Do the Taliban have Buddha Nature?

Here we go again. In March of 2001, the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan. These statues had stood there since the early 6th century. Symbols of universal compassion, these were in the eyes of Islam something that had to be destroyed.

Full marks for perseverance, though. “When Mahmud of Ghazni conquered Afghanistan and part of west India in the 12th century, the Buddhas and frescoes were spared from destruction though Buddhist monasteries and other artifacts were looted or destroyed. Aurangzeb, the last Mughal emperor distinguished for his religious zeal, employed heavy artillery in an attempt to destroy the statues. Nadir Shah, too, had cannon fire directed at the statues. But over the centuries the statues had largely been left untouched.”

I marvel not just at the destruction that Aurangzeb unleashed but also at the ultimate expression of dhimmitude — naming a major street “Aurangzeb Marg” in the capital of India, New Delhi. I doubt that Jews would be naming a major thoroughfare after Hitler anytime soon. I recommend that some street in Delhi be now named “Taliban Marg.”

What brought all this to mind is the recent destruction of a Buddha statue in Swat in Pakistan. So what else is new? Islam mandated destruction of cultural and religious artifacts is really old hat. Just keep moving, folks. There’s nothing new to see here.

Here’s a piece I had written back then in 2001. This one is a re-run, just like the destruction of Buddha statues.

Do the Taliban have Buddha Nature?

I bumped into my old friend CJ at Cody’s bookstore at the corner of Haste and Telegraph in Berkeley yesterday. I was browsing through the pile of discount books when I saw him similarly engaged. I was thrilled to see him.

“Hey, CJ, what’s up?” I said. “Fancy meeting you here.”

“Want to grab a coffee? I am about done here,” he said. We walked to the donut shop next door and sat down with our coffee.

“I suppose you must have heard about the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban in Afghanistan. That really sucks,” I said.

“Naah. In fact it is great news. Excellent bit of good luck. Couldn’t be better,” he replied. The pressures of his thesis must have finally gotten to him, I thought. I reached across and touched his forehead.

“Why are you doing that?” he asked.

“I was just checking to see if you were running a high fever. You are incoherent,” I explained.

“Don’t you see that the Taliban are heaven sent for mankind?”

“Are you on drugs or is it that you have stopped taking the drugs that you should be on? I really worry for you,” I said.

“Let me explain,” he said. “The Taliban are the poster boys for Islam. They are keeping to the letter as well as the spirit of Islam.”

“Letter of Islam? Haven’t you heard what Prime Minister Vajpayee said? He said that what the Taliban were doing was un-Islamic,” I protested.

He smiled. “Ah, good old Mullah Hajpayee, bless his soul. I would not be surprised if they revoke his mullah status and put a fatwa on his head for misrepresenting Islam. He ought to read the Koran,” he said.

“Very funny, CJ. But this is no laughing matter, you idiot,” I said.

“I am serious. See, very few people know history. And even if they know it, they prefer to ignore the lessons if they are inconvenient. The Taliban are the heirs of a long line of temple-breakers. It was from Afghanistan that Mahmud of Ghazni arrived and destroyed the Somnath Temple. Today it is an unremarkable event because over the centuries too many thousands of temples have been razed to the ground by Islamic invaders. The Taliban are succeeding in doing what the historians have failed to do. They are forcing the world to pay attention and are succeeding in what the scholars and historians have failed. They are giving us a living lesson in history. If this doesn’t wake up the pseudo-seculars in India, they are totally brain-dead.”

I sat sipping my coffee. “Still it is a tragedy,” I said. “Instead of feeding their starving children, these heroes are inviting international condemnation. Why don’t they just let the statues be? The statues are not the cause of their misery.”

CJ replied. “Actually, the Taliban are following their tradition once again. Mahmud of Ghazni had the choice of sparing the Shivling at the Somnath temple in exchange for immense wealth. He chose to forego that just so that he could destroy the idols as his holy book commanded. After all, the rewards in heaven for slaying idolators far exceed the rewards that you can get on earth. No, the Taliban know which side of the bread is buttered, so to speak. Between feeding their children and breaking idols, there is no contest in their minds.”

