By Dirgha Raj Prasai : Gautam Buddha was born in Lumbini in the 6th century BC in mid Tarai, Nepal. Nepal has been a pious and holy land for all Buddhists as well as all kinds of religious men and women. Buddha has guided human society on the path of peace, non-violence and prosperous thinking. Gautam Buddha meditated at Sarnath-Banarash and acquired the Light of Knowledge (Mokchya) under the holy fig-tree at Gaya, which is now called Buddha Gaya.
‘The term Buddha means “Enlightened One”, and signifies that the person to whom it is applied has solved the riddle of existence, and discovered the doctrine for the cessation of misery. Lord Buddha propounded Hinayana, a simple religion in which he followed to a large extent. This was a direct and simple philosophy that appealed to the masses.
Geographically, historically and politically, Nepal occupies a position in between two great empires of India and China and has drunk deeply from the two culturally rich springs, drawing inspirations from both its grand neighbors, as the political current ebbed or flowed- an influence clearly illustrated in the building styles of Nepal. In addition, there is the religious, cultural and philosophical effect of that great tide of Buddhism, which swept through the continent of Asia.
The descriptions of famous ancient Chinese pilgrims, Huian Tsang (who traveled through India between AD 629 & 645) and Fa Hein (who traveled between AD 400 & AD 414) indicate to this area, saying, ‘Lumbini, where the Lord was born, is a piece of heaven on earth where one could see the snowy mountains amidst a splendid garden embedded with Stupas and monasteries.’
An English writer H.A. Oldfield has written- There are about 2000 Buddhist Shrines in the Kathmandu Valley. The majority of those are Chaityas. The Buddhist of Nepal has been adopting several Hindu deities as part of the religious behavior. I have included the opinions of many researchers as Ram Kumar Shrestha, Min Bahadur Shakya, Dr. Tulsiram Baidha V.K Manandhar, Dr.Shanker Thapa, Dr. Tilak Shrestha, and others
Dr. Tilak Shrestha writes-‘The ethnic politics and Dharmic ignorance create non-existing problems. In the given setup, to assign Bahun, Pradhan and Kirati traditions into Hindu camp and Tuladhar, Bajracharya, Shakya, Sherpas & Tamang, Some Gurungs, Magars, Tharus, traditions into Buddhist camp is the outcome of serious comedy. Shaiva and Bauddha Religion are very similar emphasizing knowledge and meditation. The difference is that Shaiva begins with the assumption of ‘Brahma’ as the ultimate reality. The world as we know is one of its manifestations. Bauddha remains empirical and makes no assumptions. Though the goal is to go beyond emancipation, the discipline is within the direct understanding and experience of an individual in the world as it is. For Baudha Dharma the ‘Bodhi’ (Brahma) is the result of the empirical finding, not a priori. One of the philosophers of the middle age Shankaracharya was an Adwaita (Non-duel) scholar and debated mainly with Mimamsa school of Darshan. He also debated with Jaina, Shaiva and Baudha scholars. While Shankaracharya is given credit for the defeat of Buddhism in Hindu literature, he was in fact active after Buddhism had almost entirely faded from prominence. In particular, he was not a contemporary of the last great Indian Buddhist philosopher, Dharmakirti.
‘Buddhism is a major break through within the long traditions of Hinduism. That is Buddha achieved Nirvana without depending on supra-humanity or divinity. The central message of Buddha is that an individual can achieve salvation by working within the human faculty. All of Buddha’s teachings and analyses are within rational self-examination of the world including one’s mind. Buddhism is not political or social grouping. It is an inner discipline, similar to mathematics or music, practicable by any body regardless of their religious or other backgrounds.’ Buddha dharma is more rigorous. Its root in Hinduism is symbolized by ‘OM.’ the ‘OM’ is the symbol of ‘Brahman’ in Adwaita, ‘Godhead’ in Dwaita and ‘Bodhi’ in Buddhism. The most repeated Buddhist mantra is ‘OM mani padme hum’ or the ‘goodness comes out of goodness. The greatness of Buddha is that he is able to bring many of the truths, which were considered purely a matter of faith and revelation, within the realm of rational deduction.
