Life is really wonderful and full of miracles. If we are mindful and relaxed we will discover many beautiful things happening around us. If we have a pure mind, pray with sincerity for the welfare and happiness of beings, and do good things, then miracles will happen, which are beyond our imagination and expectations.
For example, when I first visited Lumbini, the place where the Buddha was born, I was very sad to see Lumbini in ruins. I wept. Then I recited a certain sutta and prayed for the development of Lumbini to take shape before my death occurs. Time passed. Nearly 30 years later I was the first foreigner to be offered a piece of land to build Viet Nam Phat Quoc Tu Lumbini, which is the first international Buddhist monastery established in the holy land of Lumbini. Later on 22 international and national Buddhist organizations have followed suit and constructed their monasteries, cultural and social centers in Lumbini. This is really a miracle, is it not?
The first year I did not see the Himalayan Sarus Crane. In the second year in the month of July 1993, I was very lucky and happy to see two holy cranes appearing near my cottage in the compound of Viet Nam Phat Quoc Tu. Then I motivated my friends and students to protect these endangered birds. Over the years the number of birds increased. According to the latest count there are 66 sarus cranes within the larger Lumbini area.
Another wonderful thing happened to me again in Lumbini. While exploring the area around Lumbini I suddenly discovered the suffering of the local people involved in crossing the Telar River East of Lumbini near Lankapur village. I prayed and had a dream to do some good work for the local people. At last I could build the friendship bridge with the help of many friends. After that many local people tried to do good things. There are other wonderful and miraculous events in life I shall be happy to tell you more about on another occasion.
When I came to Nepal, this beautiful country was in peace. People lived in peace and harmony. Suddenly, the war broke out. Till now, more than 14,000 people were killed and hundreds of thousands lost their houses and property. The damage amounts to billions of US dollars. People are very much suffering. They are becoming poorer and poorer. In order to be safe and have a peaceful life, many times my students requested me to leave Nepal. But I refused. I decided to stay on and continue to recite mantras, suttas, praying, as well as carrying out good works for peace in Nepal.
Nepal is a beautiful and wonderful country where many Buddhas and Saints were born. The Nepalese people are known as peace loving and spiritual people in the world. Although the situation in this country remains volatile I still have the hope that another miracle will happen and bring lasting peace to Nepal.
THẦY HUYỀN DIỆU
(Dr. LAM TRUNG QUOC)
NEPAL – PEACE IS AT HAND
I. Nepal – A Country of Beauty attracting Visitors from around the World
In the world today, Nepal may be a small country sandwiched between the two giant states of China and India. But this small land is endowed with a miraculous attraction. Millions of people from around the world have been coming here as pilgrims and visitors.
I arrived in the holy garden of Lumbini in my first visit to Nepal 40 years ago . I did not know that I would spend many years working and living this land.
Nepal deserves to be proud of its wonderful natural sceneries with Sagarmatha (Mother of the Universe) widely known as Everest Peak uniquely towering above the world at the height of 8,848 meters.
Nepal is the land of the Buddhas and Sages; especially of Lumbini where the prince Sidattha was born, who gained Enlightenment, who has shown the Way to peace and happiness for hundreds of millions of people during the past 26 centuries. So many philosophies have been passing by in this world with a life span of a few hundred years or shorter, but Buddhism still remains the art of living as powerfully persuasive in today’s world as ever.
Nepal deserves to be proud of being the peaceful home for believers of various faiths with no religious war whatsoever; the home to over 70 different ethnic groups who speak different languages and have been living together in harmony for several centuries.
Nepal deserves to be proud of being one of a very few small nations in the world that have managed to retain its national independence until now. Never has a superpower, be it Asian, European or American, been able to impose its domination over this sovereign land
Nepal and the Nepalese deserve to be proud of their traditional culture and customs that have been well preserved while similar local traditions have been adulterated or obliterated in many other countries.
For so many years living and working here in Nepal, I have had opportunities to travel and meet with local people, in most of whom I have found a way of life that is both peaceful and spiritual. In the family, husband and wife are mutually respectful, some men treat their wives as goddesses and some women consider their husbands as gods, and the children are all well-behaved and dutiful. Fraternity and solidarity are obvious in villages and communities. On top of all these, the Nepalese possess a special virtue of open-mindedness and readiness to help foreigners refugees . I have been personally experiencing this Nepalese virtue, particularly in Lumbini – the birthplace of the Lord Buddha Sakyamuni.
