First ‘rain retreat’ at Taxila stupa after ages

Published July 15, 2022
Thai monks and disciples perform rituals in connection with monastic practices of ‘rain retreat’ at Dharmarajia Stupa near Taxila on Thursday. — Dawn
Thai monks and disciples perform rituals in connection with monastic practices of ‘rain retreat’ at Dharmarajia Stupa near Taxila on Thursday. — Dawn

TAXILA: For the first time in Pakistan’s history, a group of Buddhist monks along with their disciples gathered at Dharmarajika stupa in Taxila for the annual ‘rain retreat’ (vassa).

According to Britannica Encyclopedia, vassa is the monastic retreat observed primarily in Buddhist communities in Southeast Asia during the three-month monsoon period each year.

A 26-member group led by Mr Arayawangso, chief monk of Thailand, and comprising six months and 20 disciples performed the ritual at the stupa in Taxila. The Dharmarajika stupa is the largest and most sacred of all the stupas constructed by Kushan dynasty in the 2nd century. It also contained fragments of Buddha’s bones.

The Thai monks also participated in the turning of the Dharma wheel at the stupa. The ritual was performed to commemorate the first sermon and establishment of Buddhism. This event is celebrated in India, Nepal and Bhutan every year but for the first time ever the Buddhist monks came to Pakistan to perform the service.

Thailand’s chief monk says Buddhist delegation to visit religious sites in Taxila, Takht Bhai

Similarly, various rituals were performed and a sermon was delivered at the end of the ceremony which was broadcasted live in 32 countries in addition to the Pojhariphunchai monastery in Thailand.

Later, a function was held at the Taxila Museum in honour of the Buddhist monks. Addressing on the occasion, Mr Arayawangso said that event was performed to commemorate the perpetuation of the “Dharma wheel” in this world for the benefit and happiness of all beings.

He said that about 150 monks and disciples would subsequently join the delegation to take part in various monastic practices at important Buddhist sites in Pakistan, especially in Taxila and Takht Bhai.

He said that the event was streamed live to invite the followers of Buddhism to visit Pakistan and explore its potential. According to the distinguished monk, he inaugurated the “bell of peace” in Taxila and Peshawar during his visit to Pakistan in 2019 and also wrote a short book, in English and Thai, to teach his followers about the importance of Gandhara in the Buddhist world.

He said that he was visiting Pakistan at the invitation of the Punjab tourism department and added that his visit coincided with the 70th anniversary of the Thai-Pak diplomatic relations.

Gandhara Art and Culture Association Secretary-General Dr Kyo Soon Park said that Most Venerable Arayawangso was the first “Dhamma ambassador” in this endeavour. He was hopeful that as a result of the visit, the global communities will have a better understanding of Buddhist sites in Pakistan, especially stupas and monasteries.

Thai Ambassador Chakkrid Krachaiwong said that the history of Taxila was almost 2,000 years old and that it was taught in their textbooks. “It is an immense pleasure for us that we are part of the team preserving this heritage.”

Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2022

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