Buddhism is not merely a religion but a way of life; its intrinsic values teach all to be better human and to serve humanity. Buddhism is the religion which is practiced to gain enlightenment. Lord Buddha who propounded Buddhism is widely revered with guiding, the entire human society, towards the path of peace, compassion, non-violence and disciplined life.
When Shankaracharya came north to the intellectual centers there, he borrowed many of the ideas that had been formulated by Buddhist philosophers of the past. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adi_Shankara)” The unity of the three principal Dharmas of Hinduism in Nepal – Buddhism (Buddha), Shaiva (Nilkantha) and Vaishnav (Narayan) is beautifully given in the temple located in Kathmandu valley, which we lovingly call – ‘Budha Nilkantha Narayan.’ The great contribution for the spread of Buddhism with definition of homely environment and Vikshus (begging alms) disseminated Buddhism was made by Shankaracharya. The opinion, doctrine and ethics strengthened Buddhism. Thus, Shankaracharya was not averse to real Buddhism.
Due to the Nepalese princess Brikuti who married with the King of China- the famous Shronchan Gompo, speeded the Buddhism and the craftsman Araniko who built numerous famous Buddhist statues in China and Tibet. From the time of Shronchan Gompo, Buddhism became gradually popular in China, Srilanka, Burma Thiland, Japan, and Mongolia etc. South Asia expert associated with China Institute of Contemporary international Relations Professor Ma Hali expresses- ‘There are great many Buddhists in China and they want to visit Buddha’s birth place in Lumbini. If Lunbini project could see the light of the today, this would be really good for Nepal and China.’ 21 June 2012. Prof.Shanker Thapa writes-‘The expansion of Buddhism in China led to the construction of vast number of Buddhist temples with expanded structures and architectural designs. They are serene and speculators in designs and colorful in pattern. Liuza Hui-neng Temple is one of the important Buddhist temples in South China that has alive.’
In ancient time, Manjushree, came to Nepal from greater ancient China and made the Katmandu Valley habitable by draining out of the water as a lake in Kathmandu Valley, and started a new civilization. Prof. Dr.Triratna Manandhar writes-‘ In fifth century A.D. Faxan, a Buddhist monk and scholar from China visited Kapilvastu and Lumbini. His visit was followed by the visit of Nepali Buddhist scholar Buddhabhadra, to China, Faxian and Buddhabhadra collaborated to translating some of the Buddhist Sanskrit texts into Chinese which staying at monastery in China. In the seventh century A.D. Xuan-Zang visited Lumbini, Kapilvastu and Kathmandu Vally, and left a short description of Nepal, which gives a short glimpse of Mahayana and Therabad Budhism in Nepal during ancient period. Sino-Nepali relations revived in the 13th Century when Kublai Khan invited a team of artists from Nepal to erect a golden Stupa. A Nepali team led by Arniko visited China and constructed golden pagoda-styled monasteries in Tibet and China to the satisfaction of the Chinese Emperor. Arniko was given a high post in China, and after his death, his sons continued to work in China. Nepal Kings and Prime minister were decorated by Chinese titles. Rana Bahadur Shah got the Chinese title of ‘Ertini Wang’ and Bahadur Shah- ‘Dhung’. Jang Bahadur received a new Chinese title- Thong Ling Pimma Ko Kang Shang.’ Then, we are maintaining the cordial relation between Nepal and China.
Medieval China learned and gained the Buddhism- ‘the way of peaceful life.’ Fa-xian, a famous monk visited the Buddha’s birth place. His account on Lumbini -‘Record of Buddhist Kingdom.’ is applied as a useful historical asset. A Chinese scholar-Xuan-zhang visited 636 Kapilvastu and his traveling accounts are known as historical knowledge’s. Lumbini, the holy pilgrimage had and has been attracting the Chinese monks to visit. The reality is that the Chinese monks contributed to preach Buddhism in China, India, south Asia Burma, Shilanka, Afhaganistan and the western world also. The monks preached translating the Sanskrit sermons of the Buddhism.The Tibetan Buddhism was developed as the most influential Buddhist heritage. Nepal and China have a long history of cultural relations.
