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Nepalese Culture, Society and Tourism
Vajrayan Buddhism and Nepal
About the Buddha:

Siddhartha Gautam, prince of the Shakya, was born in Nepal in about 563 B.C. He was probably the greatest man ever to live in the Indian sub-continent in the whole of its remarkable history. He was born into orthodox Hinduism and became the founder of great religion which has spread fAr beyond the border of India. The communities of yellow-robed monks which he set up knew him as the Buddha, the enlightened one. He is also called Sakya Muni, the sage of the Sakyas. It is not surprising that much of the story of the birth, life and death of such a man, who lived so long ago and who was talked about by so many people, should be legendary and uncertain. Like Jesus Christ, Siddhartha Gautam was not a writer of books, His teaching were handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. This remain the traditional method of teaching in India and Nepal until very recent times1 . Thus even today the human communication is the most important means of communication in South Asia.

Strong historical evidence for the Buddha's life, travels and some of his teachings is provided for us however, in the monuments built by Emperor Ashoka Maurya who died in 232 B.C. Ashok clearly believed and promulgated most of the Buddha's teachings. His monuments, which consist of edict carved on pillars and rocks which were to be found all over his vast empire are not so far after the Buddha time. They tell us precisely where important events occurred in his life. One of the pillars gives a list of five teachings and from this we may conclude that the doctrines which have come down to us from the earliest books are probably authentic and largely as the Buddha himself taught them. Archaeological discoveries also are continuing to fill in gaps in our knowledge of these remote times. Studies of the artistic tradition of early Buddhism, when the Buddha was represented by symbol such as an elephant or a wheel, also help to throw light on his life and travels. We can therefore collect quite a lot of information about the Buddha as an historical person2 .

As to the miraculous aspect of the Buddha's life, we can read them as a beautiful story or accept them as the sacred truth, though many of the supernatural event were added as the religion developed. What we can all accept, whatever our religious tradition, is that the Buddha once lived as a great human being and as a teacher of enormous influence and authority. The account which follows of the birth of Siddhartha who became the Buddha, is drawn from the Jatakas3 . But one thing is true that "Buddhism" is the key of knowing the supreme reality, which was founded by one of the great humanist, social thinker and great philosopher named Shakyamuni Gautam Buddh. He is regarded as the light of Asia.

"Buddhism" is , in the words of disciple "A discipline of deliverance" deliverance from rebirth and death, deliverance from continuation in the potentially endless cycle of rebirths. Deliverance from the human condition of suffering. Pain, illness, and death. For those all the whole Buddhism principles concern is how to turn our deluded mind into purity and a strength against the suffering.

The Buddhist clearly state that the first supreme reality is suffering of all sentient being, including the human. In religious scriptures it is known as "Dhukkha Sattya". Ignorance is the causes of every suffering. So one can came out from their suffering through perfect knowledge. That is why Buddhism teaches us about self awareness and self analysis. His idea is based upon cause and effect theory. His main teaching is "Do Good and Be Good and "service to man is service to God". His whole teachings are based upon Love and Compassion. Love to nature and its creatures brings perfect happiness. His teachings about equality, sympathy and liberty, are based on Love and compassion. Buddha strongly believed that the inner peace within each person was fundamental to societal harmony and eventually peace. Fortunately, the teachings of the Buddha are not confined to his philosophical explanation of life and its meaning or the ascetic ethical idealism which he advanced as the final solution to all ills. He was conscious of social issues and actively engaged in the eradication of what caused dissension and violence4 .

In Buddhist literature (Dukkhakkhanda - sutta of Majjhima nikaya) mention that "due, indeed to sensuous craving, conditioned, impelled and entirely motivated by sensuous craving, kings fight with kings, princes with princes, priests with priests, citizens with citizens, farmers with farmers. Mother and sons, fathers and sons, brother and sisters, and friends quarrelling and fighting, prompted by sensuous craving, they fall upon one another with fists, sticks and thereby they suffer death or deadly pain"5.

