Category Archives: Nepal

The Buddhist art of living in Nepal : ethical practice and religious reform

41HB8vuNeZL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The Buddhist Art of Living in Nepal Ethical Practice and Religious Reform
By Lauren Leve
2016 – Routledge
268 pages
Hardback: 9780415617345
pub: 2016-07-28

Theravada Buddhism has experienced a powerful and far-reaching revival in modern Nepal, especially among the Newar Buddhist laity, many of whom are reorganizing their lives according to its precepts, practices and ideals. This book documents these far-reaching social and personal transformations and links them to political, economic and cultural shifts associated with late modernity, and especially neoliberal globalization.

Nepal has changed radically over the last century, particularly since the introduction of liberal democracy and an open-market economy in 1990. The rise of lay vipassana meditation has also dramatically impacted the Buddhist landscape. Drawing on recently revived understandings of ethics as embodied practices of self-formation, the author argues that the Theravada turn is best understood as an ethical movement that offers practitioners ways of engaging, and models for living in, a rapidly changing world. The book takes readers into the Buddhist reform from the perspectives of its diverse practitioners, detailing devotees’ ritual and meditative practices, their often conflicted relations to Vajrayana Buddhism and Newar civil society, their struggles over identity in a formerly Hindu nation-state, and the political, cultural, institutional and moral reorientations that becoming a “pure Buddhist”—as Theravada devotees understand themselves—entails.

Based on more than 20 years of anthropological fieldwork, this book is an important contribution to scholarly debates over modern Buddhism, ethical practices, and the anthropology of religion. It is of interest to students and scholars of Asian Religion, Anthropology, Buddhism and Philosophy.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction: Seeing Things As They Are

Chapter 2: ‘A Garden of Every Kind of People:’ Newar Buddhists in Hindu Nepal

Chapter 3: The Revival of “Pure Buddhism”

Chapter 4: What Makes A Theravada Buddhist?

Chapter 5: Becoming “Pure Buddhist” (1): Practices of Personhood

Chapter 6: Becoming “Pure Buddhist” (2): Vipassana Meditation and the Theravada Care of the Self

Chapter 7: The Best Dharma for Today: Post-Protestant Buddhism in Neoliberal Nepal

Conclusion: The Buddhist Art of Living, in Nepal and Elsewhere

Kathmandu believers restore quake-damaged Boudhanath stupa without government assistance

The quakes, which killed nearly 9,000 people, caused cracks in the stupa’s dome, tore some of the walls at their base, and damaged its gold-plated spire and crown

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 November, 2016, 3:00am

Associated Press

With gold, cash and labour contributed by locals and Buddhist organisations, Kathmandu’s famed Boudhanath stupa has been fully restored, making it the first of the country’s more than 700 quake-damaged heritage structures to have been returned to its pre-quake glory.

Over 600 monks and nuns will perform purification prayers at the stupa from Friday to Sunday, after which Prime Minister Prachanda will formally open the Buddhist monument, the country’s largest stupa and a Unesco World Heritage site, to the public the following Tuesday.

“The restoration cost us 230 million rupees (US$2.1 million), all of which came from locals, Buddhists residing in Nepal and abroad, and Buddhist organisations across the world,” said Sampurna Kumar Lama, chairman of the Boudhanath Area Development Committee that spearheaded the effort.

Help came in the form of 3kg of gold, together with cash donations and free labour. All that the government needed to contribute was technical support.

“Boudhanath’s restoration has set an example that we would like to see emulated at other quake-damaged heritage sites,” said Bhesh Narayan Dahal, director general of the country’s Department of Archaeology.

The speed of the department’s own efforts to restore quake-hit monuments across the country is no match to what has been achieved in 18 months in Boudha, a dense Buddhist settlement in the northeastern outskirts of Kathmandu dotted with monasteries, prayer wheels, stores displaying elaborate Buddhist Thangka art and bustling with tourists.

