Ten gevolge van de aardschokken in Nepal op 25 april en de dagen erna zijn ongeveer tweehonderd boeddhistische monniken en nonnen onder het puin van hun kloosters geraakt en omgekomen Meer dan duizend boeddhistische kloosters zijn ingestort of zijn niet meer bewoonbaar.
Nepal tempelAlleen al in het district Sindhupalchowk werden 215 kloosters met de grond gelijk gemaakt. In Gorkha stortten meer dan honderd kloosters in en 105 in Dhading, zestig in Rasuwa en zestig in Solukhumbu. Ook in de regio’s Nuwakot, Dolakha, Ramechhap, Okhaldhunga, Makwanpur, Lamjung en Syangja stortten de kloosters in. Waaronder de bekende als Seto Gumba in Ramkot; Rato Gumba in Sitapaila, beide gelegen in de rand van Kathmandu; Khumchey Gumba in Gorkha; Chrighyang Gumba in Dolakha en Chirite Gumba in Sindhulpalchok.
Een team van specialisten van de Unesco is bezig een reddingsplan op te stellen voor de stoepa van de Swayambhunath tempel in Kathmandu in Nepal. Het gebouw zelf staat nog overeind, maar het interieur is letterlijk een puinhoop. Het Unesco-team is begonnen met een “rescue mission” om te voorkomen dat artefacten uit dit Werelderfgoed worden gestolen. De verwoestende aardbeving van vorige week zaterdag heeft niet alleen geleid tot het verlies van mensenlevens, het heeft ook verschillende unieke culturele complexen voor decennia beschadigd.
Het zeven leden tellende team is nu de schade aan het opnemen. Er wordt een lijst samengesteld van stenen- en terracotta objecten die als gevolg van de aardbeving zijn beschadigd. De objecten worden ondergebracht in een bewaakt pand in de buurt. Aan restauratie wordt nog niet gedacht, daar is geld voor nodig en eerst moeten de objecten veilig worden gesteld.
De Swayambhunath tempel in Nepal wordt beschouwd als een van de oudste religieuze complexen in Nepal, en staat in hoog aanzien bij zowel boeddhisten als hindoes. Hoewel de prachtige stoepa van de tempel intact is, slechts een kant van het gebouw is gedeeltelijk beschadigd, zijn de winkels, hutten en religieuze monumenten binnen het complex vernietigd. In de volksmond staat het complex, gelegen op een heuveltop, bekend als de ‘monkey tempel’, vanwege de vele apen rondom en op het tempelterrein. De apen zijn nog er nog steeds, en verplaatsen zich temidden van de vernietigde gebouwen.
Het team is van plan de plaatselijke gemeenschap en archeologen bij de wederopbouw te betrekken. Tijdens het herstellen van de artefacten, hebben deze conservatoren ongeveer duizend keramische objecten ontdekt, die niet eerder bekend waren.
There are about 500 million Buddhists worldwide, but it’s unclear exactly when in history this religion began. The Buddha’s life story spread first through oral tradition, and little physical evidence about Buddhism’s early years has been found.
Now, scientists for the first time have uncovered archaeological evidence of when the Buddha’s monumentally influential life occurred. Excavations in Nepal date a Buddhist shrine, located at what is said to be the Buddha’s birthplace, to the sixth century B.C.
The research, published in the journal Antiquity, describes the remains of a timber structure about the same size and shape as a temple built at the same site in the third century B.C.
Archaeologists also found reason to think that a tree grew at the center of this ancient structure, lending support to the traditional story that the Buddha’s mother held onto a tree branch while giving birth to him.
“This is one of those rare occasions when belief, tradition, archaeology and science actually come together,” lead study author Robin Coningham, professor at Durham University in the United Kingdom, said at a press briefing Monday.
If this study is correct, the Buddha’s actual life could have overlapped with a popularly recognized time frame of 563-483 B.C. But lots of other date ranges for the Buddha have been tossed around — some scholars say 448 to 368 B.C., for instance. (The UNESCO website about his birthplace says 623 B.C.)
“We know the entirety of the shrine sequence started in the sixth century B.C., and this sheds light on a very long debate,” Coningham said.
A place for pilgrims
The Lumbini site in Nepal is one of four principal locations that are believed to be connected with the Buddha’s life. Bodh Gaya is where he is became enlightened, Sarnath is where he first preached and Kusinagara is where he died.