A researcher Ravi Narasimhan has posted in online- ‘Maytszishan Caves—China’ Buddhist complex Maytszishan little known. It is located in Gansu Province in northwest China. This is a striking architectural complex, carved out of the rock. Maytszishan has 7,000 Buddhist sculptures and nearly 1,000 square meters of murals. Maytszishan is just a few miles south of the Great Silk Road. Many of the monks chose to stay in these caves and work there. One of the earliest written records about this are found in the biographies of the two monks Tanhonga and Huanggang, who meditated there with his disciples. Huge Buddha is almost perpendicular to the side of the mountain – the highest is more than 16 meters in height. Stairs that lead up and around the caves were originally made of wood, but after been fitted with metal supports, for security purposes. This is a striking architectural complex, carved out of the rock. Maytszishan has 7,000 Buddhist sculptures and nearly 1,000 square meters of murals.]
In 1895, a German Archaeologist Dr. A. Fuhrer, An Indian researcher Dr. P.C. Mukargee and Nepalese Khadga Shamshere discovered the missing pillar which was set up by the Maurya emperor of India, Ashoka where Gautam Buddha was born-the most visible landmark of the Sacred Garden.The historic importance of the pillar is evidenced by the inscription engraved in the pillar (in Brahmi script).From excavations it has been found that the Ashokan pillar stands on its original base of unborn brick platform which concludes that the Pillar is at its original location.
In 1967, United Nations Secretary General, U Thant (himself a Burmese Buddhist), visited Lumbini and made an appeal in front of the international community for assistance to maintain and improve the pitiable plight of this world famous pilgrimage site. Suggestions of development of Lumbini as an international pilgrimage and tourist centre then came into light. And since the implementation of the Master Plan for the development of Lumbini, prepared by Prof. Kenzo Tange in 1978, Lumbini has been a marked scene for development, both as an international pilgrimage as well as a tourist centre.
Lumbini was then enrolled in the World Heritage Site in 1997 AD. It must also be mentioned here that UNESCO too has published a report stating that there have been some activities which violate the basic essence of the Master Plan. For instance, the Peace Stupa in the Lumbini Center is built entirely against the Master Plan and violates its spiritual and technical aspects. It is now seen as a counter point of the Ashok Pillar which in its absurdity has affected monumentalize and spiritualism brought about by the Pillar.
A famous scientist Albert Einstein said-‘ The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism.’
A scholar Ram Kumar Shrestha writes- ‘Ashoka Pillar built in 300 BC by Indian Emperor Ashok during his pilgrimage to the birthplace of Buddha still stands Lumbini. A thorough excavation and investigation near the Ashok Pillar has found the Nativity Stone that was laid down to mark the Buddha’s birthplace. An international team of archaeologists has begun a three-year survey, coordinated by the UNESCO of the archaeological ruins of Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha in Nepal. The team of archaeologists, including experts from Nepal’s Department of Archaeology and the Lumbini Development Trust, is directed by Robin Coningham, UNESCO Archaeological Expert and Professor of Archaeology, University of Durham. The UNESCO, after careful examination all facts and evidences, has already recognized Lumbini as the Buddha’s birthplace and a World Heritage Site’.
The late King Mahendra had visited Lumbini and advised the government officers to regard and secure the Buddha’s land. King Birendra expressed-‘Although Gautama Buddha was born in Nepal, he belonged essentially to the whole world and to all times. He blazed a trail leading humanity to cast off parochialism and seek liberation and enlightenment. For us in Nepal, the way of life which Buddha practiced and propagated has remained an inextricable part of our cultural heritage. Nepalese civilization has brought about a marriage between Hinduism and Buddhism making them inseparable.’
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in his message- 17 May 2011 Buddha’s birthday 2555-‘ Buddha’s teachings can guide our efforts to resolve the severe problems facing today’s. His injunction against the three poisons of greed, anger and ignorance is especially relevant to multilateral efforts to overcome the hunger that need. Let us respect all religions. And let us work for the well-being of all people essay affects nearly a billion people in a world of plenty, the brutal violence that takes millions of lives each year, and the senseless environmental damage that human cause to our only home, the planet Earth.’
