Course Details


Nepal has high profile in world Buddhism. It is not only being the native country of Buddha but also is the region where Buddhism has been strong throughout the history since its inception. Buddhism is still playing a significant role in the everyday life of Nepalese people. Nepalese are proud to be citizens of the Buddha's native country. Buddha's teachings have deep effect in Nepalese history, culture and politics. Existence of Buddhism is seen throughout the country.

Buddhism in Nepal is interesting for many people. But only a little information on the matter is available. Even the scholars have only a vague and a partial idea. An integrated and a whole review on the matter is yet to be conducted. As my knowledge this is the first work that attempted to present a comprehensive study on Buddhism in Nepal


The Limitations of the Study

This thesis was prepared under different confinements such  as time, expenditure and limited sources that available on the subject. The Buddhism existed in Nepal is envisaged of three main groups. They are

  1. Newar Buddhism
  2. Tibetan Buddhism and
  3. Theravada Buddhism

A sketch on history of Buddhism shared by all groups is essential to understand their background. The most authentic evidences, the inscriptions though available scanty, are mentioned. Various factors such as population, history, inhabits, social features, religious centers, festivals, modifications and others that related to Buddhism in Nepal are very interesting. Buddhist religiosity in particular groups of the country is subject to understand in modern prospect. A short description on Buddhism that pervaded into the remote areas of the counter is based on secondary sources. An effort to recognize geography, weather, language, liturgy, literature, religious and political history and other factors is carried out.  It contains a detail description on the Theravada Buddhism, which is receiving popularity since last 7 decades.


Objectives of the Study

This thesis is prepared aiming the following targets

  1. To make it clear  that Buddhism is a historical  religion  in Nepal.
  2. To give knowledge of the main historical events concerning major sects of Buddhism in Nepal.
  3. To review the effect of political and social changes towards the Buddhism in the country.
  4. To study the present Buddhist situation against the background of history.
  5. To make known the present religious activities in the country.
  6. To give an overview of Buddhism in present-day  Nepal.


Method of the Study

  • Presenting  the essence  by studying  the basic evidence on  the subject.
  • Rewriting or quoting thc historical events in series found from different accounts.
  • Giving the selected facts after  discussions  with  numerous  experts  on the subject.
  • Composing  the review  on  the activities.
  • Surmising  some facts  based  on authentic documents.


Related Literature & Study

Numerous contributions of different  scholars  have  helped  to prepare this  thesis  Buddhism  in  Nepal  .  Their  works  which  I  mainly used in this  study  are  mentioned.  1.“Spurious  Asokan  Records”  by  Harry Falk  and  2.Ashoka’s  Edicts  by  Amulyachandra  Sena,  3.Sanchi Stupa by Sir John Marshall and Alfred Foucher are the most  notable reference in  preparing  Buddhists  in  Asokan  Period.  4.Licchavikalaka Abhilekha (Inscriptions of Licchavi Period) by Dhanavajra  Vajracarya  was the major source  for  History  of  Licchavi  Period.  5.“On  the Antiquity of Nepalese Metlcraft”  by  Marry  Shephered  Slusser  also gives  some  interesting    information   on  Buddhism  in  Licchavi  period. For mediaeval history an essay by Dhanavajra  Vajracarya published in 6.’Karnali Ancalako Eka Bito Adhyayana' helped sufficiently. The topic Newar Buddhism is  mainly  based  on  7.Buddhist  Monasteries  of  Nepal by  John   K.  Lock.  Information   of  Litarature   of   Newar   Buddhism  is taken from  the work of  Brain H. Hodgson 8.Essays on the languages, Literature, and Religion of Nepal and Tibet. 9. A couples of contributions by Todd T. Luwish on Newar and Tibetan Buddhism;.”Newar-Tibetan Trade and the Domestication of Simhalasarthabahu Avadana”, and “Newars and Tibetans in the Kathmandu Valley: Ethnic Boundaries and Religious History”,  10.Monuments of Northern Nepal by Corneille Jest; 11. The Renaissance of Tibetan Civilization by Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf and 12. A Short History of Buddhism in Nepal. 13. A research work by Nvan Vosher lama, 1985, sponsored by Center for Nepal and Asian Studies (CNAS) gives government census of Gonpas in the country and enhances understanding on Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism in Nepal. For correction misunderstandings on Lamaism, red and yellow caps sects, work of Stephen Batchelor 14.The Tibet Guide  (1987)  was  my  guide.  In the same way I depended on 15.Buddhism and  Lamaism  of  Tibet  by Austin  Waddell  reprinted  in  1955  for  understanding  the  different schools  of  Tibetan Buddhism.

A few of writings on Theravada Buddhism in Nepal are noted. Presence of Theravada monks and nuns in Nepal is noted by  the foreigners.  Theravada Bhikkhus in 1980 had been well received by the Newar community but they also had not broken with their Vajrayana tradition.   Devid N. Gellner sees that Theravada has become a major challenge   to   traditional    Newar    Buddhism    as   it   has   replaced the Vajracarya  priests  by  performing  ceremonies  for   a   considerable number of lay-followers.  There are three pieces of work relating to Theravada Buddhism  in  Nepal  which  are  quite  important  to  understand the past events and situations. A considerably detailed  account  of Theravada Buddhism in Nepal was produced by Ria Kloppenborg after having made several visits to Nepal in 1973.  It  gives  an  outline of the main historical  events  in  the  development  of  the  movement  especially the efforts of the Buddhist organizations. It  gives  a  description  of  the history and the  contemporary  status  of  the  matter  along  with  some aspects and their consequence to Theravada Buddhism in Nepal. ,  In Tewari's  study  we  find  information  concerning  the   background   of monks and nuns from  the  various  Newar castes  together  with percentages based on observations from the year 1978 to 1982. In Heinz Bechert Jens-Uwe Hartsmann, give Observations on  the  Reform  of Buddhism  in  Nepal  depicting  the   introduction   and   historical development along with the structure of  contemporary  activities  of Theravada  Buddhism  in  Nepal.  (1986).

There are also some Nepalese who have written about Theravada activities in Nepal. Among them Venerable Amritananda who was the first to have written a small booklet A Short HistoryofTheravada Buddhism in Nepal. His work covers the main Theravada events and activities  in his lifetime.

Sahisainika Itihasa  by  Somadhoja  Vista,  Gopala Rajavamsavali by Dhanavajra  Vajracarya  and  Kamala  P. Malla, Modern Nepal  ,Vol. 1, by D. R. Regmi,  Nationalities  Question in Nepal  by Sitaram Tamang are the sources used to comprehend the secular history of the country. There are many other works which are helpful to enhance the understanding the matter. A complete list of these works is given in bibliography.


Benefits of the Study

  1. Understanding the important  religious activities and their results.
  2. Comprehending human faith toward religion and its impacts on the society.
  3. Knowing the historical importance of the different Buddhist sites  in the  country.
  4. Presenting  a statement about  the significance of Buddhism  in Nepal.
  5. Learning  lessons  from  the  past  history for the future.


The History Nepal in brief

Nepal embraces much of the great Himalayan ridge and a substantial band of territory to the north of it and also the mid mountain region including a strip of the Gangetic  plain in the south. It is bordered by India on the west, south and east, and by Tibet, now an Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China, in the north. Its area is 1,47,151 square km. (54,718 square miles). It lies in South Asia between the East meridians of 80-4' and 88-12' and the North parallels of 26-22' and 30-27'. Ecologically, Nepal is divided into three regions called the Mountain region, Hill region and the Terai region.

The census of 1991 counted the population  distribution  by  religion of over 18.5 million total population 86.5 % Hindu, 7.8% Buddhist, 3.5% Islam and the rest were others. For  the  year  2000  population  of  Nepal was estimated  to be 22.9  millions.

Nepal has British style parliamentary democracy and His Majesty King Jnanendra is ruling  the country. It has legacy of complicated trends of  history. In our study  the historical  sequence is shown as follows:

700 B.C. 300 B.C. Buddha's time and after that
301 B.C-300 C. A. Asokan period and after that.
301-AD.-1000 C.A. Licchavi Period
1001 C.A.-1700 C.A. Medieval Period
1701 - Modern Period to present time.

We shall make a survey of Buddhist existence in the each period,


The Buddha's TIme

The History of Buddhism in Nepal begins from birth of  the Buddha. Shortly after his Enlightenment, the Buddha started teaching people  and  established  a   monk's   community   in   Gangetic   plain, (Mahavagga, Vinayapitaka) at present, the nothern India and Southern Nepal. Later he founded the places where he himself and his follower monks lived. In the course of time several hundreds of thousands of monks joined the community of the Sangha. Later the nun or Bhikkhuni’s community was also formed. The monk's and nun's role and primary business was to practice the Buddha's teachings and propagate them among the people by different means. Monasteries also increased accordingly and played a significant role in propagation of the Dhamma. Apart from being places of accommodation for monks and nuns the monasteries were also functioned as  gathering  points for the lay  people on various occasions. The numbers of lay followers of Buddha were many times greater than the monks and nuns. The Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha and other all apparatuses commonly discussed in heading of Buddhism.

As we all well know the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama),  the founder of Buddhism, was born at Lumbini in present-day Nepalese territory, and very early on in its history, then, important Buddhist events occurred at the southern plain of Nepal. There are many references in the Pali literature of Buddhist activities held in and around Kapilavatthu, the Buddha’s  home town.

Pali sources records some famous Buddhist  monks and  nuns from Kapilavatthu in the Buddha's time. Among them five ascetics led by Venerable Kondanna listened to the Buddha’s  the  first  sermon. Venerable Ananda, Devadatta, Bhaggu, Anuruddha, Kimbila and Upali were also among the famous monks of this time who hailed from the Buddha’s native city. The first novice Rahula Buddha's half brother Venerable Nanda, a personality chosen by scholars for their  literary works, Buddha’s step mother Mahapajapati, the first nun,and  the Buddha’s ex-wife Yasodhara, also were came from this place as well.

The  Buddha  gave  many  of  his  important  discourses   in  Kapilavatthu,     e.g.,     Buddhavamsa,   Attadandasutta, Culadukkhakhandhsutta, Sekhasutta Dakhinavibhangasutta, etc. Several   Jataka tales  were  also  told  there,   namely   Vessantara,   Mahadhammapala, Candakinnari Phandana, Daddabha, Latukika, Rukkhadhamma, and Vattaka. It was in the second year of his enlightenment that the Buddha first returned to Kapilavatthu.

There were some monasteries at kapilavatthu such as Niggodharama and other monasteries. Kala-Khemaka and Ghataya Sakyas, the famous lay followers of the Buddha, built cells for the monks in the Niggodharama. The monasteries functioned as centers for propagation of the Dhamma and as gathering places as well for the Buddhist lay community. These monasteries contained various sorts of utility areas such as private rooms, meeting halls, bathrooms, waiting room, ponds, walking meditation paths, avenues and public rest houses which were suitable places to practice the doctrine. Due to the lack of epigraphic proof, we must depend on legendary accounts in order to reconstruct and understand the history of the Buddha’s time. The epigraphic evidence dates back only as far as the Asokan period that is to say 3rd century B.C.


The Emperor Asoka's Period

In the Buddhist history of Nepal too, the Asokan period is very important. Emperor Asoka was the first person to inscribe and erect stone pillars which are important to the history of Buddhism. Three Asokan pillars were found (four pieces) in present-day Nepalese territory. Among them, two have inscriptions. The pillar inscription in Lumbini reads as follows:

"Because Buddha, the sakya sage, was born here, the Beloved  of  the  gods,  King  Priyadarsin,  (when)  crowned twenty years,  himself  came  and   worshipped  (here),  (and)  a  stone  made railing was caused to be built (here by him), and a stone-pillar was erected.
Because the Blessed One was born here, the Lumbini   village is made tree of taxes, and paying an eighth share (of  the product)”.

The inscription  of Lumbini  was admired by pilgrims and copied  as momentous and kept sakes for a long period. Hany  Flak  discusses  two such kinds of spurious Asokan records. The other Asokan pillar with an inscription was found near Niglisagara,  Kapilavastu   District   of   Nepal.   It   gives   evidence   of   a Buddhist belief that there are predecessor Buddhas. The inscription reads as follows:

“The Beloved of the  gods,  King  Priyadarsin,  (when) crowned fourteen years, enlarged the Stupa of  Buddha Kanakamuni (Konagamana)  to double  (its  former size),  and  (when) crowned   (twenty)   years,  himself   came  (here),  worshipped,  (and a stone-pillar) was erected.”

Sir John Marshall and Alfred Foucher have discovered substantial evidence on Emperor Asoka’s Cultural Messengers.  The gist of which is as follows: A few casket inscriptions are found on stupa II at Sanchi (Sonari Stupa). It relates names of the Sapurisa or saint Kasapagota, Majhima, Haritiputa, Mahavanaya, Apagira, Kodiniputa (Kosikiputa), Kosikiputa, Gotiputa, Mogaliputa and Vachiya-Suvijayita  Of these the first and the last names were appeared in the inscription found on the stone box in  which  those caskets  were contained. The first three names are inscribed in a single casket. The Vachiya-Suvijayita appears on the second; the Kodiniputa, Mahavanaya and Apagira appear on the third. The remaining names are appear on the fourth.

The   saints(Sapurisa)   Kasapagota, Majhima Kosikiputa and Gotiputa appear on the Sonari caskets while those of Gotiputa, Haritiputa and Mogaliputa occurred on the three other caskets from Andher.

The Dudubhisara is identified with Dundubhisara mentioned in the Dipavamsa (VIII   10)   as one  of  the  five  cultural  messengers  sent  by the Venerable Tissa to the Himalayan country after the conclusion of the Third Council in the reign of  Asoka.  The four other cultural  messengers were Mulakadeva, Sahadeva, Kassapagotta and Majhinma. The Kasapagota  is  referred   to  in  these  caskets  as  SAVA-HEMAVATA - ACARIYA which translates as the teacher  of  all  the  Himavanta (Himalayan) region or, of all the people of Himavata. This confirms the legendary Ceylonese accounts (Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa) of dispatching cultural messengers to the Himalayas.

Hemavata was also the name of a branch of the Theravada school. The expression SAVA-HEMAVATA-ACARIY thus may yield another  meaning   that  being,   the  teacher  of  the  whole  Himavata school. It  probably indicates that this sect arose in theHimavata region under  the inspiration of the five teachers of  Himavata.

Modern Nepal was known as  the Mighty  Himalayan  region  from the ancient time. The area which we call Nepal today at that time was called Himavata Padesa or Himavatakhanda. There is clear evidence showing that the cultural messengers of Emperor Asoka also came to Himalayas, including the Nepal Valley.

The Nepalese chronicles claim that not only Emperor Asoka's cultural messengers but the king himself  came  with  his daughter Carumati, together retinues to the Kathmandu Valley. Princess Carumati married the prince of the Nepal Valley and in her old age became a Bhikkhuni  (Buddhist  nun)  staying  at Carumati Vihara.

The Sanchi casket inscriptions are sufficient epigraphic evidence to support the Nepalese and Ceylonese chronicles concerning the Himavata Region which includes the Kathmandu valley. This shows the possibility that Emperor Ashokas cultural messengers to Kathmandu were Emperor Asoka's very own kinsmen. Another possibility is that the cultural messengers may have been inhabitants of Sanchi itself. Detailed records may not have yet been found or were simply never kept. All the same, we can not turn blind eyes from the evidence of the Emperor Asoka’s religious messengers to Nepal.


Licchavi Period

We have little evidence to link the Buddhist history from the Asokan period to the Licchavi period of Nepal covering period of about six hundred years. But whatever little evidence we have on Kathmandu valley concerning its earliest period, it contains clear references of Buddhist religion.

Prior to the appearance of epigraphic evidence, only pieces of legendary and chronicle evidence are available. These make it easier to understand the events revealed lay later period inscriptions. According to early Buddhist school of the Mulasarvastivada Vinayasamgraha, Venerable Ananda, the Buddha’s personal attendant, had visited the Kathmandu Valley to meet his relatives there, who fled after Vidudabha’s invasion. In the early centuries of the C.E. the disciplinary rules applicable to the monks in the Mulasarvastivada school in the Kathmandu Valley revealed certain special concessions in view of the rigid climatic conditions of that region. This would be indication of the wide practice of Buddhism in the country.

In all, about 200 inscriptions concerning the Licchavi period have been found in the Kathmandu Valley. Of these about 10 percent are connected with Buddhism. I assumed for epigraphic denotations of Mr Dhanavajara Vajiracarya, shown in his research work 'Licchavikalaka Abhilekha’,the history of Licchavi Period.

The epigraphic evidence (No 1) which is considered to be the oldest one found in the valley is inscribed in the Carumati Vihara (Cabahil). A women had built a huge stupa carved with events from the Kinnari Jataka by great effort, and donated two pieces of land for income, one of them to be used for looking after the stupa and the another or supporting the Bhikkhusangha of the monastery. Dhanavajra Vajiracarya conjectures that this inscription must be from the period of King Vrsadeva.

During King Vrsadeva's reign (4rth Century C.E.) some Buddhist activities are mentioned. In the inscription at Cangunarayana (472 CE) (No 2) created by his great grandson King Manadeva, King Vrsadeva was described as a peace lover and an excellent king. In the inscription of Jayadeva II found at Pasupati (Circa 754 CE) (No 148), Vrsadeva was said to be especially devoted to the teaching of the Sugata (Buddha). It is calculated that the King Vrsadeva was of the 37th generation of the Licchavi dynasty and the third of which the inscription mentions names. Such evidence helps to confirm the claims which attribute Gopala Rahavamssavali to him for the construction the Svayambhu Caitya and Bhasavamsavali for the Stupa at Cabahila.

The most notable shrines known since Licchavi period to the present time are Svayambhu and Bauddha stupas. The exact date of the establishment of these Caityas is yet to be confirmed by any epigraphic evidence. A fragmentary inscription found at Svayambhu only confirms that King Manadeva (5th century) had donated a piece of land for the use of a monastery. namely the Srimana Vihara, located in Patan. The inscription also shows that King Manadeva recalled his ancestors from the King Vrsadeva, his great grandfather. In the later 7th century reign of King Amsuvarma a devotee also donated a piece of land for the worship of the Svayambhu Caitya and erected an inscription there. This evidence illustrates that the Svayambhu Caitya and its vicinity had earned fame as a Buddhist centre, and a place considered to be auspicious for displaying information of their deeds since the early days of that historical (5th century) period.

Buddhist monasteries were at the top of the list for royal tributes during the reign of King Amsuvarma, One of the most prominent King of the Licchavi period. An inscription from this time found in Hadigaum (No 77) shows that five Buddhist monasteries - one in the Sankhu, Kathmandu district and four at Patan or Lalitapur district, were out of seven religious centres, which received 6 Purana and 2 Pana, the highest amount to be granted. Sinagu Vihara or Svayambhu, Srisivadeva Vihara of Bauddhanatha (?) and Carumati Vihara are not found listed here, probably because these monasteries had other sources of income and were assumed need no support at the time. We can guess that the ordinary monasteries were many, perhaps more than ten in number, as names or numbers were not given, which got royal tributes of 3 Purana and 1 Pana, on the same inscription while non - Buddhist centers of this category were named and the number was ten.

Another inscription by King Amsuvarma at Gokarna, although found in fragment, also clearly indicates that he had constituted the donation of a piece of land for some annual supply to the Svayambhu Caitya. Moreover, an inscription found at Pharping (No 88) informs us that the King had a waterspout constructed at a monastery in Pharpinga. This inscription appears to be the work of a Buddhist monk, who expressed fully the Buddhist point of view. It mentions the king as being a Bodhisattva who has given away his own limbs for the welfare of human beings. It further reveals that by the virtuous deeds of the King the monks were satisfied, saying that the king had released the world tormented by the kings of an evil age.

Perhaps it was an indication of what monks had to face the harassments as the result of indulgence in Vaidic principles practiced by the previous rulers of the Abhira and Gupta dynasties. The latter had an inscription (No 35) at Hadigaum scolding Buddhists for being atheist, wicked inferior, stupid (foolish), etc.

In the reign of King Amsuvarma the public was also devoted to donating and supplying materials to the Buddhist Sangha. An inscription (No. 90) found at Pharping informs us that a devotee whose own name is not preserved but the mother's name was Jayavatika, had donated a piece of land to Supply umbrellas, flowers, red colour for the use of colouring Buddha images, and music to the Buddha image (Sasita=Sasta). Another inscription found at Capatola (No 95), Lalitapura, is also thought to be from the period of King Amsuvarma, reports that Paramopasika ( a great female devotee) the chief consort of Dharmapala, Mrgani, had donated two pieces of land to maintain the Gandhakuti (Chapel of the Buddha), the remaining portion of which was to be used for feeding the Arya Bhiksuni Sanga. An inscription of Kathmandu, Bandahiti (No 97), also reveals the donation of a piece of land, the income from which was directed to be used for the worship of Avalokitesvara and any remaining income for the purpose of feeding the noble community (Buddhist monks). A fragmentary inscription found at Mangalabajara, Lalitpura (NO 99), also tells of such an offering. One devotee established a Buddha image (No 156), and another the image of Avalokitesvara (No 172). A devotional hymm to Aksobhya, Vimalakirti, and Samantabhadra, Munisvara, Sakyamuni, Manjusri, Amitabha, etc., is inscribed at Tyagalatola of Lalitapur (No 98).

Some Buddhist monks also had donated materials. According to an inscription found at Tebahal (No120), Kathmandu, Venerable Sakyabhiksu Priyapala constructed a waterspout and had a well dug. Venerable Sakyabhiksu Bandhubhadra also made a donation (No 121). A Bhiksuni also had a water spout constructed (No 181).

After the demise of King Amsuvarma, who clearly favoured Buddhists, the reign of King Narendradeva of the Licchavi dynasty (circa 679 AD) continued to support the activities of Buddhism. The King himself donated two large estates. All kinds of taxes and fines obtained from the land and its inhabitants were to be offered to the Aryasangha of Srisivadeva Vihara, situated around the Khasati Caitya or Bauddhanatha (No 133& 134). This monastery was apparently built by King Sivadeva in the last days of his life. It is widely assumed that the King Sivadeva entered the monkhood after handed over his rulership to his nephew Amsuvarma. King Sivadeva’s grandson King Narendradeva, favored to the Srisivadeva Vihara simply because of his close relationship with the monastery built by his grandfather. The inscriptions further reveal that monks from all directions came and stayed here. A fragmentary inscription at Sankhu (No. 136) shows that King Narendradeva’s government officer Sridharmarajikamahamatya also made a donation to the monk’s of the Mahasanghika order.

King Sivadeva II succeeded to the throne after the death of his father King Narendradeva. He was also supportive of Buddhism. He established a Vajrayana deity at Gorkha. He also donated a piece of land for performing the annual services to the deity (Bhairava).The fragmentary inscription at Gorkha shows that he also managed to bring water for the purpose of daily worship here (No 141).

Mary Shepherd Slusser cites two inscribed images of Sakyamuni Buddha- one 19.3/4 inches and the other 18 inches high. The first has been given the name “The Heller Buddha”. It was consecrated by the devout monk Dhyanadeva and is thought to be of 7th century. The second one is named “the Cleveland Museum Buddha Image”, which is inscribed as follows: “This (image) is the pious gift of the Sakya nun Parisudhamati who lives in Yamgala convent in Lalitagrama. Whatever merit there may be in this (deed), may it lead to the attainment of supreme enlightenment of all sentient beings. Samvata 513 (591 AD). A feast should be provided (from the proceeds of) pindaka at the locality east of Caityakuta Jinabandhu monastery.”

The Licchavi period covers roughly one thousand years up to the end of the first millennia of CE.. The inscriptions mentioned above reveal a few facts about Buddhism in the Licchavi period in Nepal.

There were numerous Buddhist monks staying in monasteries in the Licchavi period. They were exempted from all kinds of taxes. Sometimes even the kings entered the Sangha as exemplifiedby king Sivadeva I. The composer of Jayadeva's inscription, Buddhakirti, is thought to be a high scholar monk. He also appears to have maintained close relations with the palace, as is inscribed therein that he was persuaded to compose the inscription to express his affection to King Jayadeva.

One inscription (No 136) reveals that the Mahasanghika Bhiksusangha school existed at a monastery near the village of Sankhu. Buddhist terms such as Bhiksu, Aryabhiksu, Bhiksusangha or Aryabhiksusangha are frequently mentioned in inscriptions. In the same way a Bhiksuni Sangha also existed there (Nos. 95, 135, 181). We have already discussed that the Sangha was well provided for by revenues from lands and donations given by all kinds of people. Even the clergies donated in some cases. Such evidence reflects the improved situation of Buddhist monasteries, monks and nuns.

In reviewing the inscriptions we are informed that there were a number of Buddhist monasteries during this time. A pair of inscriptions by Narendradeva (No 133 & 134) mention the following Viharas: 1. Sriraja Vihara, 2. Vartakalyanagupta Vihara, 3. Madhyama Vihara, 4. Kharjurika Vihara, 5. Srimana Vihara, 6. Caturbhalatanasana Vihara, 7. Srisivadeva Vihara, 8. Abhayaruci Vihara,

Some monasteries even got state tributes. Inscription number 77 records five such monasteries. 1. Gim Vihara, 2. Srimana Vihara, 3. Sriraja Vihara, 4. Kharjurika Vihara, 5. Madhyama Vihara. Inscription Number 122 also mentions a monastery Vartasujataprabha Vihara in Patana in the Yampi Bahi area built by a high ranking government officer Mahapratihara in his own name. Inscription Number 149 found at Naksala records a few more monasteries, but only Jivavarmma Vihara is clearly readable. The other monasteries’s name are unfortunately not been preserved. Caityakuta Jinabandhu Monastery was inhabited by Sakya nun Parisudhamati. Among these mentioned, Sinagu Vihara (Svayambhu), Carumati Vihara (Caybahil) and Gum Vihara (Sankhu) seem to be the oldest monasteries in the Kathmandu Valley.

In the Nepal Valley most kings were supporters of Buddhism even though they patronized other creeds. Various Lokesvaras and the Five Tathagatas (Divine Buddhas) (Nos. 40, 43 & 98) and Sakyamuni Buddha especially were revered. Many of the famous stupas of Kathmandu also are products of this age (Nos. 1, 18 and 40).

Inscriptions found at Bungmati (No 168) and at Mangalabajara by King Amsuvarma exhibit the Dharmacakra symbol togetherwith a pair of deers above the inscriptions. The Licchavi plaque at Konti Bahi also displays a Dharmacakra. This reveals that the people that time were aware of Dhammacakkasutta, considered the core teaching of the Buddha. The illustration of the Kinnari Jataka (No 1) also reveals the great impact which the Pali jataka stories had on the society. it is conjectured that Buddhist education was in heighten and Buddhist learning places were well organised as we have seen the Monk Buddhakirti, composer of the inscription consisting of 34 prose (No 148)

A Buddhist philosophical stanza is found many times in different places, not only in the Kathmandu Valley, but also up in the far West of Nepal. That is “Ye Dharma hetuprabhavahetutesam tathagata hyavadat Tesam ca yo nirodho evamvadi mahasamano (Nos165, 166, and 189).

There is no doubt that there were celibate monks just like Theravada monks of present day. After performing meritorious works devotees prayed that all sentient beings may obtain Buddha hood. They also offered their merit to deceased relatives and all sentient beings. This period was also the beginning age of Vajrayana Buddhism in Nepal.

In the Licchavi period we see that every form of Buddhism that is, Theravada,Mahayana andVajrayana were equally active in Nepal. Buddhism was nor any less active than any other religious tradition.

To conclude this chapter let me quote an observation written by the famous Chinese pilgrim Hsuan-tsang (600 CE) on religious situation of the Kathmandu Valley.

"...The Buddhist monasteries and the Hindu temples touch one another. There are some two thousand monks who follow both the Mahayana and Hinayana. ...The present king Amsuvarma has a sincere faith in the Buddhist religion."


Medieval Period

Inscriptions on stone, metal and paper dating from the 10th century and becoming more frequent during the following centuries, also describe viharas and Buddhist activities. Among the earliest references to surviving viharas is an index compiled by the Tibetan monk Dharmasvamin lived in Nepal between 1226 and 1234 A.D.Publication of existing epigraphic evidence on the medieval history of Central Nepal is not yet completed. Still, it is the medieval period of which has had the greatest impact on the formation of the Newar Buddhism. Therefor about central Nepal I intend to discuss more things under heading of Newar Buddhism. Here we discuss mainly on Buddhism in western Nepal.

After the 10th century C.E. political history events become obscured in the Kathmandu Valley for a few centuries.During the same period we see a strong political state emerging in the far western part of Nepal. Concerning Buddhism, however, it flourished for a few centuries due to the patronage of the kings of the Nagaraja dynasty and their subjects. An historical sketch of Buddhism in western Nepal or this period based on inscriptions follows.

An inscription found at Dullu is very important. It was erected by Prthvi malla belonging to Nagaraja dynasty in 1357 CE. It shows that the kingdom was established for 11generations back by Nagaraja. Therefore it was probably around beginning of the 12th century.

King Kracalla, the sixth generation of the Naga dynasty composed a long inscription found at Balasvara, Kumaum, India. He described himself as a Paramasaugata or “the greatest devotee of the Buddha.” He also portrays himself as a Danasilaparayana or endowed with acts of offering and good virtues. Such terms reveal that he was exclusively Buddhist. Yet he also held respect with other religions and offered donations and constructed temples.

A Balasvara inscription of Prthvimalla describes king Asokacalla, the son of Kracalla, as spreading mercy far and wide. There are a few inscriptions attributed to him but doubt their authenticity. We shall there fore discuss only those inscriptions which are agreed upon by all. An inscription by Asokacalla found Buddhagaya, India states:

“This offering is done by a follower of the good Mahayana school, a great devotee (Upasaka), endowed with all virtues, the great King Sriasokacalladeva. This vihara was constructed by the King as a result of the scholar from Kasmira, Venerable Gucapathi, also the Rajaguru Pandita Musala, and officers Sankaradeva and Trailokyabrahma, advising the king whereby the king commissioned Bhatta Damodara, Bhatta Paduma and officer Raghava Mahipukala to do the work."

The King's brother also had inscriptions executed at Buddhagaya. This attests to the King being exclusively Buddhist and the ruler of “125 thousand mountains” of Khasa Desa. The younger brother, prince Sahanapala, who was responsible for the King's treasury, was endowed with good virtue and is a follower of the Bodhisattva ideal, and made the donation Buddhagaya. The honorific titles given to King Asokacalla ( 1275 CE) in both inscriptions reveals that he was a follower of Mahayana Vajrayana Buddhism.

