Afghanistan

Watch the “Saving Mes Aynak” official trailer

I’ve talked here before about Brent E. Huffman’s film, Saving Mes Aynak, the making of which Wildmind helped sponsor. Mes Aynak is a unique archaeological site: an abandoned Buddhist city in Afghanistan, where priceless relics have been unearthed. Unfortunately a Chinese mining consortium plans to destroy the entire site in order to mine for copper. This is equivalent to Greece bulldozing classical buildings like the Parthenon.

Saving Mes Aynak follows archaeologist Qadir Temori as he races against time to save this 5,000-year-old Buddhist archeological site from imminent demolition. So far only 10% of Mes Aynak has been excavated, though, and some believe that future discoveries there have the potential to redefine the history of Afghanistan and the history of Buddhism itself.

This brief trailer gives just a flavor of some of the precious finds that have been excavated from Mes Aynak.

According to the Saving Mes Aynak Indiegogo fundraising page:

The only way for Mes Aynak to be saved is if the Afghan government intervenes, halts mining, and officially petitions to UNESCO to make Mes Aynak a World Heritage Site. Only the Afghan government can approach UNESCO.

Through our film Saving Mes Aynak, our major goal is to raise mass awareness of the impending demolition, creating an international movement to put pressure on the mining company, the Afghanistan government, and UNESCO to make Mes Aynak a World Heritage Site.

This is the ONLY WAY to #SAVEMESAYNAK.

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We can save a precious Buddhist archaeological site!

Brent Huffman, who travelled to Afghanistan to film the desperate efforts by archaeologists to document the ancient city of Mes Aynak before it turns into a Chinese-funded open-cast copper mine, wrote today to point out these new artifacts, which were recently unearthed:

The unheard-of level of preservation on discoveries just like this is one of the many reasons why Mes Aynak provides such a unique insight into Buddhism and Afghanistan’s past. This historical treasure must be protected and preserved!

Mes Aynak (“little copper well” in Pashto) is a mountainous site in the Taliban-controlled Logar Province, Afghanistan, 25 miles southeast of Kabul near the Pakistan border. Mes Aynak contains the ancient remains of a 2,000-year-old Buddhist city, on top of a 5,000-year-old Bronze Age site. Massive, at nearly 500,000 sq. meters, this historic Buddhist city contains dozens of unique and never-before-seen stupas and temples, thousands of artifacts, and around 600 large Buddha statues – similar to those destroyed by the Taliban in 2001 at Bamiyan.

These archaeologists working at Mes Aynak risk their lives daily to discover and protect the priceless cultural heritage found at the site. Learn more about the sacrifices they make in our new video, featuring footage from “Saving Mes Aynak”. Please help by sharing their story, and the story of Mes Aynak.

Please do contribute to Saving Mes Aynak’s Indiegogo fundraiser, which will go towards advocacy and education in order to build a strong international case for saving the city,

Also please sign the change.org petition in order to pressure the Afghan government to reconsider its decision regarding Mes Aynak, and a separate petition to ask UNESCO to add Mes Aynak to a list of endangered sites.

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“New” Buddha statues discovered in Afghanistan

The Taliban may have destroyed the two historic Buddha statues of Bamiyan, but in a sort of compensation, three new statues have been excavated by Afghan archaeologists in the historic city of Mes Aynak. These aren’t giant sculptures, like the ones at Bamiyan were, but they’re still life size and one has escaped damage by looters.

The earliest Buddhist remains in the city are almost 2,000 years old. Mes Aynak, an important stop on the Silk Road, was at the peak of its prosperity between the fifth and seventh centuries. It went into decline in the eighth century and the settlement was finally abandoned 200 years later.

The Buddhist ruins were scheduled to be destroyed at the end of July 2012 for the purposes of mining copper, but for reasons that include political instability, this has been delayed, although the destruction may take place later this year.