For more than 10 years living and working in Nepal, I have been traveling from North to South, East to West, from the mountainous Himalaya to the Tarai plain, without being stopped by any policeman or security agent. Even in remote areas controlled by the Maoist force and considered to be in disorder, nobody has ever stopped or harassed me, although this land is being at war. Perhaps this is unique in the whole world. Since the beginning of the war, no tourist has ever been killed here.
II. How have I become a son of Nepal
1. A profound wish to see Lumbini revived and developed.
As a foreigner, I was so proud and blessingly happy when King Birenda and the His Majesty Government of Nepal and Lumbini Development Trust granted me the land-right and permission to build Viet Nam Phat Quoc Tu in Lumbini in 1993 – the first international monastery in Lumbini. And in the past 10 years, we have contributed to the development of Lumbini, making it into a spiritual center of the world, a city of peace, therefore I can thus consider myself as a son or adopted son of this beautiful and lovely nation.
The way that led me to Nepal and become a son of this country is a long story.
As a little boy, I used to go with my mother to many Buddhist temples where I learned about the Lord Sakyamuni and Lumbini. Later on, I learned about the Chinese pilgrim Fa Xian who walked all the way from China to Lumbini and Kapilavastu in the 5th century. He wrote about these two relic areas in his memoirs. Two hundred years after him, another great Chinese pilgrim and scholar Hsuan Tsang of the Tang Dynasty also walked to the holy land Lumbini, the royal citadel of Kapilavastu and other Buddhist places which were described in details in his famous Great Tang’s Record of Western Countries, written in 646-648.
With more studies, I learned about four holy Buddhist places, three are in India and one is Lumbini in Nepal.
And I started to dream and pray that one day I would be able to pay homage to the holy land of the Lord Sakyamuni and other Buddhist places.
After many years of working, and praying, I eventually was able to realize my dream and arrived in Lumbini on a full moon day in Spring 1969. I found myself standing at a place where more than 2,600 years ago a powerful Prince was born rolled in gold-and-brocades-luxuries with a wonderful wife and beautiful son but decided to sacrifice all to seek the way for the humankind to be salvaged from the vicious circle of unending suffering. It is HIM, the One-and-the-Only-One, who has been convincing hundreds of millions of people in this world to follow the path of non-violence, tolerance, forgiveness and cooperation.
I remember arriving with an immense bliss, still awed at the fact that my dream had come true after so many long years of praying and hard work. But then, seeing with my own eyes the desolate ruins of the holy land, I burst into tears. I asked myself if this was really the Buddha’s birthplace? How come Lumbini was abandoned and forgotten while holy places of so many other religions had been well preserved and beautified? Was I lost? Or perhaps my guide had taken me to a wrong place? Questions after questions troubled my mind. But when I came to the Ashoka Pillar that had been erected there supposedly more than twenty three centuries ago and with inscription that says this is the place where the Buddha was born, I knew I had arrived in the right place. The Ashoka Pillar looked exactly as its description by Venerable Hsuan Tsang, who mentioned some cracks that were still visible now, but the head of a horse on top of it was no longer there. I knew I had arrived, but could not be in peace as so many questions about such a desolate state of Lumbini kept coming in my mind. I walked around, and suddenly recalled an advice by my Master who said that when being at a holy place and after conducting the ritual offerings, you should be in one mind to pray for the truly good things and beautiful dreams of this life, because such wishes of yours would certainly be granted. Well, I came back to King Ashoka Pillar, carefully looked again at the inscription, and said my praying. I prayed and wished for many things, but there was one thing that I repeated again and again:
If this is the real place where the Lord Buddha was born, I would like to see Lumbini developed before I die.
After finishing my higher education, I worked here and there in several countries around the world. But the idea about a revived and developed Lumbini kept nagging at me. I never missed a chance to talk about it while lecturing or speaking at conferences or meeting with important people. Many of those important people had once been my students or subordinates. They were all very surprised. They could not understand why I was so obsessed with Lumbini, although I am not a Nepalese. My academic profession has nothing to do with Lumbini. But after listening to my explanations about the Holy Lumbini and my own spiritual yearning, they all started supporting me without any fuss.
2. Discovering the beauty of Nepal – the Land and its People.
When I was granted the land-right to build the first international monastery in the birthplace of the Lord Buddha, not many people would believe in my intention and dedication since many others had come from various powerful nations for the same purpose but had all withdrawn due to the local absence of minimum facility and infrastructure. After accepting the plot of land, we held a land purification ceremony with the participation of the central and local authorities as well as representatives of several countries. During the ceremony, I saw with my own eyes lots of miraculous incidents and it took only 10 to 15 minutes for me to come to a decision that I would stay on here for the construction of the first international monastery in Lumbini. I had only USD 60 with me then, enough for me to buy a plastic tent and a few cooking utensils. My frugal life under that memorable tent lasted for six and half months. And I learned lots of good things from the local Nepalese during those six and a half months.
