist, I know that Buddhism has not been harmed by this event.

Written by Souksomboun Sayasithsena, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Wat Lao Buddhavong. Thanks to Dr. David Red for his help in editing the English of this writing. Any errors in the Pali or Sanskrit are strictly the author's.