– Rai Fanindra (Tour and Trekking Guide in Nepal)
Siddhartha Gautam was born in 623 BC. He became Buddha or enlightened in the age of 35 after the six years of meditation. He became the liberated person for the people through his wisdom. Many people are following the path of Buddha is known as Buddhist and those Buddhist thought, wisdom, morality, iconography and practices are known as Buddhism. So Buddhism covers the vast subject matters of Buddhist followers. Buddhism is the perspective upon the nature and consequences of mind and soul; birth, death and reincarnation; liberation and salvation through the philosophy of Gautam Buddha. Tripitak (three baskets) is the main book of collection of preaching delivered to Vikshu by Buddha. The Tripitak is divided into three sections having different realm: Rules of Discipline (Vinaya), Buddha’s discourses (Sutras), Analytical and explanatory texts or commentaries (Avidhamma).
In 6th century BC, Shakyamuni King Shuddodan and Queen Mayadevi were ruling the Kapilvastu state. Mayadevi became pregnant and acknowledged not to give birth in palace. So she had to leave the palace for delivering baby. When she was going to Devadaha (her parental house), she arrived Lumbini (Rumini). She saw a beautiful garden and holy pound, she took rest there. She had delivery there which was the birth of Siddharta Gautam. Mayadevi returned to Kapilvastu and she died after seven days. Gautam was raised by his mother’s younger sister, Maha Prajapati, after his mother’s death. Siddhartha Gautam married with Yasodhara and they had one child, a son, Rahul. Siddhartha Gautam was not happy even he was in palace. He saw the “Four Passing Sights”: an old man, a sick man, a dead man, and saint. Then After, Gautam knew that nothing can stop people from being born, becoming old, getting sick, and dying. So, he left the family and palace at the age of 29 for the quest of knowledge. He went to Bodhgaya and he deeply absorbed in meditation seating beneath the Budhi Tree (Ficus religiosa). He was enlightened after six year of meditation at the age of 35. He enlightened only after having the food given by a women which is called mid- way Path. The name Siddhartha Gautam transformed into Gautam Buddha after enlightenment. And Gautam Buddha delivered his first teaching to five Vikshus in Deer Park, Saranath. Many Vikshus and Vikshuni followed him for salvation during his life time.
Gautam Buddha appeared in this world with the sole purpose of salvation from suffering. His major means of persuasions were Four Noble Truth and Eightfold Path. The Four Noble Truths are: the truth of suffering, the truth of desire, the truth of the cessation of desire and the truth of the 8-fold path. The Four Noble Truths is about human suffering, life has desire and that desire is the main cause of suffering. The cessation of desire is the best solution of cessation of suffering according to this notion. The suffering we experience because of these things comes not so much from the things themselves, but from how we think about them and how we “desire” regarding them. But the desire and suffering together can be eliminated through the Eight-Fold Path of Buddha. The Eight-Fold Path is: Right View, Right Motivation, Right Action, Right Speech, Right Occupation, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. Right view is the right way of looking at life, nature, and the universe. Whatever we do, we speak, we look, we think, all should be honest and in right way without any selfish and harmful intentions. The eightfold path comprises the essence of the Buddhist spiritual path. It includes proper skills and behaviors, proper mental states and conditions, and proper aspirations and intentions. In short, it is the complete ethical, meditative and spiritual aspect of Buddhism.
There are different sects of Buddhism: The Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayan, Tibetan Buddhism, Bon etc. The Theravada Buddhism is the earliest form of Buddhism which is popular in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Burma (Myanmar). Theravada Buddhist believes in single Shakyamuni Buddha. They do not keep any sculpture in Monastery and Vihara. The Mahayana Buddhism or the Great Vehicle is the largest sect of Buddhism by population which is popular in Tibet, China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and Mongolia. Mahayana Buddhist believes in many Buddha and many Bodhisattvas. The Vajrayan is popular in Nepal, Sikkim, Tibet, Laddhak, Bhutan and Mangolia. The Vajrayan Buddhism is mixed up of Mahayana Buddhism and Tantra. So Vajrayanaa Buddhism is also called Tantrik Buddhism. Tantra is esoteric word or speech. Or the meaning of esoteric word is hidden or secret. In Vajrayan, there are many Buddha and many Bodhisatva. Vajrayan recite and meditate the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum”, which is the union of sound and emptiness.