“But CJ, what about those priceless treasures that will be lost to humanity forever?”

“That’s the other wonderful thing about these Taliban fellows. They are teaching the world the truth about what the Buddha said many centuries ago. The Buddha had said that the cause of suffering is the attachment to things that are impermanent. Stone buddhas are also impermanent. So you should be examining your attachment to them to seek the cause of your sorrow,” he said.

“Spare me the philosophizing, CJ. I feel sick just thinking about the dynamiting of these magnificent towering Buddhas at Bamiyan.”

CJ continued. “But there is a practical aspect to the whole thing too. The Buddha statues are huge. It would take a whole lot of ammo to destroy them. Therefore, the more ammunition they throw at stones, the less they will have to throw at sentient beings. Less suffering all around. Karma, neh?”

I saw that he had a point. I had run out of arguments. But he evidently had not finished. Then he added something that I thought was very insightful.

“You know about the bodhisattva ideal: the vow to relieve the suffering of all sentient beings. Those stone buddhas are fulfilling those vows by drawing fire away from other sentient beings. Ironically, the Taliban’s promoting those very ideals that are symbolized in the Buddhas that they are hell bent on destroying.”

“Do the Taliban then have Buddha-nature?” I couldn’t help asking.

“Mu,” he said with a serene smile on his stupid face.


1. The story goes that a monk was trying to understand the Zen idea that “all things have buddha-nature.” He asked Joshu, a Japanese Zen master, “Does a dog have Buddha-nature?” Joshu replied, “Mu.” That response is generally understood to mean “yes and no” — a paradoxical state of affairs that is beyond yes and no, something like an indeterminate state. I am reminded of Schrodinger’s cat’s state of being, beyond dead and alive.

2. Long time readers of this blog have met CJ before. Here are some other posts featuring CJ:

a. The Ownership Society.

b. The Future of Energy.

c. How to Study Economics.

d. Choosing between WCs and PCs.

Author: Atanu Dey


17 thoughts on “Do the Taliban have Buddha Nature?”

  1. Thank you for posting this.
    I have had many dumbassess argueing that islam is not a problem with me over the years. I have labeled them as a pigshiteaters. I remembered a couple of them bring the point up to me that that it was taliban and abeerations and I had to point defacement of the figure prior to that had already earlier.
    heres a utube debate of another such figure arguing on egalitarianism of islam and has no answer to the questions raised why men can marry 4 times? Divorce easily and lets not forget beat there wife if she disagrees.

    Just yesterday a muslim US citizen acquantance of mine was saying that there should be no criticism of religion in US as its a secular society.
    I pointed it out to him that in US you are free to criticize who ever you want to, Just cause you bully others into silence elsewhere doesnt mean that the rest of the world doesnt see throught it.
    It was india with its alleged freedom of speech where their bullying led to banning of Rushdies book(the one which referred to the prophet changing his mind later and concocting being possessed) prior to any khomeini fatwa.


  2. Classic case of like attracts like …
    First Atanu writes one of his hate-filled lets-generalize-demonize Islam posts. Then one of his brothers-in-thought come up with similarly toned comment.

    What’s missing from this action ??? Counter-comments with MC BC and a no holds barred slugfest.

    Lets see if that kind of crowd reads this post (and if comments are not selectively screened)


  3. Bawaara
    Do check who started DarulHarb/Islam divide?
    I could care less if you counter with MC/BC but I look forward to a response on the history of the buddhas being destroyed by MUSLIMS or
    any of the points I raised.


  4. Well i think that the post does not merit too much attention. It seems like Atanu pouring his hatred and prejudices out. He is entitled to that… afterall its his blog.. he can write any shit he wants (and I do feel that there are many good posts, mostly on economics, on his blog).

    What is worrying is the trend of picking up every negative deed by every muslim psycho and then spewing venom about muslims. Some people are stuck on religious identities (there are many identities that a person has)..but that’s their nature and world view… I can’t do much about it.

