Most of these Western Buddhists hold the view that Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism is in all respects exhaustive in character while Newari Vajrayana Buddhism is only a corrupt form of Buddhism and hence warrants no observation, investigation or research. Of course, this view is erroneous. One needs to carefully consider the situation in a logical way before making such a hasty conclusion.
Some Problems in Newar Buddhism
The Newari form of Buddhism may be the oldest living tradition of Buddhism in the world. Buddhism as practised by the Newari Buddhists of the Kathmandu Valley has some characteristic features not found in other Buddhist countries. It was the Buddhism of Shakyamuni as it manifested itself in the Himalayan region. Newar Buddhism can be classified along the tradition of Indian Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism which derives its lineages from the Siddha tradition of the Nalanda and Vikramashila Monastic Universities of India. This traditional Buddhism of Newars has recently become the subject of great interest and detailed study by Lienhard, Gellner. M. Allen, Bechert, and others. Although some observers professed as early as the last century the hasty disappearance of this form of Buddhism, it has proved to be remarkably durable an important factor in its conservation and social structure.
Some observers have found it to be in a pitiful condition. Not being able to cope with the modern situation the Shakyas and Vajracharyas are taking little interest in their own traditional religion and culture. The Vajracharyas are beginning to neglect taking Acharya Diksa (master initiation) with the result that there is a conspicuous decline in the number of Buddhist priests. The patrons (Skt. Jajaman) pay too little respect to these Buddhist priests because of their ignorance of Buddhist doctrine. These Vajracharyas get little remuneration in return for their services to their patrons in life cycle rituals. Thus, they are compelled to take up various secular professions. These are the obvious reasons for the decline of the traditional Buddhism of the Kathmandu Valley. Furthermore, most of the Bahas and Bahis (Buddhist monasteries) of three illustrious cities, owing to the lack of proper conservation, are in a dreadful state of dilapidation. Nowadays, we see these Bahas and Bahis being replaced by concrete buildings. In addition, the rare Buddhist manuscripts which Nepal takes pride in, are being sold in the common markets for exorbitant prices. We also see the ancient Buddhist sculptures and thankas, being exported to foreign markets. For all these reasons, scholars have begun to speculate about the hasty disappearance of this traditional Buddhism by the end of this century.
The importance of Newari Buddhism
The importance of Newaris in South Asian Buddhist History has been discussed at great length by Lienhard in his paper “Nepal ! The Survival of Indian Buddhism in a Himalayan Kingdom.” Similarly in 1898 Prof. Sylvian Levi, who wrote “Le Nepal”, discussed the survival of Sanskrit Buddhism in the Kathmandu Valley. He, with the help of Pt. Kulaman Singh of Kvabahal, translated into French the Mahayana Sutralankara of Arya Maitreyanath. Buddhism disappeared in India. The Theravada tradition flourished in Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand whereas the Vajrayana/Mahayana traditions were kept alive in Tibet, China, Japan, Korea and Nepal.
How Buddhism disappeared in India is still the subject of great controversy. How Newars kept Vajrayana Buddhism alive in the Kathmandu Valley is an interesting topic in itself. These are some of the topics:
Westerners, many lay people, educated, urban, more wealthy people need/want teachings and practices that have been adapted to lay life, i.e, non-celibate people with family and jobs.
Newari Buddhism is unique because it has survived without a permanent, celibate Sangha.
It has something unique to offer lay people seeking high level practice and teachings but unwilling or unable to ordain as monks or nuns permanently.
Nepal as the Land of Buddhas
The Kingdom of Nepal, endowed with enchanted snowy peaks, lakes and caves, has been aptly described as the land of the Buddhas. The discovery of three Ashokan Pillars has revealed the native towns of three Buddhas, namely: Krakuchchand, Kanakamuni, and Shakyamuni at Gotihawa, Niglihawa, and Lumbini respectively in the South-West Terai regions of Nepal.
Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Shakyamuni Buddha is a sacred place for Buddhists from all over the world.A veteran Asian traveller writes, “as millions of Christians look to Jerusalem for inspiration, as millions of Muslims turn to Mecca, so do the millions of Buddhists see the sacred kingdom of Nepal.” Nepal is a holy land not only because it is the birthplace of the Buddha Shakyamuni, but also because it is the land where the self existing primordial one Swayambhu, was created. If we study Nepalese historical records, we can see that the Kathmandu valley was the center of Buddhist learning in the medieval period.
At that time Buddhism was in its height or apex of glory. This is corroborated by the inscription of NS. 350 (1230 AD) found in Guita Vihara of Patan written on the statue of Dipamkara Buddha. It runs as follows:- Vikhyata Lalitpuriti Nagari Diskhu Sarvasvapy Vidyabhyam (Trans: Lalitpur is famous in all directions for its academic life.)