According to the Dullu pillar inscription of Prthvimalla, Asokacalla had a son named Jitarimal1a. According to the chronicles King Jitarimalla came to the Kathmandu Valley at least three times and offered donationsto important Buddhist sanctuariessuch as Svayambhu Caitya in Kathmandu and the Bungamati temple of Lokesvara in Patan.

King Ripumalla travelled to the Kathmandu valley in 1312 CE. He worshipped the Svayambhu and offered a feast to all monks initiated there. Mr Dhanavajra surmises that the king might have travelled to Lumbini and Kapilavatthu a shortly after or before his visit to Kathmandu as there are inscriptions of the king also found at Lumbini and at Kapilavatthu Niglihava dated within the same year.

King Pratapamalla was the grandson of King Ripumalla. The inscription by Prthvimalla at Dullu describes him as having renounced lay life. Mr Dhanavajra Vajracarya surmises that the king might have ordained as a Buddhist monk as a whole. He gave the throne to Punya malla from the Pala dynasty, who was perhaps his son-in-law.

Punya malla was the father of king Prthvi malla who had erected the pillar inscription at Dullu. The pillar offers the chronology of his predecessors and himself. In a silver inscription dated 1336 CE he states that he has successfully saved the kingdom founded by the grace of the Buddha. On another silver inscription dated 1337 CE he is described to be paramasaugata, or the greatest devotee of the Buddha. This shows that he felt extremely proud to state that he was Buddhist. He also invoked the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha on the pair of his silver inscriptions cited above, tobe witness to his activities.

King Prhhvi malla also followed his predecessors. His inscription at Dullu, begins with 'aum manipadmehum' a famous Buddhist mantra of universal protection and states that he exempts all Buddhist monks in his Kingdom from all kinds of taxation. There was a position of Dharmabhanaka (teacher of Dharma) of Buddhist monks in his country. Some of his ministers also founded caity as andviharasinthe kingdom.The Triple Gem, that is to say, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, are invoked frequently as witnesses on his inscriptions. According to his silver inscription of 1359 CE, he also stated that he had successfully saved the kingdom founded by the grace of the Buddha. He also invoked the Buddha,Dharmaand Sangha aswitnesses to his activity.

Abhayamalla was the son of Prthvimalla. His silver inscription of 1376 CE invoked the Triple Gem of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha to be witnesses. He also boasts that he has control a group of the kings and possessed a large army and a herd of foreign horses. This proves his kingdom was not small.

A silver inscription of about 1393 CE shows a new name and ruling dynasty over Dullu called Samsaravarma. Another silver inscription of 1404 CE shows another King Baliraja was ruling at Jumla with the king Medinivarma. It is surmised that they were probably dukes under the Malla dynasty; but when they found an opportunity they replaced the dynasty by some unclear means. Then they became independent.

Many social changes took place in time and by some sort of metamorphosis and Buddhism in any form disappeared for good in the beginning of the 17th century C.E.. This is reflected in the Tamrapatra (copper plates) of the day, which make no more obeisance to the Buddhist trinity as was the practice earlier. In this way ends the history of the Buddhist kingdom of Sinja in Western Nepal. A Tamrapatra or copper plate inscription by Sailamsahi belonging to the Raskoti family and Kalyaraja Maharajadhiraja Vikrama Saha in the year of 1620 CE (Saka Sambata 1542) reveals the fact.

Inscriptions reveals that all the Calla ana Malla dynasty Kings of the Sinja Kingdom were Buddhist. Not only the kings but also their ministers and other retinues as well. Inscriptions found at Dullu state that at Sinjapuri (city) there were large monasteries and temples with golden pinnacles. This kingdom emerged as a safer place for the scholar monks who fled from India since the eleventh century under the threat of Islam. Accordingly, the Dhanavarja Vajracarya, inscriptions show their composers to be well versed in the Sanskrit language. Archeological remains scattered about a vast area at Surkheta district called Kankre Vihara or Kankre monastery is surmised to be of this period. Many archaeological items found there proves it to be an ancient Buddhist area. The present ruling class of Nepal also is surmised to be the same stock with the Khasa Kingdom.

The Terai region of Eastern Nepal must received strong Buddhist enfluence from Pataliputta , the capitsl city of the Emperor Asoka, and Buddhsim was alive up to 15th century A.D. but difficult to locate as no tradition or inscription are remined and nor there any significant Buddhist holy place. Prior to its annexation with modern Nepal in the beginning of l8th century C.E. eastern Nepal was divided in many local tribal feudatories; Chaudandi, Timala, Limbuan and Vijayapura etc.Very littleisknown about the history of this area before annexation. Northern part of this area was under regime of Tibet.As the result, Tibetan culture and religion hada deep effect on its inhabitants. There are some important Mahayana monastery and nunneries.Some parts of eastern Nepal received much more Buddhist influence having been under Sikkim, king of which was follower of Buddhist religion. The non-Aryan people of this area are rather far from Brahmanistic influence,compared to the Kathmandu Valley and other parts of the country. This is also main abode of the Tamang, the biggest Buddhist group of the country, and the Lepchas. Since annexation with modern Nepal Buddhists of this area came under a Brahmanistic constitution.

The most important factor in the history of Buddhism in modern Nepal is the plan of His Majesty's Government to develop Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha, as an international centre for pilgrims, Buddhist scholars and students. Since 1895 when the Asokan pillar at Lumbini was discovered, this place began attracting tourists and pilgrims. Plans to develop this sacred site on a grand 770 hectares scale have been in existence since 1968.The “Lumbini Development Project”with the participation of the United Nations, and a number of South and Southeast Asian countries together with Japan, constitutes one of Nepal's largest development projects. Progress however, has lagged behind the plans and was therefore reorganized in l986 as the “Lumbini Development Trust". With the restoration of democracy in the county the trust had also to change its executive board according to the parties in power. Since 1993 the trust began to distribute land to different Buddhist groups, according to allotment in the master plan. Numerous Buddhist groups from different parts of the world at both government and non-government level have established large Buddhist monastery and sites there. They consist of every sect of Buddhism in the world. Thailand performed a stone laying ceremony at the end of 1995.

Now the Lumbini is a very important Buddhist center where all sects of Buddhists gather. It also is a most significant centre of religion and culture of Nepal and inspires all Buddhist groups of the country.


Newar Buddhism

Buddhism that practiced by the Newar people mainly in the Kathmandu Valley and its periphery is called Newar Buddhism. It is Tantric Buddhism and therefore Mahayana and Vajrayana. It is basically the same kind of Buddhism that one finds in the Tibetan culture, whether within Tibet or among those ethnic groups who share the same culture, such as the Sherpas and other northern border people of Nepal. The rituals performed by the Tantric Buddhist priests of Newar are the same as the rituals performed by thc Lamas. The Tantric texts on which their teachings and ritual are based are the same.   Even so, Newar Buddhism is not solely Lamaistic Tantric or Vajrayana. It has particular characteristics which makes it different from all other kinds of Buddhism in the world.


Caste modulates to Celibate monk

Newar Buddhism is unique in that it is embedded in a predominant caste system and is without any celibate monks. It is surmised that historically those small border countries like the Nepal  Valley  and  the  Sinja  Kingdom  could  not  remain  a  shelter for
Proper Buddhist activities for a long time. The defeated Kings and their retinues arrived in Nepal’s territory soon after losing their domains to the Muslims. They were mostly fond of Brahmanistic ideals. By the immigrations of these people, Buddhism was weakened in Nepal. John K. Locke observes:

"By the time of  the Mallas when we begin  to get abundant information again,  a change has  taken  place.  We  find  an  even greater number of viharas still inhabited by  a  Buddhist Sangha who refer to themselves as Bare, a corruption of the Sanskrit term Vande or Vandana, a term  of respect  used from  ancientTimes for the Buddhist monk. However, we also find that those who call themselves Bare, Bhiksu,  Sakyabhiksu or  Sakyavamsa are in fact married. In adition to this, even before the beginning  of  the  Malla
period by Nepala Era. 213 (1093 AC) we begin to get references to some  of  the  inhabitants  of  the  Viharas  as 'Vajracarya',  (Vajra master) masters of  the  Tantric  tradition  and  presumably  married. By the end of the Malla period it seems clear that there were no more celibate monks. If  there were they were certainly the exception to the rule. The inhabitants of the Viharas still called themselves Brahmacarya Bhiksu, but we have  numerous  references to Sakya Bhiksu so and so plus his wife  (or wives)  further his son and daughters. Because of the continued  use  of  the  old terms  by married  Bare or householder monks it  is impossible to say with  any  certainty  that  a  reference  to  a  Bhiksu  or  even  a Brahmacarya Bhiksu indicates monk.

“This is still the case today. Each of the Bahas and Bahis is still inhabited and tended  by  a Sangha  of initiated  Sakyabhiksus and Vajracaryas, called Bare, who are nevertheless married men with families. They and their families constitute the Sangha of the Vihara. Furthermore, under the influence of a growing ascendancy or standard Hinduism and the Hindu caste system, which all informants date to the time of Jayasthiti Malla, the Bare became in fact a caste. In anthropological terms this means that the Sangha of the monastery has become a patrilineal descent group. One has to be the son of a Sakya Bhiksu or Vajracarya to be eligible  for initiation into the Sangha, and one joins the monastery  of  his father. The monasteries are no longer open communities accepting anyone who wants to lead the life of a Bhiksu."

Such transposition is seen not only in Buddhism but also in Brahmanism. Brahmins were dispersed or changed their status  of being the highest in society and became unrecognisable in Newar society. It was during the middle and especially the end of  the Malla period  when the Brahmins were invited from the far distances of India or emigrated by themselves. They became consultants in governing the country and the rulers  followed  their  ideas. This  practice  was  general  among the rulers because Buddhism no longer existed in India and the trans-Himalayas was not attractive for geographical reasons. This is supported by the fact that even today among the modern Newar Brahmins claim their origin as non-Newar. They had immigrated to the Nepal valley only in the middle of the 16th century.

The Newar rulers never tried to bring back the monastic lineage into Newar Buddhism as was done for the Brahmanistic caste system. This was because they had little faith toward Buddhist ideals. Other factors perhaps, were the geography, economy and political situation of the Kathmandu Valley. This is the background of the reason why for Newar Buddhism becoming so embedded in the caste system.


Religious foundations

John K Locke has prepared a large and laborious work Buddhist monasteries of Nepal. It is content of all information about the matter. So I present the summery from the work about Newar Buddhist monasteries and Newar Buddhism as follows:

There was a strong tendency among the Newar Society to establish monasteries and build Stupas. The Sakya and Vajracarya castes took the entire responsibility to tend these sanctuaries and promoted the establishment of more. Wherever they settled for longer periods  they constructed and kept religious activity alive there. With the growing popularity of Vajrayana belief, more and more Viharas had to be built. These   monasteries were to be connected   to one   of   the original monasteries. These were so numerous that they needed special rules and an established body for their management in Patan. Siddhi Narasimha Malla of around 1618-61 AD, the first of the Malla kings of the separate kingdom of Patan reorganised these Buddhist institutions in the present arrangements.

In Patan there are two clearly defined sets of Buddhist institutions: the Bahas and the Bahis. These colloquial Newari word meaning a Buddhist monastery were used to distinguish between two types of monasteries:.the Bahas which were inhabited by Vajrayana or householder monks and the Bahis by celibate monks . However, since the last few centuries these have lost their identity and all have come to be inhabited by the householder monks only. There are eighteen main Bahas, and all the other Bahas are branches of one of the main Bahas. There are twenty-five Bahis except for two little Bahas and one group of Sakya initiated before a caitya. All the Bahas and Bahis of Patan plus their branches fit into three sets of Buddhist institutions: 1. The eighteen Bahas of the Acarya Guthi plus their branches, 2. Ten purely Sakya main Bahas plus their branches, and 3. Sixteen Bahis.

There is an association of the Vajracarya members of the eighteen main Bahas of Kathmandu. It is based on the division of Kathmandu city which was present during the Malla period. (1600  AD).  There  are four main divisions of the institution called Acarya Guthi (= Gosthi) which are  still  active,   but  their  functions  have  been  reduced   primarily  to an annual meeting plus a feast. But it had been an authentic body to conduct the religious matters relating to the Acarya and the parishioner.

There is not such a large Buddhist priest community in Bhaktapur. Only 23 Viharas are numerated. Though the majority of the Licchavi sculptures are Buddhist. The main positive thinks is the largest portion of the population use Vajracarya priests in their religious activities.

There are 123 Viharas in Kathmandu, 185 in Patan or lalitapur and 23 in Bhaktapura city and 25 out of the valley. Altogether 356 Viharas or Newar tradition are recorded.

Most of these monasteries  are still operating  but only  a few are in good condition. Some are quite well-known to foreign visitors too due to their beauty and uniqueness and are visited frequently. Among such monasteries Svayambhu, Bauddha (Khasti), Jana Baha,  Srigha  Baha, Kumari  Baha,  Mahabuddha  Baha,  Tukam  Baha,  Thambahi,  Yetkha Baha, Itum Baha, Co  Baha,  Cilanco  Baha,  Sankhu  Baha  (Vajrayogini) are prominent in Kathmandu district. Some such  monasteries  in  Patan district include Bhinche Baha, Uku Baha, Mahabu Baha, Ha Baha,  Bu Baha, Si Baha, Ibahi , Nakabahi,  Bunga  Baha and  Ta  Baha.  In Bhaktapura district there are Ajudya  Baha,  Tadhichen  Baha,  Thathubahi, etc. In Kabhre district there are Banepabahi, Nalalokesvara, Namo Buddha and others.
These  monasteries  and shrines  have  been  home for  thc famous Newar arts and skillful works. This is a vast open museum where Newar Buddhists have preserved and developed iconography of different schools in the Kathmandu Valley. In this matter Min Bahadur Sakyasays:

“A casual visitor will be surprised to see the large number of both peaceful and wrathful looking deities in the Kathmandu Valley. He will even be doubtful if these are Buddhist at all. Because in Theravada Buddhist tradition they are familiar with the images of Sakyamuni Buddha,  Dharmacakra  symbol,  stupa,  or some devas connected with Buddha legends. However, this is not the case in the Kathmandu Valley or in Nepal. The form of Buddhism is Vajrayana which traditional Buddhist believed  to have been delivered by Shakyamuni Buddha himself. This form of Buddhism was fully developed in India at  Nalanda  and Vikramasila monasteries and it was fully  disseminated  in  Nepal and Tibet. People in these countries have preserved its spiritual traditions through centuries and had produced a unique Buddhist culture and civilization through arts and paintings. These artistic paintings and sculptures are still scattered here and there in large number especially in the Kathmandu Valley. Apart from its artistic and historic value it has deep spiritual significance. In recent years, due to lack of proper understanding and importance  of  these images of sculptures many of them were stolen, vandalized or simply left neglected to decay.”



One of the notable peculiarities of Newar Buddhism is the preservation and use of Sanskrit Buddhist Literature in their daily life. Dr Sunita Kumar Chatterji remarks on this matter as follows:

“One great service the prople of Nepal, particularly the highly civilized Newars of the Nepal Valley and Eastern Nepal, did was that they preserved the entire MSS (manuscripts) of Mahayana Buddhist literature on Buddhist Sanskrit. It was to the credit of Ceylon to have preserved for mankind the entire Mss of the Pali Literature of Hinayana (Theravada) Buddhism, and at the same time pass it on to Burma (the Mons and Burmese), to Cambodia and to Siam, it was similarly the great achievement of the people of Nepal to have preserved the equally great and valuable Mss of the original Sanskrit texts of Mahayana Buddhism. These were translated into Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Tibetan, Mongol and Manchu, and gave to the Buddhist religion some of its profoundest philosophical developments (among the Chinese and Japanese, the Tibetans and the Mongols); and they were preserved in manuscripts carefully copied by the newar Vajracaryas and other scholars, when all traces of such Mss and even their very memory were lost to the rest of such Mss and even their very memory were lost to the rest of India. The texts survived outside India only n Chinese and Tibetan versions. We have thus been able to obtain from Nepal Mahayana texts of priveless Value”.

    The main group of scriptures whish is called Navagrantha, contained of nine volumes of texts as follows:

  1. Prajnaparamita
  2. Gandavyuha
  3. Dasabhumesvara
  4. Samadhiraja
  5. Lankavatara
  6. Saddharmapundarika
  7. Lalitavistara
  8. Tathagataguhyaka
  9. Suvarnaprabhasa

The prajnaparamita are the most popular ones and are found abundantly. Some Mss written with golden ink are preserved in the viharas of Kva Bahala, Bu Bahala and U Bahala in Patan town and in Thambahila (Thamela) in Kathmandu town. Different versions of Prajnaparamita are existed. Among which are:

  1. Satasahasrika Prajnaparamita
  2. Pancavinsati Prajnaparamita
  3. Astadasa Prajnaparamita
  4. Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita
  5. Saptasahasrika Prajnaparamita and
  6. Prajnaparamita Vyakhya

A list of the Avadana and other Sanskrit works found in Nepal is given in an appendix. Brian H. Hodgson published his papers in journal of the Bengal Asiatic Society from 1828 to 1938, (Calcutta, India) concerning his discovery of these Buddhist Sanskrit works in Nepal. The papers were reprinted in book from entitled Essay on the Language, Literature, and Religion of Nepal and Tibet, published by Asian Educational Services, New Delhi, 1991.

“Mr. Hodgson discovered a great number of these works during his tenure in Nepal  in the beginningof  the 19th century.  The existence of these was before his time perfectly unknown, and his discovery has entirely revolutionized the history of Buddhism as it was known to Europeans in the early part of this century. The total number of the works discovered is not known, but it is believed that the works when carefully arranged and indexed will amount to about two hundred. Copies of these works to the total number of 381 bundles have been distributed so as to render them accessible to European scholars. Of these, eighty-six bundles comprising 179 separate works were presented to the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 85 to the Royal Asiatic Society of London,  30 to the India Office Library, 7 to the Bodlian Library, Oxford,  174t to the Societe Asiatique,  and M. Burnouf.  The last  two collections have since been  deposited in Bibliotheque  Nationale  of France”

Different works from these Mss are published by different institutes. The Mithila Institute of Post Graduate Studies and Research in Sanskrit Learning, India also published the literature in Devanagari since 1956. A series of the publication is kept in Library of Mahamakuta Buddhist University of Thailand too.

In Nepali have also appeared translations of some of these texts as follows:

  1. Buddha Caritra Mahakavya
  2. Saddharma Pundarika
  3. Suvarna Prabhasa

These have been published by the Royal Nepal Academy from 1950-75. Other publications are Saundarananda Mahakavya, and a compendium of Navagrantha. In Newari (Nepala Bhasa) as well Bodhicaryavatara (two times), Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita, Suvarna Prabhasa, Bodhisattvavadanamala and Latitavistara have been published.

There are some celebrated research  works on Newar Buddhism in English. Three Books by Mr. John k. Locke are

Rato Matsyandranatha of patan & Bungamati,
Karunamaya, the cult of Avalokitesvara,
Buddhist Monasteries of Nepal.

Monk, Householder, and Tantric Priest by David N. Gellner gives a detailed account of Hiranyavarna Mahavihara, the biggest monastic institute of Newar Buddhism.

Written in Newari Hemaraja Sakya has published study of numerous monasteries offering details of history and activities carried on there. Many other literary works on Newar Buddhism exist mainly by Vajracarya and Sakyas.

“It is quite remarkable how within its small geographical limits the Nepal valley has managed to preserve the most remarkable traces of the last days of Buddhism in northern India.”


The feature of Newar Buddhism

After the integration of the valley into Modern Nepal at the end of 18th century, Buddhist contacts with the rulers were reduced especially during the Rana period and Newar economy was wakened. In the same time the growing Brahmanistic influence to fortify, on the one hand, and the decline of Buddhist beliefs on the other. The decline was peaked when the National Act (Muliki Ain) was promulgated for the entire Kingdom of Nepal accordingly to Brahmanistic ideals. Thus we see from the end of the 18th century on, no new viharas had bcen built in the Valley. On the contrary, buildings within the old viharas started to change their appearance and many of them were completely remodeled, leaving only a few today in their original form. Newar Buddhism was effected much by the political and economical changes during this time.

Nonetheless the everyday life of the Newar Buddhist continued on developing its centuries-old track by the performing of varied kinds of activities. These are actually still being practised today. Such activities truly bear the unique Newar Buddhist identity. Going into detail to explain these matters, however, is beyond the scope of this limited study. However they must be mentioned, if only briefly.

The most remarkable fact of Newar Buddhism is to act the role of Vajracarya, who are married “monks” and members of monasteries. Their primary function is the performance of various the rite de passage or Samskara observed by all but a fcw Newars. A study on the passages officiate in the rites was translated and discussed comprehensively. A manual Cultural Heritage of the Newar by Ratnakaji Vajracarya, (Kathmandu, 1989) also describes in detail the sacraments of the nineteen castes of Kathmandu Newar from birth to death and after death. This indicate that the greater portion of Newar population of the Kathmandu use the religious services of Vajracarya or Buddhist priests, to preside over their rituals.

The system of astrology and medicine practised by the Vajracaryas are also religious exercise. Traditionally Newars are suspicious of their fate according to astrology. Before performing any significant activity, consultation with an astrologer is normal. Important events such as birth, marriage and laying a foundation of a new house are all planned with the help of an astrologer. All festivals are determined according to astrology. People thus seek the help of astrologers in determining the date and special moments or special times of activities and are normally attracted to visit their own priest which strengthens their faith.

Traditional healing is also an occupation practised by Vajracaryas. Especially, Ayurveda is practised and herbal medicines are also prepared and applied. Other treatments by different methods are offered as well to the client patients, which include methods of psychic prediction, the invocation of spirits and chanting, or listening to certain passages from religious books.

The teaching of reading and writing also centred in the priest’s house or the monastery buildings. Before establishing private and public schools in the last few decades, these residential schools were very important means of education. Training in music and songs are also conducted. For example, there arc special kinds of music which should be played during the time of worship of the main deity (Sakyamuni) and other deities of the Viharas. There is some festive music too which is to be played on special occasions. From this important tradition of music sprang devotional singing groups along with the later development of Theravada.

Traditional Buddhist festivals are also a part of Newar Buddhism. There are numerous festivals held at various places on different occasions through the year. Here we shall discuss but a few of exemplary festivals:

  1. Gumla
  2. Pared of Avalokitesvara
  3. Panjadana
  4. Samyaka Puja, and
  5. the Others.

1.The ninth month of the Newar calendar is called Gumla which starts from out the new moon during July or August. In this month long festival, Newar Buddhists visit and circumbulate famous Stupas including the Svayambhu Stupa and the principle images in monasteries of the Kathmandu Valley and the main Newar settlements in Nepal every morning by playing music or by simply bearing offering items. Some also observe it by different kind of devotional rituals, printing or casting clay amulets, playing religious music, listening to sermons and chanting hymns such as Namasangiti and Prajnaparamita sitting at public rest houses in their own locality or in a certain monastery. Formulas used in Mahayana Vratas in Newar Buddhism and explanation was published. An illustration of a Gumla festival or Newar Buddhists was published in English. This period is something like Vassavasa in other Buddhist countries, but lasts only a single month instead of the normal three months. In this way people become involved in performing different religious activities.

2.Pared of Avalokitesvara festival is one of the main religious events of Newar Buddhists. The Avalokitesvara image is placed in a high chariot made of wood and creepers with four wooden wheels. This is pulled between one town and another. Between patan and Bungmati (a town situated at a distance of 7-8 kilometres) the festival of the famous Machindranatha or the Red Avalokitesvara is held in grandiose style and with great pomp. As a part of the festival in patan the King is also present on the day of displaying the garment of a mythical serpent offered to the Avalokitesvara. The festival period of a few weeks depends on the success of pulling the chariot to the traditionally planned destinations. Such chariot pulling festivals of Avalokitesvara are also carried on in Kathmandu and Co Bahala. During the festival a huge mass of spectators, officials and volunteers gathers. There are also feasts during these days though many people fast in the name of the deity on other days. It is an annual festival.

3. Panjadana is another festival appealing to the Newar Buddhists. This is performed in different places on different days. In Patan it is held in the last quarter of June-July of each year. It is again held in Kathmandu in August and twice a year in Bhaktapura. Other main Newar settlements also perform this festival. On this occasion, initiated Sakyas and Vajracaryas collect offerings from their clients or devotees by visiting their houses. Such examples give a glimpse of the Buddhist activities practisedby Newars.

4. Samyaka Puja is held regularly every five years in Patan and every twelve years in Kathmandu. It can be performed at any time by anyone who wishes to do so. In these days the main Buddha images of monasteries are brought to a vast ground and positioned in a line. People from every walk of life offer items to these Buddha images and to the initiated male members of the monasteries of the respective area. In Kathmandu it is held at the foot of Svayambhu where the king of Nepal himself traditionally presides over the ceremony. In Patan the ceremony is held at Ilanani annexed to the famous Golden Temple.

5. There are numerous other festivals, e.g. Matayah (Light Parade), Days for looking at one’s Mother’s face, father’s face, worshiping brothers by their sisters, and other festivals are performed by Newar Buddhists. Some of them are not solely Buddhist but shared by other faiths as well.

Newar Buddhists have their special method for preparing food on such festival days. For example they consume of soup containing many kinds of grains (kvati) during Panjadana, pudding-rice (Khira) during Samyaka. Sugarcanes are offered during April-May and sweets and ghee on certain other days. Great quantities of alcohol are also consumed at every feast. Such activities have been gathering together Newar Buddhists for centuries. These are the factors which make the life of Newar Buddhist society runs.


Future of Newar Buddhism

There is very clear evidence which shows that Newar Buddhism is declining. The main reasons are (1). traditions of caste barriers which have resulted are not initiating the mixed caste members of the monastery, (2). the disinclination of Vajracarya offspring to practise priesthood, (3). the lack of proper education of the priests thus not being able to explain the scriptures or texts which they use for their clients, (4). there is also a lack of easy reading booklets nor any teaching class on the matter. Further, the Government has not given any attention to the preservation of this tradition. An important thing is lack of swiftness in the elders to change with the rapidly changing modern world.

The new generation of Vajracaryas has not been allowed to do much about this tradition compels them to retain in many kinds of restrictions. Newar Buddhism is losing to Brahmins advanced by government support and to liberalised and educated Theravada Newars.

Some of Vajracaryas are deeply concerned about these problems. In order to preserve Newar Buddhism, apart from its traditional institutions, some new efforts are being made. They founded organisations for different purposes, for example to rebuilt of Aksesvara Mahavihara and Gabahala in Patan, to organise Viharas in an organisation i.e. Vihara Sudhara Samiti, centres for discuss the problems,i.e. Vajracarya Milana Kendra, for continuance of chanting and propagation of canon i.e. Prajnaparamita Carya, to Publish Mahayana Literature i.e. Lotus Research Centre, to study Sanskrit scriptures i.e. Nepala Bauddha Sanskrit Adhayana Kendra, Nagarjuna Institute of Exact Methods, Nepala Bauddha Pratisthana, Svayambhu Vikasa Mandala, et al,. have been active since the last few years. Also, Tribhuvana University sponsored special training courses on Vajracarya priesthood to Vajracarya students recently.

Recently the Vajracayas founded an institution for traditional initiating all those wishers as a novices (Pravrajya Samvara). Traditionally such initiation is only allowed for Sakya and Vajracarya castes and strictly closed to others. The new institution is also trying to cope with the problem of children born of mixed caste with non-Sakya and Vajracarya. There are some however who are not at all satisfied with these new changes saying them to be a false reformation as it still does not allow certain castes to enter their traditional monastery as the normal people do. However, it is important that the religious leaders of the traditional caste embedded Newar Buddhist society to now agree that in reality caste should play no part in the practice of religion, and that all of initiations must be open to all human beings. They must now be prepared to lead the religion in accordance to the original teaching of the Buddha, which pertains to all regardless of caste, language, race, etc. Formal efforts have been made toward the religious reformation and the “Association for Buddhism of Nepal” was formed in 1996 and the foremost active Vajracaryas are showing their conformity to the new changes. We hope such changes may help to sustain traditional Newar Buddhism and prolong the Vajracarya priest-hood in the future.


Tibetan Buddhism

Some times Tibetan Buddhism is called Lamaisin. In general Lamaism is name for the Buddhist schools of Mahayana and Vajrayana mixed with local tradition of Bonpo (Shamanism?) prevailing mainly in Tibet anal area of its cultural expansion including Nepal. Stephen Batchelor writes:

“‘Lama’ is the Tibetan term used to translate the Sanskrit ‘guru’, which simply means ‘spiritual teacher’. Thus a lama is someone who is qualified to guide others along the path to enlightenment. A lama need not be a monk and most monks are not lamas. Some of the greatest lamas in the Tibetan tradition, Padmasambhava, Marpa, Milarepa, Kunga Nyingpo and Drom Tonpa, for example, took no monastic vows and lived as laymen and yogins. The term for a monk in Tibetan is ‘trapa’, not ‘lama’. Moreover, to call Tibetan Buddhism ‘Lamaism’ is also a misuse of words. The Tibetan call their Buddhism nang-pa’i-cho, which means ‘the Dharma of insiders’. ‘Lamaism’ was a term coined by Western scholars and gives the impression that Tibetan Buddhism is something quite different from mainstream Buddhism.”

For Clarification, let us took on the world ‘Lama’. In Tibetan language it is written as bla-ma. This is derived from Tibetan origin bla-me-d which is again short from of bla-me-d-pa. It means the highest one of the Gure. The doesn’t give the meaning of a general Buddhist monk as it is understood. There are different words for referring to a monk in Tibetan, tulku for a monk recognised as a reincarnation, trapa, gelong for the fully ordained monk and getsul for a Novice. Hence, “Lamaism”, a late 19th century western term, is, infact, not appropriated to describe Tibetan forms of Buddhism.

Inorder to understand Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal we must have some basic knowledge about Buddhist schools in Tibet. Buddhism, which introduced in Tibet from Nepal, India and China in 7th century for the first time, was of Mahayana from. Today, there are many lineages of Mahayana Buddhism, both reformed and non-reformed. Concerning the genealogy of monastic sects in Tibet, Waddell writes:

“No sects appear to have existed prior to Lan-Darma’s persecution, nor till more than a century and a half later. The secterial movement seems to date from the reformation started by the Indian Buddhist monk Atisa, who, as we have seen, visited Tibet in 1038."