Although they were poor, but on their faces I saw that they are very relaxed and with no tension in their lives. Poor, but they were not greedy and they did not steal. There was no fence around the construction site and things were left around but nothing was ever lost or stolen. I slept and ate in the plastic tent without any kind of protection or guard, but was never subjected to any robbery or threat. (Later on I had a few helping hands in the construction work and they sometimes helped tidy up the place where I slept and worked littered with money and even valuables but nothing has ever been stolen.)
When the sun was setting, I would sit in my tent looking at the beautiful scene and the children would passing by, riding their buffaloes or bulls home, singing or playing Nepalese folk melodies on their bamboo flutes, and an uncanny bliss would overwhelm me. Those children, so poor and could not go to school as their peers around the world, were showing me how happy and simple life could be when we know how to enjoy ourselves in peace. At that time, a worker earned only less than one US dollar a day, and he would bring along his lunch to the work place, or his wife would bring it to him. After lunch, the wife would bring water for him to drink, and then he would take a nap. Awaken by the afternoon work signal, he would wash his face and hands and feet with the water brought to him by his wife before resuming his work, and the wife would clean up and went home to prepare dinner for the family. Their life was not rich in material things, but was so peaceful and relaxed.
Near where I lived in Lumbini, there were two local market gatherings every week. The one in the afternoons of Wednesday and Saturday was close to Mahilawar village; and the other on Monday afternoons was at the west of Lumbini. I would go to these market gatherings to buy my groceries, as well as to observe the local life. People came a long way to bring their own produce to the market, sometimes only a few kilos of carrots, or a few eggs from the family chicken coop, but they were so happy. It was at these market gatherings that I actually experienced the tension-free of the peasants as well as their golden hearts. I remember buying a bamboo from a couple, paying them and said I was from the Viet Nam monastery. Then I proceeded with my shopping and forgot about that paid bamboo. It was 8 PM when I was back to my monastery, and saw the bamboo put leaning at the gate. I was so moved. On another occasion, I bought something and then forgot to take the change from the seller. Two days later, he sent his son pedaling a bicycle to me with the change. Our Viet Nam monastery construction project was not as lucky as the ones of other countries in terms of funding. But we received generous treatment from the local sellers of construction materials. Sometimes, it took me seven or eight months to pay for what I bought, but they never complained.
The way of life in this remote and out-of-the-way areas of Nepal suggests a simplicity of happiness and peace right in this world. The people here live a simple life with their hands and feet in the mud, without competition of any kind, that is why they are safe and happy.
3. My love of this land and Nepalese people have urged me to do good things
The story of the Sarus Cranes
That was my second year in Lumbini. One morning, I stepped out from my plastic tent and saw, right in front of me, two tallest and beautiful birds. I am 1.68 meter high, and those birds were higher than me. I was frightened for a moment at such an imposing appearance of those beautiful creatures; but then calmed down because of their serene manner and look. When they flew out, one after another, their wings seemed in line with one another and their graceful beauty thrilled me to the core, as though they were some peace messengers of this holy land.
I looked for information in libraries and contacted several environmentalists around the world and learned that these wonderful Sarus Cranes are one of the rarest birds that are facing threats of extinction from various directions. And I started a campaign to protect them in Lumbini. Thanks to this campaign, more and more Sarus Cranes are taking refuge in Lunbini. There are now 66 of them living in the area. People who used to hunt and even eat their eggs now become their protectors. Local people have started to think about environmental issues through this Sarus Crane Protection Campaign.
The Story of the Viet Nam Bridge of Love
To take an account of the Sarus Cranes, I used to walk from village to village and learned a lot about the habits and customs of the local people. One day, early in the morning, I was walking towards the East of Lumbini near Lankapur village and found myself confronted with a swift river. A painful scene was unfolding before my eyes: many people, including old men, women and children, were struggling so hard to wade across that swift river. Later I learned that in rainy season that river swells and becomes a deadly stream that has taken life of so many people for hundreds of years now. I started to pray that as long as I am in Lumbini I would be able to have a bridge built across that river and save people’s life. I also started calling on my students and followers around the world, as well as the Vietnamese living in Viet Nam and overseas to contribute to the construction of this bridge. When money had been collected, I met with the local communities on both sides of the river and discussed the project with them. Everybody was so enthusiastic and the project was completed in only three and a half months.