Dahal said the tender process for rebuilding 61 of the country’s damaged heritage structures has been completed so far, but it is too early to say when they will be restored.
Believed to have been built in the fifth century by a king or a widow depending on which of the popular myths one believes, Boudhanath attracted over 280,000 tourists annually before the nation’s worst earthquakes in eight decades struck in April and May last year. After the quakes, the number of tourists fell to 102,000. Continue reading

BOOK REVIEW: The Buddha and Dr. Führer

prod_main209Short Review by Jonathan Ciliberto

The Buddha and Dr. Führer: An Archaeological Scandal
by Charles Allen

Buddhist art began with relics: bits of hair and bone purportedly from the Buddha or other figures that gave practitioners something on which to focus, or acted as talismans or objects of veneration. There are myriad things to say about the European explorers, military men, colonial administrators, and scholars who unearthed the antiquities of Egypt, Palestine, India, et al… certainly they were industrious! As much as they uncovered the past, they wrote it. This book is about one particular excavation, in 1898, of a reliquary that was trumpeted as holding the ashes of the historical Buddha himself. The discovery soon became the source of controversy and confusion when a German archaeologist (Dr. Führer), who became associated with the find, was involved a separate archaeological scandal, tainting the 1898 discovery. “Führer wanted,” writes Allen, “to believe that the sacred landscape explored […] in the fifth and seventh centuries still existed in that same idealized form in the last decade of the 19th century. So strongly did he believe this that he sought to make it so.” Allen has written a very detailed book, with quite a bit of background history.

Buddha’s Three Eyes to See Again after 2015 Nepal Earthquake

Latin American Herald Tribune

KATHMANDU – The three eyes of Buddha that crown the great Boudhanath stupa, the most iconic Buddhist monument in Kathmandu Valley, built to preserve the holy relics, will see again after the 2015 earthquake had blinded them.

On Nov. 22, the stupa will reopen to the public after a Buddhist ceremony, and it is expected that the monument will recover the average 400,000 annual visitors it received before the quake, enriching its coffers by around $374,000.

Tourists flock to the outskirts of Kathmandu to see the three eyes of the Buddha, which are considered hypnotic and which many believe symbolize Buddha’s ability to see the world.

The devastating quake and its subsequent aftershocks had seriously damaged the stupa and part of the other six sets of monuments and buildings in the Kathmandu Valley, recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site since 1979.

However, of these, only the stupa, erected during the 7th century, has recovered its splendor thanks to a private initiative of the Boudhanath Area Development Committee that raised $2.1 million towards its restoration.

Of the money raised, more than half ($1.41 billion), was invested in the gold required to cover the upper part of the sanctuary, which formed the base with the three eyes, and 13 steps crowned by a sunshade and a golden pinnacle.

“The construction has been completed (…) This was possible with the support from various Buddhist organizations both from Nepal and abroad,” committee chairman Sampurna Kumar Lama told EFE.

“Had we waited for the government, the reconstruction would have taken years,” added Lama.

The main reason behind governmental inaction has been the delay in nominating the head of National Reconstruction Authority, the body specifically in charge of the post-quake recovery process that was also the subject of political strife until a head was appointed in December.

According to a report by the National Planning Commission, the earthquake, apart from leaving some 9,000 people dead, also damaged 2,900 structures of religious or cultural value, including 750 that were razed to the ground.

However, the government has managed to reconstruct only two temples so far, according to the Department of Archaeology.


Nepal’s most popular Buddhist nun is a musical rock star

d9171742e5174a7d9ea903c07c198615Yahoo News
October 13, 2016

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — There is one Buddhist nun everyone in Nepal knows by name — not because she’s a religious icon and a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, nor for her work running a girl’s school and a hospital for kidney patients.

Ani Choying Drolma is famous as one of the country’s biggest pop stars.

With more than 12 albums of melodious Nepali tunes and Tibetan hymns that highlight themes of peace and harmony, the songstress in saffron robes has won hearts across the Himalayan nation and abroad.