    It is a really sad thing that Bamiyan Buddha got defaced. Gives a sort of a dejavu feeling .. go to any heritage monument near you..loads of “Ramesh loves Geeta” grafitti will break your heart. Nearer my home – upkeep of all delhi heritage buildings is totally appalling.

    Moreover, one must remember to not get bogged down in symbolism. Bamiyan buddha is symbolic of a cultural civilization that flourished in the north of our lands. The cultural civilization was not brought down by muslims. Hinduism was its nemesis.

    If i were the ghost of a bamiyan buddhist monk I would deeply saddened by the fate of Bamiyan buddha .. but I would be much more pained by the fact that my cultural civilization got wiped out from my land.


  5. “there are many identities that a person has”

    Bawara – what Amartya Sen forgot to mention is that, these multiple identities also have hierarchies.

    “Moreover, one must remember to not get bogged down in symbolism. ”

    Should we get rid of the Taj Mahal?


  6. Bawara
    Hinduism did not bring down buddhism in North Western India. (Eastern and Southern india there is a case for it).
    Even Chach was described as a brahmanical buddhist kingdom till the folks you are apologizing for destroyed that.
    Guess what It was after Islam Buddhism got wiped out of NW india. It has been claimed for a while that a good deal of my ancestors were Buddhist prior to 1200s before amalgating into hindu identity.
    But did the Hindus fire artilery at the bamian buddha. By saying it was hindus you clearly are showing your self as a liar.


  7. @anuj
    Sorry if appeared to have condoned the defacement of bamiyan buddha. Maybe my intent got misinterpreted. I am a heritage lover and despise what’s happened. I just said that actual deed of wiping off of Indian buddhism is a graver act than a symbolic destruction.

    Moreover, I am not preventing you from trying to live your dream of ridding India of Taj. But if you do it within the framework of law, you would find that a lot of Indians wouldn’t let you do that
    About Identities – If you could decipher I have already touched that point — I find Atanu the economist interesting and Atanu the religion baiter pitiable.

    at the risk of starting a my-history-is-truer-than-yours contest –
    Chach, the sindh ruler, was a Brahmin who usurped the Buddhist empire (Rai dynasty).
    Before buddhist that area had Persians (who were not muslim at that time) and afterwards they had white-huns.

    I am not apologizing for anyone. you are having difficulty digesting the fact that Hinduism was a major cause of demise of Indian (including Afghan) Buddhism
    Coming back to Afghanistan – last Buddhist dynasty was Turk Shahi… Their last king was imprisoned by his Brahmin wazir who began the Hindu-Shahi dynasty.

    So dude get your fact cleared stop calling others liars.


  8. In many ways Atanu’s political consciousness is a typical representative of an NRIs who have lived or are living in the US. Their entire life is lived in the middle class, upper caste hindu cocoon. Their social participation is limited to festivities in the nearby temple, they debate on how muslims and dalits are ruining their country, they send their kids to learn vedic mathematics, forbid them to play with blacks and feel gratified in telling everyone how their ancestors had invented zero. And though, they would like to be seen as cosmopolitan and modern, they have never really interacted at social level with muslims, christians or dalits except for exchanging some pleasantries.

    Religious and cultural chauvinism, contempt for conciliatory policies of Nehru and Gandhi, admiration for dictatorship, mistrust of affirmative action policies, and minority baiting, all fit neatly into this right wing world view.

    So does the sudden remembrance of Bamiyan, has anything to do with this world view? After all, this is neither buddha jayanti nor anniversary of Bamiyan nor the wake of a similar incident but in back drop of Tehelka expose that Atanu has suddenly remembered Bamiyan.

    The entire existence of extremist depends upon the sharpening of social fault lines that are so cherished by him and anything that suggests that the “evil” is not so evil and the “good” is not the “little good victim” is an occasion for stoking paranoia by appealing to what is happening elsewhere – so that the ugly realities nearer home could be denied.

    It should also come as a reminder to those who believe that education alone can cure men of their prejudices and help them being better human beings. You take a fool and educate him, but all you get in the end is an educated fool.


