Buddha Remembered In Lumbini (II)

Prem Khatry


In the series of inaugural speeches VC Naresh Man Bajracharya highlighted that Nepal was the only country in the world where three human Buddhas were born and they became important spiritual icons to spread the light of Dhamma in the region. However, there is much to be done for the history of two earlier Buddhas - Konakamana of Niglihawa and Krakkuchhanda of the Gottihawa area.
One major point VC Bajracharya raised was the need to develop Lumbini as the centre of world peace and fountain of Buddhism for all believers and followers across the nations. This holy site is and will be the hub of Buddhist studies and research as well. According to the VC, there were 31 scholarly papers to be presented in two days in the international seminar. Some of the papers, for example, presented by scholars focused on peace and how Buddhism can be a source of peace worldwide. In his presentation, Dr Mar Owen dealt with the challenges and opportunities for Buddhism in Southeast Asia today. Recent developments in the region have shown that peace will actually prevail in the region and that weapons of mass destruction will be dumped sooner or later when world leaders meet and bring two Koreas together at the dialog table.

Some papers, for example one Prof KTS Sarao, focused on Buddhist perspective on ecology and environmental consciousness. The paper outlined the need to conserve environment considering the urgent need to stop depletion of environmental assets at a fast rate. Ven Dharmamurti also spoke on Buddhist ethics for environmental preservation. In the same vein, Dr Surendra Man Bajracharya’s presentation was on Sacred Garden of Bodhi Tree in Lumbini: Possibility and Necessity.
The writer takes a short break here and goes to the practical part – the status of environmental conservation in Lumbini as witnessed. Two factors will be considered to see the application of environmental theory – water and forest in the premises of the holy complex and the three zones of Prof Kenzo Tange. LDT has done good job in taming the Telar River and creating the new canal with a short boating facility. The water has been a source of cooling the environment.
However, a bit south of the canal is the water body, symbolically the womb of Mayadevi from where was born Siddhartha Gautama. Prof Tange liked to see the ‘womb’ full of clean water around the birth spot as a reminder of the mother’s pain and pleasure. The water in the womb does not dry even after the birth of a child. So, Tange had the idea - why not to save this area as a waterfront? But unfortunately, this has not been so. As one proceeds towards the north after visiting the Mayadevi complex, one sees the poor condition of water preservation. This is so unfitting. There could be a big lake giving the impression of a mini water world in the midst of green groves around. As far as the memory goes, the contractor/creator as a noted engineer himself, was entrusted with a clean water body now converted into a ‘marshy land’ (simsar) without proper care and concern. A history has been fully ignored and even crushed. This is unfortunate. LDT must begin the cleanup work soon.
The other important segment of discussion – forest, plants and environment - can also be judged considering the state-of-the-art of trees, groves and forest in all the three zones. There was a time when we didn’t have the fence around the complex and villagers and neighbors took undue advantage of looting the forest and greenery within the complex. Picnics and fires also gutted the grass and trees. The metal fence has done good job now but yet the attractive greenery remains mostly in the southern part of the 1x3 mile zone only.
As one moves to the second or the Monastic Zone, the individual monasteries located on the east (theravada) and the west (mahayana) have developed their complex where gardening inside the complex befitting their vernacular architecture is the responsibility of the monasteries themselves. Some have done extremely good job in this regard whereas some are lagging behind. Yet this area has some greenery visible around their complexes. What is not done and needs urgent attention is the open spots to be allocated and outer regions along the western and northern fences.
In order to make the greenery in line with the time of the Buddha LDT must have a serious plan in hand. There was a time when deer, Siberian birds and wild animals resided in the forest and open spaces in the monastic and more particularly in the new village area. Today, this is a very poorly maintained zone. Except some greens in and around the big name hotels, the area is deserting at a fast speed. What is the environmental preservation plan of LDT leadership? Only they can tell us. In order to main the serenity and healthy environs, the whole zone needs to be developed as a green forest especially in the far north zone.

Finally, on the occasion of the 2652th Buddha Jayanti, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Minister for Tourism Rabindra Adhikari showed their care and concern to make Lumbini not only a zone of world peace and Buddhist Dhamma but also a tourist attraction for believers and others alike. In order to achieve this goal a stable LDT executive committee is essential. So far, partisan politics has been responsible for the instability and lack of desired progress of the Tange plan. Will there be a politics-free body with precise TOR to complete the work, as Minister Adhikary said will happen in two to three years? One can say – only time will tell. But there are grounds to believe this will happen.

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