Many Bangladeshi Buddhist monks in abroad have had the sad experience of being suspected either as converted from other religions or as fake monks. This is because the world outside Bangladesh is absolutely unaware of the existence of Buddhists in Bangladesh, except some handful of scholars. Such drawback in this highly advanced age of information technology is regrettable. Therefore, now it is time that we make the existence of Bangladeshi Buddhism a common knowledge in the world. In this essay I propose such a scope for academic studies on Bangladeshi Buddhism.
One thing I must emphasize as long as we do not take the initiatives to interact with outside world they will not come to us. Therefore we need to combine the strength of all the Buddhist communities and institutions in Bangladesh to achieve this objective.
An all encompassing academic research on the Buddhists in Bangladesh needs to focus on every significant detail of history, language, literature, arts, culture and so on of all the Buddhist communities in the country. The historical details might be obtained from available written records. At the same time we need to update the history providing an adequate picture of everything in our contemporary society. There is a saying; history is such that every generation must update it. If that is not done the flow of the ideas of a society will be disrupted at some point. We have had enough experience of this discrepancy of being lost in assumptions not having first hand evidences or facts of our historical identity. Therefore a complete document is to be prepared consulting all the previous works.
It is not possible to do this by one person. To materialize this idea students and concerned personages need to cooperate and establish a strong project. In that the Bangladeshi Buddhism can be categorized into different chapters taking into consideration all the historical as well as the contemporary situations. Such practices as [incorporating Buddhism in] the marriage ceremony, funeral rituals, even the Buddha’s altar in Buddhist houses need to be individually treated. The intellectual dispositions of Bangladeshi Buddhist scholars or great personalities also need to be exposed. If it is too huge to appear in one volume, then a series could be produced in an annual, half-yearly, or even quarterly basis in the form of a journal.
One may ask, what is importance of this? Whether known or unknown to the world, whether they know the world or not what change does it make? In reply I would say that there is immense importance of this. Most important thing is that in this increasingly globalized world we can no more remain isolated. Bangladeshi Buddhist institutions produced great intellectuals who flourished in countries like Tibet, Sri Lanka, India etc. in the past. The intellectual bond among other countries and Bangladesh is very strong and we need to realize that. Furthermore, Buddhist scholasticism in the world is advancing so fast, but, very little or almost nothing is known in Bangladesh. Therefore, we can not, in fact must not be naïve about these things.
The first obstacle in such a study may be the lack of financial support to bear the expenses needed to collect textual and factual data, and the publication of the project. But, an organization of responsible members and regular fund raising would largely fill the gap. The most important thing is to feel the responsibility and get at the work creatively. There is a proverb in Bengali language that daśer lāṭhi eker bojhā, meaning, what appears merely a stick for ten persons is a huge burden for one. Remembering this proverb and perceiving the need to work collectively and to interact with the world we may be able to actualize the inspiration we get in the front page poem to come out of the darkness of ignorance.