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Number of Practicing Buddhists in Pakistan Dwindling

August 7, 2023

TAXILA: Due to a lack of places of worship, religious instruction, and government support, the few remaining practising Buddhists are in danger of going extinct.

The ongoing Gandhara exhibition “Roots or routes: exploring Pakistan’s Buddhist and Jain histories” is being visited by a group of five active Buddhists from Naushahro Feroze in Sindh.

They told Dawn that Taxila, where the remains of Lord Buddha’s tooth are kept safe and his ashes are interred, is the holiest shrine in their religion.

We appreciate the exhibition organisers for allowing us to visit this location. The religion in Pakistan is on the verge of extinction for a variety of reasons, according to Lala Muneer, who is leading the delegation, despite the fact that we are completely free to practise our faith and there are no restrictions on doing so.

Although the precise number of Buddhists remained unknown, he said that there were about 650 families of active Buddhists in rural Sindh’s Ghotki, Sanghar, Khairpur, Nawabshah, and Naushahro Feroze districts, among others. They are unable to perform their religious ceremonies in a temple or stupa.

At our houses, we hold our rituals, celebrations, and festivals, he continued.

Another Buddhist Juman claimed that because there is no monk to pass on religious teachings and practises to the next generation, they carry out their rituals in accordance with legends, antiquated practices, and the few Sindhi-language books that are available to them. We are the last remaining practitioners of Buddhism, and it is in danger of dying out.

He recommended that the government build a temple for them and recruit a monk from any nation that practises Buddhism to instruct them.

Due to a lack of money, he claimed that the majority of Buddhists have never travelled to Taxila or other Buddhist holy sites in KP, particularly Takhtbai.

18-year-old Vitrant Raj, who visited the Taxila ruins, was enthusiastic about the journey.

“I have travelled to Taxila for the first time, and I have seen Lord Buddha for the first time in person after seeing him in pictures earlier,” the traveller said.

Despite the fact that Buddhism had thrived in Taxila, according to Dr. Nadeem Omar Tarar, executive director of the Centre for Culture and Development (CCD), a demographic shift at the time of independence caused the religious history of the global communities that had once flourished here to be forgotten.

The communities in charge of Pakistan’s Buddhist legacy, he claimed, were unaware of the value of the illustrious past, which called for recognition and celebration.

Read More: What is Buddhism Theravada?

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