Thursday, 1 January 2009

Maitreya Project

Jessica Falcone, an Anthropology doctoral student at Cornell University recently created a petition stating, in part:
"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)


  1. Agreed. How terribly un-Buddhist!

  2. A veritable tower of Babel?



  3. Maybe the statue shows the truth that there is no Peace without conflict as it's object of desire. The building of the statue allows for conflict, for sure, even as it's made with good intentions.

  4. Ted,

    Yes, 'good intentions'... certainly a veritable tower of Babel then.

    A statue of the words 'GOOD INTENTIONS' built to the same proportions, and at the same expense, might test your thesis better.



  5. I recall walking through the museum at Glastonbury Cathedral in England and seeing the words, in Latin I believe, (roughly) "built large to inspire even the small-minded."

    The idea was that an imposing building might bring faith and hope to the 'little' people of the time.

    If we give them credit that this was a well-meaning intention, to bring people together (in said faith) to resolve conflict and build a greater community, then might the Maitreya Project deserve similar credit? I know there are problems in the analogy, but hope it might be worth considering.

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  7. I completely disagree with your views. Whenever a large project is being planned there are bound to be some dissenting voices. the solution lies in resolving these differences harmoniously and not shelving the project altogether.

    Also people who are speaking against this wonderful project need to understand some facts about India before commenting. Buddhism in India is in a very nascent stage and such projects are bound to have an cascading effect on its spread.

    secondly, there are many groups, mostly the right wing Hindutva groups, who are trying to scuttle the project because they don't want Buddhism to flourish again after it was nearly wiped out from its land of birth.

    Kindly understand these facts.
    Lastly, the land acqusition is going on very slowly simply because every farmer should be adequately compensated and that is being taken care of.

    Many new jobs would be generated because of the awesome tourist potential of the project and that will benefit the local populace immeasurably.

    Apart from these benefits Maitreya Project Foundation is also running schools and colleges for the local children who till recently had to make do with sub-standard government run schools.

    I support the Maitreya Project whole heartedly.

  8. Hi Jessica Falcone, Before one week ago I met with one of the leader of Bhoomi Bachao Sangarh Morcha (SAVE LAND STRUGGLE FRONT) Mr. Govrdhan Gond and discuss over this issue. He told me your name then I search this blog. Really You are doing good Job.
    I am Anil Kumar working in a Peoples organization name Ekta Parishad. I am very much interested to support this movement. My mail id is:

  9. According to Wikipedia:

    The projected budget in US dollars is: $195 million for the statue and throne building, $35 million for health and education and $20 million for development of the "750 acre" site.

    So, about 20% goes to health education community development, rest goes to gilding. I wonder what Buddah would say about that.

  10. The people at the Unloving-Unkindness Project are out of their minds. If they're already spending that much on the project, I'm sure they could easily entice every farmer away from the land. But no. People aren't a priority. It's completely insane. Why does every beautiful religion have to get raped and distorted by rich people with embarrassingly small penises, excuses in place of a heart, and skyscraper egos in place of a brain?

  11. This symbol of peace and enlightenment has been falsely sold globally, it actually is the symbol for the new world oreder's plan for one world religion, look at the raised had of the buddha the first thumb and finger represent a six and the remaining fingers the other two sixes 666 the number of man worshipped by lucifarians or our world leaders!!!This thing is going to be made of solid gold, why do u think we are being enticed to sell our gold? where has all the gold gone from fort knox? this statue poses a lot deep questions....