Daily Archives: July 18, 2008

800 years of Buddhism in Pakistan

Emi Foulk writing for The Friday Times

Buddhism took root in Pakistan some 2,300 years ago under the Mauryan king Asoka, whom Nehru once called “greater than any king or emperor.” A great proselytiser, Asoka sent missionaries as far away as the Mediterranean and Sri Lanka Ihave every reason to be knowledgeable about Buddhism; I am not. My father is a scholar of Buddhism. My mother is from Japan, a nation that is 80 per cent Buddhist. Generations of my maternal ancestors are buried in the Buddhist cemetery blanketing the steep slope that runs down from the stunning pagoda of Kyoto’s Kiyomizu temple. I spent childhood summers running through the halls of centuries-old temples, playing hide-and-go-seek behind medieval bodhisattvas and tasseled zazen cushions. Hell, I even had a dog named Mu – that is, the Buddhist ideal of emptiness, non-self, non-ego – and he was featured in a cover story on the Buddha nature of dogs in the Buddhist magazine Tri-cycle. (No matter that Mu is short for Mussafa, after the 16th century Ottoman general and grand vizier.)

Perhaps it was precisely because the quotidian nature Buddhism took on for me that I learned early on to block out anything smelling faintly of the religion – that, and the fact that my father liked nothing better than to infuse Buddhist principles into every “life lesson.” “Em,” he would say when I was distraught about a spat with a friend or criticism from a teacher, “the Bodhidharma taught that words signify nothing.” For a 13-year-old, these words, too, signify nothing. And now, despite my bachelor’s degree in religious studies, I know as little about the world’s fourth largest religion as I did a decade ago. Continue reading

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