25 September, 2013
In this day and age of communal strife seen all around the world, a film on Buddhism and its essential philosophy of forgiveness comes as a breath of fresh air. Benoy Behl, the acclaimed art historian and author of several books on religion and philosophy, recently premiered his film Culture of Compassion: Buddhism in India and ASEAN countries, at India Habitat Centre.
With this, he took the audience on a virtual pilgrimage of important Buddhist sites across India and the Southeast Asian part of the world.
Benoy, who holds a record as the most travelled photographer in India, informs Metrolife, “In 2009, when I was representing India at an ASEAN cultural meeting, I realised how India and several Southeast Asian countries fail to connect with each other in spite of the fact that we share such a rich Buddhist heritage. Unfortunately, we constraint ourselves to talk of only politics and trade when there is so much to discover and discuss.”
“That is when the idea of this film came to my mind. I am glad that it has been successfully completed with the help and support of all the countries involved.”
The film charts Buddhism’s course as it found its way from Gaya in Bihar to Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and even European countries later on. Early Chinese traders took the religion to their country and then transported its noble thoughts to the shores of Indonesia via sea trade. Hinduism flourished here at that time but Buddhism gradually became a favoured religion.
The Borobudur Stupa of Indonesia, built by the Sailendra kings, is the tallest stupa standing in the world. There are many thousands of feet of fine relief, which we see as we climb upwards and go around it. Early Theravada Buddhism travelled to Sri Lanka in the 3rd century BC and in the 1st millennium AD, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism spread to Vietnam, Myanmar and the northern countries of Asia.
Benoy says, “Buddhism has a great vision of the eternal harmony of the world. This faith, with its message of compassion, spread far and wide and shaped the culture of a continent. It is a culture of peace and gentleness which continues, even in the midst of the materialistic and violent world of today.”