July 08, 2013

Bomb Blasts Rock Buddhist Pilgrimage Site in India

Alex Caring-Lobel

A series of low intensity bombs detonated inside the Mahabodhi temple complex in Bodh Gaya, India early on Sunday morning, leaving one Burmese monk and one Nepalese monk injured. One of the most-visited pilgrimage sites for Buddhists, the complex stands next to an iteration of the Bodhi tree under which Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, is said to have attained enlightenment. Four explosions went off inside the temple complex, three by a nearby monastery, and another by a Buddha statue, according to India's Home Secretary. At least two other bombs were defused.

Although there were around 200 people in the temple complex when the bombs began exploding, no deaths and only two injuries have been reported. The temple complex and the Bodhi tree sustained minimal damage from the small blasts.

Reports are still scattered and diverge regarding the number of bombs detonated, damage done by the blasts, and most dramatically in regard to the criminal investigation. Voice of America reports that Indian intelligence agencies had been warned of an attack in Bodh Gaya in retaliation for atrocities committed against the Rohingya Muslims by the country's Buddhist majority.

Ajay Sahni, head of the Institute for Conflict Management in New Delhi, denied any evidence linking the blasts to Burma-based extremists, and was quick to blame Pakistan's terrorist network in exacting revenge on behalf of Burma's Muslims. Local reports, on the other hand, have quoted unnamed intelligence officials who say they suspect domestic Islamist militant group Indian Mujahideen, which has claimed responsibility for a number of lethal attacks beginning in 2007.

While it's too early to identify the perpetrators, the effects of the attack are surely already being felt in India and abroad. Of greatest concern is the situation in Burma, where tensions between Buddhists and Muslims—most of whom now live in a constant state of fear—routinely turn deadly. The bombings in Bodh Gaya, if they were committed by Islamists, will likely reinforce Buddhist-Muslim divisions in countries like Sri Lanka and Burma, where followers of the two faiths once cohabited peaceably.

"While allegations and rumors fly and politicians and media pundits step up the rhetoric," said Indian author Pankaj Mishra, "this is the time to reflect on the Buddha's view of suffering, and our innate capacity to harm, which emerged out of a profound reckoning with the increasingly impersonal violence of his own time."

—Alex Caring-Lobel

Image: Part of the Bodh Gaya complex where a small bomb detonated (Stringer AFP/Getty Images)

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Hktony's picture

Buddhists and Muslims have never lived together in peace, be it Burma, India or today also in Southern Thailand. Where Islam goes death follows. I am pretty sure as Buddhists we are taught to see things as they really are. The bombings will perhaps reinforce divisions between Buddhists and muslims. But muslims could stop bombing people for a start. and encourage dialogue and not victimhood. We cannot wish peace if it is an imaginery peace based on forgivness and compassion from only one side. Look at the history of islam in India, then the middle east and further to the afar east and lastly North Africa. You can love these people as much as you like but it does not and will not solve the problem of their hatred. The solution is simply if we understand the problem. Unfortunately the truth is hard to grasp hear because it is very unpalatable.
One of many verses from the koran: "Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers..." Compare 50 to 60 percent of the koran is about controlling christains and jews. These are second class citizens if they pay a tax to muslims. People from other religions are no better than animals. Compare this teaching to the Buddha's before we make comments on how the two faiths lived together in peace.

gernot66's picture

speaking out a sentence like this; "Where Islam goes death follows", is the root of the conflict. while you can exchange "Islam" easy with any religion or movement. it's as less wise as the act of terrorism itself. true, muslim fundamentalists cause a lot of suffering in this world, but "Where Islam goes death follows" won't help a tiny bit to solve this. it only hardens the borders. i don't like if a tribe or religion is taking in charge generally, it's something which lets my hairs in the neck stand up.

what you pointed out as the major mistake of islam, is the mistake of all religions. it's already in this sentence: "Where "X" goes death follows".

please forgive me, i'm only a fur soled forest inhabitant ;)

Hktony's picture

In this magazine there is little support for china and few people trust china. I hear almost no compassion towards them. There is a reason- Tibet and communism. Do you hear me shout chinaphobia? But mention Islam as a cause of ill and o no that is terrible.
Why cannot we openly say death follows Islam???? Not read about islamic culture and jihad. Afghanistan and the Buddhas, boom! Nalanda, burnt. Present and future is the same outcome when Islam is present. When did telling the truth become a bad thing. Islam is full of hate speech. It compels muslim to jihad. This is fact and evidenced not just in the past by violence but by today's events all across the globe. I am only a fur soled ..... Sorry does that mean that history and the Koran can be ignored and the solution is to lie??. No Islam is a threat and there is real evidence of this. Why cannot we say that. All this mindfulness practice, bare attention, clear comprehension and we need to tiptoe around Islam ?? Honest discussion is needed not just kind fluffy Mother Earth father sky mentality.

Dolgyal's picture

We do not know the culprits quite yet, it is possible that a Maoist Naxalite group is behind the blasts. The Indian press hints at a 'foreign hand' which is usually code for Pakistani black ops, however China, involved in unsavory activities disrupting the Tibetan community within India is another candidate. Neither can one dismiss as suspect the China-backed Buddhist sectarian cultists who have been littering the town with their comic books printed in Singapore.
Luckily the improvised devices were not powerful, blew a few leaves of the Bodhi tree it seems and slight damage to Karmapa's monastery.

Dolgyal's picture

This is not the first time Bodh Gaya (rDoje ldan or Vajra Asana) has been violently attacked historically. When Cunningham 'rediscovered' the site in the 19th century it was an overgrown ruin.
On another front Lumbini, Nalanda, Rajgir and Bodh Gaya are all eyed by international commercial theme park developers. It is thought the blessing power of pilgrimage places can diminish by inappropriate activities there.

justjeff's picture

May the tortured soul(s) who committed this act find peace... and may the people who were hurt by this act find justice and forgiveness.