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Remembering the Buddha statues of Bamiyan

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Bamiyan was awe-inspiring.  We were driving up in this van on a curvy road.  You could see the side of this mountain for 45 minutes, and closer you realize there are these monstrous statues of Buddha carved out and these holes on either side of it, praying rooms or monastery rooms, where you could climb up stairs carved in stone and pray and reflect.  We westerners wanted to go to the top and stand on the head.  The front part of the head had been sheered off by a previous assault by one of Genghis Khan’s family relatives.  The Afghans have repelled every major invasion that had happened, including (after I left) the Russians.

In one of the cities we visited before we went to Bamiyan, it was a ghost town.  This was one of two haunting experiences I had in Afghanistan.  The city was reduced to rubble, but you could, if you stared at it, figure out where streets were and buildings were.  The city had revolted against Genghis Khan’s cousin/nephew’s son and killed them.  The army came through and said let nothing be left living in this valley, and to this day no one has moved back into this valley.


NPR: Bit By Bit, Afghanistan Rebuilds Buddhist Statues

NPR: Bit By Bit, Afghanistan Rebuilds Buddhist Statues


As I was standing there, I know I was hot and I know it was a hundred, I can swear I could hear voices of kids running up and down the street.  I could hear all the sounds I heard in Kabul around me as if I was being transported back to that time.  I can’t explain it.  It’s never happened since.  Nobody put that thought in my head, but I had vision.

Bamiyan, having that baked into the back of my consciousness, it was not a religious experience, the awe and magnitude of it.  Here I am with donkeys and water buffalo and this thing that was created a thousand years ago, this monument to another culture’s religion.  The air was cool.  It was so fresh to be out of the city.  It was a wonderful experience to move from Kabul to the countryside, the harvest was going, the ground was very rich…

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[Listen to the haunting experience and the rest of the story]