Here’s one of the untold stories around the current situation in Afghanistan. You probably remember when the Taliban destroyed the Buddhist statues at Bamiyam – well, more historic Buddhist relics in that country are now being threatened.
Archaeologists recently uncovered the remains of a Buddhist temple at a place called Mes Aynak, southwest of Kabul. Apparently the temple (some reports describe it as a monastery) has existed on the spot for 2000 years. According to the Guardian.uk, “Archaeologists describe it as a site of global historic importance and have in recent months been uncovering intricately constructed mound-like structures called stupas – with vaulted corridor and painted statues, including a magnificent reclining Buddha.”
Only there is a problem. The relics sit on top of one of the world’s largest known reserves of copper ore. Some 240 million tons of copper ore, it’s estimated. China’s state owned mining company, MCG, won the rights to mine Mes Aynak with a bid of $3.5 billion in 2007.
The Chinese government is no friend to Buddhism. In the past they have shown about as much regard for the preservation of historic Buddhist relics as the Taliban did. And this is a really big deal: MGC stands to make at least $42 billion from the project while the Afghan government should receive about $500 million a year in royalties plus another $1 billion a year in spinoff benefits to the country’s economy over the expected 25-year life of the mine, so reports the Guardian.
Naturally there are fears that the Buddhist site will not survive. The same goes for 12 other Buddhist sites in the area. One of the archaeologists, Abdul Khalid, was quoted as saying, “It is very shameful for the Afghan government to let the Chinese come here and destroy our history. People around the world only hear of the war in Afghanistan but they do not know that we have the best of things from our forefathers.”
I thought I would share some other versions of the Heart Sutra that I’ve found on YouTube.
The first the Heart Sutra in song, by the gifted Chinese actor and singer, Fay Wong (shown above in a still from Chungking Express). This is a live performance from thef the Famen Temple Ceremony in 2009 .
This clip is rather long, but worth it, for the chanting is just beautiful: Chinese Buddhist nuns reciting a portion of their Evening Ceremony.
Nice Tibetan chanting of the sutra here.
This one is very cool, although you’ll probably need to turn the volume up: An Austrian Buddhist chanting the Hannya Shingyo on a mountaintop.
An American Buddhist monk gave me a tape of this one years ago. The tape had no label, so I have absolutely no idea who the artist(s) is and I’d love to find out. This YouTube video is with Spanish titles, so it’s no help to me in that department. The audio is not the best quality and it’s also missing the Pink Floyd-like beginning, but you can still dig it: Gate Gate Paragate Parasam Gate Bodhi Svaha.