To understand Buddhism is nothing but the research of ownself what "I am" or what "we are". So for every body or every wise man, knowing ownself must be the greatest research among all the researchers of the world6 .

Core Principles of Buddhism:
Triple gems

a) Buddha Saranam Gachchhami (I take refuge in Buddha)
b) Dharma Saranam Gachchhami (I take refuge in Dharma)
c) Sangham Saranam Gachchhami (I take refuge in Sangham)

The first one, Buddha Saranam Gachchhami is very important because Buddha is one who know everything about enlightenment and to achieve enlightenment, we have to acknowledge a lot about insight. So we are always compelled to impose a serious discussion in understanding the lesson taught by him that are found in the scriptures. Here if we want to understand how the word "Buddha" is formed - it is a Pali term; it forms from the word "Buddhi". Buddhi means wisdom. It we delete the last letter it naturally becomes "Buddha" and on the word "Buddha", if we supplement one more character "U" it will then turn into "Buddhu". Buddhu means foolish man. Every human being has wisdom that can be divided into two types. One is the good wisdom and the other the bad wisdom. If we follow the white wisdom we can also become the "Buddha". But should we follow the black one we will be "Buddhu" an idiot. So we must understand that "Buddha" means not a name of a man but a genuine quality of extraordinary person and the second, Dharmam Saranam Gachchhami means I take refuge in the path or way to get cosmic enlightenment. And the third, Sangham Saranam Gachchhami means I take refuge to the association of those wise persons who have taken refuge together to work as taught by "Lord Buddha" reaching enlightenment. Monk, nuns, and other householders are called Sangha. Monks and nuns are those who gave themselves for Dharma7 .

These three refuges are very important for a person to obtain enlightenment. Hence, these are called the "Triple Gem".

In this brief article, it is not possible to deal with the whole Truth as realised by Buddha, (the one who knows the Truth), but the plain simple four noble Truths a leading to the path of truth and peace are mentioned in brief :-

These four Truths are:

Truth 1: There is suffering.

Truth 2: There is the cause of suffering. Suffering is caused by desires (trishna)arising out of sensual contacts, and out of the will to continue existence or not to continue existence .

Truth 3: There is elimination of suffering. Suffering is eliminated through the cessation( to avoid ) of desires.

Truth 4: There is a path leading to the elimination of suffering. Desires cease as a result of following the eight fold path which eliminates Ignorance of human mind.
The noble eight fold path (arya Ashtangika Marga), the path leading to deliverance from suffering consists of :

1. Right views (samyak drishti)
2. Right aspirations (samyak samkalpa)
3. Right speech (samyak vachana)
4. Right deeds (samyak karmanta )
5. Right livelihood (samyak ajibika)
6. Right effort (samyak vyayama)
7. Right mindfulness (samyak smriti)
8. Right concentration of mind (samyak samadhi)

The word right (samyak) indicates that there are false or wrong sides to each of the above (views, aspirations, etc.) which leads us towards suffering. It is necessary for an aspirant to be vigilant leading and treading in the right track. Gautama claims, in the light of his own experience, that the path persuade with constant vigilance leads to the cessation of desires arising out of ignorance or the wrong views of things and opens up the eyes of wisdom and realisation of Truth and peace.

Five precepts (For Rightly Livelihood):

a) To abstain from killing
b) To abstain from stealing
c) To abstain from adultery
d) To abstain from lying
e) To abstain from narcotics

If one follows the five fundamental rules, he can save him self from much defilement. He will be called a saintly person

Final Goal /Ultimatum:

- Enlightenment /Buddhahood
- Perfect knowledge
- Realising complete Emptiness

It is believed that from the time of Buddha , the people interpreted his teachings in different ways. This gave birth to a kind of misunderstanding and as a result of that the Buddhism in course of time developed in many schools.

a) Theravada : The early school, who strictly followed the sayings of Buddha without any new interpretation . As they strictly followed the sayings of Buddha they were called Sthir Vadin and hence this school is known as Theravada.