Nepal as a treasure trove of Sanskrit Buddhist Manuscripts
In 1824. Mr. Brian Hodgson, a British diplomat in Nepal, discovered a great number of Sanskrit Buddhist manuscripts in Nepal. The existence of these before his time was unknown, and his discovery has entirely revolutionized the history of Buddhism as it was known to Europeans in the early part of this century. Copies of these works, totaling 381 bundles, have been distributed so as to render them accessible to European scholars. Prof. Jayadeva Singh writes in his “Introduction to Madhyamika Philosophy”.
Books on Mahayana Buddhism were completely lost in India. Their translation existed in Chinese, Japanese and Tibetan. Mahayana literature was written mostly in Sanskrit and mixed Sanskrit. Scholars who have made a study of Buddhism, hardly suspected that there were also books on Buddhism in Sanskrit.
In similar matter, Dr. Suniti Kumar Chatterji writes,
“One great service the people of Nepal did particularly the highly civilized Newars of the Nepal valley, was the preservation of all the manuscripts of Mahayana Buddhist literature in Sanskrit. it was the contribution of Sri Lanka to have preserved for humankind the entire mass of the Pali literature of Theravada Buddhism. This was also on to Burma, Cambodia and Siam. It was similarly the great achievement of people of Nepal to have preserved the equally valuable original Sanskrit texts of Mahayana buddhism.”
Two Bhikkhunis namely Ven.Bhikkhuni Chueh Men and Ven. Bhikkhuni Yi Hua from Fokuang Shan Monastery, Taiwan visited Nagarjuna Institute. Ven. Chueh Men, the Coordinator of Bodhgaya International Full Ordination Program informed about the program of Bhikkhuni ordination to be held at Bodhgaya on Feb.15-23,1998 .During their visit, they also met the students participating in Buddhist Studies Program of Nagarjuna Institute
Nagarjuna Institute organized a pilgrimage tour to Simla, Dharmasala,Mandi/Rewalsar and Karmapa Institute International in Delhi. In Oct.7, Long life ceremony committee arranged a guided tour to Dharamsala.The places included Department of Information, Tibetan Administration, Medical Institute, Nechung Monastery, Gyuto Tantric College, Norbulinka Institute and Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. After the day sight seeing, a cultural dance performance took place at the premise of the school building.
In Oct.9, the pilgrimage party departed for Mandi around 3 PM .and drove to Rewalsal Lake-famous site of Guru Padmasambhava’s miraculous activity. Rewalsar Lake is popularly known as Tsho-padma namely Lotus Lake. King of Zahor had a daughter called the Divine lady Mandarva.Declining proposals of marriage, she took refuge in the Buddhadharma with Guru Padmasambhava as preceptor. She began to stay with Master Padmasambhava and listened to his profound doctrines of Esoteric Buddhism.King Indrabhuti after seeing his daughter associated with Guru Padmasambhava was furious and then he confined her daughter in the palace. As for Padsambhava, the king issued an order to burn him alive. At this time, by the supernatural power of Guru Rinpoche, the fire turned into water to create a lake. In the center of the lake,Guru Rinpoche appeared seated on a lotus flower.This was the blessed lake Tso Pema (Rewalsar, Mandi District, H.P. India) which is even today a place of pilgrimage. After this miraculous phenomena,the king got faith in Guru Rinpoche and the kingdom of Zahor was converted to Buddhism. Next Day the group travelled back to New Delhi and visited Karmapa Institute near Qutab Minar.
A sixteen-member delegation of Nagarjuna Institute of Exact Methods participated in the Long Life Ceremony of His Holiness The Dalai Lama on 8th Oct.1997 at Dharmasala. HP, India.
The program began in Nepal a formation of committee called “His Holiness The Dalai Lama’s Long Life Puja Committee of Nepal,1997. Tib: Bal-yul brtan bshugs grwa sgrig tshogs chung”. The committee consisted of different religious and business groups of Nepal. They are as follows:
a. Nagarjuna Institute of Exact Methods-Patan
b. Snow Lion Foundation-Jawalakhel,Patan
c. Olanchukgola Social Welfare Committee
d. Tamang Gedung Sangha,Kathmandu
e. Chusang Monastery, Jorpaty, Kathmandu
The Preparatory committee managed to secure dozens of fine Buddha statues made in Okubahal Patan for the offering to H. H. the Dalai Lama. Besides, dozens of Swayambhu stupa replicas framed in glass cases were also offered together with huge carpets donated from Tibetan refugee groups in Kathmandu. About 400 participants from Nepal made an offering to H. H. Dalai Lama.