The prevailing main sects at present are as follows:

  1. Nyingmapa
  2. Kar-gyu-pa
  3. Sa-kya-pa:
  4. Ge-lug-pa

1 .Nyingmapa, the earliest lineage of the Mahayana Buddhism in Tibet, means “the old school” used in contest of other reformed and sub- reformed sects. In the 11th century, Venerable Atisa Dipamkara from Bengal had revived a celibate monk’s training in addition to training in, and Mantrayana by establishing the Kadampa sect, which means “those bound by the orders (commandments=Vinaya)”. The Atisa’s pupils founded semi reformed movements of 2.Kar-gyu-pa“follower of the successive order” and 3. Sakya-pa, after yellow color of their monastery, which were directly based in great measure on Atisa’s teachings. The Sakya-pa sect has influence in Mongolia and China. Kargyupa sect is popular especially in Bhutan. The 4.Ge-lug-pasect or “Followers of the Virtuous order”, the youngest one, is a reformed sect from Kadampa by Tsongkhapa in the l5thcentury. This is the most powerful sect in Mongolia and Tibet ever since its formation.

There are other many minor sects or subsects came out from the main sects. It is not easy to comprehend the descent and interrelations among the main and sub sects. Therefore it is suggested to make a glance at the annexed “Genealogical Tree of Lamaist Sects” quoted from the Waddell.

Batchelor writes again:

". . . although the yellow hats can be identified with the Geluk order, it makes no sense to group the other three together as the Red Hats. The historical conflict upon which the Yellow/Red distinctions based is that between the Mongolian backers of the Gerluk and the Tsang kings who supported the Karma Kargyu sub-order, the Sharmapa, head Lama, of the Karma Kargyu, is commonly known as the black Hat Lama, in distinction from another leacher of the same order, the sharmapa, the Red Hat Lama. The problem gets even more knotty when you try to include the Sakya and Nyingma orders. Unfortunately, to understand the different orders we have to look beyond what they were on their heads."

All major sects of Tibetan Buddhism are found in Nepal.


History of Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal

Writing the history of Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal is not an easy task. The area covers a strip more than 800 km long and about 350 km wide. Thc historical evidence is scarce since the Himalayan area is lightly populated. It is not accessible by modern transportation except air. There is little modernization and the climate is harsh as the most parts of it is located in high altitude and bounded by the mighty Himalayas. There are only a few writers who have attempted a survey. I had to depend on some works freely in order to prepare the topic.

The large part of history of Buddhism in Nepal falls into two main categories:

  1. From the South, and
  2. From the North.

Buddhism of the first category is mainly from India through the Terai of southern Nepal. There are abundant sources which have been discussed already, e.g. Buddhism in the Kathmandu Valley and Western Nepal among Newars and Khasas. Buddhism from the north is mainly from Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim. Sometimes from China, Mongolia and elsewhere where the Tibetan type of Buddhism is strong. The Buddhism from the north is practiced mainly in the northern and mid-mountain area of the country. The people, migrated from mainland Tibet to its frontiers since the 15th century, and make up a significant portion of Tibetan Buddhists in Nepal. As the result of the Tibetan influence, the Mahayana sect in Tibetan form has been practiced widely by ethnic groups of the country. It has been one of the most important forces from Buddhism in Nepal.

The Buddhism introduced from Tibet to Nepal is confined mainly to the non-Aryan people. Tibetan Buddhist influence probably dates back to the earliest times following the reintroduction of Buddhism to Tibet from the Nepal Valley and Indian in the eleventh century. However, the northern border people’s traditions often place the famous Padmasambhava, the eighth-century saint and magician, as the first to establish Buddhism among those Tibetan speaking border people. Through common knowledge it is clear that it was brought about by a succession of missionary lamas from the great centres of learning in Tibet itself. Traditionally it is believed that in some parts of the country Tibetan Buddhism was introduced as early as the 9th century CE.. Storied regarding the introduction of Buddhism vary from place to place but they usually share a similar theme whereby a lama visiting the region “for the sake of all sentient beings”, subdues the local demons and binds them with oaths to become servants of the true doctrine. In the usual course of events the lama confronts a demon who had been terrorizing the native population and defeats him in a magical battle, or occasionally, through peaceful meditations.

An exemplary story of the introduction of Buddhism to Dolpo area as follows. ‘Senge Yeshe was a Kargyupa Siddha from Drigung in central Tibet. At one point in his journey ‘‘he formed wings from his cotton robe and flew to the very top of Mount Drugdra where he left the imprint of his body”, and by doing so “opened” the place as a pilgrimage site. Later in his journey he engaged in a classic battle against inimical forces in order to establish the Buddhist doctrine. Charles Ramble cotes a part Shenge Yeshe's Biography:

“At that time, in the Valley of Shei, inhuman beings (Amanusya) were openly devouring and harming the people. In order to subdue them Senge Yeshe magically produced three snow lions which were the manifestations of his body, speech and mind, and from there emanated 108 snow-lions which began to dance. He composed his mind in the meditation called Senge Nampar Gyingwa (“Proudly-composed Snow-Lion”) and subdued all the gods and demons of the place. They offered him their lives and hearts and took the vow of Upasaka, and (the place) became a Tirtha (holy place) which had been subdued. The footprints of the 108 snow-lions became manifest on that rock ... it was in fact the Siddha Senge Yeshe who through his meditative power produced all these illusions and the snow-lions themselves."

Usually the missionary lamas won the devotion and material support of wealthy patrons, and on the basis of their donations of land and property were able to establish monasteries. Boys (or, more rarely, girls in the case of nunneries) would join the monastery as novices and very often would receive a higher education at a parental establishment in Tibet. Thus the Ngorpa community of Baragaun in the upper Kali Gandaki Valley traditional sent promising young monks to a Sakyapa center in Tsang, Conversely, lamas from the Tibetan centres would occasionally visit these provincial establishments to give teachings and to reinforce the devotions of the villagers. Thus a two-way traffic of neophytes and masters was maintained between the center and the periphery, and the Buddhist teachings were accordingly able to flourish in northern Nepal.

The date of the introduction of Buddhism to the different groups of people of Nepal varies geographically. The Magars, the warrior class of the country, the middle hill inhabitants, were formerly Sanskritised Buddhists as a result of either Newar Buddhists from the east or Khasa Buddhist, who were evidently strong Buddhist followers from the 10th century to the sixteenth century CE, form the west. It is also possible that they received doctrines directly from the southern plains before the decline of Buddhism in India. Their connections with Buddhism are usually assumed to be since the beginning of Buddhism as they are regarded to be of Naga dynasty. Jagamana Gurung informs us that two manuscripts in the Sanskrit language have been found, which were copied by two Magar men in the year 1000 and 1070 CE. But at the present the Magars have’nt any strong Buddhist tradition except the slight effect of Tibetan Buddhism.

Tibetan Buddhist influence in different areas can be noted by the antiquiry such as gonpas or monasteries. In the districts of Sindhupalcoka, Dolkha of the east, Rasuva and Gorkha in the west it began much earlier, that is to say, more than 1,000 years ago. In the districts of Sankhuvasabha, Solukhumbu in the east and Nuvakota and Mugu in the west, gonpas have been in existence since the last two or three hundred years. Gonpas in Kabhre, Ramechapa, Okhaldhunga, Taplejunga, Ilama in the east, Dhading in the west of Nepal were established in the beginning of the 19th century. Gonpas in Dhankuta, Terhathum, Pancthar in the east, Kaski, Lamjung, Tanahum in the west and Dhanusa, Sarlahi, Sindhuli, Navalaparasi, Bajura, Surkhet, Sunsari, Citavana, Kailali, Kancanapura, Darcula, Baglung districts have been built within the last 50 years. It is safe to say that Tibetan Buddhism has influenced people of Nepal from 9th century CE down to the present.

The integration of Buddhist settlements in greater Nepal in the middle of the 18th century was a remarkable event in the history of Mahayana Buddhism too. This was the starting point of the decline in Buddhist and ethnic identities. Charles Ramble says that the Nepalese National Code (Muluki Ain), which was drawn up in 1854 is an attempt to form the kingdom’s various populations into a single nation with a unified caste structure, ranked the Bhotes (Tibetan speakers) as “enslaveable alcohol drinkers”, a clean but low category. Other Buddhist groups also were diminished in their social status by the National Code and assumed to be of inferior caste. The caste system, of course, no longer has any legal validity in Nepal, but its precepts nevertheless live on at an effective level. A number of Tibetan-speaking groups realized that their entrepreneurial success was hampered when in dealing with orthodox Nepalese Brahmins and Chetris, by castle barriers, and they sought systematically to give up their Tibetan identity.

The decline of Tibetan Buddhism is seen more readily after the disturbance of the traditional ties among the people of the middle hills and also Tibet and Bhutan besides. Independent principalities ceased after the integration of the country. The dominant group in Nepal was a followers of Brahmanism. There were wars with Lhasa in 1792-93 and in 1855-56, the break down of the Kathmandu Bhutan alliance, the disdain shown by the exclusive Brahmanist Ranas to all Bhotias, and discrimination against the large Tamang community that was located in the area on the immediate valley periphery and eastern middle hills. The Dalai Lama’s exile and the destruction of prominent central Tibetan monasteries were recent contributions to the decline of Buddhism in Nepal.

In the past few decades Nepal’s northern borderline Buddhist communities have been facing a new set of problems. After 1959, and especially since 1962 when the borders of Tibet were closed and severe restrictions were placed on religious activities, the cultural lifeline to these outlying districts was effectively severed, and the inhabitants could no longer regard their northern neighbor as their spiritual parent.

The same factors which brought about the decline of Buc!dhism in certain border areas of the country has caused the religion to flourish in others. The Buddhist highlanders have prospered in enterprises no less then any other religious groups of the country. Almost all of the Buddhists i.e. the Manangis, and the Sherpas, among others have remained ardent Buddhists and their increased wealth has made it possible not only to support religious centres in their native regions but to establish new ones in places such as Kathmandu and Pokhara. Moreover, after a shaky interim, the monasteries of Tibet which had served the northern Nepalese Buddhists as places of higher education were reestablished in India and Nepal, and recruitment and training continue as before.

The forces for the expansion of Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal also are found among the tribes inhabiting the middle hills. Here there is a much clearer picture of coexistence between Buddhism and indigenous religious beliefs. Among the Gurungs the practice of Buddhism under the care of Tibetan teachers seems to have been quite stronger. The migration of Buddhists to the south from Tibet after 1959 has provided considerable force for the spread and reinforcement of the doctrine among the Tamang population too. In conclusion we can say that Tibetan Buddhist activity in the country is to be seen at the national level and new religious establishments are appearing in almost every main settlement of the country.

Moreover, in more recent times, His Majesty’s Government of Nepal has been able to take a more active interest in these inaccessible Buddhist areas, as seen in the growth of government schools and cultural
and material assistance through the Remote Area Development Programme. This effort on the part of the Central Government has certainly brought the northern Tibetan-speaking groups more securely into the Nepalese sphere, without directly weakening local culture.

Since the last few centuries, Tibetan Buddhism has played a predominant role in the Buddhism of Nepal. Religious influence from political Tibet, at present, has been reduced, but the followers of Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal itself have developed a new way of working. They have established numerous and notable monasteries where significant religious activities are going on. A survey showed that twenty-five active Tibetan refugee Buddhist monasteries (gonpas) in the Kathmandu Valley were inhabited by approximately four hundred monks and novices. Among them over half of them (56%) are Tibetan refugees and the remaining are from different ethnic groups of Nepal including 7% Newar. They are all from major Tibetan schools- Gelugpa, Kargyupa, Sakyapa, and nyingmapa. Among them, more than half of the monasteries are collected by the Gelugpa school. It is conjectured that, including the Nepalese gonpas, the number of religious foundations increased to 3000, inhabited by 1600 monks and nuns in 33 gonpas in the Valley and 1000 monks and nuns in 15 gonpas all over the country. The remaining monasteries are looked after by Sngag-pa or Tantrikas (house holder monks).


Propagation of Tibetan Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism is practiced by more than 70% of the Buddhists of the country. The middle hills population of Tibeto Burman tribes such as the Gurungs, the Magars, the Kiratis and most numerous, the Tamangs, are the major Buddhist groups of the country. There are Tibetan speaking people, i.e. Limi, in the far north; throughout Mugu, Dolpo, Mustang, northern Manang and Nubri. The Serpas of Solukhumbu and such groups as the Khambo and the so-called Lhomi of the upper Aruna in the northern Nepalese border areas are followers of Mahayana. They are united in sofar as they are devotees of Mahayana Buddhism. In general we can say that the Mongoloid people of the country are practioners of Mahayana. Their religious life is led by Buddhist monks otherwise known as Lama by foreigners.

The Tibetan Buddhist monks play a very important role in religious life of its followers. According to Corneille Jest ‘Lamas guide people in way of salvation. If they do not all attain the stage of fully spiritual guide, at least they make the liturgy and the magic rites understandable to laymen. The monks spend the part of the year in meditation without leaving the monastery (Buddhist lent). At other times their activities are devoted to reading liturgical or purification rites performed at the request of the faithful. Their activities and rules inspire a highly spirituaI life and produces great mystics. They are of the higher classes in the society. Their religious existence is complementary to their daily activities. Moreover, religion and wealth endowed them with necessary authority in the local government units, in which they have important functions.’ I could not find any reliable cencus about the number of monks in Mahayana tradition in Nepal. On the matter Venerable Checu Kushyo Rimpoche states that there are atleast 3,000 ordained monks and novices and about 1,000 nuns, practicing the religious life.

Gonpa, the abode of Tibetan Buddhist monks, is the centre of the religion and culture of the people. Gonpa means a cell for meditation. There are two types of gonpas: They are called Rodra and Dubdra. The Rodra means a place for preaching and teaching. The other Dubdra means a place for meditation. We can refer to them as monasteries for teaching and monasteries for meditation, respectively. These are places where Buddhist features and activities are to be known and seen. The people who gather here are from both local areas and from areas further away. Almost all Tibetan gonpas have certain common features. Usually they contain a Chorten (Stupa) or a group of Chortens, images of Guru Padmasambhava, Avalokitesvara, etc. Mural paintings also common. There are vast collections of manuscripts of the Buddhist canons in the Tibetan language kept in the main chapels. All the religious institutions are supported by compulsory contributions from each household and by individual donations. All the Buddhist foundations in the Himalayan area are of the same type. The buildings follow the local domestic scale and design, with flat terraced roofs. These are constructed on a rectangular plan, the walls are made of stones bedded with mortar. Many of them contain different kinds or religious icons and mural paintings.

Most gonpas are found in the Himalayan and mid mountain areas of the country. A few gonpas are found in districts of the Terai area too. A survey on gonpas in Nepal carried out by HMG of Nepal discloses that there are 1023 gonpas scattered in 47 districts out of 75. Venerable Chechu Kushyo Rimpoche, one of the high ranking Mahayana Buddhist monks of the country asserts that number of the Gonpas are not less than 3000. He also doubt on the accuracy of the government survey, as the government officials were not serious about the matter. A study of gonpas in 45 districts of Nepal showed that among them there are 75% Nyngmapa, 14% Kargyupa, 2.75% Sakyapa and 1.72% Gelungpa. It indicates that the historical reforms which occurred in Tibetan Buddhism are not much popular in frontiers with Nepal.

Tibetan immigrants, who are ardent followers of Mahayana Buddhism, caused Buddhism to flourish in various parts of the country. Formerly the Nepalese Buddhists had for generations relied upon the Tibetan lamas to educate their young men during the early stages of their monastic careers. After the Tibetan monks fled from their monasteries in Tibet they established their centres in Nepal. ‘Twenty years later one notes the existence of flourishing Tibetan Buddhist communities throughout the Nepal Valley.


The Northern Nepal

Tibetan Buddhism is mainly predominant in the High altitude mountainous area in the entire northern border line of Nepal. It is divided in following three geographical sections:

  1. Karnali Province,
  2. Gandaki Province, and
  3. Kosi province.

1. The Karnali Province is located in the far north-west area of Nepal. Districts where Mahayana is prevailing are mainly Humla, Mugu, and Dolpa (Dolpo). It is a thinly populated area and is on1y marginally cultivated, and as it is in the Himalayan rain shadow it receives very little rain in summer. These are the most isolated districts in their geographical location. The monks staying in the Libhi area are of the Kargyupa sect; in Humla, the non-reformed Nying-ma-pa.

Historically, the Karnali Province was embraced by the Khasa kingdom in the medieval period. It also located on the boundary of Guge kingdom in Tibet where Buddhism was flourished since the 10th century. Therefore, Buddhist influence is found here from a very early period. Now Buddhism is discontinued among Khasan (main Khasa inhabits) but it is still practiced by Jadan (Mongoloid inhabits) up to now without a break. They are mostly Tibetan speaking people. Four Lamas who propagated Buddhism in Dolpa in the 15-18th centuries are quite famous. This is the district where the highest number of gonpas (99 gonpas) is recorded. But most of them are small cells. The temple located in Limi and Halji village is the oldest one of the area which is still functioning. This may be connected with the Khasa Buddhist kingdom as its history goes back to the 10th century.

2. The Gandaki province consists of Mustang, Manang, Gorkha and Rasuva districts. The Mustang district has been the line of communication and zone of contact between India, Nepal and central Asia. Prior to the formation of modern Nepal there was a small kingdom west of Gorkha named BLO- PA in Tibetan and Mustang in Nepali. Since the 15th century, the Mahayana was nourished and the region got quite a name for Buddhist activities. The kingdom was established by Ama Pala, who was a grandson of General Gunthang. The king of this territory is still officially recognised in Nepal and is the only single king who follows Buddhism in the country. Most Mahayana monks and nuns of Nepal are from this area and there are many monasteries. In northern Mustang there are Sakyapa and Kargyupa monasteries and in southern Mustang Bonpo and Nying-ma-pa.

In the Manang valley the Sakya-pa and Kagyu-pa are found, and in Narphu the Nyingma sect is found. The Shang Lama rebuilt many religious foundations just a few decades ago. The Nupa-ri, Kuthang, Jum and the northern Gorkha were under the control of Tibet up to the 5th Dalai Lama (1617-1682). In Nupa-ri Kuthang there are Nyingmapa and in Jum there are Drukpa followers. In Lang-Tahng of Rasuva district the influence of Kyirong in Tibet is found and in the southern area in Dhunche, the Tamang are followers of the Druk-pa sect.

Since 1960 the social, cultural and economic situation of the Buddhist population has undergone a series of changes in Mustang. Traditionally, an important trade flow across the Himalayas provided opportunity for economic, social and religious contacts. This trade has slowed down, but adjustments to the changed political situation have occurred. Now tourism is having an ever greater impact on people of Mustang The religious situations has, however, been maintained. A religious revival took place through the faith or the nGor stlb-sect of the Sakya, founded by Lama Kun-dga bzang-po (1382-1457) in Mustang. According to the biography of this lama, Buddhism entered Mustang in the 15th century. As contacts with out world have been increased people of Mustang have got an opportunitytodevelop a different programs for enhancing religious activities and preserve their historical and cultural values.

It is said that Padmasambhava visited Mustang and spent some time in meditation. On the way up, the faithful worship sacred sites, relics, lakes and the imprints left by Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava) preserved here. Many pilgrims come for the annual ceremonies to worship the five treasures brought from the monastery of Samye in central Tibet. The eighty-four Great Magicians (Siddhas) on their way to Tibet left their pilgrim staffs, which grew into poplars surrounding the shrine.

The temple of Muktinatha in Mustang is famous throughout the country. It is looked after by nuns belong to the Nying-ma-pa order and receive donations from the three villages and from pilgrims. The main religious festival is held on the full moon of the seventh month of the Tibetan calendar in August-September In the site called Jvalamai there sacred fire which still burns on water, stones, and earth called. Among the other important gonpas or monasteries located in Mustang districts are: 1.Sarva,.2. Dzoog of the Sakyayn sect, 3. Kutsaptrenga. 4. The monastery of Cherok (Chairo) and others.

3. The Kosi Province is named after the famous river Kosi near the Himalayan districts of Sindhu Palchok (Helambu), Rolwalinga, Khumbu, Singsa and Valunga. Sindhu Palchok district lies to the north-east of the Kathmandu Valley. In Helambu, a Buddhist region, comprises 500 households in 1980. They called themselves Sherpa. Their ancestors came from Kyirong in southern Tibet, a five-day walk away. The Kosi province is dominated by the Nyingma sect because this sect prevailed in the Tingri area of Tibet and in Sikkim since the 18th century. Recently, the influence of Drukpa sect is increasing as the result of the creation of the monastery of Bagang by the Bhutanese lama Sherab Dorje of the Druk-pa Ka-gyu-pa sect in 1935. This lama spent his life building temples, monasteries and monumental prayer-wheels in Tibet (Kyirong), Bhutan and Nepal. In the Khumbu district Buddhism was introduced by Sangye Dorje of Rong-phu Gonpa in the 18th century. The Gonpa of Khumbu was established by himself. Jiwong Gonpa in Solu of the lowland was established in 1916 by Sangye Lama from Phaplu.

There are some important temples in Helambu and Khumbu (Solukhumbu) in order and styles. Such monasteries in the Helambu region of Kabhre Palancok district are 1. Lhakhang Gyang. founded by lama Tenzing Ngawang Namgyal, 2. Chime Gyang, one of the oldest active Buddhist monasteries in the region and founded by a monk named Nagtsang Sakya Zangpo at the beginning of the 18th century. It has some of the oldest and finest artifacts in northern Nepal. 3. The Tarkey Gyang, 'the temple of the 100 horses’, was established around 1727 by a Tibetan Lama named Nyima Senge from Kyirong. This shrine bears some important historical event. The founder Lama received land from the Newar King Jayajagatjaya Malla of Kantipur (Kathmandu) in return for stopping an epidemic in 1723. The village temple of Tarkegyang, was rebuilt in 1969.

Corneille Jest quotes more information about the foundation of this temple from a biography of Lama Nyingma Senge as follows:

"A long time ago an epidemic broke out in the Kathmandu valley, in Yerang (Patan). The Newar King finally called a lama who was said to have great powers. Lama Nyima Senge of the Ten-gi Linga-pa lineage Performed the sku-rim ceremony and the epidemic stopped at once. The king wanted to reward the lama and asked what was his wish. The lama asked for a hundred horses and took them to a place which was called from then on Tarke: ‘the 100 horses’. The lama’s wife suggested that he also ask for land as there was not enough pasture land for the horses. The lama went to the king and asked for land, and was given a place called Lang-ri gya-sa."

This lama first established a hermitage on the ridge called Yangrima above the present village of Tarkegyang and a few years later built a shrine of some importance. The Temple possesses a series of religious books, a collection of the 108 volumes of the Kanjur (Narthang Imprint). In front of the temple there is a space where prayer flags are erected. At the south side a big prayer-wheel has been set up in a separate building.

The Solu-Khumbu district is one of the most well-known Buddhist region of the Himalayas in Nepal by Westerners as it is located near the base of Mount Everest. It comprises three regions: Khumbu, Pharak and Solu. The local economy is based on the breeding of yaks and its hybrids and on potato-growing, but these resources are not enough to make the inhabitants self-sufficient throughout the year. In recent years, tourism had brought extra resources. Namche Bazar has become fairly important since the expansion of tourism. Aura of Buddhism is in the air because Temples and religious buildings as well as shrines and prayer wheels are found in all the villages.

The main Buddhist group of Solu-Khumbu district is called Shepa, an ethnic group of Tibetan stock. Sherpa tradition says that they emigrated from eastern Tibet between 400-500 years ago and some clans settled in the Khumbu area at that time. The progressive development of the religious movement and institutions has for a long time occurred in direct relationship with Tibetan monasteries.

The villagers participate in the religious festivals, which are celebrated in the village temple.The officials of the temple are responsible for the organization of the ceremonies, for the administration of the temple funds and income and for the maintenance of the buildings. In strict rotation, the householders have specific tasks to perform during the religious ceremonies. Buddhist thought and practice has gradually permeated the Sherpa way of life; the pattern of behavior and the moral precepts characteristic of Tibetan Buddhist civilization govern the conduct of both worldly and spiritual affairs.

According to local tradition, the foundation of the oldest settlements in Khumbu is ascribed to Lama Sanga Dorje who in his twelfth incarnation was the head lama of the Dza Rongphu monastery north of Mount Everest. Lama Sanga Dorje, who founded the temples of Pangboche, Kyirong and Rimishung, is considered the patron of Khumbu; he left many traces of his presence during his stay in Tengboche, Pangboche and Dingboche. (His remains, eyes, tongue and heart, are enshrined in a silver casket preserved in Pangboche temple.)

Seasonal and domestic rituals are performed in the village temples by the monks, who may have been novices for some time in one of the monasteries. Once a year they practice seclusion and meditation in a hermitage in the region. The establishment of monasteries in Solu as well as in Khumbu is a recent phenomenon. In Solu, monastic institutions were created in Jiwong, Takshindo, Tolaka, Kile, Thodung and recently, in Nopung near Junbesi.

The most important monasteries are Tengboche and Thame in the Khumbu region. Tengboche was founded in 1923 by Lama Gulu,who only devoted himself to religion at an advanced age. He studied in Tibet and settled in Khumjung before starting the building of the monastic complex in Tengboche. The temple collapsed during an earthquake in 1934 and Lama Gulu died shortly after. This monastery was rebuilt with the help of villagers of Khumbu. Since its foundation, many young men have come to the monastery to be initiated. Some left to take up secular occupations. In 1930 Lama Gulu founded, also in Deboche, a settlement for nuns situated half an hour’s walk from Tengboche.

Thane is another important monastery of the Khumbu area. In 1920, Lama Tundu, a descendent of a line of lamas from Thame, built the monastery above the village of Thame Og.

Pangboche Monastery was founded by Lama Sanga Dorje. The local cultural and religious history is closely related to the life of this lama, who was responsible for the spread of the Buddhist religion in the Khumbu region. The development of Pangboche is also connected with that of the settlements of Thame, Rimijung and Kyiroug, since according to local tradition these were the first major settlements in this region of the Himalayas. "the presence of Lama Sanga Dorje is once again manifested by the imprints of his hands and feet as well as by the religious motifs lie traced on the surrounding rock. At the beginning, Pangboche was a monastery with seven religious dwellings. It was only afterwards that it became a settlement. It consists today of sixty houses.. It is the oldest monastery of this region. A so called Yeti’s skull and hand arc also kept in this monastery.

Jiwong monastery was founded in 1923 by a rich Sherpa, Lama Sangye, who endowed it with lands and cattle to provide an annual income. This is situated on the spur of the Kemche Danda. At the highest level on the slope, thy main temple, a school of religious study and the monk's quarters are situated; below are another temple, the Mani Lhakhang, a private chapel, and the nun’s dwellings. The assembly hall is decorated with fine murals and contains on shelves the volumes of the Kanjur and Tenjur. At its peak it had 50 monks. In 1980 this number has declined to ten, and one has the impression that there is neither guidance nor interest, so the monastery is in a very bad state. The schoo1 of religious study is no longer functions. About half of the monk’s dwellings are in a state of collapse. The monks claim that they have no support from benefactors or the surrounding community.

The major fact in determining the situation of Tibetan Buddhism in the Himalayas of Nepal is the political situation in the country and neighbors. The Tibetan Buddhist group has been gradually influenced by Brahmanistic practice and belief since their settlements were integrated into modern Nepal, in the 18th century. After the Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 as the result of the invasion of Chinese armies in Tibet, many Tibetans crossed the Nepalese border and became refugees in traditional Tibetan settlements inside Nepal. Regions where Tibetan refugees entered and settled for short time in Nepal are listed from east to west: Walongchung, Chepa and other places in the Upper Aruna Valley, Khumbu, Yolmo, Langtang, Kyirong, parts of Neshyang, Mustang, Dolpo, Mugu, Simikot Limi and Yari. However most refugees could not remain here for long time as there was insufficient pastureland,vegetations and food. Still, their impact on the socio-religious life of the Buddhists of the region is notable. The abandoned monasterieswere revived and some new ones were added. Many decaying traditional festivals became alive and faithful people found a sufficient number of monks for performing their rituals. Some of the monks were quite influential and able to collect donations for maintaining the religious foundations and also for creating new ones. The eighth decade of 20th century was the especially active in the history of Buddhism in the northern border regions of Nepal. However, Nepal lost direct influence from Tibetan monasteries in Tibet, due to the Chinese takeover of the country and the sealing of the borders.


The Middle Mountain Area

The middle mountain area includes the main two valleys along with the mountainous parts of the country. The Kathmandu valley, called ‘Nepal’ by the northern population, is the site of the most important pilgrimage. During the winter , all the people from the northern border of the country meet in Kathmandu to visit the Buddhist pilgrimage centres. Kathmandu is in fact one of the four most important pilgrimage for all Buddhists, and the best time to go there is in the year of the Bird, in the Tibetan cycle. Bauddhanatha and the Kathesimbhu (stupa in Srigha Vihara) district of Kathmandu are favourite places in which to stay. Around the Bauddhanatha stupa the pilgrims exchange the wares brought from their far-away valleys, such as fabrics, textiles and medicinal plants, for manufactured articles. Here they also buy ritual objects.

Since 1950 there has been a strong how of provincial people to cities of the country including Kathmandu, the centre of trade, tourism and government services, seeking opportunities of better livelihood. Some prosperous Buddhists have founded large Gonpas in the Kathmandu valley too. The number of recent immigrants have been considerably increased by the 14,000 Tibetan refugees staying in Nepal since1959 whose culture is not different from northern Nepalese Buddhists. Tibetan religious foundations are found all over the country but are densely found around the famous Stupas, Svayambhu and Bauddhanatha in the Kathmandu valley as well as in the Pokhara valley.

Till recently there was only the Devadharma Mahayana monastery west of the Svayambhu Stupa established in the beginning of 18th century by the Sikkimese king Lama Devadharma. Now there are numerous monasteries. Lama Tenjing gave me names of eight Gonpas around here. I present short introduction of six of them, three Gelukpa and two Kargyupa, which have recently been built .

