"There should not be serious collateral damage when building a statue of the Maitreya Buddha! We demand that the Maitreya Project and the Uttar Pradesh state government stop the forcible land acquisition permanently, or at least until the preliminary practice of getting cooperation and approval from the local people has been accomplished to the full satisfaction of the small subsistence farmers and their families." (link)As many of us know, the Maitreya Project proposes to build a 500 foot Buddha statue in India in order to "effect peace at every level of society through the practice of loving-kindness: peace within the family, the community and the world, as well as inner peace for the individual."
Yet it is clear from the news stories (linked in the petition website) that at least some communities would be horribly affected by this project: essentially evicted from their ancestral farm lands. Thus we see a top-down approach to the spread and celebration of Buddhism where the most powerless in society are ignored or brushed aside. An interesting question is: how much does this simply reflect the history of Buddhism as a whole? And how should we - progressive Buddhists - respond to such acts?
I find it hard to simply accept them as the enlightened (crazy) wisdom of great lamas - even H.H. the Dalai Lama, who has put forth his support. Certainly the project looks and sounds wonderful: meditation areas, a hospital, museum, educational facilities, and so on. But, and this seems to be a wise question in all that we do - even/especially the good - at what cost?
"Solidarity with the Kushinagari Farmers!"
(photo above is from the Maitreya Project website)