Building Bridges for the Buddha

Some years ago while visiting my younger brother in France he, his family and I made a day trip to the small town of Vaison-la-Romaine in the south-east of the country. The river that divides the town is spanned by a bridge built by the Romans in the 1st century AD, the first Roman bridge I have ever seen. This remarkable structure still takes traffic just as it has done for 2000 years, remarkable evidence of the skill of Roman engineering. The bridge got me thinking along these lines – Roman, Chinese and Islamic cultures were all bridge-building civilizations, but what about the civilizations shaped by Buddhism? Is it true, as is often said, that while some religions encouraged social engagement Buddhism acted as a damper to such impulses, or at least did nothing to encourage them. I knew that in the Samyutta Nikaya the Buddha said; “Those who would lay out a park or an orchard, construct a bridge, a place to drink, dig a well, or build a shelter, their merit always increases by day and by night. Established in Dhamma and endowed with virtue, they will go to heaven.” Of course I also knew that in the Jataka the Bodhisattva is said to have repaired roads, dug wells along wilderness thoroughfares, constructed bridges and established rest houses for the benefit of travellers. But did these words have any impact on later generations?



Leave a Reply