Nepal – the country of Mt. Everest and Buddha

Nepal – the country of Mt. Everest and Buddha

IN UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY, NEPAL MAKES RESTRAINED ASSERTION THAT THE BUDDHA WAS BORN IN ITS LUMBINI

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on October 1, 2013


[In the 68th United Nations General Assembly in New York few days ago, Nepal somehow made a lamentably restrained lowly assertion that the Buddha was born in its Lumbini.  The Himalayan country’s Interim Election Council Chairman Justice Khil Raj Regmi in his address to the general assembly said, “ I bring with me the message of peace and non-violence from Lumbini; the birth place of Gautam Buddha, the apostle of peace and the greetings and best wishes from the government and people of Nepal” But I rather would have loved him say  instead that he had brought with him “the message of peace and non-violence from Nepal’s Lumbini; the birth place of Gautam Buddha”.  But he did not say so and, which is very lamentable. We fully understand why he had required to make such a strangely twisted, indirect reference in his address but very sadly he failed to do so truly. ]
 
By B. K. Rana 
Buddha birth place UN
While debating the Buddha and recent television serial on him and the news reported by Hindustan Times [1]  and also by The  Washington Post[2] and The Huffington Post [3]  from down here, it may be worthwhile writing something today again on other 12 part Buddha film made by a professor of history from Odisha[4] who also had discussed with me after the publication of my paper on the Buddha birthplace on February 14, 2010[5]. I have no idea how he has made those films but his writings seemingly based on later date literature such asVamsa  Gathas from Ceylon, that is to say from Shri Lanka and other local publications, I assume they are also like what Zee TV aired recently.
It is not only the Buddha birthplace, Lumbini of present day Nepal Tarai, which has been brought into question since 1928; those professors and other authors from Odisha  are also found questioning about the actual location of  the Bodhi Tree[6] under whose shade the Buddha had attained enlightenment. Those scholars following, Mahagatimbiya—Tissadatta, a Bhikkshu from Shri Lanka, who seems to have visited the Bodhi Tree site, think the tree being very close to an ocean and also think the view running parallel to those of the Chinese travelers. Those historians  and authors also talk of Majjhimdesh (मज्झिम देश). In Jatakas and Lalita Vistara  the Buddha is said to have himself told he was born in Majjhimdesh or Majjhim Desh (मज्झिम देश ) – the ‘middle country’ (मध्यदेश ) or  Madhesh (मधेश ). Therefore, some Nepalese political leaders have nowadays begun to say that the Buddha was born in Madhesh (मधेश ) – not in Lumbini either. But where was Majjhimdesh or Majjhim Desh (मज्झिम देश ) ?  I shall copy below few lines from my 2010 paper:

Majjhimdesh or Majjhim Desh (मज्झिम देश ), Jambu Dwipa:
“Another less heard  but interesting claim so far made by another Orissan scholar is that Buddha himself had said he was born in the “Majjhima Desha of Jambu Dwipa”. He argues the ‘Majjhima Desh’ of Jambu Dwip cannot be Nepal. Here the writer himself appears to be forgetting that Orrisa too, doesn’t happen to be in central India or ‘Majjhima Desh of Jambu Dwip’. Orissa is on the western edge of Bay of Bengal in the Indian subcontinent. It is not at the center of India. The writer quotes, “Edward J. Thomas[32] had clearly said that the Jatakas and Lalita Vistara described the words of Buddha himself in this connection” of his birth in the Middle Province of India.[33] Here the  “Pali Majjhima-desha is a *small* area in Malla country near Lumbini”[34] – not in Orissa. It is called ‘Madhyadesha or modern Madesh”.Nepal’s Tarai is also known as ‘Madhesh’ which may look identical to Madhya Pradesh of India, but not any particular place in Orissa.”
In Parinibbana Sutta, the Buddha is written to have said four different places related to him:  his place of birth, enlightenment, first sermon, and passing away would be  places of future  pilgrimage. The Buddha birthplace is naturally a place of great importance to the Buddhist world today. So many scholars from India and Srilanka also sometimes wrongfully assert  the Buddha being born to their respective countries. They seem to be either not taking seriously the present day Lumbini Ashokan inscription in Nepal Tarai or not accepting it at all.
Not only scholars from India or Shri Lanka,  the western scholars also hesitate to attest Lumbini as the birthplace of the Gautam Buddha. They shrink back  and write him “a  native of the ancient Shakya republic in the Himalayan foothills” and who “taught primarily in northeastern India.”[7]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gautama_Buddha. I think Nepal has to do something assertive about the Buddha birthplace which has remained long over due.
In the 68th United Nations General Assembly in New York few days ago, Nepal somehow made a lamentably restrained lowly assertion that the Buddha was born in its Lumbini.  The Himalayan country’s Interim Election Council Chairman Justice Khil Raj Regmi in his address to the general assembly said, “ I bring with me the message of peace and non-violence from Lumbini; the birth place of Gautam Buddha, the apostle of peace and the greetings and best wishes from the government and people of Nepal” But I rather would have loved him say  instead that he had brought with him “the message of peace and non-violence from Nepal’s Lumbini; the birth place of Gautam Buddha”.  But he did not say so and, which is very lamentable. We fully understand why he had required to make such a strangely twisted, indirect reference in his address but very sadly he failed to do so truly. 
While discussing  the Buddha birthplace Lumbini, which lies in southwestern Nepalese Tarai today already mentioned above, historical records and archaeological evidence are what should be taken into account. It can’t be like “an old medievalist story about the fact that multiple Christian pilgrimage sites boasted of having the head of St. John the Baptist. The story goes that the issue was resolved by deciding that one site contained the head of St. John the Baptist when he was a young man and the other his head when he was an old man.” as Steve farmer, a bright Stanford neuro-biologist  had posted to my query on the Buddha birthplace in 2009.[8] Furthermore, if we agreed with recent Lumbini excavation find as reported by Professor Robert Cunnigham, there was  a pre-Ashokan brick temple already in Lumbini. He is reported as saying, “For the first time in South Asia, excavations have revealed a pre-Ashokan temple of brick, which itself was built over an earlier structure made of timber,”[9] in Lumbini.
We may also find people doing ‘Buddha’s Birthday Education Project[10]  to  celebrate ‘ the Buddha birthday’ but not telling where he was born and when exactly?  The Buddha’s message of peace and nonviolence is what is important  while observing his birthday but shouldn’t they be telling people in what exact location, that is to say in modern day Nepal’s Lumbini, where he was born ?