  1. Karma Randa Mahabala Monastery: was founded by Dharma Lama,a geshe (Pandita) of the Kargyupa sect from Tibet. According to the founder’s request Karmapa Lama sent Sechu Rimpoche from Tibet accompanied by twenty monks in 1959 and settled here. Additionally about 50 monks are Newars, Manangese and Sherpas, who were staying here in 1985. Young novices front here are sent to Rumtek in Sikkim for further studies.
  2. Ganden Jam Ghon Ling Gonpa: was founded by a Newar pious pearl trader called Bodhiratna Tuladhara in 1954. It was rebuilt and expanded to its present size in 1983 and was decorated with new frescos with the help of donations collected locally and from American and European devotees in 1985. The eight Newar resident monks who were there at the beginning invited Gelukpa monks when there was a friction between Gelukpa and Kargyupa monks who were living together. As the result, the Tulku Serkong Dorje Chang, from Ganden Gonpa in Tibet, along with 20 monks who had left Tibet in 1959 and were staying in Karma Randa Mahabala Gonpa, Svayambhu had to move to the monastery in 1983. The monastery has Kagyur (teachings attributed to the historical Buddha) and other valuable books that the monks had brought from Tibet before the Chinese invasion. The Tulku died in 1968 and was reborn in India at Kollegar in Mysore. He was enthroned to the monastery.
  3. Thakje Choling Gonpa is situated on Sarasvati Hill next to Svayambhu. It was founded by Thukje Rinpoche who came from Lhasa in 1963 and holds the position of Khenpo. In 1985 there were fifty five monks in the Gonpa.
  4. Dharmacakra Gonpa also called Shyaphar Gonpa after the founder Lama (Sherab Dorje) has Sakyamuni as its main image. This is the second oldest gonpa after the Devadharma Gonpa and was established in 1940. The founder died in 1960. Thukje Rinpoche had been invited by a Newar devotee called Caturaratna of the Asan locality. He also built a new Gonpa in 1973 which is a replica of buildings in Lhasa.
  5. Pemba Tsering Gonpa: was founded in 1982 by a member of the parliament, called Pemba Tsering from Manang. It is situated bellow Svayambhu. Only two nuns are looking after the Gonpa.
  6. Nyenam Phelgyeling Gonpa was named after a Gonpa in Tibet, near Kodari close to the border of Nepal, from which most of the monks came. The Gonpa has a 1arge courtyard where the monks perform Chain dances similar to those enacted at Mani-Rimdu rites.

Mahayana Monasteries (Gonpas) are also found on the periphery of the famous Bauddha Stupa too. Lama Tenjing, a Tibetan stock Mahayana monk conjectured that there are at least 20 Gonpas. All Gonpas of Bauddhanath except the chapel possessed by the Chiniya (Chinese) Lama are recently founded. Descriptions of Kargyupa and Sakyapa sect monasteries three of each respectively are as follows:

  1. The Ganden Chendeling Gonpa is generally known as the Mongolian Gonpa. This was founded by Sokur Gardeva who was came from Mongolia in 1950. This Gonpa is getting enlarged gradually.The monks staying in the Gonpa are mostly Tibetan. In 1985 the number of monks was 70 and all of them were of Tibetan origin. The present name of the gonpa was given by the Dalai Lama and he also gave it to the care of Sera, Ganden and Drepunp monastery branches recently established in Karnataka, South India. These monasteries provide administrators or abbots (Khenpo) in rotation for the gonpa. Each Khenpo has a tenure of five years.
  2. Thrangu Tashi Gonpa is small and built like an ordinary dwelling. It was built in 1976 by Thrangu Tulku Rinpoche who had come from Kham province in Tibet. Thc community of monks includes Newars, Manangis, Tamangs and novices from local Tibetan families, in addition to the original immigrants from Tibet.
  3. Karong-tine-chunkorle Gonpa is standing on a site donated by the chiniya Lama. The founder, Dabsang Rinpoche, is a Tibetan tulku who walked from Lo-Manthang-(Mustang) to Kathmandu in 1959 with Sechu Rinpoche and nine monks after they had all fled from their Gonpa in Kham, Tibet. In 1985 there were thirty-eight monks, of which 60% were Tibetans.
  4. Tsechen Shedupling Gonpa: was built in 1969 by Tariq Rinpoche, a tulku who came from a famous monastery in Kham, Tibet, with 7 monks. His monastery is a large building complex consisting of a lavishly decorated hall (dukhang) with fine frescoes, a porch, a library situated in a separate building, and an apartment and chapel. There were sixty monks in 1955 fromTibetan, Mustangese and Manangese families. Numerous young noviceslearn reading and writing in the monastery, and then go to other schools and monasteries for further instruction. There are various murals on the walls of the monastery.
  5. Jobche Trichen Gonpa: is founded by Trijen Rinpoche, the head of the Tsarpa branch of the Sakya sect. He also has a monastery in Lumbini in Nepal and monks are residing in both monasteries. The founder also performed a blessing ceremony for the gonpa on 9 October 1985.
  6. The newest Sakya Monastery (Gonpa) is situated behind the Tsechen Shedupling Gonpa. It was founded by Deshung Rinpoche, a former abbot in Tibet. He lived in America in 1985 and his colleague monks from Tibet are taking care of the construction in Bauddhanath.

Monasteries of Pokhara Valley are quite important as they are located in areas inhabited by mainly Newar, Gurung and Magar, the indigenous Buddhists of Nepal.The key persons in administration and the names and addresses of the monasteries are as follows:

  1. Sri Sankara Gurung, Bauddha Arghau Sadana, Pokhara.
  2. Sri Mina Bahadura Gurung, Thaichen Chingling Gonpa, Dip, Pokhara.
  3. Sri Dalamana Gurung, Kalaban Gonpa, Pumdi Bhumdi
  4. Captain Tirthabahadura Gurung, Bauddha Gonpa, Sainika Basti.
  5. Sri Hemansingha Gurung, Arghau Pauva Bauddha Sadana, Lekhanatha-3.
  6. Sri Chiding Trogu Rimpoche, Sanga Dhen Chyoyakhorling Gonpa, Prthvicoka.
  7. Sri syanpa Hrimpoche, Bodhidharma Vipasya Vihara, Hyangja.
  8. Sri …, Thukten Tenjeling Mahayana Buddhist Center, Khahare Baidhama.
  9. Sri …, Hrimpoche the Che Chingling Gonpa, Dipa.
  10. Sri Kordu Lama, Karmasiddha Parampara Dharmacakra Vipasya Vihara, Matepani.
  11. Sri Umar Kusyu Lama, Buddha Arghau Sadan, matepani.
  12. Sri Gapte lama, Buddha Gonpa, pakha, Sarakota, Pokhara.
  13. Tulku Lopsang Jamghang, Dhargyaling Gonpa, Chorepatana.

Tibetan Mahayana is well-established in the mid mountain province in Nepal. More than half of the inhabitants of the area are Buddhists. Recent development of Mahayana is going very fast here.


Terai Area

Tibetan Mahayana Temples began to be established in the mid 20th century in the Terai, which includes the Lumbini. We are aware that Buddhist activities were held here since the time of the Buddha up to 15th century. But after that it was discontinued among the local people. At present we have only the archeological remains of Buddhist glories in the past such as in Lumbini, Kapilavastu, Devadaha and other places. There are still many left to be traced in view points of Buddhism here. Now there are some migrated Buddhists from all over the country as the result of modern facilities. They established a considerable number of Gonpas there. The source gives the numbers of Gonpas in each districts in thc Terai as follows: Citavana 13, Sarlahi 6, Sunsari 3 , Jhapa 3, Dhanusa 2, Rupandehi 2, Navalaparasi 2, Kancanpur 1 gonpas are recorded.

Most of the pilgrims to Lumbini must have seen the gonpa there in the Rupandehi district. This has the features of a typical Nepalese Mahayana Gonpa. It was constructed in 1965 by the king of Mustang district. The Terai is the area where fewest Buddhists of Nepal live.


International Relationship

Buddhism in Nepal has been nourished by numerous Buddhist teachers from different countries throughout the history. They were especially Mahayana teachers and have an international network across various centres in India, Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and elsewhere. Some of them were of Nepalese origin and have contributed in the network and visited Tibet and China, where they offered their services. A long series of Buddhist instructors propagated Mahayana Buddhism in Nepal. They flourished there even though the rulers had not much showed their confirmation toward it. They were of Nepalese origin or from different countries of all directions, i.e. India, Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim, where Mahayana was strongly patronised.

The Licchavi princess of Nepal, Bhrkuti, introduced Buddhism to Tibet in the 7th century. She built a famousVihara in Lhasa and a few religious works were translated. She is considered to be a great figure (Vibhuti) in the history of Nepal. Since then many Tibetan students of Buddhism came to Nepal and studied there. In Mahayana Buddhist relations with neighboring countries, Nepal played a significant role in the early period.

In the modern age many Bhutanese lamas have established gonpas (monasteries) in Nepal. The help of lamas played an important role in Buddhism of Nepal. Recently, Tibetan lamas as fleeing from their monasteries in Tibet moved into Nepal and preached among Buddhist populations.

The Kathmandu Valley is near the birthplace of Buddhism and Buddhism has been continually practiced since its introduction around time of Asoka. The valley became a venue for different kinds of Buddhist activities. Buddhism that survived near the region of its origin was of Mahayana and Vajrayana form. The valley preserves significant role in practicing Mahayana even today. I present some distinguished personalities and important events in history of the Buddhism of Nepal who played a significant role in the propagation of the religion. It is based on the work of Min Bahadur Shakya.

A famous Mahayana scholar, Nagarjuna, who also was an alchemist, stayed at a mountain behind Svayambhu hill, named Nagarjun and meditated there. The monk was a priest for a while and performed miraculous activities in Svayambhu. According to the Tibetan Chronicle, Nepala Buddha Tirthavali this occurred around 200 CE.

The famous historian Taranatha states that the scholar Vasubandhu came to Nepal at advanced age and founded many religious foundations. But one day he saw a guru (monk) dressed in his ecclesiastics costume working in a field, which was an inexpiable transgression for a monk. This was a sign of decline of the doctrine. Shortly thereafter, Vasubandhu died and his remains are kept in a stupa in the Svayambhu area.

Venerable Silamanju went to Tibet with the Nepalese princess Bhrkuti, who was married to the king Srong-Tsang-Gam-po of Tibet around 650 CE. He translated a few Buddhist texts into Tibetan. These include the Gunakaranda Vyuha Sutra, and the Dharmakosa King Narendradeva of the 7thcentury brought the Lord Karunamaya (Bungama Lokesvara) from Kamarupa (Assam). A chariot festival of this Avalokitesvara was introduced to Nepal during the 8th century and is still carried on every year in Patana. It is surmised that the Karunamaya was a great monk during the 8thcentury and was respected by the king Narendradeva of Nepal. Non-Buddhists called Karunamaya as Matsyendra- natha.

Venerable Santaraksita, a Mahasthavira of Nalanda Monastery in beginning of 8th century went to Tibet on the invitation from the Tibetan king Thri-Srong Detsan in 743 AD via Nepal. He preached the doctrine of lay precepts, the Vinaya and the theory of dependent origination. This led Bon followers of Tibet to agitate against Buddhism. He thus remained in Lhasa for only four months and returned to Nepal where he propagated the doctrines of Vijnanavada for six years. Later he went Tibet again following Padmasambhava.

Padmasambhava, a Mahasiddha (a great magician) is person revered as a second Buddha after Sakyamuni by the Mahayana Buddhists of Nepal. He defeated many Brahmin scholars in Tantric contests and he resided in Nalanda University as the professor of Yoga. He came to Nepal en rout to Tibet when he was twenty-six years old and stayed in Nepal for four years (743-747 CE). He is known among Newar Buddhists as Odiyanacarya. He is founder of rNying-ma-pa sect of Mahayana Buddhism in Tibet. Nyingma is the most popular sect in present-day Nepal too. There are many stories about his miraculous activities in Nepal.

In the year 762 CE Venerable Kamalasila,disciple of Santaraksita, came to Nepal and performed activities which impressed people of every walk of life. The Tibetan king Bodhiprabha invited the Master Dipamkarasri Jnana of Bengal and he came to the Kathmandu valley in 1041 CE with a party of twenty eight attendants and many Sanskrit Buddhist manuscripts. The king of Nepal warmly welcomed them and provided accommodation in his palace. The king also built a monastery called Tham Bahi to Atisa’s urging and the prince Padmabhadra received ordination as a pupil of Atisa. He reformed Buddhism and established a new sect in Tibet.

Venerable Sunayasrimisra came from Kapilavastu and established a monastery called Ibahi or Yampi Mahavihara in Patan city in the 12th century CE. He was endowed with knowledge of various studies from Tibet too.

Venerable Vagisvarakirti, a monk belonging the Mahasanghika sect from Varanasi, was a great scholar who worked in Vikramasila Vihara university. He came to Nepal in the last part of his life. By his meditation power he showed many miracles and even the kings was impressed very much by it.

Tibetan accounts of the period of the 10th - 12th centuries give some names of the eminent Nepalese scholars, viz. Pham-thin-pa, Bharmamati, Dus-kho-rpa, Thamchupa, Bhadanta, Bodhibhadra, Mahakaruna, Kanakasri, Dza-hum, Santibhadra, Indraruci, etc. The period from the eight to the twelfth century in Nepal was a Buddhist enlightening period in view of the activities of highly esteemed Siddhacaryas, viz. the great Buddhist saints of Mahayana and Vajrayana sects. Siddha Sarahapada was the pioneer one.

About 1200 CE many Buddhistscholars came to Nepal with a great number of manuscripts as result of an attack by Bakhtiyar Khiljit, a Turkish warrior, on Nalanda and Vikramasila monasteries in northern India. Many craftsmen and artists also came to Nepal along with Buddhist monks. There are some manuscripts colophons which reveal that those were written in Nalanda and completed in Kathmandu. Nepal became an abode of Indian Buddhists.

The large number of migrant Buddhists could not get shelter in these Viharas of the Kathmandu Valley and had to support their stay with their own possessions. So they sold their scriptures, manuscripts and antiquities. It was during this period that Nepal became the storehouse of Buddhist literature and other Sanskrit works. Some of them went to Tibet too.

Venerable Vanaratna, born in 1384 CE, was the last monk who came to Nepal and obtained the Bodhicittotpada from the great scholar Silasagara in 1426. He traveled to Tibet three times and every time he returned Nepal. In the age of 55, 1468, he organized a big feast in which numerous kings of Nepal gathered and gave offerings to a crowd of beggars.

In the course of the long history of Mahayana Buddhism in the Kathmandu Valley, at times, the Kathmandu valley was a source of influence, especially for Tibet. At other time, it was the recipient. In ancient times the Kathmandu Valley contributed to the spread of Buddhism in the high lands of the Himalayas which include not only the region occupied by modern Nepal but Tibet, Sikkim anal Bhutan too. Todd T. Lewis writes:

"Tibetan art and architecture provides the best evidence that the overall direction of cultural influences in post-Licchavi and early Malla period (1000-1500 CE) was from Nepal to Tibet. It is clear that from the earliest days not only scholar monks but also the artisans from the Kathmandu Valley, especially metal casters, architects and painters, traveled to highland cities to decorate monasteries at the request of Tibetan patrons. Araniko, a Kathmandu valley native who travelled via Tibet to Peking, became a leading artist of his days."

Tibetan scholars also have come to the Kathmandu valley in search of texts, Tantric initiations, linguistic instruction, and as pilgrims. Tibetans regarded the Kathmandu Valley as a prominent centre of Buddhist tradition. During the period of 1000- 1500 CE Kathmandu became a venue for Tibetan, Nepalese and Indian Buddhist students and scholars. In the same period the Sinja kingdom of western Nepal was strongly patronizing Mahayana Buddhism as we have discussed elsewhere. In this way Buddhist influence in medieval period was strong all over the territory of modern Nepal.

Todd T. Lewis concludes that by the year 1500 CE the situation had reversed itself. Connections with the major monasteries of the central Tibetan provinces repeatedly commissioned restoring works at the great shrines in the Valley, and monks from these places often visited Nepal to supervise the work. This was the period of designation of different principalities in the middle hilly territory and the Terai, rulers of which became in favor of Brahmanism compared to the tribal rulers prior to them. As a result some Buddhist holy places in the country also were wrongly appropriate as Brahmanistic one. Buddhist centres, including holy places such as Lumbini and Kapilavastu, gradually became obscured even for the local inhabitants.

Up to the end of Malla period the Newar Tibetan relations were strong. On the other hand the Tibetan Lamas traveled and preached among Tibeto-Burman people who lived on the frontier periphery of Tibetan civilization. For these groups too, the Kathmandu Valley recognized as a major Buddhist centre where important shrines, large monasteries, and noted teachers were located. Individuals from these communities likely had trade connections with Kathmandu, although we know very little about Malla ties with the small hill settlements and states that circled the Valley.

In 1673 the Nepalese King, Pratapa Malla granted Lamas of the Drukpa sect authority over Svayambhu and Bauddha Stupas. He also patronized their Valley Gonpas (monasteries) and monks lavishly. In this period the Drukpas also established monasteries across theTibetan frontier in Mustang, Dolpo, etc.,’ which are embraced by modern Nepal.

A brief introduction to the monks, personalities who have lielpe‹i Buddhism in Nepal during the last 300 years based on Min Bahadur Shakya’s work, A Short History of Buddhism in Nepal’ again is as follows.

The XIIth Gyalwa Karmapa lama of Tibet (born 1703) A.D. accompanied by Shamar Tulku, Situ Tulku and Gyaltsap Tulku came to Bauddhanath in the Kathmandu Valley and the patry was received lavishly by king Jagatajaya Malla. The Karmapa and his party stayed in the palace for seven days, bestowing blessings and preaching the Dharma. He preached the Dharma throughout the Kathmandu Valley. Since the country was suffering from drought, the Karmapa threw consecrated grains into the air and it rained heavily.

The Karpama took the party on pilgrimage to Namobuddha. At this place an invitation was received from King Ranajita Malla. (1722- 1766) asking them to visit his city, Bhaktapur. Elephants were provided for the Karmapa and Sharmapa and fine horses for Situ Tulku and Gyaltsap Tulku. In a magnificent procession they circumambulated the city bestowing their blessings upon all.

Du Du Dorje, the thirteenth Karmapa (1733- 1797 A.D.), made a pilgrimage to Nepal in 1750 A.D. meeting king Jayaprakasa Malla and arranged for restoration to be undertaken on the great Svayambhu Stupa.

The famous Lama Si-tu Pan-chen (1770-1774) was twice sponsored for his visit to Nepal. Many monasteries and scholar monks were lavishly sponsored by the Newar Kings and people. Even the early Saha rulers continued to support such institutions.
The XVIth Gyalwa Karmapa of Tibet traveled on pilgrimage to Nepal in 1944 and was highly honored by King Tribhuvana and the royal family and performed the Black hat Ceremony for them all. He visited all the main pilgrimage places in Nepal and bestowed his blessing upon thousands. After his sojourn in India and Tibet, he again visited Nepal in 1956 where he visited the three holy places of Buddhanatha, Svayambhu and Namobuddha and gave blessing and teachings to many thousands. The Karmapa established a monastery in Bauddhanath in 1969 named Kanying Shedrup Ling, the second largest monastery in the Himalayas. The monastery was inaugurated by His Magesty the King Virendra Vira Vikram Saha Deva in 1970.

His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama and his party visited India in 1956 to celebrate the 2500th Anniversary of Lord Buddha’s parinibbana and paid respect to four Buddhist holy places there including Lumbhini in Nepal. On the way back to Tibet, the Dalai Lama with important Lamas such Kyabje Ling Rinpoche traveled through Nepal where they visited three main stupas (Svayambhu, Baudhanatha and Namobuddha) and a few other holy places, making offerings and prayers at them.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited Lumbini again in 1981 with severe restrictions by the Nepal government to refrain from speaking against China. Over 10,000 people were gathered in Lumbini in his prayer and teaching program.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama sent Venerable Rato Chuwar Rinpoche for consecration of the Baudhanatha Stupa after repaiment. He stayed at Bauddha in Kathmandu for one month teaching Vajrayana Buddhism.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama sent Tsenshab Serkong Rinpoche, and his attendants in 1971, to visit the three main holy places in Kathmandu and perform religious ceremonies there. On the second visit he ordained 500 students as Samanera or novice and Bhikkhu in the monastery called Garden Chophel Ling at Bauddha in 1977.

Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism in Nepal is trying to modernize itself through international contacts. I have presented examples of religious teachers predominant in the course of the history of Mahayana Buddhism in Nepal; they kept the Buddhist monks lineage alive in the Kathmandu Valley, if not among the Newar, then among other Buddhist groups of the country. However, in Nepal, for the last few centuries, Buddhism has not been led by the rulers. The new developments in the country are mostly of the secular type. It is difficult to say whether Buddhism is developing or decaying in fact. We do not have full knowledge of the Brahmanistic influence that is sponsored by government. This is a problem again because of the increase of the modern secular developments and the mono-religious education system in the schools of the Kingdom.


Beginning of Theravada

Theravada Buddhism has emerged mainly among Newars for the last 70 years. The Newars influenced by Theravada are quite aware of their religious and national heritage. They have started to engage in not only the traditional but also modern activities such as publishing literature, establishing new Viharas and holding meetings. Theravada group is leading others in some aspects of religious activities. It is quite suffused throughout the country. As the Newars easily come in contacts with outsiders as the inhabitants of Kathmandu, the capital city and they are quite successful traders, scholars and artisans. For the same reason Developments in neighbouring countries have had immediate effects on them too. Thus, the major events occurred in neighbouring countries such as Tibet, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and elsewhere have played significant roles for Theravada developments in Nepal.

It was in 1923 that some Newar Buddhists of Kathmandu joined together to become more active in their religion and strengthen their faith. The real prime mover was a Lama from Kham province in Tibet named Kunsam Lhosel, who came on a pilgrimage to the main Buddhist sites in the Kathmandu Valley. Witnesses stated that he travelled to Nepal as a self mortification that is by prostrating the whole of the way, which took him four and half years. He was an influential preacher, giving discourses at Svayambhu and other main Newar settlements in the Kathmandu Valley. The main theme of his preaching was the Kunzang lama’i shelung Ngon-dro, a basic text of the Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism as practiced in Tibet. He was known in Nepal as Kyanchhe Lama (rgyan-tshal bla-ma).

The lama’s preaching was so effective that some devotees urged him to take them along with him and give them ordination into the monkhood. A devotee named Prembahadura Srestha, a young Newar of 22-23 years, supposed to be follower of Brahmanism by tradition rushed to Keruong in Tibet and received ordination under the preceptorship of Lama monk Kushyo Rimpoche (Brother of the 13th Dalai Lama). He was joined by two other men. He was given the name Palden Sherab or Mahaprajna. This name remained with him for the rest of his life. Later on three more Newars joined him and were ordained as monks. One went to Gorkha and the remaining five came to Kathmandu in 1924. The five Newar monks were now wearing robes which they fashioned according to old frescoes and statues. They went around Kathmandu begging for alms. This caused a great stir.

Only a few days after their arrival in Kathmandu the five monks were arrested during their alms round in Kathmandu city. After inquiries they were expelled from Nepal. Their Tibetan teacher Cherin Norbu was fined a sum of one hundred rupees and expelled in 1925. They went to Buddhagaya and reordained into the Theravada as Samaneras under U Kosala, a Burmese monk residing there. After that they all proceeded to Calcutta. Later on Cherin Norbu and Mahaprajna went to Tibet.

Another important point for beginning of Theravada Buddhism in Nepal was Calcutta, the capital city of British India. The main personality in those activities was a Buddhist student named Vrsamana Vaidya from Patan in the Kathmandu valley (Nepal). He studied Buddhism and the Pali language under the guidance of Anagarika Dharmapala in the library of the Mahabodhi Society. He obtained the degree title of Bauddha Sahityaratna and his name was changed to Dharmaditya Dharmacarya by Anagarika Dharmapala. He had come to study Bachelor of Commerce degree at Calcutta University. He founded two Buddhist associations aiming at the propagation of Buddhism, one in Calcutta and another in Nepal in 1923. He also denounced the Nepalese government in the press for expelling the monks from Nepal. He helped these monks in Calcutta. Dharmaditya Dharmacary’s most important effort was calling the “All India Buddhist Conference” in Calcutta on December 27-29, 1928. It was the first Buddhist Conference in modern India.

The magazine Buddha Dharma and later the Buddhadharma Va Nepala Bhasa in Newari Published ten issues within five years. The Himalaya Bauddha in Nepali language, the Bauddha Bharata in Hindi and Bengali separately and the Buddhist India in English, all come out, yet only with of few issues during a short period of publication. The all publications were edited by Dharmaditya Dharmacarya during the same period. Along with introductions on Nepalese (Newar) Buddhism popular sections of the pali canons also were published. These included translations of the Dhammacakka sutta, Jivakasutta and Sigalovadasutta. He himself wrote essays, translated and edited various teachings of the Buddha, for example, the elementary Theravada tenets of taking refuge in the Triple Gem and observing five and eight precepts. He also distributed other Buddhist books and pictures in Nepal.

Some important activities started by Dharmaditya Dharmacarya is still continued in Nepal. Since 1926 (2470) the celebration marking the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and passing away called ‘Buddha Jayanti’ has been a widely practiced custom in Nepal. An old monastery located near the Svayambhu Stupa in Kathmandu, Kindola Vihara is still active.

Dharmaditya Dharmacarya could not remain in such benevolent service of the religion and literature for long. After only five years, he was forced to return and serve the Government in 1930 in compensation for its having sponsored his study in Calcutta. The result was not different than if they had closed down all his publications and activities. The other cause for the halted work was his failure to receive sufficient help from the public. It was in any case an important starting point for the development of Theravada activity and literature by the Nepalese for Nepal.

This was the time that monks from Buddhist countries such as Sri Lanka and Burma started to take residence at important Buddhist sites in India. At Kusinagara, the site of the Buddhs’s Parinirvana, an Arakanese monk named U Candramani resided since the beginning of the 20th century, and started his carieer there. Candramani became the key figure in the ordination of Nepalese monks. Except for one or two, all Nepalese monks of the first and second generation received ordination from him. He supported them by giving accommodation at his own monastery and sending them to Burma for their religious education. He was also the teacher of all Theravada nuns of Nepal. His most prominent role was playing host to all pilgrims at Kusinagara including Nepalese.

Venerable Mahaprajna returned from Lhasa after having studied Buddhism and recovering from his ailment of paralysis. He arrived in Kusinagara and received reordination as a Samanera again in 1928. The next year another Newar lama monk, Thinley Tsultrim or Karmasila (Mr Kulamansingha Vaidya) also ordained into Theravada. This monk visited Kathmandu in 1930 and gave the people of Kathmandu Valley a glimpse of the Theravada monk. Shortly afterwards Venerable Mahaprajna also visited with Indian pilgrims without being detected. Both the monks stayed at Kindola Vihara and preached there. This gave rise to faith in four women devotees who were brought to Kusinagara for ordination. This was the first ordination of Nepalese as Theravada nuns in the history of modern Nepal. Venerable Mahaprajna then went to Burma for study and meditation practice and received his higher ordination. Shortly after Venerable Karmasila also went to Arakan (Burma) and received higher ordination with a new name Ven. Parjnananda. This is the person who spent the rest of his life in the monkhood and became the first Sanghamahanayaka of Nepal.

Upon his return in 1937, Venerable Mahaprajna preached Dhamma in Bhojapur, East Nepal, and a few months later was sent to jail along with Samanera Amrtananda. The latter was ordained at Kusinagara under the preceptorship of Venerable Candramani Mahasthavira in 1936. Venerable Mahaprajna and Samanera Amrtananda were locked up for few weeks before both of them were expelled from Eastern Nepal to India. After this event Venerable Amrtananda went to Burma and then to Sri Lanka for study.

In 1932 Mr. Dasaratna Sahu (1890-1967) a merchant of Kathmandu, visited Burma twice, afterward took ordination at Kusinagara, India. He was given the name Dharmaloka . He returned to Kathmandu and stayed at Kindola Vihara where he formerly stayed for religious practice. He was planning to receive higher ordination. He already had enshrined a set of monk’s robes and a bowl for worship there which he obtained in Sri Lanka when he visited his novice son Gajaratna or Aniruddha in 1929.

Samanera Dharmaloka was arrested immediately after his arrival at Kathmandu for his ordination, but this time nothing dire happened and he was released after five days. After receiving higher ordination at Saranatha in 1933, Venerable Dharmaloka again stayed at Kindola Vihara. But since a few nuns (Anagarika) also were already there, therefore he moved to the present Anandakuti Vihara accompanied by Samanera Ratnajyoti and here they stayed and developed.

In 1942 Venerable Amrtananda returned to Kathmandu and preached near the Svayambhu Stupa for one month during the Buddhist lent or “Gumla” according to traditional Newar Buddhists. At the conclusion of his sermons the Sri Lankan style Mahaparitrana was chanted for the first time in Nepal. Other monks also returned from abroad after completing their study of Dhamma. Venerable Candramani visited Kathmandu in 1944. Shortly after his visit the Rana Prime Minister Juddha Shumsher ordered all monks and novices to leave the country within three days. These included Venerable Bhikkhus Prajnananda, Dharmaloka, Subodhananda and Prajnarasmi. Novices Prajnarasa, Ratnajyoti, Aggadhamma and Kumara also left the country according to the government order.

With the help of other concerned Buddhists, the expelled monks formed a Buddhist Society of Nepal on November 30, 1944 called“Dharmodaya Sabha”. It was under the chairmanship of the Venerable U Chandramani Mahathera at Saranatha. Venerable Amrtananda, as the Secretary of the Sabha, visited many Buddhist Societies in India and Sri Lanka and appealed to them to protest the Nepal government’s expu1sion of the monks. A wealthy Nepalese Buddhist man, Sri Maniharsajyoti Kansakara extended substantial help to the monks in exile.

Venerable Amrtananda went to Sri Lanka and brought back with him a good-will mission consisting of five scholars led by Venerable Narada Mahathera in 1946. The mission was able to meet the new Prime Minister Padma Shumsher Jungabahadura Rana in Kathmandu and gradually the ban on the monks was lifted. A white marble Buddha image, donated by Venerable U Candramani, was enshrined at a small Shrine in Anandakuti Vihara. Venerable Narada Mahathera paid a second visit to Nepal in 1947, this time bringing with him sacred relics of Lord Buddha and a sapling of the Srimahabodhi tree from Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. A grand public felicitation function was held at Yatakha Bahala in Kathmandu in the honour of Venerable Narada. This was the first event of such nature in the history of Nepal.

