Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Nava Vihara in Balkh: Sun Temple/Fire Temple/Monastery/Mosque

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"The Nava Vihāra or नवविहार (Sanskrit, meaning "New Monastery", (Persian: نوبهار‎ New Spring) was two Buddhist monasteries close to the ancient city of Balkh in northern Afghanistan. The temples and monasteries of Nava Vihara or Nau Bahar (Bihar) are spread over a very large area about 20 km south of the ancient city of Balkh or Balch Bami or Balch Bamiiyani (Bam mean roof) above Chesma e Safa (Persian: چشمه صفا‎ Clear water source), not far from (Koh e Alburz (Balkh) Alburz mean high mountain Hara Berezaiti, a 1,032 m ridge)."

"Koh e Alburz, Romanized as Kuh i Elburz, Gory Koh-i-Elburz, Kohe Alborz, Kuh i Alborz (Persian: کوه البرز‎ high mountain) is a mountain a ridge of the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan, Balkh Province. The ridge is elongated to the south of the ancient city of Balkh, which is about 25 kilometers northwest from the city of Mazar-i-Sharif. It is a tertiary, elongated ridge with steep slopes to the north and south. The comb has short canyons. Between the breaking points are the small river Schadyan and Marmal mountain. The German ISAF troops call their military camp Camp Marmal. Above this ridge, the two Buddhist monasteries as Nava Vihara Top i Ruslam (Persian: تپه رستم‎ Rustam hill or Rustam Hat) and Takht e Rustam (Persian: تخت رستم‎ Rustam's throne) and fire temple of Nava Vihara."

"Navbahar (also known as Nava Vihara) was a Buddhist stupa or monastery near the ancient city of Balkh in northern Afghanistan. The temple may have been an old Zoroastrian fire-temple, or it may have been converted to a Zoroastrian temple (sources differ)......An Arab author, Omar ibn al-Azraq Al-Kermani, wrote a detailed account of Navbahar at the beginning of the 8th century that is preserved in a later 10th-century work, the Kitab al-Buldan by Ibn al-Faqih al-Hamadhani. He described Navbahar in terms strikingly similar to the Kaaba in Mecca, the holiest site of Islam. He described that the main temple had a stone cube in the center, draped with cloth, and that devotees circumambulated it and made prostration, as is the case with the Kaaba. The stone cube referred to the platform on which a stupa stood, as was the custom in Bactrian temples. The cloth that draped it was in accordance with Persian custom of showing veneration that applied equally to Buddha statues as well as to stupas."

"One of the strongholds of the Afghan-Sufi-Buddhists was at Balkh, and at the monastery known as Nava Vihara. This monastery and nearby shrines was through many centuries the hot-bed of esoteric sufi-buddhist-zoroaster teachings. These doctrines lived side by sides at that place. And no Buddhist was allowed entry to it unless he first was known to have written a paper on Buddhism. The Nava Vihara Monastery was it is said build on an old fire-temple of the Zoroastrians. A number of their temples had a form like a CUBE and was placed in the center of the shrine almost similar to the Kaaba at Mekka. The Nava Vihara Monastery was for centuries compared on equal foot with the highly regarded monastery called Nalanda Monastery or Nalanda University.".....http://www.theosophy.com/theos-talk/200912/tt00010.html

"Nava Vihāra as buddhist monasteries.....Today they are called Takht i Rustam and Tapa e Rustam.....Honigberger (for two years he studied archeology in Afghanistan 1932), Sir Charles Yate, 1st Baronet (1886) and Oskar von Niedermayer (1915) visited the two monasteries in Balkh and they mentioned in their travelogues. Charles Edward Yate was the first British officer who referred the ruins of Tope-i-Rustam and Takht-i-Rustam (e-book Eustam) as two "strange structures". The british officer calculated the two Buddhist monasteries pretty much according yards. His drawing is pretty accurate. The term Stupa is derived from persian Tape or Pashto Topi and means hill, but also hat, because in such a temple a hat like small cubes were built that Kabba i Zordust or Ka'ba-ye Zartosht, or cubes of puja. Some call Naghara Khanah (drum house) or Kaftar Khanah (Dovecote). According to measurement of Yate, the construction and structure of top i Rustam is the following:.....Top-i-Rustam is a building, some 50 yards in diameter at the base, and about 50 feet in height.....Takht i Rustam is a building 100 yards in length north and south, and 60 yards in breadth at the western and 20 yards at the eastern end....Historical accounts report it as flourishing as an important centre of Buddhism between the seventh and eleventh centuries CE. It may have been founded considerably earlier, perhaps in or after the reign of Kaniṣka, in the second century CE."......History of Buddhism and Islam in Afghanistan