Before the offering ceremony took place, H. H. the Dalai Lama kindly granted an initiation of White Tara to all the distinguished monks and nuns as well as delegation of Nepal at the premise of Thegchen Choeling, Dharmasala. After the offering ceremony, Tibetan refugee group from Nepal performed a cultural dance in the august presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In the after noon about 13.00 hrs, H. H. Dalai Lama granted a special audience to Nepalese delegation and delivered an emotional speech for about two hours.
The topics of his paper was “Samsa and Samsara/Nirvana in Kafka’s Metamorphosis”. The purpose of his paper is to show how the Madhyamika offers an opportunity to re-examine Kafka’s Metamorphosis, a watershed work of 20th century Western literature, and by that reading to discover in Kafka a gleam of hope we missed before.
Dr. Sarah LeVine, another Harvard Scholar in Women’s Education Project visited Nagarjuna Institute for a series of discussion on the status of Nepalese Buddhist Nuns, their education and role in Nepalese Buddhist society.
During her multiple visits in Nagarjuna Institute, she asked many questions on the evolution of Nepalese Buddhist women and their influence in Buddhist spiritual domain.
She donated two excellent books namely (Bhadrakalpika Sutra) called Fortunate Aeon (4 volumes) published from Dharma Publishing, Berkeley, US and Nepal Mandala (Two volumes) by Mary Shepherd Slusser for NIEM Library. As a gesture of gratitude, we regard Dr. Sarah LeVine as a patron of Nagarjuna Institute.
On behalf of Nagarjuna Institute four members namely Mr. Tej Prasad Gauchan, Mr. Kanchan Chitrakar, Mr. Milan Shakya and Mr. Ram Krishna Sangat participated in Rangjung Yeshe Seminar led by Ven. Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. The topic of the seminar for this year was “Indisputable Truth”.
Nagarjuna Institute organized Nepal Buddha Sangha Offering Program on behalf of Taiwan Buddhist Association at the premise of Boudhnath Stupa. During the program, 10 Theravada monks, 10 Bhikshunis, 20 Tibetan monks and nuns from Swoyambhu area and 10 Vajracharyas headed by Pt. Badri Ratna Bajracharya were invited. To begin with, the Tibetan Lamas offered a prayer on the “Aspiration of Samantabhadra”.The Theravada monks and nuns of Nepal recited Mangala Sutra while the Buddhist Vajracharyas performed an elaborate “Sattva Puja” together with Carya Dance of Five Transcendental Buddhas. About 40 Taiwanese devotees including monks and nuns offered Asta Pariskar (Eightfold Objects) to the Nepalese Buddhist Sangha in front of the Great Boudhnath Stupa. The Taiwanese delegation had an opportunity to make an offering of the 1000 butter Lamps in front of the glorious Boudhnath Stupa.
CD-ROM version for the benefit of the public. Interested Donors and sponsors are requested to contact the director of the NIEM to speed up the project.
Nagarjuna Inc. conducted Buddhist Studies Program at the premise of its office at Chakupat, Patan. This time, it ran B Level Class as well for the students who had already attended ‘O’ Level Classes.
‘O’ Level : 1. Jewel Ornament of Liberation
Buddha Nature, Precious Human Body, Spiritual Friend, Impermanence, Vicious state of Samsara, Karma and rebirth, Triple refuge, Practice of Bodhicitta, Six Perfections.
2. History of Buddhism in India
Twelve principal deeds of Lord Buddha, The Four Councils, Life and works of Nagarjuna, Arya Deva, Asanga/Vasubandhu, Dingnaga/Dharmakirti
3. History of Four Buddhist Tradition of Tibet
Srong bstan Gampo, Thri Srong bde-tsan, Ralpacan, Langdarma, Buston, Kanjur and Tanjur, Padma Sambhava and Nyingmapa Tradition, Atisha and Kadampa Tradition, Sakya Pandita and Sakyapa Tradition, Kargyupa and Marpa, Tsong Khapa and Gelugpa.