In the next year (1948) a Stupa was completed and a small Ordination Hall (Uposathagara) was founded at Anandakuti Vihara. Venerable Narada visited Nepal for a third time to attend the opening ceremony. He also paid a visit to the Prime Minister Mohana Shumsher who declared the Vaisakha full moon day a public holiday for the Buddhist civil servants of Kathmandu Valley in response to Venerable Narada’s request.


Development of Theravada

In 1951 Venerable Madihe Pannasiha from Sri Lanka had an audience with His Majesty King Tribhuvana Viravikrama Sahadeva during which he conducted a ceremony and tied holy thread on the wrist of His Majesty the King as a blessing. From that time on Venerable Amrtananda,who had arranged the visit, maintained a strong relationship with the palace.

In the same year the re1ics of Sariputra and Maudgalyayana, the foremost disciples of the Buddha, were brought to Kathmandu for an exhibition. The reception committee was chaired by the King himself. The King received the relics into his own hands at the airport. A thirtyone gun salute was offered in honour of the relics. They were enshrined at Narayanahiti palace for one night (6 November). After a private viewing of the relics by members of the royal family they were exhibited to the public. A special altar was constructed for this purpose at a large park in Kathmandu named Tundikhela. The relics were welcomed by the three main cities of the Kathmandu valley and Banepa city. In Patan the crown prince Mahendra chaired the reception committee. Thousands of people turned up every day and night to pay their respects to the holy relics. On this occasion the King offered Dana to the Bhikkhus in the Royal Palace as well.

Later, on the auspicious occasion of the king’s Birthday, monks chanted the Mahaparitrana within the Royal Palace in 1951. Since then, the King's birthday is always celebrated with the chanting of the Mahaparitana at Anandakuti Vihara. The same year Venerable Amrtananda founded the All Nepal Bhikshu Mahasangha. Also Nepal’s second Ordination Hall (Uposathagara) was established at Srisumangala Vihara in Patan. Since 1951 Theravada Buddhists have engaged more actively in the propagation of Dhamma inNepal.

In 1952 the Buddha Jayanti or Vaisakha Puja was celebrated by inviting His Majesty King Tribhuvana and Crown Prince His Highness Mahendra along with the prime minister, ministers and other high ranking government officials and diplomats at Anandakuti Vihara. On the same occasion a function was held at Bhuikhela, near Svayambu Stupa chaired by the King himself to proclaim Vaisakha full moon day as a public holiday throughout the kingdom. Prime Minister Bisvesvara Prasada Koirala (BP Koirala) and Home Minister Ganesamana Simha also were present at thefunction.

Buddha Jayanti of 1954 was presided over by His Majesty King Tribhuvana at Anandakuti Vihara. But the King demised in 1956 slightly before the fourth conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB), that His Majesty planned to sponsor. This conference was the first to be held in Nepal, under the auspices of the Dharmodaya Sabha and patronage of his Majesty King Mahendra. This same year King Mahendra visited Lumbini and erected the Mahendra pillar. His Majesty also made the proclamation that no animal shall be slaughtered throughout the kingdom on Vaisakha full moon day. Nepal also celebrated the Buddha Jayanti of the year 2,500 (Buddhist Era) by allotting a budget the development of Lumbini. A Theravada Monastery at Lumbini was constructed according to the plan and Dharmodaya Sabha of Lumbini with the responsibility to look after Lumbini.

His Majesty the King Mahendra (then crown prince) inaugurated a big reclining Buddha image at Kindola Vihara in 1957 (1072 NE). His Majesty the King Virendra (then crown prince) visited Gana Mahavihara in 1967 for the enshrinement of a relic of the Buddha. His Majesty visited Anandakuti Vihara in 1977 for the first time in celebration of Buddha Jayanti. His Majesty was also present in 1987 and 1992 (with the queen) for the Buddha Jayanti Celebration held in Anandakuti Vihara. His Majesty has consented to attend in Buddha Jayanti celebration everyfourth year.

Theravadins have launched numerious important religious activities in Nepal. As the result a huge popularity of Theravada is increased in the country. Such as 1. Education, 2, Buddhapuja 3. Drama, 4. Meditations, 5. Mass Ordinations, 6. Publications, and others. Let us review them on some detail:

1.In 1964 a Theravada educational system called Nepal Bauddha Pariyatti Siksa (Buddhist Saturday School) was formed. It is small running as the single Buddhist teaching organisation in the country. A few other branch Viharas have been opened in the Kathmandu Valley and major Newar towns out of the valley. From four to five hundred students take the examination every year.

2.Buddha Puja or worship ceremony of triple gem in daily besis has been conducted in most of Theravada centers. Especially worship ceremonies that held in order to function Bahabahi Puja were notable. This was held every week for three years in Kathmandu during 1962-65. On every Buddhist holy day a group of devotional singers gathered in a certain Bahabahi, or traditional Newar Buddhist monastery, and held a service including worship and the preaching of monks. Such programmes were also held in the districts of Llaitpur, Bhaktapur and Banepa and some other main Newar settlements to celebrate the completionof a newlyconstructedor reconstructed monastery. In this manner Theravada movement has affected the entire Newar society in the Kathmandu Valley. Such Buddha Pujas also have been conducted by going pilgrimage to the historically important Buddhist sites both in the country and in neighbouring countries.

3. During the period of 1941-48 one or two articles in Newari dealing with Buddhism and Newari Literature were printed in every issue of the Dharmaduta (Hindi) published monthly from Saranath, India, editedby Venerable Mahanama. In 1946 an other periodical completely dealing with such matters was started entitled Dharmodaya. It came to a halt in 1958 after 13 years circulation, leaving quite an impression on its readers. Since 1973 the monthly magazine Anandabhumi, a tri-lingual publication in Nepali, Newari and occasionally English has been published by Anandakuti Vihara. A similar type of magazine, the Dharmakirti was also published in 1985 by Dharmakirti Vihara. Since 1993, the Anandabhumi was published separately in two languages, Newari and Nepali for a short period. There are numerous other Buddhist periodicals coming out in Newari, Nepali and in Eng1ish mostly on the occasion of Buddha Jayanti (Vaisakha puja Celebration). Secular magazines publish Buddhist matterials too as special issue on the occasion of Buddha Jayanti celebration.

Publication of Pali translation into Newari has been going on by Theravadin monks since 1930. Paritta, Dhammacakka, Vasala, Parabhava, Mahasatipattthana, Anattalakkhana, Sigalovada and a few other suttas were well known since their first appearance and have been reprinted many times over by individual devotees. Numerous Jataka and Dhammapada stories and portions of commentaries or tika have also been translated into Newari. Translations of Pali into Nepali, the official language of Nepal, have mainly been published by the Anandakuti Vihara Trust since 1969. The trust has published more than 80 books including all the works translated from Pali. Since 1972 the founder of the trust, Venerable Amrtananda, dedicated the last 20 years of his life (d, 1992) to publish 35 notable well-researched books on Pali literataure. The publication is pronounced for its vastness and Standard not only in Nepal but world-wide. This type of study is a contribution for the world of Buddhist literature. Individuals have also shown their devotion in publishing Theravada literature, especially since 1982. Itivuttaka, 1982, Milindapraqna,1984, Mahaparinirvana-sutta and Dighanikaya,1989, Majjhiinanikaya, 1997 were all published by Mr Dundabahadura Vajracarya. Dharmaratna Sakya began publishing his translation works since 1960.

Dharmakirti Publications also contributed easy reading booklets for general readers since 1971. It has published 168 publications and is still active. Santisukhavasa Publication has recently publislied translotions of numbers of large and important works by Burmese scholars on commentaries of important Suttas and treatises. These are mainly translations into Newari and some in Nepali by Venerable Nyanapunnika. There are more than 500 works on Theravada Buddhism in Newari and Nepali languages published so far in Nepal.

4.Another medium which shown its importance in conveying the Dhamma among the Newar people is performing the play or drama. Such Buddhist theatrical plays have been performed for a long time in Nepal. The King of Nepal, Rajendra Viravikrama Sahadeva (mid 19th century) commissioned a drama based on a Jataka(Mahasattva) found in Buddhist Sanskrit literature. Two long, popular and effective dramatic performances on the Life of Buddha based on the Lalitavistara ran between 1923-24 followed by Virakusa or Kusa Jataka. This tradition has supported Theravada movement which has made numerous efforts. Venerable Sudarsana is the most prominent in this area, having written and created more than half a dozen dramas based on Pali literature. The most popular ones are Ambapali, Bimbisara and Dighayu. Other popular stories which are frequently staged are Siddhartha, Angulimala, Vessantara Jataka, Serivanija Jataka, and Suwannasam written by different writers.

5. Meditation is one of the most important teachings of the Buddha and has been practised by a few senior monks since the early days in Nepal. It was introduced by Venerable Sanghamahanayaka to the public since the 1950’s. Venerable Ratnajyoti (1898 - 1976) also was famous for his intensive meditation practice in his whole life. Venerable Sumangala has been holding meditation classes since the 1970’s at Ganamaha Vihara. Bauddha-rsi Mahaprajna is also famous as Karmasthanacarya and taught meditation during 1970-80 CE.

Meditation received strong publicity after its introduction by meditation teachers from Burma and India since the 1980’s. The Dow Pannacari and Dow Sukhacari of Mawlamyine (Burma) were the first to hold meditation courses in Nepal in 1980. In the same year the Satyanarayana Goenka from India and Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw of Burma visited Nepal and field a few meditation courses. A great number of people participated in the grand ceremony held at Patan and listened to the Sayadaw. It augured the bright future of meditation practice in Nepal. The meditation system of the Satyanarayana Goenka and Venerable Mahasi Sayadaw of Burma are the two most popular ones in Nepal. Two very active meditation centers have been founded in Kathmandu one for each tradition, Goenka and Mahasi Sayadaw. Theravada Buddhism and Vipassana meditation have shown a natural affinity in their common propagation in Nepal. A larger meditation center of Goenka tradition in Birganja (Southern Nepal) will be built in the near future.

6. Short term mass ordination was started at Lumbini in 1974. Since then it has become popular and are conducted frequently. The most important occasions of such mass ordination were in 1985 when 105 persons were given Samanera ordination and in 1986 when 87 women observed the eight precepts. Additionally 93 persons were ordainned in 1992. Seventy-three Sakyas were also given ordination on a single occasion by His Hliness Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, (then His Eminence) the present Supreme Patriarch of Thailand, during his visit to Nepal in 1985. All these ceremonies were held at Sirikitti Vihara, Kirtipur. Again, 93 persons were given ordination in 1993 at Sakyasingha Vihara. Since a few years ago, the Sirikitti Vihara, the Sakyasingha Vihara, the Dharmakirti Vihara, the International Buddhist Meditation center and elsewhere have all been holding such mass ordinations. The number of those ordainees exceeds altogether five hundred (?) per year. Some of them receive short-term ordination in place of the Vratabandha or Cudakarma rite.

In connection with the mass ordination the visit of His Holiness Supreme Patriarch Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara and his kind donations to the important monasteries in Kathmandu Valley is notable. From this financial help Venerable Sumangala was able to establish the International Meditation center in Kathmandu. Venerable Sudarsan developed Sirikitti Vihara,. Anandakuti Vihara and Sakyasingha Vihara also strengthened their monastery funds. By this Thailand has supported mass ordination and other activities of Theravada Buddhists in Nepal.


Present Situation

Numerous Buddhist associations or organisations backing Theravada activities are active. We have discussed the Dharmodaya Sabha which was established in 1944 already. Shifting this Sabha to Kathmandu in 1952 from kalimpong, India, other independent institutions with the same name were formed at Kalimpong in India and at Lumbini in Nepal. The Sabha functions as a regional centre for the World Fellowship of Buddhists and National Buddhist organization of the country. It has hosted thr 4th and 15th WFB conferernces in 1956 and 1986 respectively in Kathmandu. It has again been organizing National Buddhist Conferences every other year since 1988 with the aim of unifying Buddhists of the country. Now it has 28 regional and district branches in the Kingdom. The head office of this organization is at Buddha Vihara, Kathmandu. It is active in promoting Theravada in Nepal.

jnanamala Bhajana Khalah is a band of devotional Buddhist singers which acts as a bridge between the traditional Newar Buddhists and Theravada. Since over centuries, Newar Buddhists of Neplal use passages of religious chanting not only in Sanskrit verse but also in their colloquiel language, Newari. Sometimes they use musical instruments to accompany the chanting. Some of them have adopted musical instruments, popularized in Nepal by mainly Indian cinemas. But still they possess the character of their traditional chanting. They chant Pali or Sanskrit passages in the beginnig and in conclusion of the singing programs. They are directed by either an elder monk or an elder in the community. They perform it usually while in sitting positions but also it is performed during religious processions as well. It was first performed in the precinct of Svayambhu Stupa in 1940. This musical group became so popular that people started up new groups or replaced their old type of religious singing with the newly introduced songs composed by mainly Theravada monks. It is active mainly Newar settlements in the country and India. Now there are altogether 68 active bands. They also organized a National jnanamala Association and use the Svayambhu jnanamala Group as its Vihara. It has performed Bahabahi Puja, or religious services, rotating traditional monasteries every week in the 1960’s and again since 1995 under the leadership of Theravada monks. Its handbook of songs became the most popular book among Newars.

Many Theravada Viharas have a benefactor’s group (Dayaka Sabha). The comparatively active ones are from Anandakuti Vihara, Srigha Vihara, Srisumangala Vihara, Gana Mahavihara, Visvasanti Vihara, International Meditation Vihara, etc. Dharmakirti Adhyayana Gosthi, Young Men’s Buddhist Association or YMBA (Est. 1970) and Buddhist Youth Group of Kathmandu (Established in 1978) are other currently active Buddhist groups. Many Theravada groups have made close contact with other Buddhist groups or organisations ever since the 1992 public demonstrations calling for secularism in the country.

In 1991 democracy was restored in the country. Subsequently the interim government formed an independent committee to draft a new constituation. The Theravada Buddhists of Nepal along with other ethnic Buddhists, political and social groups jointly and strongly called for the drafting of secular type constitution. In this campaign Venerable Amrtanada was the most prominent leader. Buddhists from all over the country came together under a single slogan demanding secularism in the new constitution. This event caused strong unity and heightend awareness amongst Buddhists of Nepal. Even the international media was astonished by this turn of events. Without going into great detail here, we can simply say that every possible effort was made for gaining that aim.
Five pieces of the Buddha’s relics from Sri Lanka were brought to be enshrined at Anandakuti Vihara, Kathmandu, and the International Buddhist Vihara in Lumbhini in 1994. The state delegation was led by the state Minister for Industry and Labour of the Nepal Government, Ramakrsna Tamrakara. These relics were brought because the former ones previously enshrined at Anandakuti Vihara were stolen about one year before.

The success of Theravada Buddhism in Nepal would be much less if not for the heartfelt help of foreign countries, especially Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand. In the last few decades this has grown in measure from merelyextendingreligious education to Nepalese monks and nuns in their countries. Financial help has also been received from various countries.


Theravada Monks of Nepal

One part of the Triratna or Buddhist trinity is the Sangha, the practising community of the celibate monks and nuns. The roles of monks, nuns and lay devotees are the enhancement and fulfilment of each other’s goal. We cannot imagine Buddhism without devotees as well as monks. But Newar Buddhism was an exception to this rule. It survived without properly ordained monks since the mid-Malla period. Newar Buddhism has survived within cleavages of the caste system since the last quarter of the 14th century C.E. This was especially the case from the end of Malla period or the end of 16th century. The caste system had been enforced again by the law in the modern Nepal Kingdom by the Law Code of 1854 until 1964. At the beginning of the 20th century Newar society was divided into rigid castes and sub-castes, the result of prolonged domination and Brahmanistic suppression by the power of the state. There were castes from the top to bottom in Newar society i.e. from purest Vajracarya and Brahmana priest to untouchables. The entire social structure was run according to the caste system though not so strongly displayed in public as in India. Newar Buddhist leaders, however, held a different attitude towards the caste system.

The idea of ordination as a celibate monk was virtually unthinkable in Nepal as it raked against the hereditary priesthood in Brahminist society, and which the ideal of Buddhist monkhood upset. However, leaving out of Brahmins and their followers which makes a small portion, Newars are traditionally considered to be mainly Buddhists. Newars received ordination in Theravada as the result of their attraction to Buddhism in the beginning of 20th century.

Theravada monks of Nepal, as a part of society, received influence of the structure of traditional Newar society. In order to understand them, on observatiuon to the caste orgins of the earlier monks would be helpful.

Let us take the caste origin of 15 monks of the first generation. Broken down by caste we see 2 Vajracaryas, 8 Sakyas, 1 Srestha and 4 Udasas. It should be noted that these family names are of the top ranking in Newar society. Vajracarya are hereditary Buddhist monks and priests; Sakya, hereditary Buddhist monks; Srestha, the ruling and trading class; and Udasa, prosperous merchants. This shows that in the beginning of the Theravada movement, the high caste Newars were leading the campaign in Nepal. This was the result of the prevailing caste concept among Newars that only the high caste people could receive ordination. Even for these high caste monks, there were no small difficulties in soothing the devotees from different caste backgrounds. Monks had in fact to conceal their caste on many occasions for various reasons, especially during 1925-1950 when the quarrelling between Vajracarya priests and their clients was heightened.

The ordination of Mahaprajna in Buddhism offers example of continued Buddhist influence on the entire Newar Society. He was considered to belong to the Brahmanist faith. When he received ordination, the reaction of Brahmins orthodoxy was to forbid him from doing so. first by arguments and then by the newly constituted law. But they were not successful. The other 14 first generation monks were Buddhist born and therefore eligible to practice Buddhism. But then their preaching became unbearable, propagating ideas to awaken Buddhist society and cease to obey the caste system and Brahmanistic monopoly in society. Ending the caste system, receiving ordination and converting the followers of Brahmanism to Buddhism was made prosecutable by law.

Historically Newar society has supported two main religious trends. Actually speaking, these are the Buddhist and Saivite, Buddhamargi the followers of Buddha and Sivamargi, the followers of the Siva. These two sects have always coexisted with great harmony and deep respect for each other. In fact, it was generally not easy to tell the two systems apart. But the extremist Brahmins became jealous and suspicious toward modern Buddhist activities. By the power of the state, which Brahmins were enjoying, Buddhist activities were severely suppressed by detaining monks, or sending them to jail and fining all kinds of Buddhist activists. Yet still the monks could not to be controlled, and as a result they were repeatedly expelled. Such tactics were directed by the orthodox Brahmins. But the monks showed courage in their determination and activities.

If we take all Newar Buddhist, for instance, their involvement in Theravada seems still little. The Theravada is still unknown to many Newars, even though their publications and tendency to build new Viharas exceeds any other Buddhist group of Newar. Not only is the number of monks and nuns small (slightly over 200), its 80 Viharas only amount to 20% of the traditional ones. We cannot compare traditional caityas in same way, for they are countless. Theravadin caityas do not exceed 100.

In general, Newars of every walk of life have become involved in the Theravada activities, but the movement is still led by upper-class Newars, mainly Sakyas. Researchers look to the social, economical and logistical factors of Newar influence in this matter.


Source of Life History of the Monks

A considerable portion of Theravada monks of the first generation was quite learned, trained, active and capable in their Dhammaduta work in those days. Their life histories or records have been in print and they are considered important personalities and worthy to be known by the public. I will mention the monks who have already died.

A complete autobiography of the first Theravada monk, Mahaprajna (disrobed during 1946), was published in three parts. It also gives some information about other little known Nepalese monks Sasanajyoti and Buddharatna who were contemporaries of Mahaprajna but died soon and were forgotten. Two small booklets on life of Mahaprajna by devotees have also been published.

All important information concerning the activities and life story Prajnananda has been published. He was the most well known monk of his Theravada Buddhist circle and assumed the role as the first Sanghamahanayaka of Nepal.

Venerable Dharmaloka’s life history has been sketched by Dharmaratna Yami and Ratna Sundara Sakya separately. His own work Pilgrimage to Great China also contains a part of his biography. The work is published in four languages separately, Nepala Bhasa (Newari), Nepali, Hindi and English.

A small biography of Venerable Amrtananda in English was written by Kesar Lall in 1986. Main events of his life are depicted in his book A short History of Theravada Buddhism in Nepal published in three languages; English, Nepali and Newari separately. It has been translated into Thai too. A Collection of important documents relating to his life was also published in English. A special issue of the Ananda Bhoomi Amritanjali Visesamka published in 1990 contributions by different outstanding personalities on the important aspects of his life. A diary of a Journey to Japan also relates his important activities of the year 1978. Some of his celebrated encyclopaedic work in Pali literature Buddhakalina contain some information about his life story.

Venerable Mahanama’s life story was published in 1995. An obituary of Venerable Prajnarajnsmi was published in the Ananda Bhoomi.

Most publications on life story of the monks are in Nepala bhasa or Newari and Nepali otherwise I have mentioned in respective places.

Concerning the life-history of Venerable Ratnajyoti Mahasthavira, only a few facts are available. Some brief references to events connected to his life story are found in some booklets. His activities in Chapagaun are published. His name was included in the list of monks and novices who were banishe from Nepal in 1944. There is an audio cassette recording of a dialogue with him on his life prepared and possessed by Venerable Sudarsan. A copy of the recording is kept by a relative of the monk in Patan. Some of his photographs, framings and coloured portraits are preserved at Muni Vihara, Bhaktapur; Ilaybahi, Patan; and Jyoti Vihara, Capagaun. He was quite active among the monks of the first generation. It is now more than 20 years since his death but his life story has yet to be sketched. On the basis of information received from his relatives, friends, related personalities and from personal memory, the present writer has undertaken to sketch the history of Venerable Ratnajyoti.

Venerable Ratnajyoti was monk of little fame compared to his contemporaries, due to bad health in last quaiter of his life. He was also not a writer. He suffered from cataracts for many years. When he was healthy he engaged in religious activities, meditation practice and kept to the Vinaya rules steadyfastly. He was the monk who tried to practice the 10 Dhutanga Vatta or mendicant austerities. He could practice a few of them only as his fingers and toes did not work normally and later he got too old. All the same, he spent his life quite calmly and without any disturbances. He was perhaps the second oldest monk by age after Venerable Dharmaloka in the history of Theravada monks in modern Nepal.

Venerable Ratnajyoti’s lay name was Dharmaratna. He was the elder brother of his sister Kanchi, the only two children of Mr Dhanajyoti sakya and Mrs Asamaya Sakya of Jyabahal, Patan. He received traditional education on worshpping Buddhist deities when in his teens. His date of birth is not preserved as his records were lost when he left home in his youth to escape the marriage his parents had arranged. He stayed with relatives in Butaval for short period, then went to Calcutta in India and worked there for a few years.

Mr Dharmaratna was proud to be called a Sakyabhiksu or Buddhist monk, as was normal for a male born in a Sakya family at that time. Once he encountered some Sri Lankan monks travelling in Calcutta. He discussed with them and boasted of being a Sakyabhiksu according to his belief. But the monks did not agree with him and explained that to be a monk one must receive ordination from a preceptor and wear a robe like theirs. Then he asked them to give him ordination. They told him to go to U Candramani Mahasthavira at Kusinagara and he did accordingly.

Dharmaratna received training of a novicehood under preceptorship of U Candramani Mahasthavira around 1935(?). Unlike other monks, he did not go anywhere to study the scriputers as he was of mature age. Instead he studied by himself. He had mastered Hindi and Bengali already and spoke good Nepali and Newari, his mother tongue. Returning to Nepal he stayed at Kindola Vihara and at Anandakuti Vihara with Venerable Dharmaloka Mahasthavira.

Venerable Ratnajyoti was still a novice when Theravada monks and novices were expelled from the country in 1944. He was among those who had to leave the country. He continued to observed a monk’s life and soon received higher ordination in Chitagong, Bangladesh (East Pakistan, Present Bangla Desh) under the preceptorship of Venerable Jinavamsa Mahathera the same year. He returned Nepal in 1946 and stayed in different places including Yampi Vihara, Patan.

Venerable Ratnajyoti repaired Ebahi or Yampi Vihara, Ilaybahi and Kinnu Baha in Patan during a few years of his stay there. He also spent a few months meditating at a cemetery called Bhajamagal near Cobhara. He taught religion, especially by means of sermons. He was very diligent in walking to collect alms from the devotees. His idea in this matter was not solely for the gaining of the material Dana offered but also to tell people about religious practice and to give notice to the presence of a monk in their locality. From the collected money he commissioned a Buddhist artist to paint pictures of episodes found in Buddhist literature. The pictures are 21’x18’ in size covered by glass with wooden frames. They exceed 30 in number. The Yampi Vihara was occupied by Venerable Prajnarasmi later.

Now, Venerable Ratnajyoti began to look for a proper place to display those pictures permanently. He found the site of the present Muni Vihara during his visit to Bhaktapura with Venerable Dharmaloka in 1952, and a few months later he dwelt there in a hut. He was welcomed and accommodated by some well-to-do Sakya families in the same locality as the ancient monastery itself. Some of the owners were living far from Bhaktapur. He walked there as was normal in those times and persuaded them for their consent. He was successful in gaining agreement from all members of the group of owners to offer the site to Theravada monks. This is the only Vihara in Bhaktapura city fully owned by the Theravadin community today. With the co-operation of the devotees he also started to celebrate Buddha Jayanti (Vaisakha puja) in Bhaktapur city in 1955.

Venerable Ratnajyoti organised a committee and started to raise donations from devotees for construction of the Vihara. He also went to India and Bangladesh to collect donations for this purpose. With the money he constructed a long building on the monastery ground. He also erected high walls around the monastery. Maniharsa Jyoti, the prime benefactor of Theravada in Nepal, was generous enough to donate the amount needed for paving the courtyard and constructing a traditional stupa there.

Venerable Ratnajyoti wanted to reconstruct Muni Vihara entirely. He tried very hard to complete this mission. He also approached the His Majesty King Mahendra for help. His Majesty sanctioned it and bestowed the amount through his Government, but Venerable Ratnajyoti was unable to receive the amount as the officer in charge insisted on handing over only a portion of the money after signing the paper for the full amount. In order to gain justice in the matter Venerable Ratnajyoti restored to hunger strikes for many times for many days as every time the officer came, he settled the hunger strike by promising to offer the full amount of money. But every time he was disappointed.

On the last occasion, with help of a Buddhist, the officer hid an ancient slab describing the revenues of the monastery in order to deceive the commissioned officer from the palace to inspect the dispute after the monk’s repeated pleas. When the monk was unable to show slab in due time he could not receive the amount. After this, Venerable Ratnajyoti put receiving the amount of money from the government out of his mind.

Venerable Ratnajyoti constructed a shrine house to enshrine the antique Buddha images found at Muni Vihara and a kitchen house through the help of relatives and devotees in 1958. However, during the rain retreat he stayed at Anandakuti Vihara in Kathmandu. After this however, he consistently spent his rain-retreat in Muni Vihara but stayed between Dhulikhela and Patan during other times in the year where he also established two new Viharas named Purvarama Vihara and Ilaybahi nunnery respectively. For a few years during the last part of life he wandered to new places. Along the way he established a Vihara named Jyoti Vihara in Capagaon, near Patan in 1976 where he died that same year at age of 78. It is remarkable how in those early days when the total numbers of Viharas was less than 40, Venerable Ratnajyoti founded four of them.

Venerable Ratnajyoti offered guidance to a couple of monks on the way to get ordination. He initiated numbers of novices and nuns, which is quite important. He first gave Samanera ordination to Venerable Munijyoti, the restorer of Pati Vihara at Thimi, then to Sugatamuni, Sumedha, Vipassi (Dhammaramo) and Konagamana (Nanda). Among them, Sumedha and Vipassi have graduated from the Buddhist Universities in Thailand and Nanda from Sri Lanks. He gave ordination to nuns as well, among whom Danaparami, who tended him up to the last moment of his life. Other are Silaparami, Nekkhamaparami and Pannaparami or Rupavati who died in Sagain, Burma when she was studying there. In this way Venerable Ratnajyoti proved to be the first preceptor (Upajjhaya) who gave ordination to novices and nuns in the history of Theravada Buddhism in modern Nepal, even erarlier than the first Sanghamahanayaka. He gave ordination to 5 novices and 4 nuns. At that moment the number of monks and novices were approximately 40. There were also about the same number of nuns.

Venerable Ratnajyoti was well regarded by many for his steadfastness in keeping to the Vinaya rules and for being a serious practitioner of meditation. He was able to teach Dhamma without reading books. He was a pioneer monk in propagation Dhamma, not only in Bhaktapur but also in Banepa, Dhulikhel and Capagaun of the valley. He was one of the remarkable Theravada monks of his days, being the founder of numerous Viharas and preceptor of many novices and nuns. He is worthy of mention in the history of Theravada Buddhism in modern Nepal.

There are other monks worthy of mentioning who have now passed away but who in their lives extended considerable service to the religion. Among them Venerable Vivekananda , Dhammavamsa, Medhamkara, Munijyoti, Mahapantha and Jnanasagara are notable.


The Present Monks

At present, the notable seniormost Venerable monks in Nepal are Sanghanayaka Sakyananda Mahasthavira, Aniruddha, Subodhananda, Buddhaghosa, Cunda, Vimalananda and Kumarakasyapa. These monks are quite old now, ranging from 75 – 85 years of age.

These first generation monks received their training in Burma and Sri Lanka in the beginning. Venerable Amrtananda, Buddhaghosa, Cunda and Kumarkasyapa are the one who received a certificate of formal higher education. India was their route to Theravada countries and inspiring places, as some capable monks were abiding there in the main Buddhist holy places.

In the early days, India was the nearest place where Nepalese could receive ordination. Still, to find in India the quorum of monks required by Vinaya rules for this purpose was very difficult, even by totalling every lineage of the Theravada sect. The monks who engaged in the revival of Buddhism in India have shown quite a harmonious attitude in their religious practice. It was difficult in these days to find of a single lineage with the necessary number of atleast 10 monks to perform ordination. In Nepal, however, ordination was forbidden by law.

