This banner features ripe pine corns above Tandin Ney in Thimphu. Picture taken on April 15.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

An afterthought for Lumbini

I visited Lumbini in Nepal last week. Two and a half millennia after the birth of Prince Siddhartha, who later became Lord Buddha, the Awakened One, the place is still imbued with deeply spiritual aura. Away from the dusty, noisy, and chaotic Kathmandu city, Lumbini is not only an oasis of tranquility, but also a spiritual haven. Located in the tarai region of Nepal, Lumbini draws people, especially Buddhists, from all over the world. Lumbini Garden, the exact spot where Queen Maya Devi gave birth to Prince Siddhartha, is a magnet to both locals and foreigners. It’s popularly known as Maya Devi Temple although the structure resembling a temple is, in fact, an archeological structure built to protect the spot in the garden where Lord Buddha is believed to have taken seven steps right after birth.

Some 30 kilometres away are the ruins of Kapilavastu Palace where Prince Siddhartha lived until he was 29. Walking over the ruins of the palace, it’s hard not to feel a sense of impermanence. It was the same place which was once bustling with life with Prince Siddhartha at the heart of a beehive of activity. Leading a princely life within the palace walls of the prosperous kingdom, Prince Siddhartha thought all good things surrounding him were going to last forever until he saw a sick person, an old person, and a dead body outside the walls of the palace. He immediately realised that all compounded things were immaterial and impermanent. And he was right. Nothing remains today of that great palace of King Sudhodana except what Prince Siddhartha sought outside the walls of the palace, the meaning of impermanence. Visiting Kapilavastu brings home, powerfully, the message of impermanence Lord Buddha taught. I suppose that’s what a pilgrimage does to the human mind. That’s because we can connect to the sublime because, as Buddhist masters say, each sentient being carries the seed of Buddhahood, that precious gem ready to shine forth when worldly obscurities are removed.

Lumbini is today quietly bustling with activity for temples of different countries around the world are sprouting around the birthplace of Lord Buddha as part of Lumbini development plan. The plan laid out on 777 hectares of land is divided into three zones – sacred garden, monastic zone, and new Lumbini village. The vice chairman of Lumbini Development Trust told me Bhutan has been given two plots of land in the monastic zone, but no Bhutanese temple has come up on the plots. Nepalese, German, Vietnamese, Chinese, French, and Singaporean temples, among others, have already been completed. Some of them are reverberating with the sounds of dharma. Lumbini is set to change dramatically. And soon.

Tomorrow, the 15th day of the first lunar month, is believed to be highly auspicious because it’s the final day of Chothrul Duechen. Lord Buddha is believed to have displayed a number of miracles in the first 15 days of the first month culminating on the full moon day. Therefore, I thought it’s fitting to publish some pictures of Lumbini I took with my mobile phone.       

Lumbini Garden. The exact spot where Queen Maya gave birth to Lord Buddha clutching a branch of a sal tree is inside the white structure known as Maya Devi Temple.  

The open space of western monastic zone allocated for Mahayana Buddhism. Bhutan's temple would have come up somewhere around here.  
French temple in the monastic zone

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