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Chủ Nhật, tháng 2 13, 2005

No.0067

Sự cống hiến của chư tăng Phật giáo trong cơn sóng thần vừa qua

Ven. Prof. Bellanwila Wimalaratana, Lanka Daily News, Feb 9, 2005

Colombo, Tích Lan—Trong suốt 2600 năm lịch sử, Tích Lan chưa lần đối diện với một cuộc thiên tai khủng khiếp nào, như là trận sóng thần vừa qua ngày 26, tháng 12, năm 2004. Đã dã man tàn phá miền duyên hải từ phía Nam cho tới Đông bắc.
Ma-ha-wam-sa, một tờ báo tên tuổi Tích Lan, ghi nhận một ngọn thủy triều đã tàn phá miền duyên hải vào khoảng thế kỷ thứ hai trước công nguyên dưới thời vua Ke-la-ni-ti-sa. Hầu hết các học giả cho đây là một thần thoại. Ngọn sống thần vừa qua, đả trở thành một sự thật phũ phàng cho ngày hôm đó. Những ngọn thủy triều vĩ đại này đã không ngần ngại phá hủy 2/3 miền duyên hải Tích Lan. Tsunami, danh từ nguyên gốc phát xuất từ Nhật Bản, để diễn tả cho những ngọn sóng khổng lồ. Ngày nay, Tsunami là một danh từ mà ở Tích Lan ai cũnng biết. Cuộc sống giản dị của người dân Tích Lan, chưa bao giờ nghĩ đến là chuẩn bị hay sẽ đối diện một cuộc thiên tai có tầm vóc tàn phá khốc liệt như thế này. Đã có hơn 40.000 người tử vong, và tổng số nạn nhân vẫn chưa được thống kê một cách chính xác.Các vị chư tăng Tích Lan đã tức khắc tình nguyện cứu giúp cho những nạn nhân này. Khi chương trình cứu trợ của chính phủ chưa họat động một cách hữu hiệu, thì các tăng sĩ đã biến chùa chiền trở thành nơi cư trú, cung cấp thuốn men, thực phẩm, quần áo, và những nhu cầu cần thiết khác, v.v…Chư tăng đã xem mình như những đứa con của Đức Phật với đầy lòng từ bi, cứu giúp nạn nhân về vật chất cũng như tinh thần. Quý sư đã lặng lẽ thay đổi cuộc sống thường ngày của mình để thích ứng với nhu cầu cần thiết của nạn nhân. Sự đáp ứng cấp bách này đã đem lại nhiều tán dương và ngưỡng mộ. Chùa chiền trên toàn quốc, luôn cả những nơi không bị ảnh hưởng bởi trận thiên tai, đã cùng nhau hợp tác và đóng góp trong việc cứu trợ này. Hiện nay, việc cấp bách nhất là dựng nên một chương trình, sớm đưa nạn nhân trở về cuộc sống thường nhật. Với sự giúp đỡ của những nhà từ thiện trong, cũng như ngoài nước, những công trình xây cất nơi trú ẩn này có lẽ đã bắt đầu thành lập. Mỗi cá nhân cũng như đoàn thể sẽ tiếp tục cống hiến, và giúp đỡ đến những nạn nhân này.

