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Education

Buddhism

There is variety of Buddhist practices in Nepal, the Buddhism of the endemic Newar people, perhaps related to the ancient Buddhism that passes out of India one thousand years ago; the Buddhism of the Sherpa, Tamang, Tibetan peoples and the relatively modern incursion of Theravadin or Southern Buddhism.   The central beliefs and practices date back to the time of its founder, Prince Siddhartha Gautam who was born in Lumbini in the southern Terai in about 543 B.C. Until the age of 29 the young prince led a sheltered life in royal palace of his father, completely unaware of the suffering of the world outside his palace walls. One day he escaped from the palace, and realized the true misery of the world, so he abandoned his luxurious life and went to forests to seek enlightment to end human suffering. For many years, he practiced asceticism without success. One night beneath a papal tree in the forest of Bodh Gaya, he became enlightened. Henceforth, known as Lord Buddha, the “enlightened one” he travelled around northern India and southern Nepal preaching the middle path to enlightenment.   His teaching spread throughout the world, changing and evolving as all religions do. The Southern school retained its basic teaching of the Buddha according to the Sutras, written down some years after his death. The Northern or Mahayana School emphasized the role of Bodhisattva, the person who forges the final and absolute enlightenment until he has guided all other beings to enlightenment first. This school predominates in China and Japan. In India at the end of millennium A.D. the Vajrayana School arose. Incorporating both the Southern and Mahayana doctrines, it added new forms of meditation, elaborate rituals, new aspects of the Buddha in the form of tantric gods and goddesses and a philosophy that emphasized the use of all aspects of the human experience as material for enlightenment. While Buddhism declined in India with the Muslim invasions, it retained its vigor in nearby Nepal. Nepal served as a seed for the establishment of Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet. In addition to Hinduism and Buddhism, a small minority of Nepalese adhere to Islam and Christianity. Muslims and Christians believe and practice in Nepal, as they do throughout the world.

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