The Buddhism changed the thinking and behaving of human life. We can see the great Stupa in Kathmandu. The ancient Stupa is one of the largest in The Stupa is on the ancient trade route from Tibet which enters the Kathmandu Valley by the village of Sankhu in the northeast corner, passes by Boudnath Stupa to the ancient and smaller stupa of Cā-bahī (often called ‘Little Boudnath’). The Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal is steeped in history and can offer any visitor a truly magical experience that will last a lifetime. The Stupa itself is a large white dome, or Mandala ( greater Area), topped by a pinnacle with eyes to denote the Principal Lord Buddha watching over us; a third eye for wisdom; the nose a Sanskrit number 1 to mean wholeness, and no ears or mouth so evil cannot be heard or spoken. The five elements – water, earth, air, fire and ether are evident in the thousands of colorful prayer flags adorning the whole site. These are blue, green, white, red and yellow, and each contain a prayer to be blown away by the wind. Visitors include the many maroon robed nuns and priests from Tibet, the yellow from China and Japan, and the (literal) saffron clad devotees from Nepal and India. Their early morning devotional procession is awesome. They wave the Mane inscribed Sanskrit Mantra ( hymn)-‘OM Mani Padme Hum.’There are a great number of mountain Sherpas and Tibetans visible, and Nepalese and foreign tourists from all over the world. The stall and shop holders and restaurant staff are very friendly and honest Nepalese and Tibetan folk, just waiting to give you a smile.
A Nepalese Scholar Mr. Kishore Sherchand writes- ‘Buddhism in the West’- ‘According to several studies, Buddhism was almost unknown to USA 150 years ago. Large scale Chinese immigrants in 1850s and Japanese in late 1880s began to arrive, and from Korea around 1903. Immigration was at first primarily to Hawaii. Populations from other Asian Buddhist countries followed, and in each case, the new communities established Buddhist temples and organizations. Thousands Buddhists temples and practice centers are estimated to have been established. The first Buddhist temple in America was built in 1853 in San Francisco by the Sze Yap Company, a Chinese American fraternal society. California’s Hsi Lai Temple is one of the largest Buddhist temples covering 15 acres (61,000 m²). The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas is geographically the largest Buddhist community in the US located in Talmage, California covering over 480 acres (1.9 km2) of land.
Buddhism advocates the unification of faith and wisdom. Faith is characterized by the sentiments of respect and of inspiration by an ideal. Faith in Buddhism is developed through contemplation and investigation so that the characteristics of truthfulness, righteousness, and efficacy of the ideal in which one develops faith, can be understood and revealed. Cultivation of faith and wisdom as a unity in Buddhism, unlike other religions, involves several stages, 1. Faith without prejudice 2. Faith with profound understanding 3. Faith with endeavor 4. Faith with realization. Otherwise, faith without wisdom will develop ignorance and wisdom without faith will develop a perverted view. And the most outstanding characteristic of wisdom is free thought and its operative functions include understanding and cognition.”
Buddhism in the West has taken a turning point making more appealing to the western people in pursuit of practicing Buddhism. The West has developed it into a system that leads to finding a way of understanding cause and relationship. Many American youths question whether Buddhism is a Religion or a Philosophy. Because Siddhartha Gautama did not say himself Son of God (Jesus Christ), Prophet of God (Muhammad) or God of God (Shiva). Buddhism does not preach the existence of God. Many of the Westerns youths view and reject their own religious beliefs in God as the supreme power. They perhaps try to think in the line of what Buddha said twenty five hundred years ago or Buddhism says, “Anybody can be Buddha (Enlightened one) if one follows those Four Noble Truths and Eightfold paths.”
A great scientist Albert Einstein said- “The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism”. It is very praiseworthy preaches of Gautam Buddha that he had messaged to all mankind to follow the path of – Noble truth –(‘Samyak’): such as-Right View; Right Thought; Right Speech; Right Conduct; Right Livelihood; Right Effort; Right Mindfulness; Right Concentration. Similarly, a) Suffering is common – Birth, Sickness, Old age, Death etc. b) Cause of Suffering – ignorance and greed) c) End of Suffering – to cut off greed and ignorance. d) Path to end Suffering –Noble Path is the way to end suffering. ‘No killing, No stealing, No sexual misconduct, No lying, No intoxicants are the Buddha’s Panchshila.’
