Sixty-Two Feet of Buddha in Afghanistan

Paul McLeod

Roughly a year ago in a Humanities course in Santa Rosa Junior College (Sonoma County, California) I watched a devastating video that included some issues that had faced the Middle East and particularly Afghanistan in recent history, especially the recent rule by the overthrown government – the Taliban.

It was depressing, wrong, and awful – not only due to what the people of Afghanistan lived through under the reign of terror inspired by the United States for leaving them immediately after training them in weaponry and war to push the then-Soviet-Union out of Afghanistan the first time, during the Cold War. It was horrendous as well to see how the Taliban treated the cultural and religious treasures within Afghanistan.

Afghanistan, a long time ago, actually had some Buddhist cities and places of practice that had huge standing statues of Buddha – or at least, a version of the first Buddha. Beautiful statues and other archaeological treasures bestowed upon a land that was through Islam alone an artistic, cultural, and religious jackpot – a love for anyone who admires all different faiths, cultures, and maintain interest in religious history.

The Taliban destroyed much of this art – not only the Buddha statues, which were guessed to be 1,600 years old and made world-wide news, but also so much Muslim, Jewish, and Christian art and literature it would have made most people with any respect for human history cry. The destruction of the Buddha statues was asinine and simply tragic, but it was to inspire some scholars into searching for a legendary and hypothetically unknown remnant of this Buddhist center in Bamiyan, a giant sleeping Buddha measuring 300 meters.

Such a huge Buddha statue has not been uncovered, however, Bayiman officials in Kabul today say that a sixty-two food sleeping-buddha statue has been found. If true, then at least some of this Buddhist museum survived, a remnant of the Asian-European silk route where Buddhism managed to take some route in the mideastern terrain along with the travels to trade silk.

Unfortunately, if true, that also means this art is endangered. The United States has neglected their once primary-cause of Afghanistan for years now, allowing the Taliban to take root in southern Afghanistan again. If the unjustifiable actions of the Taliban begin to spread across the country again, that will put all art at risk of such destruction yet again. Could this destroy the remnants of that Buddhist culture further? Will it destroy the Sleeping Buddha?

I can only hope that Buddhism does not lose this testament to its history, one of its most beautiful pieces of art, particularly when so little is understood about Buddhism in Western society. This finding should be treasured and protected with vigilence, be well-documented, and never face the same crisis as its earlier-discovered counterparts.

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