‘A’ Level : 1. Life and Teachings of Atisa
2. Bodhipatha Pradeepa
3. Heart Sutra
Nagarjuna Institute initiated Buddhist Teachers’ Training Program in order to generate resource persons as teachers for Buddhist Awareness Camps to be conducted in Terai and Himalaya Regions. Venerable Thrangu Rinpoche, the spiritual Director of the Institute inaugurated the celebration. In the inaugural session, Ven. Jñanapurnika Mahâsthavira, Pandit Badri Ratna Bajracharya, Bhakti Das Shrestha and Ven. Sudarshan Mahâsthavira spoke on the occasion. The Program coordinator Mr. M. B. Shakya welcomed the guest by speaking on the importance of such a program. 16 day long training program was attended by 60 students both male and female. About ten Buddhist nuns and 4 monks also participated. Dr. Sarah LeVine, well known research scholar from Harvard University was also present in some of class sessions for informal evaluation of the Program. In this session, half of the students were graduates interested in Buddhist Studies whereas the rest were beginners. The schedules of the classes were as follows:
BUDDHIST TEACHERS TRAINING PROGRAMME
April 15-30, 1998
Venue: Satoaki Building, Kopundole
Time : 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM
|16/04/1998||Teaching Buddhism||Ven. Sudarshan|
|17/04/1998||Life of the Buddha||Ven. Sudarshan|
|18/04/1998||Life of the Bhddha||Ven. Sudarshan|
|20/04/1998||Four Noble Truths||Ven. Jnanapurnika|
|23/04/1998||Karma and Rebirth||Min Bahadur Shakya|
|25/04/1998||A Survey of
|Min Bahadur Shakya|
|Min Bahadur Shakya|
|27/04/1998||Bodhisattva Vows||Min Bahadur Shakya|
|28/04/1998||Vipassana in Daily
|29/04/1998||Six Perfections||Min Bahadur Shakya|
|30/04/1998||Six Perfection||Min Bahadur Shakya|
A fifteen member delegation of Taiwanese Buddhist Doctors led by Dr. Tommy Hsu from Kuanyin Compassion Buddhist Association, Taiwan at the invitation of Nagarjuna Institute of Exact Methods arrived here in Nepal on Monday. The purpose of delegation was to help Nepalese people with Chinese medical service and training free of cost. Thanks to the help of Hon. State Minister of Finance Mr. Deep Kumar Upadhyaya who turned no stones unturned in safe and easy custom clearance of medical stuffs and equipment upon arrival. The next day Dr.Tommy Hsu had an audience with Hon. minister Mr. Deep Kumar Upadhyaya.
The Chinese medical team began its work at the premise of Thrangu Tashi Choeling Boarding School at Tinchule at 8 o’ clock in the morning. About 150 patients were treated on the first day. In the final day, the students participating in training program volunteered the team in treating the patients in the form of practice teaching.
Dr.Tommy Hsu taught the Nepalese students about 50 in number , the Chinese traditional technique of massage, Guasha, Cupping and reflexology.
Dr. Sarbottama Shrestha, himself a Doctor trained in Neurology and Chinese medicine from Chinese University, interpreted and organized workshop for about 50 Nepalese students.
During the program 1560 patients were treated and medicines were distributed free of cost. We’d like to thank all the individuals who cooperated in this venture. We regard Dr. Tommy Hsu as the Patron of the Institute for his contribution to NIEM.
The theme of the conference will be “Buddhist Heritage of Nepal for a better life”.
The programme will include the Buddhist Books Exhibition, Newar artifacts, Cultural shows, Mandala demonstration, Traditional musical performances, Photo exhibition and Vedio shows. The request for papers on relevant issues has been sent to experts on Newar Buddhist scholars both home and abroad.
The languages of the conference will Nepal Bhasa, Nepali and English.
“Gift of Truth excels all other gifts”
This motto has been actualized by leading publisher of Buddhist books:The Corporate Body of Buddha Educational Foundation, Taipei, Taiwan. The Foundation has made a yeoman’s service by making available the important and valuable Buddhist books freely by reprinting them. So far the foundation has reprinted books in millions and distributed them free of cost in different countries.
Apart from Buddhist books in English, it has also published the books in other Asian languages such as Chinese, Newari, Hindi, Marathi ,Bengali and other Indian languages too. May the merits and virtues accrued from these publications relieve the sufferings of sentient beings of six realms. May those who see and hear of these teachings of Buddha all bring forth the wisdom and compassion of all the Buddhas and finally attain Perfect Enlightenment of The Buddha.
To guard against misbehavior and to terminate evil karma, the precepts are fundamental groundwork; to transform a mortal being into a sage, the precepts are the vessel. That is why the Avatamsaka (Flower Ornament) Sutra states, “Precepts are the foundation of the unsurpassed Bodhi. One should uphold these virtuous Precepts completely. If one endeavors to uphold these virtuous Precepts, that is what the Tathagata praises.”