b) Maha Yana : This school began new interpretation of sayings of Buddha and believed on many Pre and Post Buddha's and many Buddhisattwas (enlightened beings ) and thus they were known as Maha yana . This school regards Buddha as the absolute and supreme reality, God and developed their literature in Sanskrit language where as the Theravada school continued the Pali or Prakrit language , the language spoken by Buddha .

c) Vajra Yana : Maha Yana which is dominated by Mantras is known as Mantrayana , Tantrayana or Vajrayana .It is characterised as the path which leads to perfect enlightenment . The Maha yana school further developed on many schools Vajra yana is one school that developed out Maha Yana . Vajra is Sanskrit has many meanings , a diamond thus meaning the best . The Buddhist literature says
Sunyata Vajra Uchhyate. This can be translated as voidness or nothingness is called Vajra. Vajra yana believes on many ritual sacraments and has thousand and thousands of God 's and Goddess . The Vajra is called Dorje in Tibetan language and is popular religious instrument in Nepal and Tibet , Vajra also stands for Thunder. Vajra also means " Thunderbolt" or "diamond "and "Yana" means Path , Way or Vehicle.

These three paved the way for the development of Buddhism all over the world with different features suitable to their own need , environment and culture. Here one thing we should not forget is that, there all three ways have the same base and the same goal. All three Yanas have the same base of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha which are called triple gems, known as Tri Ratna .

Buddhism is based on three main pillars, the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Popularly cited as Tri Ratna, it means three Jewels that the Buddha (the wisdom), Dharma (the right path) and Sangh (the unity of virtuous people). If we human being follow the Tri Ratna our life will be peaceful and we can achieve Nirvana that ultimate peace8 .

Three supreme reality:

a) Anitty (Impermanence)
b) Dukkha (Suffering)
c) Anattma (soullessness)

Way of mind fullness practise:

a) Shila (Discipline /Rules and Regulation)
b) Shamadhi (contemplation) positively.
c) Prajna (Wisdom/Knowledge) / Nirvan is the down of prajana, and negatively nirvan is the absence of desires.

In terms of practice the different is in adopting and presenting the way. All these three Yanas inspire us to work hard to realise the Anitty (Impermanence),Dukkha (Suffering), Anattma (soullessness).A lay man can't reach easily, (to enter) the depth of those fact. To entering to the depth one should practise shila (precepts), Shamadhi (contemplation), prajna (Wisdom and knowledge)with full determination.

Human minds are just restless. In relation to the Buddha's teachings human mind is just like a monkey. It is very hard to control it Our mind can gradually be trained step by step. One can test and practice these with patience. Then one should come to realise through one's own experiences. To control our deluded mind we need certain rules and regulation (shila) in our daily life, so we can reach to the stage of shamadhi. Thus our accumulation power help to realise the perfect knowledge in the subject matter.

The efficiency is clear that, without shila practise one can not reach to the stage shamadhi. Without shamadhi one can not get the perfect knowledge (prajna). So these all three are interrelated with each other.

As acknowledge before, all the three Yanas practice on the basis of triple gems. Therawada sect practise there things through the meditation and orientation of the Buddha's teachings. For them Buddha means enlightened being (Gaining Buddhahood). Dhamma means exact following of teachings of the Buddha through the Binaya and Sutra. Shangha means to them is "Bhikkhu Shangha" a monastic form.

The people of the Mahayana sect practise these triple gems in different forms . The difference is just in their attitude and media. They followed the concept of "Bodhi Charya" with Bodhi chitta (Boudhi mind). It means mindfulness practice to develop love and compassion. People of this sect all practice this in their day to day life circle by the society and family.

Vajrayana, the most advanced teaching, continued to exit only through rituals and Buddhist were identified by the peculiar rites in their life9 . Vajrayana, Buddhahood means to complete the realisation of emptiness. Dhamma means to follow the concept Prajna and Upaya (perfect knowledge and way of solution ) means. From the Buddhist point of view this is the shortcut method of enlightenment. People of this sect do some rituals as prescibed in their scriptures (symbolic and psychological worship).

