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Sunday,January 20,2019
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See the Future of Indian Buddhism"It is expected for India to develop economic strength and cultural flourish"

Though you may find it hard to get up in the morning, proper exercise helps your body wake up and start the whole day normally.  A group of reporters and I walked up the seven hundred stairs of SaptaparniKupta (Chil-yeop Cave). Shaped like seven leaves, it is known as the first place where disciples of Buddha gathered and discussed scriptures after Buddha's death.  At the foot of the mountain, the town of Rajgir was clearly visible ? we could even see our hotel, the Rajgir Residency Hotel, in the distance.  Those places were surrounded by a thick forest, so it looked as if the spaces had been breathing.  The magnificent view energized me to climb up all of the stairs.


On our way down, a large number of Indian students approached us, and it seemed that they wanted to take pictures with us.  I guessed that they were on a school trip and had brought their digital cameras. They seemed to be from wealthy Indian families and members of the upper caste.  Their easy and relaxed attitude was definitely different from the starving children found on any road in India.  Without begging for money, they laughed loudly while taking pictures together.  Under the caste system, they will have more opportunities to lead the future of India than children with more humble backgrounds.  Nevertheless, the students’ big smiles and excitement showed how innocent they are in light of the serious problems that many people face in this world.


Considering this, how many of the boys are aware that there are many foreign-built structures in India? After descending from Chil-yeop cave, we visited the prison where Bimbisara, the king of the Magadha Dynasty who helped Buddha, was imprisoned by his son. Immediately after completing the tour, I saw a tower that was built by Japanese Buddhists.  It was located directly on the top of Griddhakuta (Yeong-chwi Mountain) where Buddha delivered sermons to his disciples. Clearly, it meant that the tower was supposed to be more important than the historical site of Buddha. The tower seemed like it was meant to serve as a conqueror's memorial, which only celebrates colonization but ignores the significant heritage of the area’s natives.


Nevertheless, it is not always intrusion when foreigners build something in India. Construction from other countries often helps Indian people live cleaner and more convenient lives. The roads surrounding the Rajgir Residency Hotel were constructed by the Japanese owner of the hotel.  Lighted streets protect drivers and pedestrians at night.  It is hard to find systematic infrastructure like roads in India.


The acceptance of Buddhism and the increasing value of India as a tourist destination may have led the Japanese to develop the areas near Buddhist shrines.  For a long time, Buddhism has spread all over the world, so people from many different countries have visited India to appreciate and learn more about Buddhism.  The Korean monk Hye-cho, who wrote "Record of Travels in Five Indian Regions” (Wang-oh-cheon-chu-kuk-geon), also went to China and India to further his understanding of Buddhism in the eighth century.  Until now, at Buddhist shrines, there are many monks from countries all across Asia such as Sri Lanka, Thailand, Taiwan, Tibet, China, Japan, and Korea.  In fact, foreign monks far outnumber Indian monks because only a small number of Indians are Buddhist.  We met only foreign monks at Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya.


Michael, a Buddhist monk from the United States, stood out among the many monks in the temple.  He said he was fascinated with Buddhism when he had visited a Buddhist temple in Paris. Because of the peace and calmness created by meditation, he has lived in India for 20 years.  When asked what he thought was the most attractive aspect of Buddhism, he replied, "In comparison with other religions, the teaching of Buddhism is realistic and practical. I think it produces innumerable believers."


Of course, there are a multitude of reasons why people decide to follow Buddhism. What is important is that Buddhism is attracting foreigners to India, and it even led to the construction of useful infrastructure near tourist sights in India by other countries.  In order to reap further rewards, future generations of Indians should encourage Buddhism to flourish.  By doing so, they can enjoy the benefits of economic and cultural balance.

 

Yun Seon-ju  besensible@dongguk.edu

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