Pakistan: Senior Buddhist Monk and Disciples Arrive in Taxila for 3-Month ‘Rain Retreat’

ISLAMABAD: Monk Arayawangso from Thailand, Arayawangso, accompanied by a delegation of monks and disciples, began a three-month “rain retreat” or vassa (from mid-July to mid-October) at the stupa of Dharmarajika in Taxila, home to the ancient Buddhist civilization. .

The delegation includes five monks, a novice (trainee monk) and 15 disciples.

During his October 2019 visit to Taxila, His Holiness Arayawangso fell in love with this land of rich Buddhist heritage and decided to return for the retreat, an annual tradition of Buddhism.

However, this could not materialize due to COVID-19 and after travel restrictions were relaxed and approved by a committee of senior monks, he is back on earth which, according to the story. Buddhist, was once considered a “center of wisdom and peace” and the Buddhist monks from all over the world came here in search of knowledge and enlightenment.

Dhamma day sermon

According to trip organizer and host Imran Shaukat, on Wednesday the Arayawangso conducted Asadha Puja on Dhamma Day and delivered a three-hour sermon which was broadcast live around the world.

In Buddhism, on this day, Lord Buddha gave his first sermon at Deer Park in Sarnath, 10 km from Varanasi, after his enlightenment. This year, Asadha Puja was observed on July 13.

In his sermon, the Arayawangso urged the peoples of the world to live in peace and harmony and to sacrifice their worldly desires for the ultimate good of mankind.

Once in a millennium event

Imran Shaukat, who actively pursues the cause of interfaith harmony in the country by promoting religious tourism and was instrumental in arranging the previous and current visit of His Holiness, said for the first time in a millennium that a monk of his stature is spending a retreat in the rain at Taxila. It would help introduce these Buddhist sites to the outside world and showcase Pakistan’s sweet image to the world, he said.

Monks line up heading towards the Dharmarajika Stupa.
Image Credit: Supplied

We must promote Pakistan as a peaceful place where believers of all faiths and followers of all religions live in perfect harmony, Imran said.

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmed and Director General (DG) East Asia (EAP) Aamer Atozai received the Arayawangso at the Taxila Museum which will remain a base camp for Arayawangso during his retirement and from here he will live stream all his prayers, researches and sermons. He invites Buddhists from all over the world to come to this land of wisdom and enlightenment.

High level delegation

Arayawangso’s delegation includes Thai royalty, a retired general, the Thai ambassador to Norway and many other dignitaries.

After his visit in 2019, the Arayawangso wrote a small book which he plans to present to President Dr. Arif Alvi. In the next three months, besides research and meditation, he will write a detailed book for the world to know and understand the place of Gandhara in the Buddhist world.

During his visit to the Taxila Museum, His Holiness drew a number of comparisons in the artifacts displayed there and remarked that the landscape of some paintings reminded him of the Ajanta Caves in India.

Unesco World Heritage

Dharmarajika Stupa is one of the Unesco World Heritage Sites. It is also called the Great Stupa of Taxila and dates back to the 2nd century.

It is believed to have been built to house small bone fragments of Lord Buddha. During his visit, the head monk of Buddhists in Thailand said, “I am sure that from now on, Buddhists all over the world will be eager to visit this beautiful country of Pakistan.”