In Newar community, there are near about 20 sub-communities. The Buddhist society of the valley had driven by the concept of teacher disciple linens and sangha concept. One group function as spiritual master is known as "Gubhaju" (Vajracharyas). Other communities of people function as followers of path. Due to that social law Shakyas and Vajracharyas are one of the most important and well established community among the Newar society. In terms of social hierarchy Shakya and Vajracharya have higher position in cast system (after 14th cent.). They are the town denizen and they have merchant life style from the very beginning10 .

Buddhism is affiliated to research on oneself, what "I am "or what "we are ". This way of self searching about oneself is called "Vippassana" in Pali which was spoken by the Buddha's language. "Vippassana" means to conduct research on oneself what "I am " or what "we are". "We" means our body and mind in aggregate. The combination of mind and body is called "I" or "We" and nothing more than this .This is the truth that every man ought to accept.

Mahayana + Mantrayana =Vajrayana

For Vajrayana practitioner monastery is the institution form as a Sangha. The word Sangha meant brotherhood of celibate Buddhist monk but it is now commonly used for all male members of Vajracharya and Shakya communities who have undergone certain rituals in recognised Vihars11 .

So as far it concerns , the three different ways of Buddha's teachings are just like three different level of courses .They not only are interrelated with one another but also are of equal value and importance.

Little earlier we discussed about Buddhism and its' teachings. In this part let us discuss in brief about Shakya and Vajracharya community with the question of what is the meaning of Buddhism to them.

Nepal though small , is rich both in Nature and culture , and the recent census show sixty different ethnic groups in this country12 . We here find so many diversities of cultures due to the geographical condition. Among these the Kathmandu valley (Nepal Mandala ) is the heart of country, and the Newars are the indigenous ethnic group of this valley.

The Newars are divided in two major groups as Hindu Newars and Buddhist. Shakya and Vajracharya belong to the later one and the most important and well established community among the Newar society. In terms of social hierarchy the Shakya and Vajracharya have higher position in caste system. They are the town denizen and they were traders from the very beginning. If we search about their origin from different sources, we know that the Shakya migrated in the valley from Kapilavastu (South West part of Nepal) after it was completely destroyed by King Birudhaka ? A study on this is the need of the time.

In the case of Vajracharya. , we know that, it is not the name of a caste. It is the title of those who have gained the perfect knowledge about Buddhism and who have taken specific initiation (Acharya Abhishekha) from a senior practitioner of Vajrayana. Vajracharya means Vajra holder.

Vajra + Acharya = Vajracharya

So it is the title of Vajracharyahood not the caste. It is the advanced process of practising the Buddhist way.. Only the proper , capable person will get the title after taking the specific consecration. But for a long time the title has been used as a caste and is transferred from father to son13 .

This community have made a lot of abandon to universalise our country all over the world through their unique culture and tradition. Their norms and values are still found in their daily life unseeingly. All the society is mobilised with the guideline of Buddhist way of life. They still continue their practice of love and compassion, five precepts moral and rightly livelihood in their day to day life. To know better one should study their way of life.

Religiously Shakya and Vajracharya are Buddhist by birth . Their practice form of Buddhism is popular in the name of Newar Buddhism. Once ,in life people of this community have to have practised all three Yana way on their own way. All the Vajracharya known as Bare must undergo ordination as monks. The ceremony, of ordination is called Bare Chhuyigu (The making into Bare) . In this ceremony the male Bare has to be a monk for four days. During this four day period one must learn about the Shrawokyana principle . In this way they enter into Shrawokyana as the beginning step. After this they are recognised as a member of Shangha. All the Bare including Vajracharya undergo initiation as monks (Bare Chhuyigu) and thereby become members of a monastery (Vihar Shangh).The Vihar is the centre of the religious life and activities of Newar Buddhism14 .