  9. Shastrys comment represents the typical gobbledygook thinking on this topic.
    They never respond to any factual assertion raised by any one and do tend to lump the opposition into a block with one world view.

    I’ll take you on your writing only. You wrote, “The entire existence of extremist depends upon the sharpening of social fault lines that are so cherished by him”
    To which One has to only read history and the vile history of islam into dividing those into submissives and infedels, house of war house of islam, worthy of people of book status (cause of consanguinity with prior prophets but no future ones tehre) or north.
    you are a fool to suggest that Deys viewpoint is prejudicial. Its your which however is by lumping those who tell there kids not to play with blacks etc.
    You ought to get educated about the kind of people who oppose banal assertions about islam being a religion of peace, egalitarian and other hogwash.


  10. Bawara
    You are an absolute liar in insinuating Hindus got rid of buddhism from NW india. It was Islam.
    It still is islam which wants to get rid of all preislamic zahiliyat out of afghanistan(and elsewhere) Do enlighten me on what act the shahi and chachs did (both were a hindu-buddhist mixed bunch)
    And guess what the “hindus” of the era did not call themselves hindu which the persians did.
    For all your diversionary tactics you still have no way of refuting that it was muslims who started and finaly demolished the buddha(and temples as far south as hamphi). Keep throwing more diversions but you dont make a single point.


  11. @Abhilash — Very Interesting observation .. could be true to an extent for a lot of people… but obviously not all.
    @Notsure — Maybe Abhilash is right .. maybe you live in your own distant world believing in whatever suits you. This is my goodbye to you ..

    if you like popular history you can check out
    do see who brought down the Buddhist dynasties and how. The keyword is not”hindu” but”brahmin”


  12. Bawaara
    you are a liar who keeps insinuating nonsense and throwing diversion. Big deal actualy I was involved with Rai Dynasty on wiki, do lookback on the talkback section
    Fact #1 Bin Qasims description of Chach was as brahman and buddhist at time. Get it. and then add the fact that folks that would be called Hindu’s were not calling themselves hindus at that time. for non sulleys unlike your ilk It wasnt a matter.
    Fact #2: Muslims started on a cultural artifact destruction movement.
    This is something you butshikani lover are lying about and hiding behind saying a dynasty changed in NW india and all traces buddhism got wiped out.
    The fact is thats what muslims did allover india.
    For muslims there is no preislamic culture but zahiliyat.

    My ancestory is from whats been called NWFP these days. The legends are that we were buddhist prior to all artisans turning into muslims a few of us refused and got amalgated into hindus baniyas.


  13. @Notsure
    That explains you inability to accept difference between hindus and Buddhist (Just because the term hindu did not exist does not mean that hindus did not exist). If you do, you would have to concede that your forefathers converted from Buddhism -for whatever reasons)
    Your high stakes also explains your inability to read and comprehend the wiki piece that you claim to have contributed to.
    Since I am from central India I should let the NWFP people live with their comfortable fantasies. Adios one final time.


  14. Liar Bawara
    Its you who is living in some fantasay
    Let me put this one more time. I dont expect you to answer but throw more diversions. Whats that I hear central indian sanchi is on the way.
    (A) read the topic and answer the central question, which is the nature of taliban and the broader questionI raised which is nature of islam
    (takiya is one that I see here)
    (B) read history and find me an instance of “Hindus” destroying buddhist artifacts in NW india.

    And moron My forefathers “converted”(as per your term….without going through a ceremony or renouncing any priror zahiliyat) It was accomplisted by moving out of muslim dominated area and overtime became baniyas. Had they remained where they were they would be forced by taxation if not outright death threat.
    Incidentally Same thing happened to the Jains in North India.
    Qutub Minar was an old Jain complex of about 24 temples. In central india and you find jains originaly from there.


  15. Bawara said – ” Moreover, I am not preventing you from trying to live your dream of ridding India of Taj. ”
    Typical lefty attitude; When confronted with a rational argument, launch ad hominem attacks.

    Shastry – Atanu is highlighting the recent attack on an ancient Buddha statue in Swat, not the Bamiyan Buddhas.


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