Re-opening of the Ancient Connections between China and India
Very seldom have I been so transfixed on a single thought as I was for a few weeks last year thinking about the visit to China of Swami Veda Bharati. Transfixed by the grandeur of the underground Ling Gu temple where parts of XuanZang's sharira are still kept. Transfixed by the thought of the inauguration of the Xuanzang's statue in Rishikesh in February 2007. Transfixed also by the account of Mishi Saran's journey narrated in her book "Chasing the Monk's Shadow" of her visit to Xuanzang's ancestral village in Goushi County South of Luyong where she visited the graves of his parents and met Chen Zhiwei - the 48th generation descendent of Xuanzang - Master of the Law who cemented the ancient connections between two of the world's most enduring civilizations. Ancient Spiritual Connections that are now again being revived by Swami Veda - perhaps for the first time in over one thousand four hundred years.
While thousands of Indians have visited China since Kashyap Matanga, Kumarajiva, Aryadeva and Bodhidharma arrived in China in the 1st and the 2nd century AD, almost all of those who have bridged the connections in recent memory have been scholars, writers, academics, historians, diplomats, industrialists, spiritual healers, artists and artisans. But not monks. Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore's two visits in the 1920s would be closest to that of a monk bearing gifts from the Land of the Tushita Heaven - India, the Western Paradise. But he also maintained that even as the two countries find common grounds in their shared Asian heritage, commerce, trade, geo-political expediencies etc., the deepest links between the two civilizations are rooted in thoughts that pre-existed Sakyamuni - pure Sankhya and early Upanishads. And it is these ancient connections which must also be revived even as the two great cultures are once again preparing to join hands in what may well be a common destiny.
Not since ancient times have there been an occasion for an Indian monk - with hints of experiential awakening - to visit China. Except for now. I am reminded of the reaction of the Director of the Famen Temple last year when Swami Veda presented him in his exquisite handwritten Sanskrit calligraphy "Homage to the three Jewels". His effusive reaction when in an emotional voice he saw continuation of the past history when Emperor Ashoka sent the gifts to China and now in exchanging the gifts with Swami Veda he and others saw this as a continuation of the same ancient connections. I am reminded of the emotional response of the Abbott at the Big Goose Pagoda, the Da Ci'en Temple in Xian, where Swami Veda recited with closed eyes verses from the Prajnaparamitahridyasutra. I have a flashback of the quiet spirit of enquiry when Swami Veda explored the integration of Han Buddhism and Taoism at the hillside monastery where Lao Tzu taught Tao Te Ch'ing in 515 BC. A flashback as well of the two-day exchange with Professor Ma and Mr. Liu, the Museum Director at the Dunhuang Academy of the Mogao Grottoes at the edge of the Gobi desert along the Silk Road.
Professor Chung Tan's "Across the Himalaya Gap" a collection of about 56 essays written by eminent Indian historians - academics as well diplomats - is a fascinating read even eight years after some of the earlier essays were penned. A visual record of Swami Veda’s historic visit will be equally fascinating to future generations.
Toronto, October 2006