SĀRNĀTHA THE CRADLE OF BUDDHISM Venerable Bhikkhunī Giới Hương
INTRODUCTION by the Most Venerable Thích Mãn Giác
During the sixth century, China had Confucius and Lao-tzu, Iran had Zoroaster, Greece had Socrates and Plato, and India had Mahavira and Shakyamuni Buddha. That period was clearly a golden age for Asia, perhaps even the world.
The Shakyamuni Buddha was born to this world at Lumbini, attained Enlightenment at Bodhgaya, turned the Dhamma Wheel at Sārnātha, and entered Nibbāna at Kushinagar. In the first discourse, the Buddha proclaimed the Four Noble Truths, or the Four Arya (Satyas cattāri ariyasaccāni), to be: suffering (Dukkha), the cause of suffering (Samudāya), the cessation of suffering (Nirodha), and the ways leading to the cessation of suffering (Magga), which together make up the Eightfold Paths: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration, and right mindfulness. This basic doctrine that the Buddha experienced and proclaimed liberated living beings from suffering and led them to conduct a peaceful and happy life. The Buddha traveled to many places to show living beings how they could realize their own suffering and find a path leading 7 to ending that suffering. Therefore, it can be said that Sārnātha, also called Deer Park, is the cradle of Buddhism, and from this place the Buddhist Sangha, or monastic community, was established. After Buddha’s Nibbana, his disciples preached Buddhism throughout India and all over the world, setting up many temples, stupas, and signed stones everywhere. Buddhism is like the spiritual torch that perfectly meets the needs of humans. However, everything constantly changes day by day, and so does Buddhism. Due to circumstances of history, politics, and the fanaticism of other religions, at the joint destiny, Sārnātha collapsed and was burned down many times; however, luckily it was also restored many times. Today, it is safely protected by the government of India and maintained by countless archeologists, historians, scientists, and defenders of other religions throughout the land. People from abroad also go there to help continue excavating the temple to reveal the golden age of Sārnātha to human beings in India and all over the world.
Bhikkhunī Thích Nữ Giới Hương, having spent ten years cultivating and studying (1995-2005) in Delhi, India, visited numerous Buddhist holy places to prostrate herself, research, chronicle, and introduce the book that she titled Sārnātha - The Cradle of Buddhism from an Archeological Perspective. This book details the development of Buddhism, as well as covers the history, biology, politics, archeology, and sculpture of Sārnātha in both ancient and modern times, drawing from the material resources of Pali scriptures, books on Buddhism, archeological sites, historical archives, travel experiences, and so on. This book also features 8 several maps and many beautiful pictures, taken by the author in and around Sārnātha. I believe that this book greatly facilitates understanding the history of Buddhism in India.
I feel honored and sincerely grateful to have written this introduction for Buddhists and scholars from both near and far.
Spring, March 27, 2006 The Most Venerable Thích Mãn Giác The Abbot of the Vietnam Temple at Los Angeles, California, USA