Henry Baey was on the pilgrimage following the International Buddhist Congregation in Delhi, in November, 2011. His visit to the ruins of Nalanda University affected him deeply, sparking the following email to his sons who were back in Singapore.
Whats App to Yi-Wei and Yue-Guang on Saturday, 2nd Dec 2011
Yesterday we visited Bodhgaya, the site of Buddha’s enlightenment. We then visited the site of Nalanda University, which was huge. What a shame it was destroyed by invaders! Human beings cause more harm to other human beings than all other creatures combined. The invaders spent six months burning all the books at Nalanda! If it hadn’t been destroyed by humans, its nature of impermanence would have ended it. Nothing remains after thousands of years. Wiped out! What a shame. All the hundreds of years of hard work gone. So many monastics died; they were peaceful practitioners.
This is annica (impermanence)! Son, nothing remains with the ravages of time. We are but a speck in time. Life is short, my son. We live as if we won’t die, when in fact we will grow old, fall sick, and die. Medicine can only relieve some suffering, but it can’t stop aging and death. Great societies come and go. They become history. So will we. We have come to this world before and will come to repeat life again. It’s the immutable law of birth and rebirth. Suffering through destruction is common, as history shows us. One war after another.
Our Dharma teacher says to treat life like a game. We should never get worked up! We have done all these things before, and we need to get out of this cycle of rebirth. All this pain and suffering. Let’s open our eyes and see the bigger scheme of things. We need to practice well, to do our meditative practices, and to learn the laws of nature—the laws of the Dharma—in order to break this cycle of causing so much harm to others and to ourselves.
Staring at what was left of Nalanda moved me greatly. The walls were more than one meter thick and the complex was so vast, yet only one-tenth of it has been excavated. Ten thousand students studied there! All was destroyed and wiped out due to the greed, hatred and ignorance of human beings. So sad.
It seems nothing can stop the cruelty of human beings, and the nature of impermanence will also take its course. This is repeated in every part of the world and in every time period throughout history. Not only does one country fight another, pitting one community against another, one individual against another, it happens even within families. Son, we must practice the Dharma well. This is to our purpose until we are free from samsara. Open our eyes!