Wildmind helped sponsor the making of a documentary, Saving Mes Aynak, by Brent E. Huffman, showing the work that archaeologists are undertaking in order to retrieve as much as possible of the ancient city’s precious past.

You can help save priceless discoveries like these by buying a limited-edition film poster today. The proceeds of these poster sales go to Afghan archaeologists working at Mes Aynak.

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‘Mindfulness’ therapy may help veterans with PTSD

Brett Smith, redOrbit.com: As veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars return to their lives away from the battlefield, many are having difficulty coping with the additional strain brought on by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

A new study in the journal Depression and Anxiety points to promising results for veterans suffering from PTSD. Researchers found that veterans who engaged in mindfulness exercises, such as meditation, stretching, and acceptance of uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, experienced a reduction in PTSD symptoms compared to their colleagues who did not engage in the same activities.

“The results of our trial are encouraging for veterans trying to find help for PTSD,” said lead author…

Read the original article »

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Temporary reprieve for the threatened ‘Buddhas of Mes Aynak’

We’ve had some great news from Brent Huffman, who ran a Kickstarter campaign, raising funds to finish a documentary on the Buddhas of Mes Aynak. Mes Aynak is an ancient Buddhist city in Afghanistan, which was scheduled to be destroyed about now in order to construct a copper mine that’s being built by the Chinese.

Here’s what Brent had to say:

Due to the success of our international campaign that reached out to the US including the Smithsonian and State Department, Thailand and other Asian countries, South American, Canada, Europe, etc., the Ministry of Mines in Afghanistan is FINALLY recognizing the importance of the ancient Buddhist site and is paying attention.

Archaeologists, who have been doing INCREDIBLE work at Mes Aynak, now have 6-9 more months to continue rescue excavation. During this time they can save movable relics and artifacts.

The bad news is that Mes Aynak will STILL BE DESTROYED in 2014. So we still have our work cut out for us. The documentary should be complete in late March/April, so it should have maximum impact to help save the site when it airs.

Here is an updated list of news stories about the film:

I will be making a donation of 10% of the Kickstarter money to Afghan archeologists sometime during this month as soon as I receive the funds. This money will be used to buy necessary equipment like cameras and computers.

Also, check out the new poster design by Wendy Tay.

To keep in the loop on current developments in this project, please like our Facebook page here.

Thanks again for all the continued support! Let’s save Mes Aynak in 2013!!!

Best,

-Brent Huffman

Wildmind is proud to be a contributor to the film’s Kickstarter project, and will be on the credits. More importantly, though, there’s a precious opportunity to document the artefacts of Mes Aynak, and possibly to put further pressure on the Afghan and Chinese governments in order to preserve the entire site.

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Ancient Buddhas, modern peril

Andrew Lawler, New York Times: When the Taliban blasted the famous Bamiyan Buddhas with artillery and dynamite in March 2001, leaders of many faiths and countries denounced the destruction as an act of cultural terrorism. But today, with the encouragement of the American government, Chinese engineers are preparing a similar act of desecration in Afghanistan: the demolition of a vast complex of richly decorated ancient Buddhist monasteries.

The offense of this Afghan monument is not idolatry. Its sin is to sit atop one of the world’s largest copper deposits.

The copper at the Mes Aynak mine, just an hour’s drive south of Kabul, is …

Read the original article »

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Grasping the snake of impermanence by the wrong end

Man holding California Kingsnake.The other day I posted a news article about various ideas for replacing the ancient Buddhist statues of Bamiyan, Afghanistan, which were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. One of our Facebook commenters had the following to say:

I am so grateful for the Taliban destroying these statues, what an amazing lesson in the impermanent nature of reality. The people who did this are our greatest teachers, firstly for helping us to practice patience with our negative feelings of anger and secondly to show us how attached we can become to impermanent objects.

There’s certainly a traditional teaching in Buddhism of having gratitude toward our enemies for giving us an opportunity to practice patience. This is most famously found in the teachings of Shantideva, the 8th-century Indian Buddhist scholar, whose best-known work is the Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life (Bodhicaryāvatāra).

