Oct 3, 2010

The Buddha collapsed out of shame

Sitting under the empty place of the Buddha: It quietly appeared in front of me but it still burned a fire in my heart. I was looking up at it from time to time, but immediately looking down again, shamefully. I imagined where the empty place must have been filled with the Buddha's huge body. Even though, the Buddha’s place was empty, it was as if it was talking to me quietly, though, with a voice louder and heavier than two thousand years. Indeed, the Buddha was a real picture of the two thousand years of our lives, our breaths, and smiles; and, two thousand years of our love. Indeed, even the Buddha could endure being a real picture of our hatred; but too kind to bear this one. It fell.

Watching the documentary film, “the Lost Treasures of Afghanistan”, and the archeologist Dr. Tarzi’s enthusiasm and passion to restore what we have lost and his feelings inevitably turned on the flame of fire in me; like the one I felt when I was sitting right under the huge, quiet, empty place of the Buddha. And, what was that? Was that our, the Afghans’, collective memory?

Undoubtedly, if not the most, collective memory is one of the most important elements of any culture in any society. It is “The experiences shared and recalled by significant numbers of people.” The means by which a collective memory is revived, preserved, and passed through generations are stories, holidays, rituals, and monuments. In a way, it helps the individuals in a society enculturate. Without collective memories, there would be no interests and no commonalities, or in other word, there would be no culture, for individuals to create a group, an organization, or a nation.

It might sound very fearful; the fear that has probably motivated Dr. Tarzi to cautiously dig centimeter by centimeter of the Bamyan’s Valley to find something of a collective memory for his nation. Dr. Tarzi, along with a group of French archaeology students, has left France to come to Bamyan; the most mountainous and impassable, and one of the most deprived provinces of Afghanistan. Not of course in the past. The Buddha itself talked of a prosperous past, where once, Buddhists, from all over the world, came here to pray. Located at the crossroad of the Silk Road, there was a time that Bamyan was one of the religious centers of the world. And, Dr. Tarzi is looking for that past, without which, he would find himself with no identity. Like a kid with dried drops of tear on his face, kneeling down, he is carefully looking to find what he has lost. Based on historical documents and stories, apparently, there is another larger Buddha, sleeping right between the two Buddhas. And, this is a great hope for Dr. Tarzi to search the site foot by foot, and find a trace of this Sleeping Buddha.

There are also some people that are willing to reconstruct the two destroyed Buddhas. But, whether they will succeed in it, or whether Dr. Tarzi will find his legendary Buddha, for me nothing would change the past. I would still sit right under the Buddha’s empty place, and say nothing.

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