Khánh Văn dịch

Buddhist monks' dedication for tsunami relief work

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- In her long history, stretching back to our 2600 years, Sri Lanka had never experienced a tragedy and a calamity as the one wreaked on her on the 26th December 2004, by the ravaging, destructive, swirling tsunami that ferociously struck and devastated the lengthy coastal belt extending from South to North-east.
The Mahawamsa, the greatest chronicle of Sri Lanka, records tidal waves sweeping in to land, somewhere around the 2nd century B.C. in the reign of King Kelanitissa. Most scholars considered this merely as a myth recorded in the chronicle. However, this became a too harsh, dreadful reality on this day. These massive high-rising waves that mercilessly whipped almost 2/3 of Sri Lanka's coastal belt is called in the international parlour a tsunami a word of Japanese origin denoting ferociously forceful waves. Now "Sunami" has become a household word in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankans, normally used to a complacent life, were neither ready for such a calamity nor did they possess the know-how to handle an unexpected calamity of this magnitude. Hence the sudden destruction caused is immense; the number of deaths has risen to over 40,000, the number of displaced is yet to be known exactly. It was the Buddhist monks of Sri Lanka who spontaneously took the lead in coming to the rescue, and helping the victims of this tragedy. By that time the Government machinery was not at its best. The Buddhist monks volunteered to turn their temples to welfare centers and house the helpless victims, providing them also with their basic needs of food, clothing, water, medicines etc. In fact some of these temples yet operate as welfare centers, tenderly and efficiently caring their fellow citizens put into this miserable plight for no fault of theirs. At this time of the unprecedented tragedy the Buddhist monks have performed their part of the duty as true sons of the great compassionate Buddha, giving the victims material help and also providing them solace, moral and spiritual support. These monks, quite rightly, put aside their religious responsibilities towards their patrons, and gave priority to this urgent need of looking after the tsunami victims. This response the Buddhist monks have shown to this urgent call for help is indeed admirable and laudable. Temples all over the country contributed their might and joined hands with the monks of the temples directly helping these affected people. Monks from these temples in the unaffected areas collected all the necessary items to maintain these thousands of people in temples turned into welfare centers. What is now urgently needed for Sri Lanka is a well structured rehabilitation programme to help these displaced people to recommence their normal way of life. As an additional constructive step in this direction the Buddhist monks, with the generous help of local and foreign philanthropists, have already started housing projects to offer houses to the houseless. The Mahasangha of Sri Lanka, individually and collectively will be continuing to work for the uplift of these tsunami affected innocent people.
No.0066
Afghan Archaeologist Seeks Sleeping Buddha