Due to such circumstances, the tendency arose for Indian and Nepalese Theravada monks of different lineages to participate in Sanghakamma, without concern for the tradition of specific lineages. Nepalese monks received higher ordination and traning from nearly all the major sects of various Theravada Buddhist countries. Prominent monks include such as Venrtables Mahaprajna, Pannananda, Sakyananda, Aniruddha, Buddhaghosa, Nanapunnika and Sumangala in Burma; Venerable Amrtananda, Subodhananda, Cunda, Asvaghosa, Kumarakasyapa, Vimalananda, Gunaghosa, Maitri, Candragupta, Rahula, Sivali, Nanda and Vinita in Sri Lanka; Venerable Dharmaloka, Mahanama, Prajnarasmi, Mahapantha, Dhammananda, Jnanasagara, Sudarsana, Bodhisena and Sugatamuni in India; Venerable Ratnajyoti in East Pakistan (Bangladesh). Venerable Susobhana, Aggananda, Sugandha, Jotikitti, Vipassi, Jitakitti, Candakitti and Thanakitti of the Dhammayuttika Nikaya; and Venerables Dhammasobhana, Sumedha, Dhammapala, Javana, Dharmagupta, Assajita. Thananando (Sudhammo) and Mangala of the Mahanikaya all received their higher ordination in Thailand.

After two ordination halls at Anandakuti Vihara and Sumangala Vihara were built a few monks received higher ordination in Nepal. Among them Venerables Vivekananda, Samvara, Medhamkara, Aggadhamma, Silabhadra, Visuddhananda, Pannaloka, Sraddhananda, Mahendra and Suvarna are prominent. When properly founded Sima is not available, Udaka Sima is used for carrying out their necessary activities. Monks from all these different lineages constitute a single Sangha without any kind of discriminstion.

The young monks are highly educated in both religious and secular studies, including proficiency in English. Venerables Aggananda, Dhammasobhana, Sugandha (Anil Man Sakya), Candragupta, Dharmagupta and Mangala are Master Degree holders from different universities. Venerables Dharmapala, Sumedha, Pannaloka, Rahula, Vinita, Nanda, Dharmamurti, Paannamurti, Maitri, Bodhijnana, Gunaghosa, Sraddhananda, Vipassi and Visuddhananda hold Bachelor Degrees.

More than a half of the active monks in Nepal got their training adroad in Theravada Buddhist countries. This tradition is still continuing. Most of these monks have prepared books on Buddhism, composed, translated or done research works. Some of them have received additional training from India, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Some monks have travelled considerably to different parts of the world.

In the 1950’s only a few monks, e.g. Venerables Pannananda, Dharmaloka, Sakyananda, Aniruddha, Amrtananda, Subodhananda, Mahanama, Prajnarasmi and Ratnajyoti, were active in Nepal. But in the 1960’s a few young monks joined them; they were Venerables Buddhaghosa, Cunda, Asvaghosa, Kumarakasyapa, Sudarsana and Vivekananda. In the 1970’s Venerables Sumangala, Nanapunnika, Sugatamuni and others joined. By the 1980’s Venerables Vimalananda, Susobhana, Bodhisena, Gunaghosa, Maitri, Silabhadra, Dharmasobhana, and Kalodayi began their own religious activities, By the 1990’s the active generation in Nepal had been added with Venerables Sunanda, Dharmapala, Candragupta, Visuddhananda and Sumedha. Among the youngest active monks are Venerables Kondanna, Pannamurti, Dharmamurti and Bhaddiya. There are also some Nepalese monks who are playing a significiant role in religious development in Nepal even while staying abroad for their study. Among them are Venerables Sugandha Thera (Anil Man Sakya) and Sivali (United Kingdom),Venerables Pannaloka, Rahula and Vinita (Sri Lanka) and Venerable Vipassi Dhammaramo in Thailand.

These monks have played a significant role in performing all kinds of those Theravada activities that we have discussed elsewhere. They are very active and prominent in Buddhist groups that some times they feel that they have little time to devote themselves to mind development of their own. They have held seats on the board of Lumbini Development Trust three times during last 5 years. There activities regarding religious education and their publications are quite prominent in the country.

Some non-Nepalese monks are also serving Theravada Buddhism in Nepal. Among them two Burmese monks U Asabhacariya who has resided at the International Buddhist Vihara from 1990 and Kancha Lama in Dharana from 1995. Thai and Sri Lanka monks also occasionally stay and help in various Viharas. Indian and Bengaladeshi monks who visit Nepal stay for longer periods. Theravada monasteries of different countries at Limbini, have monks from their respective countries. In Wat Thai Lumbhini Monastery five or six Thai monks have been running the religious activities of the monastery, since 2000 AD.

A list of 111 monks and novices in Nepal was punlised in the first issue of the bulletin of All Nepal Bhiksu Assoviation, 1994. Out of this number, 44 were studying in foreign countries such as Sri Lanka (28), Thailand (8), Taiwan (2), Burma (4) and the United Kingdom(2). Since the time of writing (12 April, 1996) there may have been some changes.

Since 1950 Theravada monks have organized an All Nepal Bhiksu Association. Its contemporary executive board is as follows:

A Group of Dharmanusaska

Snghanayaka Sakyananda Mahasthavira
Upasanghanayaka Aniruddha Mahasthavira
Venerable Subodhananda Mahasthavira
Venerable Cunda Mahasthavira
Venerable Asvashosa Mahasthavira

Working Committee

President: Venerable Kumarakasyapa Mahasthavira
Vice-President: Venerable Sudarsana Mahasthavira
Secretary: Venerable Jnanapunnika Mahasthavira
Joint Secretary: Venerable Bodhisena
Treasure: Venerable Silabhadra

The Members

  1. Venerable Buddhaghosa Mahasthavira
  2. Venerable Aggananda (Sunanda)
  3. Venerable Dharmasobhana
  4. Venerable Mitri
  5. Venerable Sumedha
  6. Venerable Kondanna


Presently Most Active Monks and Nuns

1. Venerables Asvaghosam, 2.Nanapunnika, 3.Sumangala, and 4.Sudarsana among monks, and among the nun 5.Dhammavati are the most prominent personalities at present. The most active monks are mainly from the Sakyas except Venerable Sumangala. An introduction of the most activc monks should help us to understand the matter more clearly.

1. Venerable Asvaghosa (he prefers to spell his name using W instead of v, as practiced in Nepal), son of Mr Candrajyoti and Mrs Laksmimaya Sakya of Ukubahal, Patan was born in 1926. His name was Buddharatna and he was married before he became a teenager. The marriage was arranged by his parents, which was a normal practice at that time. As the result of association with Venerables Dharmaloka and Amrtananda, he left home at age 18 and received ordination under the preceptorship of U Candramani Mahasthavira and Acaryaship of Venerable Amrtananda. This took place at Kusinagara, India in January 1944. He then received the name Asvaghosa by which we known him at present.

Prior to his becoming a novice, Venerable Asvaghosa gained informal education in Sanskrit in his locality, the single facility available at that time. After ordination as Samanera he studied Hindi at Kusinagar under Venerable Dharmaraksita. Shortly after, they went to Sri Lanka together. Venerable Asvaghosa studied Pali, Buddhism and Literature at Mahamantinda Pirivena (monk’s college), in Matara, for eight years and received his higher ordination under the preceptorship of Venerable Dharmakirti Sri Dhammavasa Nayaka Mahasthavira (1888–1949), principle of the Pirivena in 1st May 1949. He left Sri Lanka in 1952 for higher education at Saranatha Banaras in India where he remained till 1959.

Venerable Asvaghosa served as manager of Anandakuti Vidyapitha, a Buddhist Boarding High school in Kathmandu during 1961-68. He also has shown great diligence in preparing booklets and editing magazines. He was principle editior of the Ananda Bhoomi Buddhist monthly since its incepeion in 1972 up to 1990. He is still editing the Dharmakirti, a Buddhist monthly magazine since 1984. His labour in nearly every publication of Dharmakirti Publications is indispensable. He has composed 72 Booklets on Buddhism.

The prominent monk Asvaghosa participated in International Buddhist conferences held in the Republic of China in 1956 and led Buddhhist delegations from Nepal to Mangolia in 1977. He had led many pilgrimages to holy places to India. He is Dharmanusasaka (Religious Director) of Dharmakirti Adhyayana Gosthi, Svayambhu Jnanamala Bhajana Khalah (group) and the Buddhist Youth Group of Kathmandu. He has led many different activities beyond these organisations and travelled to different parts of Nepal in his tenure.

Venerable Asvaghosa is a prudent student of secular subjects as well, especially Marxism. He is sometimes thought to be swayed by leftist political thought. He has intimate contact with the top leaders of United Marxist Leninist Party (UMLP), the second largest political party of Nepal. After the first general election for the national assembly, he was nominated as a member of upper house by the reformed communist party during 1991 – 1993. He raised different Buddhist matters in parliament, among which the proposal for declaring Nepal a secular country was most significant. After this, he served a short period as Deputy Chairman for the Lumbhini Development Trust.

Venerable Asvaghosa conducted religious services for three years and founded a sizeable Vihara at Banepa in 1974 called Dhyanakuti Vihara. He has also been running quite an active Vihara in the heart of Kathmandu called Sangharama since 1982. He has more than 20 ordined disciples studying in Nepal and abroad. These days he keeps busy performing religious servies, giving lessons, preparing booklets and editing magazines as usual.

2. Another most active monk Venerable Nanapunnika was born in 1940 at Tanasena of Western Nepal near Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. He was the son of Mr Suryalala and Mrs Candramaya Sakya. He took Pali lessons from Venerable Buddhaghosa Mahasthavira while a teenaged in Patan, Nepal. He received ordination under the preceptorship of Venerable U Visuddhabhivamsa in 1956, and higher ordination under the preceptorship of Sayadew U Suriyabhaivamsa in Burma in 1958.

Venerable Nanapunnika completed degree of Sasanadhaja Dhammacariya in Buddhist monastic studies run by the Burmese government in 1963. He served in preparing the Pali and Burmese Encyclopaedia published by the Burmese Government in 1966. He graduated from Tribhuvana University, Kathmandu in 1976.

Venerable Nanapunnika attended the fifth Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace held in Mongolia as the Nepalese delegate and was elected as an executive member of the organization in 1980’s. He went on religious tours as an interpreter with Aggamahapandita Mahasi Sayadew of Burma through Nepal and India in 1981. He served Buddhism by staying at the West Midland Buddhist Vihara in Birmingham, England Between 1979–1982. He has visited USA, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and England, etc. many times.

Venerable Nanapunnika is the founder of a few notable religious Viharas such as the Visvasanti Vihara, Kathmandu and the Veluvanarama Vihara, Thecho. He has also reconstructed the Manimandapa Vihara in Patan. He also established a foundation Santisukhavasa Publications. He served as a member of the Lumbini Development Trust for two years. He is the rector of Buddhist studies (Pariyatti Siksa) in Nepal. He is the religious director of the International Meditation Vihara in Kathmandu.

Venerable Nanapunnika is an expert translator of Burmese into Nepali and Nepala Bhasa. He has published altogether 37 books and booklets including many Translations of works by Burmese scholars on Pali Buddhism. He is now kept busy translating, preaching, teaching meditation and founding a monks training Vihara in Kathmandu. He received the award Srestha Sirapa for his translation of the Burmese novel Yomha Mhyay into Nepala Bhasa or Newari.

3. Another notable active monk Venerable Sumangala was born in Patan on the 30th of March 1930, receiving the name Bhakta krisna Silakar from his parents. In the prime of his youth he came in to contact with Theravada monks staying in Srisumangala Vihara. After attending religious services and studying for a few years in Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka he was determined to ordain. He went to Burma for the purpose and received Samanera ordination at the World Peace Pagoda, Rangoon and Bhikkhu or higher ordination at Sein Ma Ma Kyaung (Vihara), Mawlamyine in 1959.

Venerable Sumangala Mahathera practised intensive Vipassana Meditation at Sasana Yeikta, Yangon, Myanmar in 1959. He received a M.A. degree in Buddhist Philosophy from Rissho University, Tokyo, Japan in 1960’s. He also holds a Diploma in Buddhist Studies from Vidyalankara University, Sri Lanka. He is the author of Buddhist Meditation and An Introduction to Meditation.

An energetic monk, Venerable Sumangala first served Theravada by giving lessons and teaching meditation. Later he contributed his efforts to constructing different Viharas. So far he has developed Ganamaha Vihara and Pranidhipurna Maha Vihara. He founded Buddha Vihara and the International Meditation Vihara, the most active Viharas in Kathmandu. He is also the principal founder of Siddhartha Sisu Niketan, a Primary School at Buddha Vihara, Kathmandu.

Venerable Sumangala has travelled to many countries of the world e.g., India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippine, R.O.C. South Korea, Japan, People’s Republic of China, Mongolia, Soviet Republic, france and the United States of America. He travels abraod regularly every year.

Internationally known monk Venerable Sumangala has served in many international - level activities. He is the founder director of ACRP and a member of WCRP, President of Religion and Peace Academy-Nepal and the Regional Vihara of the ACRP and WCRP, Nepal Chapter . He attended all regular conferences of the ACRP held in Singapore, New Delhi, Kathmandu, and 3rd and 4th WCRP conferences held at Louvaire, Belgium in 1974 and in Princeton, New Gersey, USA in 1984, respectively. He was formerly Vice President of Dharmodaya Sabha, which is the regional Vihara of WFB in Nepal. He has participated in the 15th-19th WFB Conferences held in Kathmandu, Sri Lanka, Los Angeles, Seoul and Bangkok, respectively. He has also participated in Asian Buddhist conferences held at New Delhi, Moscow and Tokyo.

A diligent monk, Venerable Sumangala recently completed preliminary construction on the Home for the Aged at Banepa and again engaged in construction of the central building for Se Mi Kyo in Kathmandu, with whom he has served since its establishment there in 1976. He is constantly busy directing his affairs and contacting his numerous friends in different parts of the world.

4. Another notably active monk Venerable Sudarsan was born in 1938, at Bahi Nani, Vaku Bahala in Lalitapur. The son of Mr Nhucheraja and Mrs Harsamaya Sakya, he was given the name Lumbiniraja. He was ordained as Samanera at Kusinagara in India under the preceptorship of Venerable U Chandramani Mahasthavira in 1950 and as a Bhikkhu in Saranath, India, under the preceptorship of Sanghamahanayaka Prajnananda on the 30th of November 1064.

The high scholar monk Venerable Sudarsana is an authority in Buddhist history, archaeology, evolution and propagation of religion in Nepal. He is highly regarded for his high standard of literary work and as a religious organiser. He has also founded important Viharas.

Venerable Sudarsan completed his bachelor’s degree from Tribhuvan University and was the first monk to ever take the examination of SLC (School Leaving Certificate) run by the Minister of Education of Nepal. He was conferred the Sahityaratna degree on Nepala Bhasa literature by Nepala Rastriya Vidyapitha, Biraganja in 1978 and the Kovida degree in Hindi literature in Calcutta in 1954. He obtained his MA, Merit first division, in Nepalese Culture, History and Archaeology from Tribhuvan University in 1980. He received the reward Mahendra Vidyabhusna ‘Kha’ and Gokulacanda Medal for obtaining the highest mark in his master’s degree examination.

Venerable Sudarsan has long devoted his services in education. He taught at Sila Pathasala (School) in Tanasena in 1950 and at Anandakuti Science Collage during 1970-72. He has lectured on Nepalese History and Culture at Tribhuvan University since 1980 till present.

Venerable Sudarsan participated in several international conferences and tours. He travelled to the USA, Israel, Egypt, India, Thailand, Japan, China, Hong Kong, and Sought Korea as a member of the Youth Seminar on World Religion (YSWR) in 1982. He went on world tour as Senior Director of YSWR in 1984. He participated in the world Religion Conference for Atomic Disarmament held in Rajagrha in India in 1982 and the International Buddhist Conference at Lumbhini in 1979. He also participated in the 6th Synod (Sangayana) of Theravada Buddhists in Rangyoon (Yangoon) Myanmar in 1954.

The courageous monk Venerable Sudarsan has led Buddhist pilgrimages organized by the Jnanamala Bhajana Khalah (group), managing special trains and buses for 500 devotees to Lumbini, Kusinagar, Sravasti, Buddhagaya and Rajagrha in 1963, and for 560 devotees to Lumbini, Kusinagar, Sravasti, Delhi, Agara, Sanchi, Ahanta Elora, Bombay, Nalanda, Rajgrha and Saranatha in 1968 and for 620 devotees in 1977.

Venerable Sudarsna rebuilt the Ganamaha Vihara in 1961 and founded Srikirti Vihara in 1976. He was the Key person in organizing short term mass ordinations on many occasions, among which 86 persons of various backgrounds and 73 persons from the sakyas lineage were ordinaed in April and November of 1985, respectively are notable. Eighty-seven women were also ordined en masse in 1988. These shortterm ordination ceremonies were all conducted in Srikirti Vihara.

Venerable Sudarsan has also written dramas, which are admitted into the curriculum for the BA and MA degree at Tribhuvan University. He wrote 67 booklets on various aspects of Buddhism: 7 in Nepali, 22 in Nepala Bhasa, 8 translated, 18 edited, 8 dramas and 4 miscellaneous. His articles are published frequently in different periodicals. He received rewards for his historical play king jayaprakasa. Recently, he is conferred a reward Bhasa Thuva by Nepal Bhasa Parisada, Kathmandu in 5 November 1996 for his prolonged services on literary works in Nepala Bhasa (Newari Language).

Presently Venerable Sudarsan is busy teaching at Tribhuvan Univiersity, doing research on Lumbhini, managing the Srikirti Vihara, creating radio and television programmes broadcast by the Nepalese government, and organising various programmes and activities for the promotion of Buddhism.

Anagarikas or nuns of Nepal have been playing an important role in Buddhism of the country. After the cessation of Buddhist nun’s (Theravada Bhiksuni lineage) tradition, a special kind of a ordination was introduced for female devotees in Theravada Buddhist countries. This is called Tilasheyn in Burma, Silamata in Sri Lanka and Maechi in Thailand. In Nepal it is called Anagarika and was introduced in the very beginning of the Theravada in 1930. Anagarikas Ratnapali, Dharmapali and Sanghapali were the first. The eight precept holder Anagarikas were mostly ordained in their old age and had not much opportunity to gain a proper education. Therefore, they remained helpers to monks and are not well known. Anagarikad Dharmacari and Khemacari were the most notable nuns among the first generation.

Since the 1970’s, nuns also started to take on active roles, especially in the heart of Kathmandu. Nuns Dhammavati, Gunavati and Ratnamanjari worked together to establish Dharmakirti Vihara (nunnery). Other nuns helping at Dharmakirti Vihara at present are Anagarikas Anupama and Viryavati. Anagarikas Nanasila and Satyasila are managing Sakyasingha Vihara. At Sri Sumangala Vihara Anagarikas Susila, Nekkhamaparami, Vijita and others are helping. The outstanding nuns are Madhavi, Uppalavanna, Sangharaksita, Kamala, Kusuma, Sujata, Nanavati and Satyaparami. Many nuns are also assisting the monks.

A few Anagarikas of the Secound and third generations gained higher education and engaged in different religious and educational activities. Still it should be said that their practical achievements in the field of religion far exceed the value of any secular degree.

A list of 84 nuns was published in a booklet of their regulations issued in 1992 (Nepala Vyapi Anagarika Sanghapinigu Niyamatah). Eight nuns are studying in Burma and two each in Taiwan and Thailand. At present, the total number of nuns is near one hundred. The most prominent among them is Anagarika Dharmavati.

5. Anagarika Dharmavati, daughter of Mr Harsamana and Mrs Herathakum Sakya, was born at Ukubahala, patan in 1934. She was the third child of her parents. Her lay name was Ganesakumari. She gained familiarity with the newly introduced Theravada Buddhism in her teens due to her mother’s acquaintance with some monks who were staying at Sri Sumangala Vihara located in near her home.

Ganesakumari was only 14 years old when she became determined to be ordained. She went ahead with her purpose when she met a Burmese student monk named Dhammavudha who came to Nepal in 1950. She continued her religious study with Venerable Buddhaghosa for a few months and then left home for Kusinagar, India before continuing on to Burma the same year. She was fully supported by her mother and friends but her father was against her leaving home. She faced various difficulties of her journey.

Ganesakumari received ordination at Kusinagar under the preceptorship of U Chandramani Mahasthavira. As she was still under age to apply for a passport, she hurried to Burma without proper documents in order to escape her father’s attempts to bring her back. After receiving a pardon for her illegal immigrate in, she went to study at Khemarama Nunnery in mawalamyine in southern Burma in 1952.

Anagarika Dhammavati returned form Burma along with two senior nuns, Gunavati and Ratnamanjari in 1963 and carried out religious activities in Kathmandu Valley. She founded Dharmakirti Vihara, a nunnery in the Kathmandu city, in 1966 as an accommodation for nuns and she remains teaching and preaching Buddhism to all walks of life. She is famous for her Dharma instructions, especially among Newar women.

Anagarika Dhammavati and Anagarika Gunavati jointly established a group of devotees the Dharmakirti Bauddha Adhyayana Gosthi (Buddhist Study Group) in 1971, aiming at different activities and publishing Buddhist literature. It has turned out to be one of the leading publisher on Nepal. The objective of the nunnery are published in a small booklet Dharmakirti Vihara Today, 1975. In 1987 she celebrated both her Golden and Silver Anniversary, 50 years of age and 25 years of Buddhist activities. She was conferred the Agga Mahaganthavacaka Pandita degree by the Burmese Government in 1992 at Gabhaye in Yangon for her tireless effort to spread Buddhism in Nepal. So far, she has compiled 35 booklets on Buddhism in Nepala Bhasa.

Anagarika Dhammavati is closely involved with the question of the status of Buddhist nuns (Bhikkhuni). She has participated in some international conferences on Buddhist Women. In 1987 (Feb 11-17) she was the leading personality from Nepal to participate at International Conference on Buddhist Nuns held in Buddhagaya India for discussing the bhiksuni tradition (proper Buddhist nun). She participated in conferences held in Taiwan and USA with the same aim. She was criticized by her oppoenents when news broke of her ordination in the Taiwanese Bhiksuni tradition. She supports Bhiksuni ordined in the Taiwanese Mahayana Tradition and uses her Viharas as accommodation for those of the Bhiksuni tradition. She remains however in Anagarika robes and is discrete in activities country to Theravada Buddhism. Still she consents to be called and calls herself a Bhiksuni. She has established a nunnery for the International Bhikshuni Sangha at Lumbini in 1994.

Anagarika Dhammavati is now 64 years old but still active in giving Theravada lessons, preparing booklets and communicating with more than 50 friends and disciples connected to Dharmakirti Vihara in the country and abroad. She is a great supporter of Sangharama Vihara headed by Venerable Asvaghosa Mahasthavira. She is decidedly the most active and prominent nun in the history of Anagarikas in Mordern Nepal.


The Theravada Centres

All Theravada Viharas in Nepal are called ‘vihara’. A vihara refers to a place where a group of monks stay and practice the religious life. In English, the word vihara is rendered as monastery. In other Buddhist countries, large viharas are to be found. In Nepal, However, Theravadin monasticism is in its infancy and things are on a much smaller scale. The size of the monasteries are generally smaller, as is the number of monks. In the 65 years since its reintroduction the number of the Viharas has increased to 80. Among these Viharas, 24 are inhabited by monks only, 13 are inhabited by nuns (Anagarikas), and 3 with monks and nuns together. About half of these Viharas are without any resident monk or nun at all, but are used by visiting monks and nuns.

Since the introduction of Theravada new Viharas have gradually been established in a few main Newar settlements. Up to 1950 only a few Viharas were founded such as Anandakuti Vihara, Pranidhipurna Vihara (Balambu), and Srigha Vihara in the Kathmandu district. Two Viharas in Patan, namely Yampi Vihara (Ibahi) and Srisumangala (Yangala) Vihara, were also established. There was one Vihara each in the town of Tansen (80 km. from Lumbini) and in Bhojpura (East Nepal). All the Viharas are result of leadership of active monks which attracted a considerable number of laypeople from all walks of life.

After 1950 Theravadins gained more freedoms to perform their activities as the Rana regime was overthrown and democracy was introduced. As the result, their Viharas or accommodations increased. In a period of thirty years 30 Viharas, 15 in each were established in Lalitapur and Kathmandu districts, then 5 in each Bhaktapur and Kabhre Palamchok district, and 3 in each Tansena and Sunsari district. Seventy-two Viharas are listed in a periodical Lumbini, 1995. The speed of constructing new Viharas was nearly 1.25 each year on the average during the period between 1930 and 1996.

The geographical distribution of Theravada Viharas is important in order to understand the propagation of Theravada. About 70 percent of the total Viharas (50) are limited to the Kathmandu Valley or within a distance of 45 kilometres or about a one hour drive. This is because the Newar community, Theravada’s chief supporter, mainly lives there. There are four such Viharas at Tansen, two in Lumbini area and one in each of the Ridi, Hundi, Butaval, Bhairahava and Kapilavastu districts. Altogether there are 10 Viharas in the Lumbini Zone. The Lumbini is a special case, being the Buddha’s place of birth and thus has more Viharas, three in Sunsari district, one in the each Dhankuta, Sankhuvasabha and Morang districts. There are two Viharas in Bhojapur district and altogether 7 Viharas in the Kosi Zone. There is also a Vihara in the Far-East Zone (Mechi) of the country, in Jhapa district. There are Viharas, one in each, in Citavana, Nuvakota, Kalaiya, Bara (Central), Kaski, Baglung (West) and Banke ( Mid-Western) districts. There are 2 Viharas in Kailali district (Far-Western). Almost all Viharas are located in the midst of Newar settlements. There are only three Viharas, on Buddha Vihara in Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, Machapuchare Buddha Vihara at Ghachok, near Pokhara and another in Hungi near Tansens, which are located out of Newar settlements. The Viharas are distributed in 24 districts out of 75 throughout Nepal, and in 11 Zones out of 14. The remaining 3 Zones where Viharas are yet to be found are Janakpur, Rapti and Karnali. All these Theravada Viharas are located in the mid-hill and the Terai areas but not in the extreme Himalayan area. All Viharas are located in an area accessible by motor except Viharas of Bhojpur, Sankhuvasabha and Kaski districts.

An important feature of the Viharas in Nepal is their location. Some of them are founded beside famous traditional Buddhist sites. Anandakuti near the famous Svayambhu Stupa (Kathmandu), is the most prominent. Srigha and Dharmakirti Vihars are located next to Srigha Stupa. Vasundhara Buddha Vihara and Dharmakirti Visvasanti Vihara are located beside the famous Vasundhara shrine at Vasundharadol. Buddhakuti (Caturbrahma Vihara) is located near Matatirtha, one of the most popular holy places of Buddhists and other faiths alike. Many Viharas are completely or partially converted from traditional Newar monasteries. Srisumangala Vihara, Jayamangala Vihara (Tanabaha), Ilaybahi, Sundararama (Ubaha) and Manimandapa Vihara in Patan can be included in this category. Such Viharas in Kathmandu are Gana Maha Vihara Kindola Vihara and Vajrakirti Vihara. In Bhaktapur district Muni Vihara, Bauddhasamamkrta Vihara and Pati Vihara of Thimi are in this category. Such Viharas existing outside of the Valley are Padmacaitya Vihara at Butaval and Ananda Vihara at Tansens. Both are near Lumbini. The remaining Viharas are all newly established ones found within the periphery of old Newar settlements.


An Exemplary formation of a Centre

Like Buddhists in other countries, one finds quite a strong enthusiasm among the Newars of Nepal to construct Buddhist Viharas. Although there may be small differences in particular cases, all monasteris will share a number of common features. It therefore seems relevant to tell the story of a typical Theravada Vihara in a Newar settlement so as to better understand the way Viharas in general are established.

It was the middle of 1976 when the old monk, Venerable Ratnajyoti Mahasthavira, went to join the Buddhsjayanti celebration in Capagaun village, located at a distance of 8 kilometres south of Lalitapur or Patan. This village was accessible by a motor vehicle but only by an unpaved road. The monk was warmly welcomed by the pious farmers of the village led by Kumar Desar and his family. An elderly nun by the name of Danaparami and two small Samaneras, Vipassi and Nanda accompanied the Venerable Ratnajyoti. They were all invited to stay in a small house of a layman, which was tiny for any gathering. The place was packed tight and there was not sufficient space to sit properly. But the monk’s preaching still went on. The atmosphere was so hot, all attendants were sweating profusely. Because of these reasons, after a few days the preacher monk felt it difficult to stay any longer.

When the moment come for the monk and his party to leave the village, the benefactor mother came and wept, imploring them to stay. She promised to accommodate them in a more convenient place in her maternal locality where a big house had been left empty for a few years. They moved to the new place and the monk prolonged his stay in the village. Again, after a few weeks the monk decided to return to his former residence in Patan, not wanting to spend his Vassavasa (rainy season) in a layman’s house. But again, a group of devotees stopped him and promised to find him a proper place.

One day the monk saw an abandoned two-storey inn building beside the main road which the villagers believed was inhabited by ghosts. When the monk asked about it, people started to relay stories of dreadful episodes and awful experiences and tried to persuade him that it was not a proper place to stay, explaining that it was also unhealthy as its sides had been long used as a public toilet by the villagers. Another site was proposed instead, but it was too inconvenient to get to as it was located outside the village. Finally the monk made up his mind to stay at the so-called haunted inn, If not, he would return to Patan.

After having preliminary repairs done to the inn, the monk made the vow of spending his Vassavasa there. After conclusion of rainy retreat another room was added to the existing old building of two stories by donation and help of villegers.

A very sad day arrived that same year (1976) when the preacher monk died at the age of 78. A rather large funeral procession was held for the first time in the village and was attended by people from various parts of the valley. Venerable Sudarsan appealed to the villagers to collaborate and remain active in religious activities in fulfilment of the wishes of late monk. The Vihara was given the name Jyoti Vihara and a working committee was formed called the Ratna Pucha (group) after the late preacher monk, Venerable Ratna Jyoti. The Vihara was officially opened by the Commerce and Industry Minister Balarama Ghartimagara in a ceremony in 1978. The Vihara has been active without a break and Anagarika Danaparami has looked after the Vihara ever since. This is the story of the construction of Jyoti Vihara, a typical Theravada Vihara in Nepal.


Feature of a Centre

Actually Newars have their own traditional concepts regarding the shape of a monastery. Some basic featres are still observed in the case of Theravada Viharas, too, as they are seen to be essential elements. Most Theravada Viharas in Nepal could not be built in the shape of a traditional Newar Vihara nor of those found in Theravada countries, as they came from both the ideas and initiative of the local devotees according to their own capacity. Therfore only a few of the Viharas can be treated as a proper ‘Vihara’ in accordance with the concept prevailing in Theravada countries, which is largely the result of what may be called “the restoration of Theravada Monasticism.” According to this most of the Nepalese Viharas are simply Viharas.