In the chapter on patience, for example, Shantideva says:

“Since my adversary assists me in my Bodhisattva way of life, I should long for him like a treasure discovered in the house and acquired without effort.”

The Dalai Lama’s teaching is heavily influenced by Shantideva, and so you’ll hear him saying very similar things. For example in “How to be Compassionate,” (page 22) he says,

“Since enemies are the greatest teachers of altruism, instead of generating hatred for them, we must view them with gratitude.”

That part of our commentator’s statement is uncontroversial (although I don’t believe that the Buddha himself said anything about being grateful to our enemies and I don’t know whether he would have agreed with it). It’s the bit about being “grateful for the Taliban destroying these statues” that troubles me.

There’s a big difference between being grateful for having an enemy (as an opportunity to practice patience) and being grateful to your enemies for having caused destruction. To be grateful to your enemies for causing destruction is a form of rejoicing in unskillfulness. We shouldn’t be glad that the Taliban destroyed these statues. They were rare, and beautiful, and irreplaceable.

Of course we shouldn’t unduly mourn, either. It’s natural to feel a sense of loss and hurt when something we value has been destroyed, but it poisons our lives — and the world generally — when we mourn or get angry. The Buddha describes the ideal attitude thus:

With the destruction of what is subject to destruction, he does not sorrow, grieve, or lament, does not beat his breast or become distraught. This is called a well-instructed disciple of the noble ones who has pulled out the poisoned arrow of sorrow pierced with which the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person torments himself. Sorrowless, arrowless, the disciple of the noble ones is totally Awakened right within himself.

In The Water Snake sutta the Buddha said that grasping the Dharma wrongly was like grabbing a snake by the wrong end. And “Their wrong grasp of those teachings will lead to their long-term harm & suffering.”

Being grateful when people have caused destruction is grasping a snake by the wrong end. It’s going to come back and bite you. Right now, for example, an entire city of Buddhist ruins in Afghanistan, Mes Aynak, is about to be destroyed by a Chinese consortium intent on mining for copper. Should we be grateful? I don’t think so. We should do what little we can, including signing this petition, to stop this destruction from happening, and we should have compassion for those who act unskillfully, but we should neither be distraught nor glad.

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How should we think about Bamiyan?

Leanne Ogasawara, 3QuarksDaily: There was recently mention in the media of a religious extremist in Egypt calling for the destruction of the pyramids. I first heard talk of this last summer — around the time that the shrines in Timbuktu were destroyed.

Holy hoax or not, I could not help but think of Bamiyan.

I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing the moment I learned that the Taliban had blown up the Buddhist statues of Bamiyan.

Sitting in the backseat of a car in Los Angeles in 2001, we were stopped at a traffic light. The radio news mentioned it …

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Ancient site needs saving not destroying

Brent Huffman, CNN: Please bear with me as I ask you to briefly use your imagination. Close your eyes. Imagine Machu Picchu at dawn cloaked in fog. Now imagine the fog slowly lifting to reveal an enormous ancient city perched on the edge of a mountain.

Picture a sense of mystery being immersed in thousands of years of history as you walk between antiquated hewn stone structures. There is tranquility in the wind-blown stillness of the primeval site. You feel a renewed sense of kinship with the past and with your ancestors and feel a deep reverence for their lives and accomplishments …

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Bamiyan Buddhas: Should they be rebuilt?

Stephanie Hegarty, BBC: The destruction of Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001 led to global condemnation of the Taliban regime. But the decision by Unesco not to rebuild them has not put an end to the debate about their future.

When the Taliban were at the height of their power in Afghanistan, leader Mullah Omar waged a war against idolatry.

His biggest victims, in size as well as symbolism, were two standing stone Buddhist statues. Once the largest in the world – one measured 55 metres in height – they were carved into the sandstone cliff face of the Bamiyan valley in central Afghanistan during the 6th Century …

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