We Visit the Buddha’s Birthplace in Lumbini, Nepal

We took a trip to Lumbini. It’s an eight-hour drive from Kathmandu. Yep, we left at 4am with the Lama, his daughter Baby, myself, and Lama’s trusted driver Manbadhur. I didn’t know what to expect. It was an amazingly beautiful and surprising trip.

Yep, it was 8-hours to Lumbini and 8-hours back. Fortunately Manbadur’s car is comfortable, and he’s an excellent driver.

The drive through the Nepal countryside was dusty and dirty. Finally we reached the gate to Lumbini, also dusty and dirty.

But once we entered the arches into the site of the Buddha’s birthplace at Lumbini, it was totally beautiful.

First we visited the Mahadevi temple.

The Mahadevi Temple was the Queen mother’s palace where she gave birth to the Buddha in the 5th or 6th century BCE. Many visitors from all lineages of Buddhism were there.

Inside the Mahadevi temple no shoes or talking is allowed. Many visitors were respectfully quiet. We offered katah scarves and money and waited in line for our turn to see the center of the shrine. The palace has fallen apart, and bricks are clearly very old and worn.

Behind the Mahadevi temple is a huge bodhi tree decorated with prayer flags, that the Buddha’s mother is said to have rested.

 A turtle resting in the sun at the Mahadevi Temple.

The area around the bodhi tree is very beautiful. Lama snaps a family photo.

The Lama with his friend and driver Manbhadur, in the garden of the bodhi tree.

Everybody was barefoot. We had to remove our shoes in the shoe pavillion before entering. Everything was orderly and clean.

A peaceful moment with Baby at the Mahadevi Temple.

This is the famous pillar built by King Ashoka in the 3rd century CE, to commemorate the Buddha’s birthplace.

The Ashoka pillar is incribed with words in the Pali language in Brahmi script.

This is the translation of the inscription on the pillar.

We walked around the grounds.

A group of monks rest on the grass.

Baby stands by the ruins of the Mahadevi temple.

This is a statue of the Baby Buddha, donated by Thailand.

We visited the pools of water where Lama took Baby for her first boat ride.

Lama is ready for his boat ride.

Many Buddhist Temples in Lumbini

Presently, there are 32 Buddhist monasteries and temples in the Lumbini area. Billions of dollars have been invested by international banks and various governments, to make the entire Lumbini area beautiful for visitors. Every monastery in Lumbini has its own unique cultural traditions and architectural features that attract visitors from around the world. Here are a few of the other monasteries there.

The Zhong Hua Chinese Buddhist Monastery is one of the most impressive structures at Lumbini. Reached through a gateway flanked by dogs of Fo, the elegant pagoda-style monastery looks like a small Forbidden City. Its perfectly manicured internal courtyard is an oasis of peace.

The Japanese White Temple.

This is the Myanmar Stupa, also known as the Lokamani Cula Pagoda, one of the most recognizable temples, a gleaming gold and white building.
The Myanmar temple has three prayer halls – the most impressive is topped by a corncob-shaped shikhara (tower), styled after the temples of Bagan.

This is the Dae Sung Shakya Korean Temple.

This is the Cambodian Temple, a Buddhist pilgrimage site in Lumbini.

This is the Vietnamese Temple Phat Quoc.
This German temple is built in the style of a Tibetan Monastery
Close to the north end of the pond, the Thai monastery is stunning and imposing, built from gleaming white marble.

What are the Main Lineages of Buddhism?

Visiting Lumbini made me aware of the myriad lineages of Buddhism in the world. There’s a long history of Buddhas going back as far as 18,000 years to the first known Buddha, Thompa Shenrab Miwoche, the founder of Bon Buddhism in Zhang Zhung, now part of Tibet.

Three primary branches of Buddhism: Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana

1. Theravada Buddhism
The more conservative of the two major traditions of Buddhism developed from Hinayana Buddhism. It is practised mainly in Sri Lanka, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. Theravada school believes in the past Buddhas, Lord Sakaymuni Buddha and future Buddha or Maitreya. For Theravadins, the objective is attainment of self-enlightenment and becoming ideal Arhat or Arahant seeking personal nirvana for personal salvation. There is only one major school of Theravada now, but it is said that there were as many as 18 different sects in the past. The Theravadin scriptures are strictly in Pali and local languages supplement Pali in Dharma teachings. It is estimated that around 35% of the Buddhists around the world practice Theravada school of Buddhism.
2. Mahayana Buddhism
Another major school of Buddhism is Mahayana (the Great Vehicle) Buddhism, the predominant form of Buddhism practiced in People’s Republic of China, Mongolia, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and Vietnam. Apart from Lord Sakyamuni Buddha, other contemporary Buddhas like Amitabha and Medicine Buddha are popular in Mahayana Buddhism. The Mahayana followers believe that the Buddha was the one who postponed his personal salvation until he could lead all sentient beings to nirvana, therefore, the Buddha was a teacher and a savior. It has been much influenced by local cultures and it puts more emphasis on the use of rituals and ceremonies.

3. Vajrayana Buddhism

The Vajrayana sect of Mahayana Buddhism, which is mostly practiced in Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan, meticulously follows tantric formalities, mantras and mudras. The worship can be quite elaborate with a hall for Lord Sakyamuni Buddha and two of his disciples and another hall for Lord Sakyamuni, Amitabh and Medicine Buddhas. In the course of transmission and adoption of Buddhism by the people of other civilizations, there were many mutual influences, for instance, between Buddhism and Confucianism and between Buddhism and Taoism in China. The original language of the Mahayana Canon was Sanskrit, which has been translated into the local languages such as Tibetan, Chinese and Japanese in the process of transmission. It is estimated that around 54% of Buddhists follow Mahayana school and 4% the Vajrayana sect.

What is the distribution of various branches of Buddhism in the world?

Mahayana Eastern 313 million China, S.Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, Malasia
Theravada Southern 150 million India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos
Vajrayana Northern 18.2 million Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan
Mixed 7 million Other Countries

Relationship of Buddhism to Christianity?

Our visit to Lumbini also made me aware of the shape of events in modern times. Could it be that at the depths of the worst years of the Kali Yuga, Sakyamuni Buddha brought a new Buddhism to the world. According to the Hemis Manuscripts, a set of ancient documents hidden away in a remote monastery high in the mountains along the Tibet India border, Jesus of Nazareth visited India between the ages 12 to 30 during his so called “missing years” of the Bible. The Hemis Manuscripts have never been very high up in the public consciousness nor have they ever been given any amount of credibility by critics. If this is true, then it seems Sakyamuni Buddha set on fire the Eastern half of the world, and Jesus set on fire the Western half, leading to 2,000 years of organized religion that we livie in now.

This graphic shows the approximate flows of the three main lineages of Buddhism from Northern India to most of Asia.
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Thanks for joining me. I’m still here in Kathmandu working on our application for a US visa and optimizing my website www.JanesHealthyKitchen.com. My health is almost 100% well now, and I’ll be returning to Paro Bhutan with the Lama soon. Sending warmest regards to you!

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