November 26, 2012
Tibetan Influence in Nepal
Posted by Yuriy Layvand
I did not expect to see this, but Nepal is like little Tibet now. The story goes that Tibetan refugees fled to Nepal, India and Bhutan (its Himalayan neighbors) when China started making trouble for them starting the middle of the 20th century.
Before this, Buddhism was not as wide-spread in Nepal; and where it did exist it consisted mainly of Indian Vajrayana and south-east Asia Theravada traditions. But now Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism is very much suffused into the local culture.
Thousands of monasteries and nunneries are set up where they carry on the Tibetan tradition. I had a rare opportunity to make friends with the Lama in our Khawalung monastery who teaches Tibetan to the children - Lama Jigme. He met with me for three days in a row and taught some aspect of Tibetan Buddhism. A very peaceful and wise monk. Having studied mainly the Theravada tradition myself, it was interesting to this different perspective.
On our last day Lama Jigme took me to a large affiliated college monastery (housing 500 something monks) called Chenshen (from the Nyigmapa tradition). He introduced me to the main lama there and we had lunch together. Pleasant experience. In picture my teacher Jigme is to my left and the head Chenshen Lama is to my right.
Graduates proceed to either become teachers locally or abroad, or otherwise disrobe into laylife. The monasteries are supported by donations locally and from westerners who appreciate the teachings and want to support the religion.
One different aspect about the Nyigmapa tradition is that monks can marry and have families, but only as long they leave the monastery. I guess in that case they become more like teachers taking visitors in their home but no longer observing all monastery precepts.
In total Tibetan Buddhism has 4 traditions - Nyigmapa (the oldest), Kagyu (the largest), Gelug, and Sakya.
Photo below shows the Dalai Lama as a child in the middle (from Galug in this life). The famous Karmapa to the left (head of Kagyu), and Nyigmapa head who passed away to left further, with his current reincarnation all the way to the right. Second from right is the current head of the Sakya.
In Tibetan Buddhism, these masters are said to have achieved spiritual enlightenment in their first life but chose to come back (i.e. reincarnate) for the benefit of followers in new generations so they too can awaken. They are known as bhoddistavas.
Two other volunteers who stayed in a different monastery met one such reincarnated young monk. They described him as extraordinarily serene and wise for his age.
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