"Nau-Vihara Temple: Balkh is one of the oldest towns in the world, being the birthplace of Zoraster. As per Zorastrian tradition Balkh was built by first Aryan ruler Bakhdi. Ancient Greek historians called, it Bactra, (Baktra or Bactria) and the whole country 'Bactriana'. Situated in north-west Afghanistan, its present capital is Mazar-i-Sharif. It is a small town now, lying in ruins.....The Nava-Vihara was an important Buddhist monastery in Balkh for advance learning. It was a strongly built Vihara and was remarkable for its imposing structure. This Vihara was most sacred place of Balkh for it housed in its shrine-hall the water-basin (pot) and a tooth-relic of the Buddha, about one inch long of yellow-white colour. At this place a sweeping brush of the Buddha, made of Kusa grass, about three feet long and seven inches round with ornamented handle, was also kept. These sacred objects made this Vihara a shrine of great esteem and veneration for monks and lay-devotees alike..".....http://ikashmir.net/rktamiri/barmarks.html

"Hiuen-tsiang made a visit to this vihara. Though he was a Mahayani, he chose to stay here, a Centre of Hinyana school. He records, "there is a figure of Buddha which is lustrous with noted gems, and the hall in which it stands is also adorned with precious substances of rare value. This is the reason why it has often been robbed by chieftains of neighbouring countries, covetous of gain". There was also a statue of Pi-Shamen (Vaisravana) deva who has always protected this Sangharama. To the north of the Sangharama there was a very huge stupa of 200 feet in height, covered with a plaster, hard as the diamond and ornamented with a variety of precious substances. This stupa contained the sacred body relic of the Buddha.
As per Hiuen-tsiang the Nava-Vihara (or Nava Sangharama) was built outside the city on the north-west quarter. He informs that it was built by a former King. The Nava-Vihara, or the 'New Monastery' suggests the existence of an 'old Vihara' which stood in old days somewhere in the town. The old Vihara, built ten centuries ago, had totally crumbled down. Hiuen-Tsiang, however, refers to another Vihara to the south-west, not very far from the Nava-Vihara which had developed as a great centre for practical training of Buddhism, i.e. Patipatti.
Nava-Vihara developed as a great Centre for advanced study of the Later Tharavada or Hinayana school of Buddhism. This Sangharama specialised in the Abhidharmic group of study. The courses included the Three Pitakas with its nine Angas (Navanga). Nava-Vihara was also a great Centre for the studies in the Vibhasasastra of the Sarvastivadins. Prof. C.S. Upasak opines that in terms of high academic standard and stature no other University in Buddhist world at that time rivalled Nava-Vihara, not even Nalanda Mahavihara. Also Nava-Vihara was the only institution, where only highly learned monks who had already composed some Sastra in Buddhism could he admitted. According to Hieuen Tsang it was the only Buddhist establishment north of Hindu Kush in which there was a constant succession of masters who were commentators of the canon. It was the pride of Afghanistan.
The illustrious monk-scholars who stayed at this Vihara included Pranjakara (the great priest of the Kingdom of Tabak), Dharmapriya, Cittavarma, Dharmakara. I-tsing, another Chinese Buddhist scholar visited this Vihara in 700-712 AD. He speaks high about the studies being pursued at this Vihara, Sanskrit too was taught here. Both Hiuen-tsiang and I-tsing studied at nava-Vihara for sometime.
Geographer al-Qazwini (Athar-ul-Bilad) too refers to this great monastery. He records...........“The Persians and Turks used to rever it (The temple of Nawabahar) and perform pilgrimages to it, and present offerings to it. Its length was one hundred cubits, its breadth the same, and its height somewhat more, and the care of it was invested in the Baramika. The Kings' of India and China used to come to it, and when they reached it they worshipped the idol, and kissed Barmak's hand, and Barmak's rule was paramount in all these lands. And they ceased not, Barmak after Barmak, until Khurasan was conquered in the days of Uthman b. Affan and the guardship of the temple came at length to Barmak, the father of Khalid”.......http://ikashmir.net/rktamiri/barmarks.html

Nava Vihara, the main monastery at Balkh, soon became the center of higher Buddhist study for all of Central Asia, comparable to Nalanda Monastery in central northern India. It emphasized study primarily of the Vaibhashika abhidharma and admitted only monks who had already composed texts on the topic. Since it housed a tooth relic of the Buddha, it was also one of the main centers of pilgrimage along the Silk Route from China to India.

Nava Vihara hosted the relics the Buddha gifted Trapusa and Bhallika, from Balkh, his first two disciples, after they received his teaching. Buddhist pilgrims descended on the holy site to view those gifts and to receive blessings from an additional potent relic: the Buddha’s skull—housed and guarded in the monastery after the Buddha’s physical departure from earth.