In Buddhism, there are many Buddha and Bodhisattva representing the different meaning and importance. Most icon of the Buddha has depicted in yellow color. Old sculptures were made from stone and clay but now most of the sculptures of Buddha are metallic. As the founder of Buddhism, the historical Buddha Shakyamuni or Siddhartha Gautam is naturally its most common icon. Seated statues of Shakyamuni often show him in meditation posture (Padmasana), with the left hand resting in his lap while he touches the ground with the right (Bhumisparsa Mudra). Standing images of Shakyamuni usually show him with a raised right hand (Abhaya Mudra) and a lowered left hand with the palm turned towards the spectator (Dhyana Mudra) respectively signifying the transfer of fearlessness and generosity. Five Dhyani Buddha: Aksobhya, Amitabha, Amogsiddhi, Ratnasambhava and Vairocana are popular in Buddhism. Every Dhayani Buddha has different vehicle, position (Mudra), Bodhisattva and elements. In Buddhism, the Four Dikpals are known as guardians of four Directions. Dhritarastra is guardian of east direction. Virupaksha is guardian of west direction. Jambala Kuber is guardian of north direction, Kuber is lord of wealth. And Virudhak is guardian of south direction. Other popular iconographies in Buddhism are Medicine Buddha, Lokeswor, Milarepa, Padmasamvava, Aparamita, Samanta Bhadra, Maitriya (Future) Buddha, Yamantaka, Tara (Savior) and so on.
There are four major places concerning the life of Gautam Buddha: Lumbini, Bodhgaya, Saranath and Kushinagar. Gautam was born in Lumbini. In 1896 AD, Fuharar excavated the Lumbini and he found the marker stone and Ashoka Piller. That Ashoka piller was established there in 3rd century BC by Mugal King Ashoka. There is inscription about the birth place of Gautam on the piller which proved the Lumbini is the birth place of Gautam Buddha. Another place is Bodhgaya where Gautam got enlightenment after long meditation. He meditated under the Bodhi Tree. So Boddhi tree is assumed as holy tree having the vibrant power for meditation. After enlightened, He gave first teaching to five Vikshus in Deer Park, Saranath. Gautam Buddha devoted his whole life to preaching his wisdom to many Vikshu and Vikshuni. And he died in another place Kushinagar at the age of 80. So these four places are important place for Buddhist. Among the four major places, Lumbini is located in Nepal. And other three places; Saranath, Bodhagaya and Kushinagar are situated in India. The Lumbini is being more popular not only for Buddhism but also for tourism. Lumbini is a sacred place where thousands of people visit every year. Lumbini has enlisted in UNESCO world heritage site in 1997 because of its importance. Lumbini Master Plan under the UN mechanism is running since 1976 for the betterment and development of Lumbini. Nepal Government, Lumbini Development Trust and NGO/INGOs are working and researching there in Lumbini. In 2012 AD, Lumbini Visit Year -2012 had organized for the promotion of tourism. And besides the Lumbini, Swoyambhunath, Boudhanath, Namobuddha, Pharping are important places in Nepal for Buddhism and tourism. Nepal is better place for Buddhism tourist. Birth place of Gautam Buddha, beautiful arts and sculpture, Monastery, Vihara, Stupa, Chaitya and caves are the major highlights and attractions for tourist. Northern part of Nepal is densely Buddhist settlement. So in Nepal, Buddhism is being important to tourist for observing and researching. Hence, Nepal tourism has close relation to Buddhism.
Religion is a practice that based on belief on unseen power or mysterious things. The Buddhism believes in spiritual importance. Materialist believes that spirit is nothing, it ruins with the body. But Spiritualist or atheist believe that spirit does not ends with body rather it continues here after in another form. Religion and materialism are contradictory each other. But the craze of Buddhism is increasing. Buddhism has its own importance. Buddhism is not only related with the salvation or liberation but it is history, arts, social norms and values, morality, rituals, culture and so on. Buddhism does not concern only with Gautam Buddha. So the Buddhism is grater term than Buddhist. A Buddhist may or may not understand Buddhism.