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Buddhism in Nepal

Buddhism in Nepal

Buddhism in Nepal

Buddhism in Nepal:

Nepal is the most holy land to the Buddhist pilgrimage from all over the world. The legend says that the previous Buddha (Krakuchhanda, Kanakmani, Kasyapa etc) were visited Nepal in different times. The monuments of these Bodhisattavas and previous Buddha’s can be seen even today. The great teachers, practitioners (Nagarjuna, Mahasanghika Bhiksuis) were visited and live in Nepal in different time of history. The history of Buddhism in Nepal is not stable. Some time it was boom and some time it was suspended from the ruler. There are major 4 types of Buddhism are exist in Nepal.

Mahayana (The great vehicle) Buddhism in Nepal:

Mahayana is the heavily practiced Buddhism in the world and in Nepal as well as. The Buddhism was derived from Tibet and most of Tibetans follow Mahayana.According to the teachings of Mahāyāna traditions, “Mahāyāna” also refers to the path of the Bodhisattva seeking complete enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, also called “Bodhisattvayāna”. A Samyaksaṃ Buddha (A fully enlightened Buddha) can establish the Dharma and lead disciples to enlightenment. Mahayana Buddhists teach that enlightenment can be attained in a single lifetime, and this can be accomplished even by a layperson

Therabada (The teaching of the elders) Buddhism in Nepal:

Theravada Buddhism, the doctrine of the elders, is the oldest unbroken traditional Buddhist tradition practised by people since the time of the Buddha. Unfortunately, Buddhism was decline in Nepal or lost itself for many centuries. Late 19th century it was reintroduced and nowadays there are number of Therabada monasteries and followers are there in Nepal.

Vajrayana Buddhism in Nepal:
The traditional Buddhism of the Newars (the local of Kathmandu valley) is a
very ancient form of Vajrayana Buddhism. It was once much more widespread,
being followed throughout South Asia. The great monastic universities of north
India were sacked and destroyed by Muslim invaders. The monks fled to Nepal and
Tibet and started to remain there being a Buddhist masters. Vajrayana Buddhism
in Nepal focuses on sacred complexes known colloquially as baha or bahi
in the Newars’ mother tongue, Nepal Bhasha. More honorically they are
called vihara, the Sanskrit and Pali term for monastery.

Mountain (Highland)  Buddhism:

The Highland people of Nepal follow the Tibetan Buddhism. In terms of Buddhism their main source of reference is Tibet, although their practice of Buddhism is not exactly the same as in Tibet. In the past, they used to be trained by Tibetan Lamas either from Tibet or Kathmandu Valley but now this tradition is rarely followed.  Among these Nepalese highlanders the most familiar Buddhist term is lama. Lama is not necessarily a celibate Buddhist monk but rather a household priest. Among the Sherpas it is only in the early twentieth century that they began to build Buddhist monasteries (gompa) and have celibate lamas (gelung) and nuns (gelungpa). Otherwise they have always practiced Sherpa Buddhism in which local married priests (lama) conducted rituals in village temples and at houses, for the benefit of the general populace similar to other highlanders. Among Nepalese highlanders, the affiliation of religion is clearly seen in their life-cycle rituals. Among all rituals the most important ritual is a death ritual where the missing link has to be established between the death and the next life through a medium i.e. Buddhist lamas and Bon shamans. Death ritual (Ghyawa) is the main event of these highlanders and they associate Buddhism with death and otherworldly concerns.

Some scholars refer highland Buddhism of Nepal as a development of Nyingmapa
school of Tibetan Buddhism. Nevertheless, there are also followers of Gelungpa
and Bon traditions. Nying-mapa which means ‘adherents of the old [tantras]’
puts Padmasambhava, the founder of the sect before the Buddha. In their gompas
(temples) the main statue is the figure of Padmasambhava whereas the Buddha is
the secondary figure. This is opposite to Gelungpa tradition. These two
traditions are widely identified with their hats. Nyingmapa are called red hat
because they don red robe and hat, whereas Gelungpa are called yellow hat
according to the colour of the hat they wear. The main distinction between
these two traditions is celibacy. Nyingmapa priests often live as householders
forming a distinct social group or class, and only gather in the local temple
for the performance of rituals whereas Gelungpa priests live in monastic lives.

The inhabitants of Nepalese highlands belong to various ethnic groups whose socio-religious and culture are heavily influenced by Buddhism. In northern Nepal live Sherpas, in mid-hills of Nepal live Gurungs, Magars, Thakalis. Tamangs live in most part of mid-hills and around the Kathmandu valley. All these ethnic groups are culturally Buddhists. In their societies they have their own religious men and agents in different forms. Apart from Buddhist priests (lamas) they have exorcists and shamans result of their local beliefs in deities and spirits.
According to Tibetan history one part of the credit for introducing Buddhism into Tibet was given to a princess of Nepal, Bhrikuti. She later became a Tara or Buddhist goddess in Tibetan Buddhism. The relationship between Nepal and Tibet, therefore, went back to very early period of their histories. Later Buddhism firmly established in Tibet with assimilation of local beliefs and it was prosperous till China invaded the country a few decades ago. The prosperous of Buddhism in Tibet had direct effect over most Nepalese ethnic groups who have close links with Tibet. Sherpas has the closest links with Tibet socially and culturally, whereas Tamangs, Gurungs and others have distant relationships. However, based on their oral histories they link their lineage with Tibet one way or other. Significantly, Buddhism practiced by those ethnic groups are unique in their own way. They have developed and shaped up different styles of Buddhism from its main reference of Tibetan Buddhism. It can be labelled according to each ethnic background: Sherpa Buddhism, Tamang Buddhism, Gurung Buddhism etc.

Note: Alpine Asian Treks also organizes a Buddhist Pilgrimage tour in Nepal.