After the four days the monks should retire from the monk life in ritual terms and they live the way of life according to the Mahayana concept. They accepted the way of Samyak Ajibika (Rightly livelihood) on the base of Pancha shila (Five precepts).So the people of this community never involved in that kind of work for living, which is prohibited by five precepts. Almost all the Shakya / Vajracharyas have traditional occupation of silver and gold work . The research shows that the ancestor of this community adopted this occupations for Samyak Ajibika. This is just an example about the practice of Buddhism. The same way they practise love and compassion, mindfulness practices following by them15 .

The second most important moment of their life is second consecration (purification) of Acharya Abhishekha 16. After getting higher initiation. One can function as a Buddhist priest so this is the step of higher practice form of Vajrayana Buddhism. No one can reach easily to the depth . So in the lay vision it looks more complex but actually it is very systematic and meaningful way of Buddhism which still continue in practice within this community in the valley.

People of this community are motivated by the Buddhist guideline. This virtue keeps them to have very systematic and peaceful life style. We can notice that from the beginning they are motivated by non-violence and have much tolerance. The people of this community are very co-operative and honest which has raised their social status ,economically, intellectually and culturally high.

They have an unique way of life. Their norms, ethic and values are absolutely preserved. This culture must be protected and thus, they have to be alert and conscious to conquest their culture. The most important thing is to encourage them to preserve their norms and values for the sake of Nepal's identity.

1. F. W. Rawding, The Buddha, pg. no. 4.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid, pg. no. 5.
4. Dr. Ananda W. P. Guruge, Lumbini, pg. no. 21.
5. Ibid, pg. no. 20.
6. Bhikkhu Shakya Putra, Buddhism Teaching of Lord Buddha, Lumbini, pg. no. 25.
7. Ibid, pg. no. 26.
8. Asha Ratna Shakya (Secretary), Hiranyavarna Mahavihara, pg. no. (VIII).
9. Dharma Ratna Shakya, Hiranyavarna Mahavihara, pg. no. (V).
10. Stephen M. Greenwold, The Role of the Priest in Newar Society, pg. no. 483-504.
11. Dharma Ratna Shakya 'Trisuli', Hiranyavarna Mahavihara, The Sangha, pg. no. 3.
12. Dr. Ramesh Raj Kuwar, Ethnicity in South Asia, pg. no. 29.
13. Anand B. Bajracharya, Role of Shakya and Bajracharyas in Newar Buddhism, Tri-Boddhi, pg. no. 24.
14. Ibid.
15. Ibid.
16. Diwas Dhakal, A Glimpse of Vajrayan Buddhism, pg. no. 39.

Bajracharya Anand B.(2000).Tri-Bodhi. Role of Shakya and Bajracharyas in Newar Buddhism. Tribhuvan University: PGD in Buddhist Studies.

Dhakal, Diwas. (1999). Glimpse of Vajrayan Buddhism. Nepal Traveller. Kathmandu: Nepal Traveller.

Greenwold, Stephen M. The Role of the Priest in Newar Society. Himalayan Anthropology, ed Chicago Confrence.

Kunwar Dr. Ramesh Raj. Ethnicity in South Asia. Kathmandu: Laxmi Kunwar.

Rawding, F. W. (1987). The Buddha. USA: University of Cambridge, New York.

Shakya, Dharma Ratna. (1996). Hiranyavarna Mahavihara. Vihar Sudhar Samiti.

Singh Harischandra Lal. (1994). Modern Interpretation of Buddhism. Lalitpur: Shirish Sing.

World Buddhist Summit (Special Issue). (1998). Lumbini. Kathmandu: DASH.

  Untitled Document

Nepalese Culture, Society and Tourism
By: Diwas Dhakal

This book is a collection
of essays devoted to the
Nepalese Culture,Society and Tourism. A special
stress on Natural and
cultural Heritage of Nepal has been very carefully emphasised.
Diwas Dhakal, 2000 ISBN 99933-570-0-6,
First Edition 2000
Published by:
Mukta Dhakl
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