There are no exact dates so far when the Buddha was born. Some scholars  believe he  was born on April 8, 543 B.C[11] some other say it was 15 May 587 BCE Gregorian 21 May -586 Julian[12] and a Nepalese Buddhist scholar says it should be  May 15, 552 BC[13]. The times of Buddha’s birth and death are uncertain. They vary from one historian to another.

*

[1] Hindustan Times : Nepal blocks Indian TV channels over Buddha birthplace claim. Utpal Parashar, Hindustan Times Kathmandu, September 14, 2013 http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/Nepal/Nepal-blocks-Indian-TV-channels-over-Buddha-birthplace-claim/Article1-1121886.aspx
[2] The Washington Post: Nepal battles misconceptions over Buddha’s birthplace. By Vishal Arora| Religion News Service,September 11, 2013 http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-09-11/national/41962323_1_lord-buddha-zee-tv-lumbini
[3]The Huffington Post: Buddha’s Birthplace: Nepal Or India? New Currency Sets The Record Straight.   By Vishal AroraPosted: 09/15/2013  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/15/buddha-birthplace-nepal-india_n_3923499.html
[4]Daily News: TuesdayDecember 28, 2010: Akhil Kumar Sahoo is the former Professor and Head of Department of Buddhist Studies (NISWASS college) India. He is also the Editor of Bodhi Life Magazine, Life Member of Maha Bodhi Society, India, and General Secretary of Orissa Buddhist Front. This essay is a fresh look at places linked with the Buddha’s life in accordance with the Vamsa literature.http://archives.dailynews.lk/2001/pix/PrintPage.asp?REF=/2010/12/28/fea19.asp
[5] The Himalayan Voice: Another 12 Part Film on The Buddha From Orissa ? May 3, 2010

http://thehimalayanvoice.blogspot.com/2010/05/another-12-part-film-on-buddha-from.html

[6] Places Linked With The Buddha’s Life: Daily News, Tuesday, 28 December 2010 http://archives.dailynews.lk/2010/12/28/fea19.asp
[7] Wikipedia : Gautam Buddha  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gautama_Buddha
[8] Steve Farmer: Indo-Eurasia Research Group; August 1, 2009  http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Indo-Eurasian_research/conversations/topics/12797
[10] Buddha’s Birthday Education Project: Connecting Past and Present, East and West
http://www.paradeofthebuddhas.org/
[11] Celebration of The 2550th anniversary of the Buddha. International Symposium and intercultural dialogue on Buddhist Contributions to Humanity and sustainable Development pf World Peace. October 7 to 9. 2006. UNESCO Headquarters, Paris France. http://www.amtb.org.tw/pdf/ch48-12-01.pdf
[12] The Himalayan Voice: The Buddha Horoscope and Major Events in His Life – April 2, 2010 http://thehimalayanvoice.blogspot.com/2010/04/wayne-turner-on-buddha-birth-chart.html 
[13]  Amrit Ratna Tuladhar <losthorizon@mail.com.np>: Email communication September 16, 2013 : “To witness the tallying of Birth, Enlightenment and Death Day of LORD BUDDHA, the triple coincidence that took place within a cosmic period of 8 decades, I guess there occurs a difference of a complete day.   Thus the 15th of May 552 B.C[13]. and the 16th of May 507 B.C. both ought to be the 15th of May.  This is my thinking because Lord Buddha was born, got enlightened and passed away on the same Summer Full-Moon referred to as Vaisakh Purnima or Swanya Punhi, a thrice blessed auspicious occasion.  This is a unanimous record without any doubt at all.  The rest is fine !”
[14] The Buddha picture courtesy: Tricycle http://www.tricycle.com/feature/buddhas-birthplace
 @The Himalayan Voice

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