The belief and the practice of Buddhism in Nepal dates back to the time of Prince Siddharth Gautam, who was born in the southern Terai region of the country in about 543 BC. Till he was 29, the young prince led a very sheltered life in the royal palace of his father. He was completely unaware of the tragedies of everyday life. One day, he convinced his charioteer to take him outside the walls of his palace and he was shocked to see the sight of an old man, a cripple, and a corpse.
The realization that there was more to life than the lavish and luxurious life he was leading, made him abandon all the worldly pleasures and search for enlightenment and the true meaning of life. After much wandering and searching, Gautam finally attained enlightenment while meditating under a pipul tree. Henceforth, known as the "Buddha" or "the enlightened one" he began to preach "The Four Noble Truths" to all who would listen. According to this doctrine, people suffer because of their desires and the root cause of all misery is desire. These desires and consequently all problems can be totally eliminated by following the "eightfold path"- right views, right intent, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right meditation.
Buddha journeyed from place to place, teaching and converting hundreds of followers. He died at the age of eighty. However, his disciples continued to spread his teachings. Because of his wise teachings Lord Buddha is revered by many Nepalese and Buddha Jayanti is celebrated with much enthusiasm throughout the Kingdom.This day falls on the full moon of the month of Baisakh and is celebrated to commemorate the birth, attainment of knowledge and the death of Lord Buddha.Thus, it is a thrice blessed day.
Prayers are sung and the Buddhists offer worship in all the major Buddhist shrines such as Swayambhu and Boudhanath.At Swayambhunath, for example millions of devout Buddhists gather to chant prayers and to burn butterlamps. The next morning a giant figure of Lord Buddha is displayed to all the followers and hundreds of small shrines are visited and worshipped. Large groups of people parade through the streets praising the Lord and his teachings. Special flags, usually red, blue; yellow and white can be seen flying high above all the Buddhist households.
Article by Vani Shah