The Han Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang (Hsüan-tsang) visited the Western Turks in approximately 630 on his way to India. He reported that Buddhism was flourishing in the Bactrian portion of their empire, especially at Nava Vihara Monastery in Balkh. He cited the monastic university not only for its scholarship, but also for its beautiful Buddha statues, draped with silk robes and adorned with jewel ornaments, in accordance with local Zoroastrian custom. The monastery had close links at the time with Khotan, a strongly Buddhist kingdom in East Turkistan, and sent many monks there to teach. Xuanzang also described a monastery near Nava Vihara dedicated to advanced Hinayana meditation practice of vipashyana (Pali: vipassana) – the exceptional perception of impermanence and of a person’s lack of independent identity.

Xuanzang (630 AD) found Buddhism in a much worse condition in Nagarahara, under the Turki Shahis. As in the Punjabi side of Gandhara, the area seemed not to have fully recovered from the persecution by King Mihirakula more than a century earlier. Although Nagara Vihara, with its skull relic of the Buddha, was one of the holiest pilgrimage sites in the Buddhist world, he reported that its monks had become degenerate. They were charging pilgrims a gold coin each to view the relic and there were no centers of study in the entire region.

The Arabs allowed followers of non-Muslim religions in the lands they conquered to keep their faiths if they submitted peacefully and paid a poll tax (Ar. jizya). Although some Buddhists in Bactria and even an abbot of Nava Vihara converted to Islam, most Buddhists in the region accepted this dhimmi status as loyal non-Muslim protected subjects within an Islamic state. Nava Vihara remained open and functioning. The Han Chinese pilgrim Yijing (I-ching) visited Nava Vihara in the 680s and reported it flourishing as a Sarvastivada center of study.

Buddhism was the faith of the Kings of Balkh up until the time of Darius.....Darius I ( 550–486 BCE) was the third king of the Achaemenid Empire.

Navbahar (also known as Nava Vihara) was a Buddhist stupa or monastery near the ancient city of Balkh in northern Afghanistan. The temple may have been an old Zoroastrian fire-temple, or it may have been converted to a Zoroastrian temple (sources differ)

From the Memoirs of Xuanzang, we learn that, at the time of his visit in 630, there were in Balkh about a hundred Buddhist monasteries, with 30,000 monks, and that there was a large number of stupas, and other religious monuments and that Buddhism was flourishing in the Bactrian portion of Western Turk empire. He also described it as having strong links with the Kingdom of Khotan in the Tarim Basin. The temple was led by Kashmiris called Pramukh (who, under the arabized name of Barmak, came to be known as the Barmakids).

Al-Biruni, a Persian scholar and writer in service to the Ghaznavid court, reported that, at the turn of the 2nd millennium, the Buddhist monasteries in Bactria, including Navbahar, were still functioning and decorated with Buddha frescoes.

"It is also known that at the time of Geber it can be found that one of the strongholds of the Afghan-Sufi-Buddhists was at Balkh, and at the monastery known as Nava Vihara. This monastery and nearby shrines was through many centuries the hot-bed of esoteric sufi-buddhist-zoroaster teachings. These doctrines lived side by sides at that place. And no Buddhist was allowed entry to it unless he first was known to have written a paper on Buddhism. The Nava Vihara Monastery was it is said build on an old fire-temple of the Zoroastrians. A number of their temples had a form like a CUBE and was placed in the center of the shrine almost similar to the Kaaba at Mekka. The Nava Vihara Monastery was for centuries compared on equal foot with the highly regarded monastery called Nalanda Monastery or Nalanda University."....http://www.theosophy.com/theos-talk/200912/tt00010.html

"The Han Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang (Hsüan-tsang) visited the Western Turks in approximately 630 on his way to India. He reported that Buddhism was flourishing in the Bactrian portion of their empire, especially at Nava Vihara Monastery in Balkh. He cited the monastic university not only for its scholarship, but also for its beautiful Buddha statues, draped with silk robes and adorned with jewel ornaments, in accordance with local Zoroastrian custom. The monastery had close links at the time with Khotan, a strongly Buddhist kingdom in East Turkistan, and sent many monks there to teach. Xuanzang also described a monastery near Nava Vihara dedicated to advanced Hinayana meditation practice of vipashyana (Pali: vipassana) - the exceptional perception of impermanence and of a person's lack of independent identity."......http://www.theosophy.com/theos-talk/200912/tt00010.html

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Email....okarresearch@gmail.com

John Hopkins.....Northern New Mexico….November 2012

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