A top Nepalese Scholar Ram Kumar Shreatha writes-‘ Buddha taught that the world must be thought of in procedural terms and not in terms of things or substances. This is the understanding that any phenomenon exists only because of the existence of other phenomena in an amazingly complex web of cause and effect covering past, present and future and this seems to be the basic of Newton?s law of Motion, ?
every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction?. The Buddha taught that peaceful minds lead to peaceful speech and peaceful actions. If the minds of living beings are at peace, the world will be at peace. Buddhists believe that the minds of all living beings are totally interconnected and interrelated, whether they are consciously aware of it or not. If we concentrate on putting our own minds at peace, then we can broadcast peace mentally and generate peace through our actions. We should use a peaceful mind to act for peace in the world.’
The religious structure of Nepalese society is formally Hindu; but here and only here the interplay of peoples and their religious traditions has produced a rich fusion of Hindu and Buddhist faiths. It is common for both Hindus and Buddhists to worship at the same shrine, for many gods and saints are cross-over, often known by a different name but holding the same attributes. The original inhabitants of the valley were animists, a tradition which survives in the multitude of spirits, demons, local deities, and stones which receive dutiful worship to this day. Hindu and Buddhist traditions adapted from the pre-existing animist practices and from each other. Indeed, in the medieval period, when both religions’ practice adopted mystical, Tantric traditions, they were almost indistinguishable from each other. Nepal’s History and Religions Nepal is a rich and complex mix of different cultures and traditions, melded over thousands of years into a unique whole.
Prithvi Narayan Shah, the unifier of the ‘Greater Nepal’, is the pride of Nepalese people who saved the Hindu and Buddhism in Nepal, in time. It was almost 100 years before unification of Germany (1868), Italy (1868), and the restoration of the Meiji (Japan, 1868) in which America was also under British dependency, that Prithvi Narayan Shah had already unified (1768) 54 small fiefdoms to build a large, expanded and greater Nepal. But after the movement of April 2006 and the party leaders Congress, UML and Maoists came to power they smashed the statue of the great King, contempt and insulted him and called off the birth anniversary of the late king as a day of national unity. Why? If they are Nepalese, they should answer the question.
The site is now being developed as a Buddhist pilgrimage centre, where the archaeological remains associated with the birth of the Lord Buddha form a central feature. Lumbinī-Nepal is a Buddhist pilgrimage site in the Rupandehi district of Nepal, near the Indian border. It is the place where Queen Mayadevi is said to have given birth to Siddhartha Gautam, who as the Buddha founded the Buddhist tradition. Records made by the Chinese pilgrim Fa Xian were also used in the process of identifying this religiously acclaimed site. The holy site of Lumbini has ruins of ancient monasteries, a sacred Bodhi tree, an ancient bathing pond, the Ashoka pillar and the Mayadevi temple. The truth, however is that Buddha was born at Lumbini in present Rupandehi district of western Terai region in Nepal. There are some antagonistic so-called politicians in Nepal; some against of Christian are habituated to exploit our national culture, religions and identities.
Almost, the Nepalese Communists are active to minimize the immortality of Hinduism and Buddhism. The communist old-leader Mohan Bikram Sing wants to dismiss the existence of Buddha and he wrote that Buddha was burn in Orissa (India) but not in Nepal. (See: Kantipur B.S.2059 Bhadra 19) What is that means? But, the renowned historian of India and native Orrisan Prof. Karuna Sagar Behera has been quoted as saying “The Buddha was neither born in Orissa nor visited the place during his lifetime”[Similarly, Another communist, the Maoist leader Dr. Baburam Bhattarai stressed –’Buddha is our Nepalese glory. Lord Buddha held very progressive view during his time and it is needed to expand the Buddhist philosophy across the world.'(‘Buddhism’-book launching ceremony- Nepal-China Society, 12 December 2010)
A country’s existence and prestige can gradually be eroded by finishing off its faith and belief tradition and culture and the creator of nation. If anyone wants the assurance of integrity and lasting peace in this country, one must not be confused about the country’s century’s old customs and religious prestige as well as the builder of nationality and unity
Having diverse cohesive communities, Nepal has built up as a nation in a long historical process. But, at present why the peaceful country where Lord Buddha was born has become the venue of confrontations? The main causes of the crisis is the abolishing our culture and traditions. Some are going to abolish the monarchy-the creator and protector of Hindu and Buddhism. So, for the sake of Nepalese identity, Hindus and Buddhism and the people-oriented Monarchy must be reinstated.