The Impact Of Hinduism And Buddhism In The World

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Hinduism and its culture and traditions have a long history spanning a period of thousands and thousands of years and developed over several eras in the world. It is understood that human civilization started to advance since the Vedic age.

The Hindu religion is the most personally expansive and psychologically empowering religion on earth. It is a path that teaches its followers to be fearless, dedicated, focused, strong, assertive, self-controlled, virtuous, self-reliant, and to strive for excellence in all endeavors. Among all religions of the world, the Hindu religion is considered an ancient religion that is recognized as the foundation of civilization and as the most liberal democratic way of life. Hinduism and Buddhism are the identities and cultural assets of Nepal.

Hindu culture and traditions remain indispensable to the lives of Hindus and Hindu Temples today as sources of religious practices, spiritual inspiration, cultural expression, and social bonding. They bind all Hindus together irrespective of the regional and ethnic diversity. Hindu Temples have been built over many centuries.

All the Temples have their unique history as to how they were built, who built them, what kind of architecture was selected, how they selected the presiding deity, what kind of customs they have developed over the years to run the Temples, and what kind of festivals are performed. As a result, Temples often vary greatly in their appearance, rituals, traditions, festivals and customs from region to region.

Temples in southern states, eastern states, northern states and Western India have their distinctive characteristics. These temples are very different from one state to the next. Diversity and imagination are the hallmark of the Hindu mind.

Small oil-filled lamps for Hindu Diwali celebration
Light oil-filled lamps are used to decorate homes for Diwali

Nepal’s History and Religions in Nepal, is a rich and complex mix of different cultures and traditions, melded over thousands of years into a unique whole. For the western traveler there is much that is familiar, and many surprises. Family and religion are of paramount importance, and are constantly reflected throughout the culture. Nepal moves to a different a rhythm than the West. The notes here are meant only to tantalize you into visiting this amazing place.

We should all be aware of the facts that the Hindu religion has many enemies. These enemies may try to discredit and malign Hinduism. In south Asia, the general population is ignorant, and engulfed in blind faith and traditions that are carried over for centuries. It is true that over millennia some people took advantage of this blind faith and traditions to satisfy their own hidden agenda and lust and did harm to the local communities. But that is not the case here.

Nepal has three great qualities

  1. Pious land of great sages (Rishis), originated the Vedic, Hindu sculptures and shrine books
  2. Ancient sovereign-country ruled by identified symbolic-Hindu monarchy
  3. Birth place of Lord Buddha and Hindu kingdom all over the world

In this sense the Indian Hindus and the Hindus of whole world have been egoistic to save and dignified the Hindu kingdom and Hindu monarchy in Nepal. The reality is that the strategic and geo-socio-political situation of Nepal mandatorily demands the existence of the monarchical institution in the country.

Newsweek Columnist Ms Lisa Miller said – “we are all Hindus.”

“The Rig Veda, the most ancient Hindu scripture, says: ‘Truth is one, but the sages speak of it by many names.’ A Hindu believes there are many paths to God.”

The most traditional, conservative Christians have not been taught to think like this. They learn in Sunday school that their religion is true, and others are false. Let us all say “OM.” when you chant “OM,” it will resonate not only in the room but down through the ages.’ This part of her story has gone now, but it was tehre on May 13, 2010 at http://www.newsweek.com/us-views-god-and-life-are-turning-hindu-79073

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,

  1. Suffering is common – Birth, Sickness, Old age, Death etc.
  2. Cause of Suffering – ignorance and greed
  3. End of Suffering – to cut off greed and ignorance
  4. 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 Panchshil.

The descriptions of the 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.”

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 while 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.”

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 to light.

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 it 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 Western 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.”

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, Tantrik traditions, they were almost indistinguishable from each other.

An international scholar Aldous Huxley said – “The oldest aspects of Hindu mythology give place to the most profound and subtle utterances about the nature of ultimate reality, it is in itself a liberal education in humility, tolerance and suspense of judgment.” We can see The Great Wall of China; “the seventh wonder of the world” has a fourteen feet long Sanskrit incantation engraved on the western gate. Mongolian emperor Kublai Khan had written OM Namo! Bhagawati’ including others in the 14th century. The Chinese Great Wall has many syllables from ‘Mahabharata’ written on the doors in Sanskrit language. It is not a common thing that the language was written in Kalipinya letters.

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. Nepal was worthy to be bowed down to by Hindus all over the world. This is the highest honor Nepal could receive from the international community. The conspiracy against oriental Baidik Hindu and Buddha’s culture was started almost 200 years ago from India by the East India Company where Lord Macaulay was one of them who succeed in destroying oriental Hindu identities and culture.

Lumbini – 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 was the Buddha who 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. A fact accepted by UNESCO while providing world heritage status to the place.

But some so-called leaders are active to minimize Hinduism and dismiss the existence of Buddha. One of the Communists, old-leader Mohan Bikram Sing has written that Buddha was burn in Orissa (India), not in Nepal. (See: Kantipur B.S.2059 Bhadra 19) What does that mean? Such antagonistic so-called politicians, some Christian are habituated to exploit our national culture, religions and identities. This is a matter of grief for all Nepalese. 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”

Note this story from 2011 by AFP news:

‘An international conservation team has begun work on restoring three endangered monuments at Buddha’s supposed birthplace in southern Nepal, officials said on Tuesday. The team, led by Italian conservation expert Costantino Meucci, will restore the marker stone, nativity sculpture and Ashoka pillar in Lumbini, 250 kilometres (150 miles) southwest of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu. Lumbini, declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1997, is visited by Buddhist pilgrims from around the world, and the month-long restoration campaign is funded by the Japanese government. The marker stone is believed to be the exact site of Buddha’s birth while the nativity sculpture is a carving that shows Buddha’s mother holding a tree branch for support during his birth. Gautam Siddhartha, who later became known as Buddha or the Enlightened One, is believed to have been born around 500 BC’ – (AFP News – 5 April 2011)

Nepal is the pious Hindu and Buddha country in the lap of the Himalayas, which is beautiful, quiet, the birth place of Buddha and origin of Hinduism. Lord Buddha is believed to be the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Besides being the country of Everest it is equally popular with its diverse cultural values. This is the land where civilization began and is also known as the country of ‘SANGRILA.’

Nepal is as holy a place to Hindus & Buddhists, as Mecca is for Muslims and Jerusalem is to Jews and Christians. To refrain from all evils to do what is good to purify the mind is the message of Lord Buddha. Hindus and Buddhists have the freedom to pursue their own way of observing their religion. Nepalese nationalism has evolved and been consolidated more through social and cultural exchanges than conflicts.

So, to keep intact our sovereignty with our indigenous cultural and traditions, there must be in existence the Hindu kingdom and constitutional monarchy in Nepal. Then, all the Hindus and Buddhists all over the world can follow the path of alertness and humanity to maintain the co-existence from all sectors.

Dirgha Raj Prasai is a former Member of Parliament in Nepal, a political analyst who writes from Kathmandu.