A Vihara has a particulat shape. Usually it consists of a courtyard or ground with a stupa on it. When a stupa is not convenient to have on the ground, it is sometimes constructed on the roof of the shrine. On one side of the grounds or around the sides of the courtyard, a building or a group of buildings exist for necessary activities, e.g., a shrine, dwelling places for monks and nuns, and a gathering place for the laypeople. Some Viharas are not very distinctive in appearance, being very small. For this reason, nowdays it is hard to find monks or nuns to reside there. In the case of a Vihara in the city of Banepa, it was formerly a residential house smaller than 40 squar meteres in size. So it doesn’t matter how small or big a Vihara may be, Nepalese called it is a Vihara.

Naturally, in a single building Vihara, it is used for all purposes and activities. In the case of Jyoti Vihara, the front part of the ground floor is used as a classroom and library, while the back portion is used for a toilet and bathroom. The first floor was used as a shrine room, bedroom and third is used as a kitchen, dining room and sleeping quarters for one or two cooks. In the event of a large gathering, a small ground in front of the Vihara adjacent to the main road is used where two stupas are existed. The Vihara has government water supply and is also has electricity, as do most other Viharas.

The approximate data relating to the size of monasteries are as follows. The biggest Viharas by size are Srikirti Vihara, Dhyanakuti Vihara, and Pugatabhumi Buddha Vihara. Each of these are about 7000 squar meters or 14 ropanis large in area. There are some Viharas of which the size are on the average half a hectare and are considered to be large by Nepalese standard. These are International Meditation Vihara, Visvasanti Vihara, Buddha Vihara, Gana Maha Vihara in Kathmandu district; Muni Vihara in Bhaktapur district, Srisumangala Vihara in Lalitapur and Buddha Vihara in Lumbini. Other such Viharas are Sugatapur Vihara in Trisuli, Sikhalapur Vihara in Dhulikhel and Buddha Vihara in Dharan. The remaining Viharas are smaller. Complete information on the size of viharas is not yet obtained, awaiting further research.

Some Viharas are situated next to each other, sharing a single compound or courtyard, but considered independent as they were founded by different persons or else used by monks and nuns separately. Such combined case can be seen in Pati and Sangharaksita Viharas at Thimi in Bhaktapur district, Srigha and Dharmakirti Viharas, Basundhara Buddha and Dharmakirti Visvasanti Viharas in Kathmandu district. Tana and Jayamangala Viharas, Sakyasingha and Narasinharama Viharas in Patan are of the same character. Some Viharas share a single courtyard with traditional Newar monastery, especially where they are located within the compound of such a vihara. Others find any ground adjacent to the Vihara for their occasional use. In this way the Viharas are able to perform their activities even they have only a small area.

The legality of Theravada Viharas in Nepal also vary as there is no existing tradition or enacted laws for this purpose. In th beginning the monks merely had permission to stay and perform their activities as their Viharas were located on traditional religious estates owned by either by a certain religious individual or by a group who had no legal right to hand over the property to any other individual or other group. This ownership is applicable to some Vihara which were founded in an area or compound of a traditional Newar Vihar. Because there was no legal organization of Theravada prior to 1990, some Viharas are registered in the name of a certain indivisual monk or group of monks who are able to conduct such activities according to the laws of the country. There is however a sense of religious trained monks are well aware of disciplinary rule founded in the Vinaya Pitaka (Collection of Disciplines). Also as there are plenty of Viharas available to them, there are as yet no problematic case recorded regarding the ownership of Viharas. There are also some Viharas which are simply left as public places and tended by Theravada devotees. Other Viharas are managed by individuals or groups of Buddhists. Only after registering the “Akhil Nepal Bhiksu Mahasangha” or “All Nepal Bhiksu Association”, the monk’s association of Nepal according to the state law, was the association of monks allowed to control their own name but with condition that ‘if the association collapses all the properties belonging to the association will go to the government.’ Since the Sangha meeting of 1983 at Anandakuti Vihara, the Association began to take a keen interest in the matter of the legality of their Viharas and tried to register them in the name of the monk’s association. It is true that all Viharas, regardless of their legal situation, are used strictly for religious purposes.

Theravada Viharas are relatively clean and orderly by local standards. There is not as much ornamentation and decoration as in some other monasteries. The walls of the buildings are plastered and wshed with plain colour. A little mural painting is found only in three Viharsa: Anandakuti Vihara and Srikirti Vihara in Kathamandu, and Buddha Vihara at Lumbhini. Instead, Theravadins feel it sufficient to display printed pictured of Buddha’s life and other edifiying from such sources as Jataka tales, for instance. Additionally, photographs of various religious activities also displayed. Some pictures are imported from Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand but most are printed in India. Muni Vihara of Bhaktapur has displayed a long series of painted pictures.

Every Theravada Vihara has at least one image of Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha, These usually depict the Buddha sitting in different postures. Many Viharas have a painted Buddha image locally made of cement or black stone or clay among which some are ancient but amended according to Theravada ideals. Many are of recent construction by contemporary artists. The painted Buddha images give a naturally attractive and agreeably charming appearance, unlike the black stone ones as found traditional Newar monasteries. Some Viharas sanctified Buddha images from foreign countries like Thailand or Burma. Some Viharas have both local and foreign sanctified images. To make the matter clear a table of different Buddha images in monasteries is provided in an appendics.

There are replicas of four Buddhist holy places and related Buddha images local made in Srikirti Vihara Kirtipur; Kindola Vihara Swayambhu and Sakyasingha Vihara, Patan. Sri Lankan Buddha images one found very little in Nepal. Anandabhuvana Vihara and Srigha Vihara Kathmandu have Reclining Buddha images made of stone. In the remaining Viharas local Buddha images are worshipped. On the whole the Buddha images from Thailand are predominant in Nepal. These are comparatively big, made of caste bronze and some are gilt. The Burmese Buddha images are made of white marble (?) usually one to two feet in height. The local Buddha images at Buddha Vihara, Lumbini and Visvasanti Vihara, Dharmakirti Vihara, Kathmandu; are made of bronze. Other Viharas are usually made of cement, stone or clay, painted with acrylic paints.

Most of the Viharas have a fund for maintaining the facility and its inhabitants. The fund has been raised from the subscriptions offered by the life member devotees, usually of 103 Rupees per person. Some Viharas exceed 500 members. Only the interest received from the deposited amount in Banks is used for maintenance purposes. The financially rich Viharas are Sakyasingha Vihara in Patan, Dharmakirti Vihara, Anandakuti Vihara, Visvasanti Vihara, International Meditation Centre (Vihara), Sangharama Vihara, Srikirti Vihara in Kathmandu, and Buddha Vihara at Lumbini.

Some of these Viharas are very active in offering religious services and teaching to devotees. Some Viharas located in Kathmandu city itself are so active that their every gathering exceeds a hundred persons for regular observances held four times in every lunar month. The official holiday, Saturday, is also a day for Buddhist gathering, study, teaching and meditation. Some Viharas also extend some medical services free of charge.


Chronology of the Centres

Names and dates of establishments of the most Viharas are given in an appendics. A complete chronology of the dates of the establishment of all the Viharas has yet to be surveyed. It is not possible to bring them all into chronological sequence at present. It would be prudent to limit ourselve to the Viharas which have an Uposathagara or Ordination Hall, and which could be referred to as proper Vihars. We shall give introductions of 4 monasteries that fall in this category. They are:

  1. Anandakuti Vihara, Kathmandu,
  2. Srisumangala Vihara (Yamga Vihara) Patan,
  3. Buddha Vihar a, Lumbini,
  4. Srikirti Vihara, Kirtipura,

1. Anandakuti Vihara is located on the northwest slope of the wooded Svayambhu hill, a few hundred metres from the famous Svayambhu Stupa. It consists of an Uposathagara (Ordination Hall), a shrine room, a preaching hall, three residential quarters and a dining hall. In addition, there is a stupa on the ground with an appearance giving whole monastery a Sri Lankan atmosphere. What is more, the resident monks here were initiated and educated in Sri Lanka. It was the first proper Theravada monastery in Nepal. It has a significant history.

Venerable Dharmaloka, the founder of the Anandakuti Vihara, explains its foundation in 1943 in his work PILGRIMAGE TO GREAT CHINA (Though the writer failed to mention his colleague Venerable Ratnajyoti, who helped to establish the Vihara, in his work) He resided during a Vassavasa there in a newly built but small dwelling, rather basically built with stone and mud, and roofed with straw. The timber used was not of good quality. In those days the place was quite far from the city and theft was committed frequently as the monk had to leave for religious activities elsewhere during the daytime. As a result, he stayed without any articles attractive to thieves. The front part of the residence building was reconstructed with cement and concrete in 1956 and the back part was completed in 1980. Now all the buildings are well constructed and equipped with all the basic facilities. A Burmrse marble Buddha image is enshrined in the shrine room and a bronze Thai Buddha image is in the preaching hall.

Anandakuti was known as the single-most famous Theravada Vihara in Nepal for many decades. Its main function was the celebration of Buddhajayanti during which not only the Prime Minister, Ministers and other diplomats were invited to the yearly event, but occasionally His Majesty the Kings and the crown princes as well since 1952. As it was established by the abbot Anandakuti Vidyapitha, a Buddhist boarding high school, adjacent to the Vihara, also holds fame for Theravada far and wide. Moreover, Venerable Amrtananda, the resident abbot, is one of Nepal’s most outstanding personalities. For all these reasons the vihara has received a considerable amount of publicity.

Anandakuti is maintained by the Anandakuti Vihara Trust. It also publishes a significant amount of Buddhist literature mainly compiled by Venerable Amrtananda, the founder of the Trust. The Ananda Bhoomi monthly magazine which has its head office there, is published by the Trust and has been in circulation for the last 26 years. There is a group of dayakas (benefactors) tending to the resident monks and conducting monthly services on every full moon day by inviting numbers of monks and nund to the monastery and offering lunch. Almost all those who wish to reside in a Theravada atmosphere in Kathmandu find this place the most suitable. For example when His Holiness the 19th Supreme Patriarch of Thailand paid a visit to Nepal in 1985 he was accommodated here. H. E. Somdet Phramaharajamangalacarya, the abbot of abbot of Wat Paknam, Bangkok, also spent one Vassavasa here in 1975. Dignitary monks from Sri Lanka and elsewhere, for instance, the goodwill mission led by the Venerable Narada Mahathera, Venerable Pannasiha and Venerable Candramani Mahathera have reside here. All there fruits were the result of the untiring effort of the Venerable Amrtananda who stayed here about 50 years until his death in 1991 including Venerable Mahanama, Venerable Kumara. Venerable Asvaghosa and Venerable Aniruddha is abbot of the monastery and is manager of the Trust. Venerable Kumarakasyapa is editing the magazine.

2. Nepal’s second oldest Theravada Vihara is Srisumangala Vihara situated in the ancient Buddhist city of Patan. This was a traditional Newar monastery. The buldings had collapsed dut to lack of maintenance. In th early days when some Theravada monks first arrived, they stayed in the shrine room. The former name of the monastery was Yamgala Vihara (Yamaga Baha) which denotes its location as being southeast of Lalitpura (patan) ciy in the classical Newari language and bears a long history of at least 800 years (Hemaraj Sakya, 1994). The Vihara was offered to the Theravada Sangha in 1950 as the result of the tireless effort of Venerable Prajnananda Mahasthavira, the seniormost monk of Nepal. An uposathagara building was also established in this monastery in 1951.

Monks staying in Sumangala Vihara in the early days were forced to suffer by some insolent and indolent people who mocked them by asking irrelevant questions and generally making a nuisance of themselves. This disappeared through the patient effort of Venerable Pannananda in this monastery. In time it earned both the hearts and the contributions of the people.

Sumangala Vihara gives the aura of a traditional Newar features. After returning from their expulsion, the monks further developed it by constructing new buildings and fences. The central ground was expanded by constructing buildings receding to the edge. The courtyard is surrounded by two storey buildings on three sides (originally four side). The unplastered buildings are constitute of exposed bricks, like much traditional Newari architecture. Many of its carved windows and doors are old yet well preserved, displaying excellent craftsmanship. The courtyard where the gatherings are held is paved with traditional squared smooth bricks. There is a small (9 foot high) stupa of Vajrayana origin in front of the shrine. The cluster of buildings in the shape of courtyard consist three residence houses, one shrine house, and one kitchen divided by roofs and walls. An ancient stone Buddha image, presently painted with acrylic colors, in the shrine room. A Thai Buddha image has been placed in the uposathagara that located to the back side of the monastery. A Bodhi tree grows in front of the uposathagara. There is a well in the backyard of the monastery.

Since 1960, Sumangala Vihara has been inhabited mainly by Venerable Buddhashosa, who was trained in Burma for many years. It has conducted daily morning services scince 1960. Religious chanting and discussions are held daily. It has been an important Vihara of learning for devotees as the resident monk is found of teaching. It was the head office of the ‘Nepala Bauddha Pariyatti Siksa’ for more than two decades. The devotee of this monastery also conduct a function on every new moon day in which numerous monks and nuns are offered dana in the form of a meal.

The monastery has long been a place for many learning monks and nuns. Among them Venerable Nanapunnika, Sumangala, Sudarsan and the nun Dhammavati are prominent among those who received instructions from monks in the monastery.

3. Buddha Vihara at Lumbhini is the most famous Theravada monastery in Nepal, Known internationally for being located at the sacred birth place of the Buddha. The vihara continues to preserve the special function that it was originally intended to serve i.e. taking care of the pilgrims who visit Lumbhini. Lumbhini has been looked after by Theravada monks since the very early days of their arrival in Nepal. They have been staying there on a permanent basis from 1951. Venerable Dharmaloka, Aniruddha, Mahanama, Cunda and Vimalananda are notable in serving here.

In the beginning one or two monks stayed in a small government building. Since 1952 the monks looked after Lumbhini by organizing ‘Lumbhini Dharmodaya Sabha’ according to the resolution of the cabinet of the Government of Nepal. A remunneration for the resident monk and two servants per month has been offered by the Nepal Government since 1953.

The Vihara’s present building was constructed under the auspices of the Government of Nepal as a part of the Buddha Jayanti celebrations in 1956, commemoration 2,500 years since Buddha’s passing away. The Vihara consists of a large hall where three Buddha images from Nepal, Burma and Thailand, respectively, are enshrined. There are a few small rooms adjoining both sides of the hall. Two separate guest houses have also been constructed, one by U Thant, the then General Secretary of UN, and the other by a pious Mr Haji Yama of Japan. The Uposathagara (Ordination Hall) was established by Venerable Aniruddha in 1974.

The main activity of this monastery is to serve the pilgrims visiting the rather ‘out of the way’ location of Lumbini as there is nobody else to perform such duties. Most pilgrims who visit Lumbini find this vihara an important place as it offers them food and shelter. The most prominent people who have visited here in the past include the king of Nepal and his family, the then President of Sri Lanka J.R. Jayavardena, U Thant, the then General Secretary for the UN, Princess Kalyani Vadhana of Thailand and the 18th and 19th Supreme Patriarchs of Thailand. The monastery has also been running a dispensary for local villagers for many years. This gives some indication of the Theravada presence and the compassionate activities of the monks both to the local people and international visitors alike, especially in the absence of sufficient state facilities.

According to the Master Plan of the Lumbini Development Project prepared by a Japanese Professor Kenzo Tange in 1979, this monastery is to be shifted a little far from the original place. According to the agreement (provision) of the Dharmodaya Sabha with the Lumbini Development Trust, the monastery must be taken down and reconstructed in the West Monastic Zone of the Lumbini Master Plan within a few years. The present location of the vihara (near the Asokan pillar) will soon be a story of the past.

4. Srikirti Vihara was built at Kirtipura, in Kathmandu by the Venerable Sudarsan in 1975. It is situated next to Tribhuvana University, the first and biggest university compound in Nepal. In the early days there were two or three small basic buildings constructed by local devotees. Another resident house was built later, too, but shifted to a new location around 1988-90 as the result of the new development and the vihara buildings begin relocated. The small shrine room was donated by Satyanarayana Manandhara and his family in 1978.

There is a Thai style ordination hall named Samvejaniya Uposathagara built in 1988 with large gilt Buddha images in sitting posture inside the hall and a standing one in the back. A life-size image of the Sanghamahanayaka Prajnananda Mahasthavira has also been placed on the top of a pillar beside the Uposathagara. A brief life history of the legendary monk is inscribed on marble slabs around the pillar. There is an oblonged building on the south on top of which replicas of four Buddhist holy places have been built according to the wishes of the Ven.Sanghamahanaya in 1983. Inside the hall are the scens of four significant events in Buddha’s life, that is, His birth, Enlightenment, first sermon, and His passing away. Beside these, a few images from Thailand, Burma (Myanmar) and Sri Lanka are situated in the hall. This is the only Sri Lankan Buddha image to be found in Nepal. A residential building of four stories is also there, situated at the back. A five story building named the Nyanasamvara guest house is joined to the oblong building. There is a sizeable hall beneath the ordination hall named the Thai Hall. A stupa approximately 30 feet in hight can be seen there. The floor around the Ordination hall is paved with black stone. The decor of the vihara gives an aura similar to that of a Thai monastery.

The Thaikirti Bhavana is the biggest building at Srikirti monastery, costing about 8,000,000 Nepalese Rupees. It is multipurpose building consists of residences, library, meeting hall, auditorium, etc. It was opened by His Holiness the 19th Supreme Patriach of Thailand on the 18th of November 1995. All the buildings in this vihara have been built of cement and concrete within the last 15 years.

The monastery has generated many notable religious activities since its establishment, due in large to its abbot, Venerable Sudarsana, who is a very capable and diligent monk. In the very year of its establishment in 1975, on the occasion of the conclusion of his Vassavasa a grand Kathina ceremony was held. The peculiarity of this particular ceremony was that the civara, or a robe to be offered to the community of monks was woven from cotton thread spun in a single day. From early in the morning devotees brought all the necessary tools and spun the thread from raw cotton. Before noon they had spread the thread on a loom and in the afternoon they wove a few pieces of cloth, cut them accordingly and sew the civara together and dyed it. Before the sun had set it was reverently offered to the community of monks. About 5,000 devotees participated in the ceremony.

Eighty-six devotees were ordained here for seven days on the 23rd April 1985, to commemorate the 86th birthday of Venerable Sanghamahanayaka of Nepal. That same year His Holiness Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara, the 19th Supreme Patriarch of Thailand, visited the vihara and inaugurated, with the recitation of Sutras, the four symbolic Buddhist holy places built within the vihara. The following day he gave ordination to 73 Sakyas there.

Another highly significant even at Srikirti Vihara was the instalment of a new Sanghanayaka to the Sakyananda Mahasthavira on the 6th of May 1993 in which the Thai delegate, Phrarajsumantmuni (Abhibalo) participated, arriving with a message and honorific fan from the Thai Sangharaja or the Suprerme Patriarch Prime Minister Girijaprasada Koirala and most of the minister, and resident diplomats from Thailand, Sri Lanka and Burma were also present at this ceremony. The main opposition leaders were present as well. Messages from dignitary monks of Sri Lanka, Burma and India also were obtained and read. The Venerable Vipassi was coordinator and interpreter for the Thai delegate at this ceremony.

On the 18th of November 1995 a grand ceremony was held in the honour of His Holiness the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand at the Vihara in which Prime Minister Serabahadura Deuba, government ministers and foreign diplomats in Kathmandu were present. In this ceremony His Holiness offered relics of the Buddha and Bhiksuni Yasodhara to the monastery. A large number of delegations from different monasteries and Buddhist societies from all over the country participated in the ceremony. The newly constructed Thaikirti Bhavana was jointly opened by His Holiness and the Prime Minister on this occasion. His Holiness spent the nights of the 18 an the 19th of November 1995 in the Thaikirti Bhavana.

The Srikirti Vihara has obtained large contributions form Buddhists, both locally and abroad, especially from Thailand. His Holiness the Supreme Patriarch kindly granted his patronage to the Vihara. Venerable Sudarsana took upon himself the entire responsibility for all the construction in the monastery. Venerable Sugandha, the assistant Seceretary of His Holiness the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand has played an important role in the development of the monastery.


Theravada Ceremonies

A religious ceremony is a way for people to express their faith in their religion. There could not be any religion in the world without a ceremony. Therefore it is natural to have ceremonies in Buddhism too. However we should be clear on one matter: the Buddha was not the inventor of all kind of ceremony practiced by Buddhists today. The Buddha did not give much emphasis to ceremony. In the canons we find only a few simple ceremonies explained relating to monks and nuns and very little for lay people.

We know that the Buddha taught lay people to perform 3 things: Dana, ‘generosity’ Sila, ‘morality’ and Bhavana, ‘mental development’.In the process of performing these virtues there must be a few methods which, in the course of evolution tended to vary in different countries, such as in Thailand where ceremonies got sophisticated in accordance to the living standard. However, at the core they all share the same tradition and norm as is prevalent in all Theravada countries. That is, to make their faith stronger and flow familiaritis with activities of Buddhist society and phenomena. For these reason it may be assumed that ceremonies in Buddhism are based on the Buddha’s teachings.

Traditional Buddhist Newar ceremonies are performed by Vajracaryas by maintaining traditions from the later Indian civilisation. For example, take the Pravrajya or ‘going forth’ ceremony. This is the most articulated ceremony given to male Sakya and Vajracarya offspring. This is not all different than the ceremony of initiation into Novicehood as practiced in Theravada. Such Newar ceremonies are convenient to replace by Theravadins easily.

At the starting period of Theravada in Nepal (1925) rituals performed in Newar Buddhist congregations were just familiar with Theravada. Only the pattern was adobted from Theravada tradition by starting the programmed by observing precepts, chanting recollections of the Triple Gem and taking food only before noon. The passages chanted were entirely of the Sanskrit language as usual in Nepal. Theravada pattern in Newar Buddhist ceremonies increased gradually after the arrival of Theravada monks from 1930. When the ceremonies were led by Theravadin monks or nuns it developed Theravada interpretation replacing the traditional one. It is now taking on a certain shape and gaining popularity. These ceremonies can be divided in three groups, 1. Samskara (rite de passage) or life circle rituals, 2. Occasional and 3. Optional.

The main Samsakra of life circle rituals explained by Theravadins in Nepal are (1) Gabbhamangala, well-being of womb; (2) Namakarana, Name Giving; (3) Annapasana, Rice Feeding; (4) Kesaappana, Tonsure; (5)Vijjarambha, Start of Study; (6) Pabbajja, Ordination; (7) Upasampada, higher Ordination; (8) Vivaha, Marriage; (9) Dahakamma, Funeral Ceremony. Some times Theravada followers in Nepal invite monks and nuns to make merit on the occasion of the such Samskaras.

Occasional merit making ceremonies are performed in the different occasions such as laying foundation of new building and in the day of completing it, etc. Some may perform it in the occasion of passing an examination or their promotion in job. Some may do it in the occasion of buying new vehicle.

Sponsorship for organising Buddhapuja Dharmadesana (sermons), offering commodities to the monks and nuns and chanting of Mahaparitrna at normal times are optional forms of merit making. Inviting monks for rain retreat and making the conclusion of it also are included in this optional ceremony category. All kinds of merit making can be added in this group which can not be categorised in other two groups.

There are several kinds of Theravada services. A services may contain merely one or a combination of ceremonies. The main services practiesd by Theravadins will be introduced with their historical backgrounds.


Depiction of the Ceremony

There is a set of Theravada ceremony generally practiced by Theravada Buddhists of Nepal. We can divide them roughly in three headings: 1.Devotional Singing, 2.Buddhapuja and 3. Paritranapatha. An introduction with their historic background and the way of performing is given as follows:

1.Devotional singing (jananamala Bhajana) functions as a bridge between traditional Newar Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism in Nepal. This is performed daily in major Newar settlements throughout the country. A collection of songs composed mainly by Theravada Monks used for such performances prove very popular and became the most demanded books among Newars. This devotional singing was started in 1931 (1994 Vikram Era), by two or three persons at public resthouse situated east side of Svayambhu Stupa. In 1995 sixty-seven groups of such singers from 18 districts of the country participated in the national jananamala conference held at Svayambhu, Kathmandu.  A band with singers containing 20 persons on average is usually invited to perform a preliminary programme in occasion of a major Theravada ceremony.

2.Buddhapuja is pali language chanting in the praise of the Triple Gem and conducted by Theravadins in a mass. The pattern of these recitations are similar to the traditional ones used in Theravada countries, such as Sri Lanks, Burma, and even Thailand before its reformation. This is conducted once or twice a day regulary in some Viharas. It is conducted again on every Buddhist holiday by congregating a considerable number of devotees in the most Viharas. Some times people arrange to meet in new places according to their interest and wish. Flowers, sweetmeats and fragrances are offered to the Buddha image or stupa on a such occasion. These articles are decoratively displayed on trays and conveyed to the Buddha image by handing them over, one devotee after another as they stand in a que. Dhamma preaching is usually held on such occasions.

3. Appropriate recitations from sections of a book of Parittasutta (Paritrana = protection) are conducted for devotees on different occasions upon their invitation. Such ceremonies may utilize a few apparatuses such as a lump of sacred thread, a small water-vessel, a miniature begging bowl full of rice adding donation of a few rupees on the top of it, a candle and a few incense sticks for lighting, that is all. After completing the recitation the holy water may be distributed to those attending. A ceremony like this takes about half an hour. It can be elaborated by adding a sermon.

Paritrana literature was first published in Nepal in 1940. It is conjectured that about 30,000 copies together Newari translation and about 15,000 copies together with Nepali translation are in print. Paritrana with translation in Nepali was first published in 1960. The extensive publication is proof of the popularity of Paritrana chanting atleast among the literate Nepalese. It has become a regular part of morning worship for many Buddhists in Nepal. It has even been cited by serious foreign observers on Theravada Buddhism that in at least one case the officiating Vajracaryas had replaced the traditional Sanskrit texts with recitations of Pali Paritrana texts.

It would here be appropriate to depict a typical ceremony of a Theravada congregation as carried out in a morning Buddhapuja service. In such meetings a band of devotional singers (Jananamala Bhajana) starts their singing performance by playing customary musical instruments in South East Asia, i.e., harmonium, Tabala (a pair of hand drums), cymbals and somethmes adding a sitar, etc. Whithin half an hour the participants swell to 50 or 60 people of every age. Then a monk appears and takes, the seat prepared for him. After concluding the singing they all bow their heads to the monk and observed 5 precepts as normally conducted. Then the monk will lead the chanting of the passages in prais of Triple Gem (Buddha-Puja). He then delivers a sermon (Dharmadesana) on a certain theme of religion for about one hour. After this devotees offer items such as Gulpas (a miniature begging bowl) full of rice and Daksina (money), sweetmeat, fruits, etc. to the monk. After all this the participants will join together to dedicate the merits they have gained to the all sentient beings by reciting Pali passages. Light food is usually supplied for the participants befor their departure, Such a programme will be covered within three hours time.

At eleven o’clock a.m. lunch is offered to the monk in a home of a layman (Bhojanadana). That will be followed by Paritrana chanting and the consecrated water is sprinkled to the listeners. This is the conclusion of the entire ceremony. Such Buddhapuja ceremony is held on most occasions of Buddhist gatherings in different places.

Mahaparitrana is a majour Theravada Ceremony in Nepal. It is the chanting of 29 important Suttas collected from Suttanta Pitaka of Pali canons. It was introduced from Sri Lanka in Nepal in 1940 when it was chanted at Parvasthana near Svayambhu for the first time. Devotees were quite impressed and sponsored it to be organised frequently. This elaborate ceremony can only be organised by wealthy persons as it necessitates many apparatuses and the accommodation to hundreds of people. The Mahaparitrana has been carried out in various places of the country, even those far from Kathmandu, such as Butaval, Bhojapur, Hetaunda, Palpatansena, Pokhara, Trisuli, Ranipauva, Dharan and Lumbini. To date, it is surmised that it have been conducted 200 times. At present, it is held once in a month on average.

There is a special method for performing the Mahaparitrana ceremony. A temporary Mandapa (pavilion) is constructed arranging 10 or 15 segments for fences covered by illustrated copper plates in a around shape with four doors. The Mandapa is decorated with colourful electric bulbs and flower garlands, surrounded by oil lanterns. The pavilion must be large enough to sit at least 20 person on chairs in a circle. Water pitchers and a few religious objects such as Buddha imaged and stupas are placed on the central table. From the pitcher a sacred thread is extended which is held by monks in the Mandapa while they chant. Extending the sacred thread to be held by lay devotees is not practical in such mass attendance of between 500 and 1,000 people. The chanting usually goes on for the whole night. At the conclusion of the chanting in the following morning, a programme of Buddhapuja, offerings, and lunch, etc. are conducted.

Mahaparitrana is the only Theravada ceremony sponsored by the kings of Nepal. It was chanted at Jhanda Baithaka (=gallery) in the Narayanahiti Royal Palace of Nepal on the occasion of King Tribhuvana’s birthday in 1953. Since then it has been called chanted every year at Anandakuti Vihara on the birthday of the present reigning King. This is the result of Venerable Amrtananda’s effort.

In those monasteries where Theravada monks have been staying for long period Thereravadin festivals are observed. Visakha or Buddhajayanti festival was introduced by Theravadins and got nationwide popularity. The other festivals such as Asalhapuja, Vassavasa and kathina ceremony is still remain as Theravada phenomena. Vassavasa is traditional rain-retreat for all monk who vow to reside for a three months period at a single residence. It starts from the first day of the waning moon in July or August. On this morning devotees gather in local Viharas and request the monks to voice their determination to keep vow. Devout lay people offer various items and promise to supply the monk’s requisities, Buddhapuja and Dharmadesana are included on this day’s programme.

Kathin is a robe offered at the conclusion of the three month rainy retreat by a monk as defined in Vinaya Pitaka. This is conducted with as a ceremony in most of the Theravada Viharas, where monks retreat. When 5 monks the required quorum for the ceremony to take place is not staying together in a single Vihara, monks are invited from other Viharas to participate. In actual practice though devotees invite all monks and nuns in the valley. Devotees from different places also join this ceremony. The robe is to be conferred to the eligible monk, in practice it is given to the local monk by announcing according to Vinaya rules in Sima boundary. Where such a boundary is not available the monks conduct this ritual in Udakasima or a place surrounded by water such as an island in a river both natural and man made. Buddhapuja and Dharmadesana rituals also included in the Kathina ceremony.


