SWAT: Sri Lankan Buddhist monks said here on Saturday that the paradisiacal Swat valley remained the centre of Buddhism and had immense importance for Buddhists all over the world.
They said this during their visit to the Buddhist archaeological sites of Gandhara Buddhist civilisation in Swat valley.
The delegation include senior monks Dr Walpole Piyananda, Dr Bodagama Chandima, Dr Assaji Thero, Dr Pallegama Rathanasara, Prof Kallanchiye Rathanasiri, Uduwe Dhammaloka, Muruththettuwe Ananda, Embilipitiye Rahula, Korathota Dammadassi, Dr Atapattukande Ananda, Asela Pushpa Kumara Wickramasinghe and Aaishah Abu Bakr Fahad, who is Second Secretary (political) at Pakistan High Commission, Colombo.
The monks said that Swat valley had high importance for Buddhists and its name meant a blessing.
“Swat is also important for us as both the Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism started from here and spread into Southeast Asia.
It is also the place where most venerable monks like Padmasambhava were born and spread Vajrayana Buddhism to Tibet, Bhutan and other countries of Southeas Asia,” said Dr Walpole Piyananda.
Visitors invite pilgrims to Pakistan
However, he said that people in Sri Lanka were afraid to go to Pakistan because of certain media reports and he himself was hesitant at first.
“When we came here and saw the love and respect of the local people, we became very happy and now we send the message to all the Buddhists to come and visit Pakistan,” he said.
Asela Pushpa Kumara Wickramasinghe, the coordinator officer, said the monks were hesitant to visit Pakistan because of the wrong image developed through media, but thanks to the Pakistan High Commission which not only assured them but also arranged the visit.
“People are amazingly helpful and hospitable here and when I saw their love with us it erased the wrong image of Pakistan from our minds and hearts,” he said, adding he and the tourism minister of Pakistan discussed a tourism plan between both the countries.
Aaishah Abu Bakr Fahad said that during recent visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Sri Lanka he invited the Buddhist monks to Pakistan, so the Pakistan High Commission in Colombo organised the visit.
“We tried to take the delegation to the proposed Buddhist Trail and we hope that through this not only people-to-people contacts between Pakistan and Sri Lanka will strengthen, but the religious tourism will also increase from Sri Lanka to Pakistan,” she said, adding it was also aimed at showing the true and peaceful image of Pakistan to the world.
Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2021