“I am totally against the conservative, conventional idea of a Buddhist nun,” the 45-year-old nun said. Some people “think a Buddhist nun should be someone who does not come out in the media so much, who is isolated … always in a monastery, always shy. But I don’t believe in that.”

Neither do her fans, who greet her with a roar of applause whenever she walks out on stage, and fall silent as she closes her eyes to sing.

“Every time I get frustrated with life or get angry, I just listen to Ani’s music and I calm down,” said one fan, Sunil Tuladhar. “She is my music goddess.”

But with a career deviating sharply from what conservatives in Nepal believe to be the proper path of a Buddhist, she’s caught criticism as well. One Buddhist monk at the famed Swayambhu Shrine questioned how she can reconcile the simple life of a religious ascetic with the fame and wealth she’s amassed over her two-decade musical career.

“How can a nun be making money by selling her voice, living a luxurious life and yet claim she is a nun?” Surya Shakya asked. Continue reading

Master’s degree on ‘Museum Science and Buddha Collection’

Kathmandu, September 6
The Lumbini Buddhist University has introduced a new academic programme in Master’s degree on ‘Museum Science and Buddha Collection’ from this academic session. The programme lasts two year.

Likewise, the varsity will also launch a one year post graduate programme on ‘Archaeology and Buddhist Archaeological Site’, vice chancellor Dr Naresh Man Bajracharya said.


Preserving the arts through books

28072016103732charya-dance-book-600x0Kathmandu Post

Aug 3, 2016- Chandra Man Munikar, the founding Chairman of Vajra Kala Kunja, recently published a translation of his book on the mystical Charya dance form. The book, Vajrayana Tantrika Charya Dance, which was previously published in Nepali, has been widely appreciated not only in Nepal but various part of the world for its promotion of the dying dance form. In this interview with The Post, Munikar, a dancer himself, talks about his love for the Charya Dance and why art forms need to be documented. Excerpts:

Tell us about your new book?

Charya Nepal—Vajrayana Tantrika Charya Dance has been one of the most ambitious projects of my life. The book is about preserving the classical Charya Dance. With rampant modernisation, we are slowly losing parts of our culture, tradition and values. Charya, for instance, is the only classical dance form still widely practiced in Nepal now. In the book, I have tried to give an in-depth analysis of the dance and its facets. Thanks to a lot of encouragement from my peers, I have now published an English version of the book. The Nepali version has been available in the market for the past three years.

As an artist, did you ever think you would publish a book of your own?

I never considered myself a writer; I am a lover of performance arts. I come from an agricultural background but, thankfully, I had the opportunity to go to school and I keenly read whatever was provided through textbooks. I was only 16 when I was introduced to Charya Dance and I instantly fell in love with it. With regards to the publication of the book, I give all the due credit to Satya Mohan Joshi, who constantly encouraged me to preserve the art form through a book.

Can you tell us more about the essence of the book—Charya Dance?

There is a misconception that Charya Dance is a Newari dance but that is misguided. The Charya Dance is a Buddhist ritualistic dance. This form of classical dance had been widely popular in Bengal for centuries before it slowly faded away with modernity. All those involved with Charya Dance happened to flock to Nepal and the Charya community here has been preserving it since then. The people involved in the Charya community desire to make it extremely exclusive and keep it a secret—they believe this way they are preserving the pristine tradition but I disagree. Secrecy is definitely not the way to preserve a culture—hence this new book. At the moment, Tuladhars, Bajracharyas, Shakyas and Munikars are actively involved with this classical form of dance.

How has the response to the book been so far?

I have received great reviews for the Nepali version. The book was thoroughly enjoyed by the Buddhist community and students pursuing a degree in Buddhism. Three years ago, many people asked me to publish more prints due to the book’s high demand. People wanted to read more about it. I am currently sending my books to countries like India, Sri Lanka, China and France. The book has seen wide readership both in the country and abroad. Continue reading