The Effect of Ceremonies

All rituals and ceremonies that are performed among the Theravada Buddhists in Nepal have some effect, either more or less in daily life. No matter whether they are singing, playing music, chanting, listening, reading, discussing or whatever it may be. The different kinds of rituals have different effects and also particular significance.

Singing and playing music, wherever, is a means of universal communication. Merely rhythm alone can hold people spellbound and make them feel nice. The primary ritual Jnanamala Bhajana makes use of such things though this is not fully in accordance with Buddhist monastic tradition and so is a recent phenomena among Newar Buddhists. It is a result of co-existanceships with the Hindus, who, since the last few centries, have developed a tradition of devotion, through songs and musics, toward their gods and deities. Then this was inevitable among the Newars where monastic tradition is no longer. This proved to be a wise consideration of the newly introduced Theravada monks to allow people to indulge on musical performances. To prevent defects, they have issued warning in advance. The enlighted monks are fully aware in keeping those songs and performances free from contamination on no-Buddhist ideas and behavior.

The performing is joined by people of all walk of life: male and female, old and young. Teenagers memorize the easy passanges in order to learn some new things. This is popular among the faithful again as it provides verses in the vernacular instead of the liturgies that are in Pali or Sanskrit which they chant. For many reasons this has replaces the old fashioned type of chantings which prevailed among Buddhists. Some like to invite a group to perform for them on different occasions in their life. For some it is the whole of the religion. In some cases, the young and old also the foreigners who show some intrest in this performance, were exhorted by elders saying: ‘You should have deep faith in the Bhagavana (Buddha) and listen to the Bhajana (recollect), then you will get test of Buddha dharma.

The Theravada ritual and ceremony had become popular as a considerable number of the Newar Buddhists has enrolled in Pariyatti education. Propagation of Vipassna meditation also has helped polularize it. The publications of translations from Pali literature and also compositions are read also by people without any ideas concerning Theravada, resulting in them developing interest and acquiring knowledge on Theravada ritual. These booklets are used to give lessons on morality, literature, language, and beauty of the language including ritual to the offspring.

The sermons and Buddha puja program showed its effect through publicity of Buddhist lessons and Theravada rituals gained in popularity. These are joined by ten, twenty, fifthy, hundred more in many traditional daily rituals of the Newar monasteries, solely performed by the priest (monk) alone. There is a clear picture of gradual submission to the Theravada tenets among Newars since last seven to eight decades.

In international Buddhist conferences, Theravada ritual is prominent and monks are invited to preside over them. The passage of five precepts in Pali is the only litany, which the entire congregation, in such conferences, chant in unison. Some times this caused jealousy among other groups, in the main either Newars or Mahayana who exceed Theravads in numbers and history. But the Theravadan ritual or ceremony holds the favorite position as it is advanced not only because it is providing lessons to the public but also because the language of the liturgy they use, namely pali, is the root language of Nepali the official language of the country. The Sanskrit litanies are not really available for public use and the Tibetan litanies that Tibetanized Buddhists use are marginal in the country.

Theravada ritualistic activities stand prominent in all modern media: overwhelmed in all modern medias- TV, Radio, Newspapers, lectures, large meetings, orginizations, or what ever that is available to them. Whatever new Budhist matters occurred people recommend the Theravada monks preside over them. As a result the Theravada monks are widely respected.

Domestic Theravada rituals also are threatening to the traditional one of the Newar Buddhist Vajracarya priests and Hindu Brahmin priests both blame the preaching of Theravada monks for the decline of their ancestor worship. In some case the Newar Theravadins have stopped performing the traditional Newar Buddhist rituals, though they are shared also by Theravada Buddhists of other countries, but not confirmed by Theravada scripturs. In arguments they clain, “I am follower of the Buddha (pure) Buddha dharma” or simply, “I am not for this because I am a Buddhist.” The intention to follow Theravada Buddhism in its pure form is valued highly in Nepal. Thus many Vajracaryas have cited Theravada scriputers that are widely accessible to them in Hindi, Nepali, Newari, English and some times Pali to confirm their rituals and tradition. They started to denounce traditional wordhip that was performed with animal scarifies and also those supportive of the Hindu case system. In many cases use of alcohol is banned. The effect of Theravada in Nepal according to some foreign scholars is modernization in Buddhism. Theravada monks and nuns became the first choice whenever monks were to be invited in merit making ceremonies. Hundreds of youths annually are initiated in Theravada novice-hood instead of the traditional loin-cloth worship. The presence of about 200 monks and nuns in the Kathmandu Valley and little is left of the Newar Buddhist rituals that has not been touched by Theravada ones.


Theravada Rituala at Present

At its present stage of development the complete Theravada life cycle ritual is practiced only by very few people in Nepal. A few Buddhists of Dharan, Eastern Nepal are trying to expand the practice under the leadership of Venerable Maitri Tamang. There is also an organization of Theravada ceremony practicing families in Dharan town. In Kathmandu we find most practitioners only seek the Theravada system for performed in the Theravada tradition are initiation into novicehood for boys and ‘observing eight precepts’ for girls. Conversely in Kathmandu or among the main Newar community where Theravada is flourishing most, no monk or laity actively attempting to bring the Newars into the such Theravada ritual system. This is mainly because the Buddhist rituals are performed by Vajracarya as their traditional career. Another reason is that the number of Theravada monks and nuns is still very small and it would be difficult to cover all the parishioners. All the same, it is unavoidable that Theravadin monks conduct such ceremonies because there is always peoplr who sincerely wish these by monks or nuns to bless them at important points of their life.

However, Newar society is considerably affected by Theravada ceremony as is shown in their practice of ritualistic ceremonies. Traditional ancestor worship had noticeably devlined dwindelled while the sponsoring of the Theravada activities has increased. Two hundred monks and nuns are regularly fed lavishly. The publishing of religious books, organizing religious meetings and functions, building new and additional Vihara buildings is also increasing. Such contributions are always linked to a part of ceremony and therefore important facts of their religions.

The funeral procession ceremony of the two seinor Theravada monks, Venerable Amrtananda and Venerable Prajnananda each brought together of over 50 thousand people from every sect of Buddhism, thus showing the respect which Theravada holds. Venerable Amrtananda untiringly tried to bring together all sects of Buddhism of Nepal in a single platform of development and friendship. In a programme of Sangayana Dharmadesana (Suvad Caeng:Thai) held to mark of the completion of his 50th year of higher ordination, not only monks of the Theravadin sect but also Mahayana monks and Vajracarya priests too were also invited. It was the first time such an ecumenical ceremony was ever held in Nepal. It is the natural sense of harmony and religious tolerance, which allows such huge mass activities to take place between the different Buddhist traditions.

The heterodoxy of the Nepalese Theravadins in the matter of performing ceremonies can be seen in activity of Dharmodaya Sabha, the National Buddhist Institute, which was established by Theravadins. Now Dharmodays Sabha is trying its best to develop contacts with Buddhists throughout the country forming its branches in various places and allowing a diversity of ceremony. Groups of Mahayana monks, Vajracarya priests, as well as Theravada monks (Bhiksus) are given the opportunity to perform religious ceremonies at the National Buddhist Conference held every two years since the last ten years.

Ample application of Theravada ceremony can be seen in celebration of Vasisakha Puja day or Buddhajayanti in Nepal. From one week prior to the full moon day the Radio Nepal and the Nepal Television, the Nepal Government broadcasting agency broadcasts short Buddhist religious programs few minutes long. Elsewhere week-long Dharma preaching programmes by monks and nuns are organized in many places and about 20 monks and nuns are sent separately to new places to participate in Buddha Jayanti celebration, and conduct Theravada ceremony. Most activities led by Theravada monks or nuns in marking Buddha Jayanti are celebrations conducted in the Theravada manner. On the day of Buddha Jayanti itself ceremonies go on in many places and are often joined by political dignitaries such as diplomats, government ministers and Prime Minister. Some years even the King and royal families attend. In all these ceremony Pali Versions or passages are chanted. Additional weekly broadcast of 8 minutes 5 precepts are observed, Buddhapuja (Worship to the Triple Gem), recitation of Pali verses, and preaching are included. In all these ceremonies Pali versions or passanges are chanted.

The Buddha Jayanti celebration – marking three important events occurred in Buddha’s life, His birth, Enlightenment and Mahaparinibbana was unknown in Nepal and first introduced in Nepal by Theravada in 1925. Even the Government also has recomendation, proclaiming it an official holiday. On these days, it is observed in everyday in Nepal where inhabited Buddhists live, by organising different kinds of activities.

Even though some hold different views on the dates of Buddha  this doesn’t hamper its popularity. Theravada tradition regarding Buddha’s life history is gaining more popular support in Nepal. The wide spread observance of the Buddha Jayanti celebration is most important example of Theravada influence in Nepal.

All kinds of books on Paritrana are used in rituals. The curriculum of Buddhist Study Triratna Vandana also contains a few passages of rituals. Venerable Asvaghosa prepared a manual Buddhasamskara in 1979. The “Introduction” of the publication was included in a booklet Buddha ra Buddha Dharmako Samksipta Paricaya in 1991. Bauddhacaryavidhi by Venerable Maitri Tamang and Bauddhasamsakara Paddhati by Mr Dharmaratna Sakya are also available.


From Early days to Mahayana

Buddha philosophy has always been one of the most creative forces of cultural and religious life of Nrpalese people. It gives a view about this and after this world. It is the one of the main core elements for people’s idea of ethic. Most religious activities are derived from philosophy. But we also have to be aware that Buddhist philosophy has gradually changed and views differ according to place and time.

The basic Buddhist philosophy led people to respect Triple Gem i.e. Buddha, the founder of the religion; Dhamma, the Buddha’s teachings and, Sangha, disciples who follow the Dhamma of the Buddha. It contains pragmatic sets of practices for the clergy and lay followers. Three kinds of training Sila (morality), Samadhi (meditation) and Panna (wisdom) are for the clergy and there cirtues i.e. Dana (charity) Sila (morality) and Bhavana (mental concentration) for lay followers. The early Buddhist philosophy may be embodied in 37 Bidhipakkhiya Dhamma. This was the philosophy expounded by the Buddha to the prople of Kapilavastu, Ramagrama, Devadaha and other places before the commencement of the Buddhist era.

Later on when Buddhism evolved fully it divided into the yanas or systems, viz.. Theravada or Sravaka-yana and, Mahayana or Buddhayana from the Mahasanghika, of which Tantrayana is a later phase. Theravada has its scriptures in either Pali or Sanskrit while the Mahayana has always been in Sanskrit.

After one century Buddha’s Mahaparinibbana the Buddhist order became split up into eighteen or more sects. Each sect had its particular doctrinal views. Of the eighteen sects eleven held orthodox view with certain defferences. The remaining seven headed by the Mahasanghikas held semi-Mahayanic views, paving the way for the advent of Mahayanism. The Kathavatthu by Venerable Moggaliputtatissa can be taken as the source for understanding the contemporary philosophy of Asokan period. In that time Buddhism was characterized by numerous sanctuaries and monuments for veneration leading for salvation. Some followres desired heavenly bliss by practice of virtues and religious activities. Many Buddhists believed the Buddha to be superhuman and different from normal human nature. This belief led to the founding huge monuments, stupas and other things in Nepal, the remains of which are still found in Terai and the Kathmandu Valley of the country.

The central theme of Theravada is the twelve-linked chain of causation (Pratiya-samutpada=Paticcasamuppada), perpetual flux (santana) of mind and matter (nama-rupa, consisting of the five elements, viz, rupa (matter), vedana (feeling), sanna (preception), samkhara, and vinnana (consciousness). The adherents of this branch of Buddhism seek individual enlightment, i.e., arahatahood and, at the end of their span of life, Anupadisesa Nibbana, i.e., completely eternal peace and bliss. The aim of Theravada is the realization of the non-existence tenets which entered the Kathmandu Valley in the Asokan period must have been of such a nature.

Mahayana in contrast seeks both Pudgala-nairatmya as well as Dharmanairatmya, by which they mean that the five elements (skandhas) which are the badid for the conception of Pudgala (soul) do not ultimately exist, in other words, all the elements (skandhas), which compose the worldly objects and beings (i.e. Dharmas) fo not ultimately exist. For attaining this goal, Mahayana prescribes the realization of both pudgala-nairatmya and Dharma-nairatmya.

In the Mahayana the themes of Brahmavihara i.e. Metta (Loving Kindness), Karuna (Compassion) and, Mudita=(Joicefulness) had been changed in actual practice. That is to say Karuna received most consideration and became the essence of all virtues. The idea of saving or rescuing sentient beings from the sea of the world became highly honoured and very attractive. Such a lofty scheme is practicable only by a person with strong mental power. A large portion of human kind was not appeased by this fantastic scheme. Then the religious leaders introduced mystic Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The Lalitavistrara explains Gotama Buddha, Bodhisattvas and other celestial beings in superstitions way. The philosophy of mystic Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in Buddhism was conceived after only a few centuries of the master’s demise. This attracted large number of people as they found someone to rescue them from their miseries and sufferings. The ideal of ‘becoming a Buddha’ became only a matter of boasting in the mind of a handful of practitioners.

The follower of such Bodhisattva ideas called themselves “Mahayanist” and they also labeled the rest of Buddhists as “Hinayanist”, who wished attain only individual salvation. These two different ideas brought further frictions. Since the start of the first century C.E. the importance of salvation was transformed into the ideas of ‘becoming a Buddha’ or Bodhisattva. Mahayanists conceived of Buddha as superhuman and even super divine. Their Buddha’s Kaya conceptions were clear. Many different creeds were introduced in this period which are still popular among Buddhists of Nepal. The Bodhisattva ideal is cherished as being superior to personal salvation. The perfections of a Mahayana Bodhisattva are explained in work Bodhicaryavatara by Santideva. There are different groupings or sets of Bodhisattvas in Nepal. The most popular mystic Bodhisattvas are i.e. Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, Akasagarbha. These are called also Lokesvara. Even Brahmanistic gods like Visnu and Siva are also taken as being Bodhisattvas and stories about them have created. Abhisamayalankara names 1004 Buddhas of the Bhadrakalpa. Nepalese belief in Bodhisattva doctrine has been seen since about the start of the first century C.E.

In the philosophical area Mahayana was again sub-divided into two schools of philosophy known as Sunyatavada, i.e., of the Madhyamika, of which Nagarjuna was the main exponent, and Vijnanavada of the Yogacara, the main exponent of which was Asanga, who, it is said, was inspired by Maitreyanatha, a Bodhisattva. The Vijananavada was further developed into the Vijnaptimatratavada by Vasubandhu, younger brother of Asanga. Most of them lived in northern India and served in those world-famous Buddhist universities. Many of these scholars are believed to have travelled to different parts of Nepal including the Kathmandu Valley.

According to the records of I-tsing (8th century C.E.), the special feature of the Mahayanists was that they studied the Mahayana Sutras and worshipped the Bodhisattvas. There were some different schools of views. The Madhyamikas held that “what is commonly called existence is in reality non-existence, and every object is but an empty show, like an illusion.” The followers of Yogacara affirmed that “there exist no external things in reality, but only thoughts, and all things exists only in mind.” I-tsing notes further that Mahayanists and Theravadins had a common code of discipline or Vinaya; the basic principles, like the four-noble truth, and five groups of offences were common to both. But in the same time there had been many disputes between them. He also observed that the Nepal valley had about three thousand monks practicing the Dharma of both systems; Mahayana and Theravada.

Since the medieval period of their history, Nepalese Buddhists have been practising Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism fully. Whatever ideas and background about Buddhist philosophy they have are derived from the literature of their respective sects. Influence of Sanskrit Buddhist literature is predominant among Newar Buddhists. At the same time, the rest of the Buddhists of the country used the Tibetan translation from Sanskrit. Since then the position is same i.e. Mahayana Vajrayana is the predominent Buddhist sect of the country.

Mahayana Buddhists hold some different attitudes from Theravadins on Bodhisattavahood. According to them a Bodhisattva has to accomplish the six Paramitas or Perfections to pass from Bodhisattvahood to Buddhahood. The six Paramitas are really the chief factors in a Bodhisattva’s discipline, and the four additional Paramitas are mentioned and discussed in many passages of Buddhist Sanskrit literatre, while the seventh-tenth Paramitas are mentioned only in a few passages and are not explained at great length.

The six chief Paramitas of Mahayana are given as followe :-

  1. Dana (giving, generosity, liberality).
  2. Sila (virtuous conduct, morality righteousness).
  3. Ksanti (forbearance, patience).
  4. Virya (Energy).
  5. Dhyana (absorption).
  6. Prajna (wisdom).
    The four supplementary Paramitas are the following :-
  7. Upaya or Upaya-kausalya (skillful means in the choice or adaptation of means for conversion or succor).
  8. Pranidhana (aspiration of resolution=Adhitthana).
  9. Bala (strength, power).
  10. Jana (Knowledge).

Vasubandhu clearly explains in the Mahayana-sutralamkara commentary that the six Paramitas are fundamentally related to the three siksa. The first three paramitas correspond to Adhisila, fifth and sixth to Adhicitta and Adhi-prajna respectively; while the fourth (virya) is regarded as belonging to all the three branches of discipline. The third Paramita is sometimes coupled with the fourth, thus making three pairs of Paramitas.

The six Paramitas are thus related to serveral basic concepts of early Buddhism. The Buddhist Sanskrit writers attach the greatest importance to the Paramitas, which distinguish the Bodhisattvas from the inferior Arhatas and Pratyeka Buddhas. Mahayanists contrast their paramitas with the thirty-seven-bodhipaksiya-dharmas, which constitute the highest ideal of the Theravada.

This is a common belief of Nepalese Buddhists and they have developed popular holy places where the Bodhisattva performed deeds illustrating themes of Paramitas. Two such places are found on suburb of the Kathmandu valley: Namobuddha where the Bodhisattva one to become Sakyamuni Buddha offeref his flesh and blood to a hungry tigress and her cubs, and Manicuda where he offered the jewel grown at his head by going through a crude surgery done by the begger Brahmins. On certain days there are festivals where people visit these places and offer veneration. There are stories on Manjusri Bodhisattva in great length that explains mythical history of the Kathmandu Valley.

A Bodhisattva’s completion of these six Perfections (Paramitas) is also termed Gotra-bhumi, in which the aspirant, who had developed Bodichitta and completed the perfections, is entitled to take up the course of spiritual progress as indicated in the ten Bhumis, and therefore qualified to take up the Adhimukti-carya, i.e. he could make progress in the ten Bhumis. The ten Bhumis are-

  1. Pramudita = Joyous satge,
  2. Vimala = Immaculate stage,
  3. Prabhakari = Shining stage or the stage of illumination,
  4. Archismati = Bright or Radiant stage,
  5. Sudurjaya = Hard to win,
  6. Abhimukhi = Right in front or Turned towards Bodi,
  7. Duramgama = Far going stage,
  8. Acala = Immovable stage,
  9. Sadhumati = Stage of good thoughts, and
  10. Dharmamegha = Cloud of the Law.

It is after the tenth Bhumi that a Bodhisattava becomes a Tathagata, and so the Lankavatara calls this stage Tathagata-bhumi. The Satasahasika Prajnaparamita also remarks that a Bodhisattva in the tenth Bhumi can be called a Tathagata.

These Bodhisattva doctrines are still studied in colleges of Tibet, Bhutan, Sikkhim or elsewhere where Nepalese students get their higher religious instructions. In Nepal, where Mahayana teachers have influence, these doctrines are discussed and highly esteemed.

Mahayanists belive that Buddha makes a show of his existence in the three dhatus. In the Astadasasahasrika-Prajnaparamira, conceived of two kayas: (1) Rupakaya or Nirmana Kaya, denoting bodies, gross and subtle, reffering to the philosophical body in general, and (2) Dharmakaya, which is used in two senses, one being the body of Dharma. (i.e., collection of practices), which makes a being a Buddha, and the other the metaphysical principle underlying the universe the Reality (Tathata). In Lankavatara of the Yogacara school distingueished the gross Rupakaya from the subtle Rupakaya, naming the former Rupa or Nirmana Kaya and the latter Sambhogakaya. The Sambhogakaya denotes the subtle body which the Buddhas adopted from preaching the practice of the bodhipaksika and the dharmas, which constitute a Buddha.


Madhyamika and Yogacara

We have noted that there are main two schoola of philosophty in Mahayana Buddhism. Madhyamika or Sunyatavada is the one of them should be discussed to understand the Mahayana philosophy in Nepal. Sunyata is not to be taken in the sense of nastitva (nihilism) or abhava (absence of something). It is equal with the pratityasamutpada. There is a famous motto by Nagarjuna:

Yah pratiyasamutpadah sunyatam tam pracaksmahe, sa prajnaptir upadaya pratipat saiva madhyama.

(We say that dependent origination is sunyata. It is in that sense that the path is middle.) All phenomenal things are relatively existent, e.g., sprout and seeds, vijanas with reference to cause and condition. Things which are only relatively existent, have in reality no origination, and the fact of this non-orgination in reality is sunyata. Whatever is said to have come into existence through cause and condition (i.e. relatively) is really unborn; it cannot have real origination; and whatever is subject to cause and condition is sunya. It is said that Dharmas are sunya which means things in reality are of non-origination. It is this sense that the connotation of sunyata has come into existence. Hence the sunyata is the middle path which keeps clear of the two extremes. That which is really non-originated can neither be said to exist nor to vanish. It is neither existent nor non-existent. In conclusion according to sunyavadins nothing is ever produced without cause and condition, or, in other words, there is nothing eternal.

The Mahayanaist conception of sunyata i.e., everything is non-existence fits in correctly with all dharmas and all statements; it is when sunyata is seen in this light that one can perceive the reasonableness of the formular of Causal Law and the four truths, the fruits of sanctification, Buddha, Dharma, Sangha, things wordly and transcendental, deeds right and wrong, a good or bad condition and other conventional matters. Nagarjuna says that sunyata is the true sense and the chief charactersistic of the Causal Law.

The question then arises of how, according to sunyavadins we should deal with everyday life and the ultimate truth. They relpy thus- there are two kinds of truths, samvrti (Mithya) satya or Conventional truth and Paramartha satya or ultimate truth. The words in common usage, e.g., skandha atman, loka, etc., are called samvrti or conventional. Samvrti has three different senses, the first is Ignorance which means non-realisation of the truth, and the faith in falsehood. The second sense is whatever is caused and conditioned is samvrti or phenomenal. The third sense is Alokasamvrti i.e. skandha, dhatu ayatana etc. which are conventional truths but not general. There are two kinds of conventional truths or Samvrti satya. The first is Alokasamvrti; that is truth not accepted by the generality of the people. Such as experiences of a man with diseased eyes or defective organs of sense are peculiar to the man and are not true for all. The second Samvrti or conventional truth is Tathya-samvrti or phenomenal truth which refers to things which originate out of a cause and are perceived in the same way by all persons with unimpaired organs of sense. e.g. the colour blue ets. These both samvrtis are called mithyasamvrti. The samyaksatya is called Paramarthasatya. It is identical with the Nirvana. It is un-originating and undecaying, and as such it is not an object of be grasped by the mind. It is indeterminable by speech and unknowable by knowledge. Hence the highest truth is inexpressible and can be realized only within one’s own self.

Still other scholars have different view on some points of the Madhyamika system with regards to the four truths and the Causal Law. They are called Yogacaravadins. Venerable Asanga, Vasubandhu and other writers of Yogacara system refute some points of Madhyamikas. Venerable Asanga refers to the four truths. According to him the first two are related to the origin of the world. The other two are about the disappearance of things and the cause thereof. The first two needed suppression and the other two needed realization. The Yogacara writers say that the doctrines Theravada i.e. four truths and the causal law belong to the domain of imagination (parikalpana) and to be false. Because it assumes that the world is as real which is misconception (parikalpana) only. In fact, the Alayavijnana (store-conciousness) only is real. This is a particular notion of Vijnanavadins. The other points are common to Madhyamika as we have discussed above already. According to them Theravadins are like frightened people who imagine a rope to be a snake. They hold that Theravadins accept four kind of Viparyas (misconception) in as much as they meditated on pudgalanimitta individuality as basis) and conceived of Nirvana as something existent, full of peace and beyond misery.


Development of Sukhavati Ideal

Nepalese Mahayanists prefer Sukhavati to Nibbana. Sukhavati is the paradise where mystic Amitabha Buddha resides. Amitabha Buddha has unlimited life span. There is no darkness or night but day light is prevalent for always. This is the place where all celestial or mystic Buddhas and Bodisattvas stay. The mortal Buddhas also have been belived to be Rupakaya form of Amitabha. When they were in Kamadhatu their form was Nirmanakaya and when in Rupadhatu their form was Dharmakaya. This school rejects the reality of Buddha’s birth by fulfilling their perfections in the world. What we see about mortal Buddhas is that they are only a form of reflection of Amitabha. In this way Gotama Buddha and his activites are also considered to be Aupapaduk. Sentient beings who recall Amitabha in his last moment of life will attend to the Sukhavati.

The Nepalese belief in mystic Buddhas and Bodhisattvas is clearly seen in the history of the Nepal valley explained in Svayambhu Purana. It is stated that these mystic Buddhas and Bodhisattvas were the creators of the world. This echoes the philosophy of Brahma and Maya. The Amitabha Buddha is similar to Brahma and the activities of Buddhas and Bodhisttvas are Maya. The story of the creation of the world goes as follows.

In the beginning, all was void (Sunyat). The first light that manifest was the word Aum., From this the Mahavarnas (Alphabets) were produced. As Svayambhu came before all, he is called Adi-Buddha. He wished from one to become many, which desire was denominated Prajna. In the instant of conceiving this desire, five forms or beings were produced. They were called five Buddhas i.e. Vairocana, Aksobhya, Ratna-Sambhava, Amitabha, Amoghasiddhi. Each of these Buddhas, again produced from himself by means of Dhyana, another being called his Bodhisattva, or son. Vairocana produced Samantabhadra. Aksobhya Vajrapani, Ratna-Sambhava Ratna-Pani; Amitabha Padma-Pani; and Amogha-Siddhi Visvapani. The padma-pani was engaged by Svayambhu or Adibuddha’s command, in creation; and having by the efficaccy of Svayambhu’s Dhyana, assumed the virtues of the three Gunas, he created Brahma, Visnu, and Mahaesa (Siva) and delegated to them respectively, creation, preservation, and destruction. The thirteen Bodhisattva Bhuvanas are the work of Adi-Buddha and whoever is a faithful follower of Buddha will be reborn to one of these Bhuvanas after death. The pious worshippers of Brahma shall go to one of the eighteen Rupavacara Bhuvanas. Whosoever worships Visnu with pure heart shall go to one of the six Kamavacara Bhuvanas. The remaining three Bhuvanas are for the followers of siva. Then further explains traditional view on geography and universe. The origin of mankind conforms to Pali canonical sources (=Agganna sutta, Digha Nikaya). Manjusri is the great architect who constructs the mansions of the world by Adibuddha’s command, as Padm-Pani, at his command, creates all animate things.

Belief in different previous mortal Buddhas also has been strong among Nepalese Buddhists. Images of Dipamkara Buddha are numerous. Seven Buddhas Vipasvi (=Vipassi) Sikhi (=Sikhi) Visvabhu (=Vessabhu), Krakucchand (=Kakusanda), Kanakamuni (=Konagamana), Kasyapa(=Kassapa) and Gautama (=Gotama) are popularly involved on the occasion of majour merit makings and life rituals. Sri Arya Maitreya Buddha is also notable as he is the forthcoming Buddha. Between Gotama and Sri Arya Maitreya Avalokitesvara is upholder of religion. He is a Bodhisattva who has attained Nibbana but remains in worldly life for the sake of sentient beings. Such belive at other mortal Buddhas is known in national level and even the kings involve activities depended in it.

In the middle ages Buddhist mantras became increasingly used all over the country. There is much evidence showing that the kings of western Nepal also showed their faith in different kinds of mantras. The kings have openly explained that their kingdom is has been obtained by praying to the Buddha (Srighanaradhanadhigata). Some of the kings have named the tantra book they learned and practiced. Hevajratantra is one of them. It gives some instrucions on requesting rain, defeating foes and for various other miracles. The king Asoka Calla claimed that he is one who cherishes the Hevajra (Hevajracaranaravindamakaranadamadhukara). The Kathmandu valley continued to be one of the main centers of practiseners of Mantrayana or Vajrayana.

Since the beginning of the modern age Buddhism started to decay among the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley and Khasas of western Nepal. Althought Newar Buddhists, with a weak monastic tradition, have lost the tradition of formal religious education, they have preserved the original Sanskrit Buddhist literature. Much of this is Tantra literature.

An average Nepalese Buddhist shares the same basic philosophy with other Buddhists of the world. Their life rituals are performed by Buddhist priests and they make merits in one way or another. They dedicate their merits to their deceased relatives. They manage their temples, stupas and monasteries. They also enter to the Order and learn the scriptures. They did not forget their original form of Buddhism. A Buddhist scholar named Amritananda at the beginning of the 19th century confirmed that Newar Buddhist priests are more heterodox than Tibetan Buddhist monks and their scriptures are also less numerous. Still he was able to recall the universal Buddhist tents of equality, (if not in practice then in theory) that whoever has adopted the tenets of Buddha, and has cut off the lock from the crown of his head (= shaved his head), of whatever tribe or nation he be, becomes there by Buddhist priest (=Bandya). He adds that the Tibetan monks are same to them in that they follow the tenets of Buddha, and they are of fully shaven head. He did not boast that they were superior to the Tibetan monks by being high caste, like Brahmins, or being “Buddhist Brahmins” as some times claimed by westerners.

Pandit Amritandana  made a summary of four theories prevalent among Nepalese Buddhists at that time about liberation from the world. They are Svabhavika = Natural, Aisvarika = Theistic, Karmika = Precious deeds, and Yatnika = By the skillful efforts. These theories impressed on the mind of public by the scriptures that they read or listen. That is to say, the Sanskrit Buddhist literature preserved in Nepal for thousands of years.

Since the beginning of 20th century the Theravada school of thought has more popular among Newar Buddhists in the country. Nepalese monks have greatly contributed to this. A large part of the Pali scriptures has been translated into the Nepalese and Newari languages. The modern and way of thinking also support the Theravada philosophy in the society. All these schools of thoughts or philosophy are intermingled in modern Nepalese Buddhists.