Lumbini is located in “a subtropical chain of forests, marshes and grasslands” between Nepal’s border with India and the Siwalik Range of the Himalayas, according to the study.
Historical documents from Chinese travelers show that pilgrims made the journey to Lumbini for many centuries.
The site was lost and stopped attracting pilgrims after the 15th century — no one knows why — but Lumbini was rediscovered in 1896. It was declared the birthplace of Buddha because of a sandstone pillar there, dating from the third century B.C. The pillar’s inscription states that Emperor Ashoka visited this site of Buddha’s birth.
Scholars say the more modern Maya Devi Temple at Lumbini, named after the mother of Buddha, was constructed on top of the foundations of more than one earlier temple or stupa, which is a dome-shaped Buddhist monument.
One of those older temples dates back to the third century B.C., from the time of Emperor Ashoka. But there’s also evidence of the even earlier temple, which appears to have covered about the same size and shape as the Ashokan temple, Coningham said.
The earliest site
Beneath remains of the Ashokan temple, archaeologists found a series of postholes from where timber posts had rotted out.
“Indeed, our excavations have demonstrated that the earliest construction at Lumbini appears to have comprised a timber fence or railing marking a cardinal direction,” the study authors wrote.
The central, open portion of the most ancient temple appears to have housed a tree, based on the discovery of large fragments of mineralized tree roots. This part of the temple also had never been covered by a roof.
To establish the dates of the earliest Buddhist shrine at Lumbini, Coningham and colleagues analyzed charcoal found within postholes, as well as sand. Different techniques used on each of these materials pointed to the same conclusion of the sixth century B.C., but the postholes indicated a range of about 800 to 545 B.C.
“If the postholes at Lumbini are indicative of a tree shrine, ritual activity could have commenced either during or shortly after the life of the Buddha,” the study authors wrote.
Julia Shaw, archaeologist at University College London, applauded the research but noted in an e-mail that other ritual frameworks existed at the same time as early Buddhism, which could complicate the conclusions of the study.
“It would be difficult to determine whether the tree shrine in question was intended for the worship of the Buddha or was part of a distinct cultic context,” she said.
But Coningham said that it’s unlikely that this earlier structure belonged to a different spiritual tradition, other than Buddhism, because of the “continuity” of the site between the sixth century B.C. and third century B.C. structures. The Ashokan temple is clearly Buddhist, and the earlier shrine had the same footprint.
“Often when you have sites of one religious activity overtaken by another, you actually get quite dramatic changes within orientation, within use of structure,” Coningham said.
Moreover, before the sixth century B.C., the area where the site is was just cultivated land, he said.
The new archaeological research on the Buddha’s life will be featured in a National Geographic documentary called “Buried Secrets of the Buddha” premiering in February. The National Geographic Society partly funded the research.
When Buddha lived
Buddha was born as Siddhartha Gautama, in the gardens of Lumbini in Nepal. His parents were wealthy. At age 29, he renounced his family and became a seeker, Coningham said. According to tradition, Buddha found truth when he sat down under a tree, which is now called the Bo tree.
The Buddha happened to be born during a period of dramatic change, Coningham said. Coins were introduced, urbanization was occurring and a merchant class emerged.
When the Buddha died at age 80, he recommended that all Buddhists visit Lumbini, study authors said.
Today, more than a million pilgrims visit Lumbini each year. The new research, in uncovering layers of history, adds new dimensions of interest to the site.
source : CNN.com
Ferdinand Rinchen Phuntsok is 52 years old, dresses in Buddhist robes and lives in Maha Manjushri Marg in Boudha. He is a German from near Hamburg in northern Germany and in previous years was an aircraft constructor as well as a software engineer. Today he is a naturopathas well as the Director of Tara Foundation that was responsible for constructing ´The Great Lotus Stupa´ in Lumbini in Western Nepal (birthplace of Lord Gautam Buddha). Ferdinand first visited Nepal in1981 and once later in 1987. From 1992 onwards the tall, blue eyed and strongly constructed German began to come to Nepal more frequently and on longer and more extended visits. Ferdinand names 66year-old Sonam Joephel Rimpoche to be his ´Dharma Guru´ and says he is a practioner in the Drigung Kagyul Sect, a branch rooted in Tibetan Buddhism that originated in the 13th century.