By Marc Kaufman, Washington Post Staff Writer, February 7, 2005

Bamiyan, Afghanistan -- The world looked on helplessly four years ago as Islamic zealots destroyed two enormous standing Buddha statues overlooking Afghanistan's Bamiyan Valley, but recent explorations at the ancient site have led researchers to conclude that all may not have been lost. A third, much larger statue -- a 1,000-foot-long sleeping Buddha -- may still be buried nearby.
Inspired by the writings of a Chinese pilgrim almost 1,400 years ago, Afghanistan's foremost archaeologist is leading a dig within view of the cliff walls where the two Buddhas once stood. The initial goal is to find the ancient monastery that the Chinese traveler Xuanzang described around A.D. 630, and then the gigantic reclining Buddha that he said was inside its walls.
Although some promising discoveries have been made in the past two years, archaeologists do not really know what they might find beneath the cliffs. But the leader of the dig, Zemaryalai Tarzi, is optimistic that important discoveries lie under the soil, and he will return to Bamiyan this summer to continue the excavation.
If it is there, Tarzi and others say, the statue would be a major archaeological treasure and would help restore the Bamiyan Valley to the top ranks of world heritage sites.
"If indeed Xuanzang's tales are true," Tarzi says, he is digging for "the largest reclining statue ever made in the artistic world." Because the pilgrim was remarkably accurate in describing the gigantic size and location of the two standing Buddhas, Tarzi says there is good reason to believe his account of the reclining Buddha, as well.
To some, the search is a quixotic one. If the ancient Chinese pilgrim is to be believed, the sleeping Buddha is almost as long as the Eiffel Tower is tall. How could such a monumental structure disappear underground, some ask, and how could it be salvageable if it still exists?
Tarzi has possible answers: The statue could have been deliberately buried centuries ago by devotees to protect it from invading Muslim armies, or it could have been covered after a major earthquake. But more important, his team has begun uncovering at the site clay figures and sophisticated structures that lend support to his grand theory.
Last summer, the dig uncovered a wall that Tarzi is convinced is part of the ancient monastery that housed the huge statue. Excavators have also discovered several dozen sculptures of Buddha heads and other statue fragments, some dating to as far back as the 3rd century -- when Bamiyan was growing as a Buddhist center. At the very end of the digging season, Tarzi found evidence as well of what he believes may be part of a huge statuary foot.
He is aware of the professional skepticism surrounding his quest -- some have said the reported size of the structure has been misunderstood, while others suggest that the reclining "statue" may have been an outcropping of rock that reminded the religious of a sleeping Buddha -- but he insists the evidence is clear.
"I know that some of my colleagues hesitate regarding the length of the reclining Buddha statue," Tarzi said in an e-mail. "Our only source of information comes from the testimony by Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang. . . . In all versions and copies of his traveling accounts, the length of the large reclining statue is 1,000 feet long."
The work is sufficiently tantalizing that the government of France and the National Geographic Society have funded Tarzi's efforts, and the dig will be featured on a National Geographic television special later this year.
After problems with a local warlord stopped work several summers ago, Afghan President Hamid Karzai gave his formal approval for the dig and has helped supply 24-hour security for the site. An organization founded by Tarzi's daughter Nadia, the San Francisco-based Association for the Protection of Afghan Archaeology (
http://www.apaa.info/), is also raising money for the joint Afghan-French dig.
Afghanistan is overwhelmingly Muslim now, but for centuries it had a flourishing Buddhist culture, and one of its highest expressions was at Bamiyan -- a fertile valley high in the Hindu Kush.
Once a way station along the Silk Road between China and the Middle East, researchers believe Bamiyan was home to monasteries housing as many as 5,000 monks at its zenith in the A.D. 500s and 600s. They also believe Bamiyan was the site of some of the first statues to ever show the face of Buddha, who had previously been represented as a footprint or an umbrella. The Greek influence introduced earlier by Alexander the Great met the growing popularity of Buddhism and flowered into the massive Buddha sculptures of Bamiyan.
By the 10th century, the area had converted to Islam, which generally views human representations as idolatry, but for centuries afterward the Bamiyan Buddhas remained a central and widely embraced part of Afghan heritage and culture. While several earlier rulers considered the statues sacrilegious and inflicted minor damage, only the Taliban and al Qaeda took concerted action to destroy them.
In March 2001, they used artillery, bombs and ultimately dynamite over several days to bring the statues down.
Tarzi actually began his quest for the sleeping Buddha well before the Taliban came into the world, even before his homeland began its descent into war and chaos in the late 1970s. He oversaw earlier efforts to repair and stabilize the standing Buddhas -- which were more than 170 and 120 feet high, respectively -- and was well aware of the report by the Chinese monk Xuanzang of the reclining Buddha. But he did not feel any real urgency back then, believing he would have decades to work on the ancient wonders of Bamiyan.
Instead, he fled Afghanistan with his family in 1979, and lived, studied and taught archaeology in France for more than 20 years. He did not return to his country until 2002, after the huge niches cut into the cliffs that face the town of Bamiyan had been emptied of their ancient treasures. Less well known is that the Taliban and looters also stripped ancient frescos and other artwork from hundreds of rooms and corridors dug into the cliffs alongside the giant Buddhas.
Tarzi has no illusions about what condition the reclining Buddha will be in if he finds it. Reclining or sleeping Buddhas -- created to represent the Buddha as he prepared to enter nirvana -- are generally in close contact with soil and mud. In addition, it was most likely made of mud and plaster and would have degraded significantly below ground.
But discovering a pristine, gold-covered statue was never the hope. Rather, Tarzi's goal is to uncover and highlight the archaeological importance of a site many thought had been destroyed forever.
"The Bamiyan Valley was one of the most important places along the Silk Road and is just filled with undiscovered finds," said archaeologist Fredrik Hiebert, a National Geographic Fellow and expert on the region. "Whether Tarzi uncovers this particular statue is important, but there's a lifetime worth of other discoveries waiting in Bamiyan, too."