To expand the number of descendants of the Buddha and to maintain the lineage of the Buddha’s wisdom, the Buddhist Association of Guangdong, China, while respectfully following the systems established by the Buddha, has properly arranged and cleansed Dharma Platforms in Guang Xiao Monastery and Wu Zhuo Nunnery on November 21, 1997, invited with reverence the presence of the Ten Masters, and conferred the Grand Ordination of the Precepts in Three Platforms. 460 Nuns & Monks from different countries gathered together at Guang Xiao Monastery and Wu Zhu Nunnery in Guangzhou (Canton), People Republic of China to receive full precepts. Among them five Nepalese nuns who have attained Full Precepts of Bhikshuni are as follows:
- Bhikshuni Nyanavati
- Bhikshuni Anoja
- Bhikshuni Kusum
- Bhikshuni Sujata
- Bhikshuni Viryavati
All of them were certified to have been a fully ordained Bhikshuni together with following injunctions:
“Now that the above named Bhikshunis have become fully ordained disciples of the Buddha, they should practice the Teachings of the Buddha, guard and uphold the virtuous Precepts, and learn and practice assiduously. They should also continue to impart the spirit of loving their country and revering their religion, and inherent the meritorious tradition of Buddhism .As an envoy to the Tathagata, they should glorify the dharma approaches, adorn domains of the Buddhas, benefit and deliver happiness to all sentient beings, attain the fruit of Bodhi, and ascend to the castle of Nirvana.”
Sakyadhita: The daughter of the Buddha Meet:
The first international gathering of Buddhist women took place in Bodhgaya, in 1987. Following that historical gathering, Sakyadhita: International Association of Buddhist Women was founded to promote the well being of Buddhist women around the world. Conferences in Bangkok in 1991,Colombo in 1993, and Ladakh in 1995 continued to explore women’s role and future in the Buddhist traditions. Through these meetings, women have gathered strength and inspiration, growing spiritually as individuals, building communities and working actively in the world.
The Conference is coordinated by Hema Goonatilake in Cambodia, Norman Fain Pratt in Los Angeles, and Karma Lekshe Tsomo in Honolulu. The programs include morning meditations, workshops, discussions, cultural presentations, chanting from different Buddhist traditions and friendly chats. Two Nepalese Bhikkhunis namely Ven. Dhammavati and Ven. Pannyavati participated in the conference as representatives from Nepal.
“Living Buddhism in a Stressful World”
Singapore, November 23 to 29, 1998
Sakyadhita Singapore announces the first Southeast Asia Regional Conference on Buddhist Women to be held in Singapore from Nov. 23 to 29, 1998. The theme of the conference will be “Living Buddhism in a Stressful World.” Registration will be held at the Sea View Hotel upon arrival. The opening ceremony will be held at Bright Hill, Singapore’s largest Buddhist temple. Conference sessions will be held on board ship, sailing from Singapore to Langkawi. The Conference concludes on board ship, followed by a tour of the city on November 1998.
After a long gap of over eight centuries, the Buddha’s light International Association (BLIA) organized the historic ordination ceremony at Bodhgaya.Over140 women representing diverse traditions and schools of Buddhism from 25 countries of the world, who arrived there were being ordained in the presence of BLIA founder Ven. Master Hsing Yun of Taiwan.
The ceremony which took place on Feb.15, assumes significance because it was a joint effort by Buddhist leaders to re-establish the order of nuns in Sri-Lanka, Thailand, Tibet and India, where no women have been ordained as nuns for over eight centuries.
For nine days,140 novice monastics from 25 countries, including India, Sri-lanka, Thailand, Taiwan, Korea, Congo, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Belgium, Canada and United States, the participating nuns practiced here all the Vinaya rules to get full ordination. In order to provide instruction to the polyglot assembly, the texts of Vinaya (Dharmagupta lineage) have been provided in five languages including Chinese, English, French, Nepali and Sinhalese. The ordination ceremony, organized by Master Hsing Yun and his Taiwan passed Fo Kuang Shan Buddhist order, has also marshaled the cooperative efforts and support of Buddhist leaders, including the Dalai Lama, Mahaghosananda Mahathera, Thich Nhat Han, Ven. Vipulasara Mahathera and P. Somalankara Thera of Sri Lanka.
The ordination ceremony is monitored and guided by Buddhist monks from different parts of the globe. Besides, 15 Buddhist nuns who have received their ordination in Taiwan. The idea of bringing together Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis from a diverse range of Buddhist tradition to solve the ordination problem gradually, took shape during a series of annual international monastic seminars. At the conclusion of the Fourth such seminar in May 1997,the participants urged Master Hsing Yun to organize an ordination ceremony to introduce Bhikkhuni lineage. Subsequently during the visit of the Dalai Lama to Taiwan, His Holiness endorsed the plan.