Thursday, April 21, 2011

Buddhism in Nepal

Buddhism in Nepal


Buddhism has significant number of its residents in Nepal. Approximate 26% of the population practises Buddhism, specially Tibetan form of Buddhism. Nepal can be said to be the meeting point of Indian and Tibetan streams of Buddhism. This is not surprising for Nepal is in close proximity to Tibet. Fine Buddhist art has also hugely developed in Nepal. Ethnic groups residing in Central Nepal are mostly the followers of Buddhism. Buddhism in Nepal has also been influenced by Hinduism, another dominant religion in Nepal.

History of Nepal Buddhism
Siddhartha Gautama, who founded Buddhism, was himself born in an ancient kingdom of Nepal. The country's closeness with India ensured that it became a treasury of Buddhist Sanskrit literature. Emperor Ashoka of India had established a pillar in Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha. Gradually, Buddhism became a dominant religion in sparsely populated northern areas of the country.

Buddhist Pilgrimage Sites in Nepal
Nepal hosts several Buddhist pilgrimage sites which are highly revered by the Buddhists. Ancient stupas of Swayambhunath and Bodhnath are considered most sacred among Nepali pilgrimage sites.

Kapilavastu
Kapilvastu, a historic town, is closely associated with Buddha's life. It is located about 250 km from Kathmandu and 25 km from Lumbini. It was here where Siddhartha Gautama, who later became Lord Buddha, was born in the sixth century B.C. Lord Buddha lived in Kapilvastu to the age of 29. Today the town is visited for religious, cultural and archaeological importance

Lumbini
Divine feelings like spirituality and holiness occupy one's heart when one is in Lumbini. Included among the world heritage sites, Lumbini has rich natural backdrop and impressive architectural beauty. The city, located in South-Western Terai of Nepal, is one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimages.

Svayambhunath
Swayambhunath, located west of Kathmandu is a pilgrimage held in high esteem Swambhunath can be literally translated as 'self-existent Buddha'. The grand stupa tells how Buddhism spread its influence in Nepal. The Stupa tells all about history and origin of Buddhism in Nepal.

Bouddhanath
Tibetan culture can be experienced in Bodhnath Stupa, located in Kathmandu valley. After the 1959 Chinese invasion, thousands of Tibetans arrived in Bouddhanath. Henceforth, the temple developed as one of the most important centers of Tibetan Buddhism. This largest stupa in Nepal was erected sometime in the 14th century after the Mughal invasion.

Branches of Buddhism
Buddhism in Nepal comprises Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana streams. The Tibetan Mahayana tradition has most of its adherents in northern Nepal, with approximately 3000 monasteries. Newar Vajrayana Buddhism is a popular religious system in the Kathmandu Valley with number of rituals.Some Nepalese have also turned to Theravada practice based on the Pali canon.

Buddhist Practices
Prostrating pilgrims, the spinning of prayer wheels, collective chants and burning lamps are some popular Buddhist practices often seen by tourists. Buddhists believe that if a slip of paper bearing a mantra is kept inside the wheels, the prayers reach gods when the wheel is spun. Several Buddhists are seen performing these practices in Buddhist religious sites all around the country.

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