According to the big German, “The motivation to construct ´The GreatLotus Stupa´ was derived in 1999 and a friend suggested Lumbini as the ideal site for this project.” Accordingly, a 99 year lease contract for plot number WB4 on the west side of the Monastic Zonewas signed. The Lumbini Development Trust area is divided into three zones, 1. Sacred Garden Zone 2. Monastic Zone, that includes the East Zone where followers of Theravada Buddhism (Myanmar, Sri Lanka, India, etc.) have built monasteries and the West Zone where countries with predominant followers of Mahayana branch of Buddhism (Vietnam, Cambodia , Bhutan, Japan etc.) as well as followers of Tibetan Buddhism (like, Drigyul Kagyul Sect) have built monasteries and 3.Educational and Culture Zone that includes a research area.
Plot Number WB4 measures 120 meters by 120 meters (14,400 sq. m). The´Great Lotus Stupa´ is one of the prominent monasteries in the area and rises to a height of forty meters, which is similar to the Shanti Stupa at the site. The stupa alone measures 27 meters above the centrally located meditation hall that is 10 meters high and has a diameter of 20 meters. The meditation hall is right beneath the stupa because as Ferdinand says, “Where there is a stupa, there is a Buddha.” Although the main hall is square shaped from the outside ,inside it is a column free construction that is dome shaped. Ferdinand explains, “Because no columns have been used, a dome shaped hall was built in order to best carry the load.”
“The design is based on Buddha´s teachings,” says Ferdinand. “The stupa design goes back to the writings of Tibetan scholar Rigzin Choskyi Drakpa and is based on his ideas.” The prominence of ´The Great Lotus Stupa´ is not only due to its tall stupa according to the German Buddhist, “Even the colors used are different from the usual ones seen on other monasteries.” Much emphasis has been on building the stupa just right and according to Ferdinand, “the measurements and style of stupas have to be according to principles dating back thousands of years, right up to the time of Buddha”. The meditation hall was designed according to the concept put forward by Ferdinand´s Guru, Sonam Jopephel Rinpoche who was determined to raise the height of the stupa as far as possible.
“Narendra Brajacharya, the present President of Hotel Association of Nepal, helped me to find a suitable architect,” reveals Ferdinand. Architect Rajesh Shrestha of Vastukala Paramarsh thus entered the picture along with CE Construction Company. Construction was started in May 2000 and ´The Great Lotus Stupa´ was inaugurated on 27th February 2004. Care was also taken in landscaping and landscapist Budhathoki was entrusted with the task. Besides the main hall and the stupa, accommodations that can comfortably house 50 to 60 people have been built on the site. “Of course Lumbini Development Trust rules dictate that a monastery cannot house more than 10 monks at a time on its premises,” informs Ferdinand. “I believe this is to limit the number of people and so avoid crowding of the site which would definitely be contradictory to the peaceful and serene environment envisaged in the area.”
It was actually in 1976 during a visit by U Thant, the then Secretary General of the United Nations, along with His Majesty, the late King Birendra, that the idea of developing the site into an international Buddhist Center was first mooted. The late King Birendra immediately sanctioned a one by three mile area for the purpose and established the Lumbini Development Trust to oversee the massive project. The famous Japanese architect Kenzo Tange was appointed chief architect and he drew up the master design in around the year 1978.
The largest plots in the area measure 160 meters by 160 meters while the smallest are 80 meters by 80 meters. Many Asian countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, China, Myanmar, Cambodia, India, Mongolia, Sri Lanka besides of course Nepal have built monasteries there, and interestingly, Germany happens to be the only western country to do so till now. However, according to Ferdinand, “I believe Switzerland will soon be building a monastery too.” ( which has been realized as the Swiss Austrian Geden International Institute ) As far as Buddhism in Germany is concerned this is what he says, “I think some teachings of Buddha began to spread in the 1960´s when Tibetan refugees entered the country along with some who were ´Dharma Gurus´. Of course there are not many who follow Buddhism as a religion.”
Tara Foundation has built stupas in Germany, near Frankfurt, in Austria, India ( Sanskara and Pitthorgarh), and in Nepal (Swayambhu, Tatopani and of course, Lumbini). The genial German with the wise looking eyes wants to make clear that “My spiritual teacher is my crown. We have to get permission from him before we can go ahead with the building of stupas or with anything else.” And although only monasteries are supposed to be built in Lumbini, Ferdinand declares, “Well, even ´The Great Lotus Stupa´ is after all a monastery with a stupa on top just like the others. Only in our case the stupa is more predominant than the others.”
Source : Amar Bahadur Shrestha
October 13, 2008