The local people held a festive ceremony to inaugurate the Viet Nam Bridge of Love, with the presence of many Vietnamese and people of other nationalities, representatives of the His Majesty’s Government of Nepal at different levels, and the French Ambassador Mr. Ambrosiani. That day has become a local festive day when people get together and discuss about the things they should do to improve their own life.
Now and then, normally in the afternoon of Saturdays and Mondays when people go to the market, I would go and stand near the bridge to watch people walk across the river safely and indulge myself in a profound feeling of peaceful bliss. That Viet Nam Bridge of Love has changed the deadly river into a wonderful river of blessing.
We have witnessed so many miracles in this life. If our wish is sincere and benevolent and from the bottom of our hearts, it shall be realized. After that humble project, I have discovered a lively and extremely useful philosophy of life: whenever we are lucky enough to come across an opportunity to do good, we must do it right away since we might never have that opportunity again, and one good thing will always breed another good thing.
Ever since the Sarus Cranes Protection Campaign and the Viet Nam Bridge of Love project, people have been emulating one another in doing good deeds and that has made me so happy and encouraged. And ever since, the local people have respected me as their Master, a Gurujee among them, and never miss a chance to express their love and ask for my blessing.
III. Political Crisis and the Outbreak of Guerilla War
Nepal has been known as a country of peace and stability for many centuries. The Nepalese people have been praised as a most peace-loving nation of the world.
But for many different reasons, this country fell into a political upheaval in the 1980s that led to the formation of federation for freedom in 1989 named Jana Andolan, meaning “People’s Movement”. The peaceful demonstration by the people demanding democracy held in February 1990 was ruthlessly cracked down by the police, resulting in the death of hundreds of demonstrators. King Birenda, advised by many other nations, wisely announced on the 9th of April, 1990 his acceptance of the oppositions's demands to establish a multi-party democracy ; and on the 16th of the same month the King requested that all the parties join hand to establish a new government. King Birenda accepted a constitutional monarchy and a civil government was established. But lacking the necessary solidarity, goodwill and sincerity between the political organizations and the democratic movement, Nepal has become prone to one crisis after another with successive rules of Government after Government, with some cabinets lasting only a couple of months.
When the Communist Party of Nepal fell apart, the Maoist fraction regrouped itself into a separate force and started a guerilla war to overthrow the monarchy. Most of the political leaders in the country thought the Maoists were only a small band of rebels who could be squashed in a few months. Meeting with His Majesty the King, or leaders of political parties in Lumbini and elsewhere, I always sincerely voiced my concern that Nepal could plunge into turmoil and the Maoists would grow into a formidable force in no time. I started saying so in early 1996, but had not many ears listening. Majority of politicians at that time believed in guns and ammunition, in material forces, and especially in unbelievable things. They were so surprised – both Nepalese and international politicians – a few years later when the Maoists did become a formidable force that launched a series of attacks on the Government Security Force, killing a lot and destroying much more. Many a time the Government managed to achieve a truce with the Maoists, but these were all short-lived and when fighting resumed it was always much fiercer. International experts specialized in dealing with the Maoists, when consulted, all recommended the use of military force, of every applicable tactics and every modern weaponry to eliminate “these terrorists”, because they all considered the Maoists as terrorists. Some experts even recommended the use of state-of-the-art American airplanes equipped with up-to-date facilities to search and destroy the Maoists from the air, like what had been used in the Gulf War. But they were all blind to the fact that Nepal is an immense mountainous jungle and the war conducted by the Maoists is a guerilla war. How much money and modern technology would have to be disposed for finding just a few people hiding in the jungle?
More than 14,000 people have been killed since the Maoists started this war less than 10 years ago (this is just an unofficial estimate, which must be much lower than the real figure). Tens of thousands have been injured on both sides. Hundreds of thousands have lost their homes and were forced to relocate, leaving land uncultivated. Material damages are worth of billions of dollars. All the limited resources of the country have been consumed by this war. Poverty has become rampant and is still on the rise. And as always, ordinary people are the ones who suffer, particularly women and children.
Prolonged war will bleed the nation white, breed more hatred, and make it much more difficult for national reconciliation and restoration of peace.
IV. What would become of Nepal’s future if hatred and killing continue?
If for some reasons, a handful of individuals or political parties still want to continue with this war with the hope of gaining an absolute power over this nation, Nepal will certainly be heading towards a horrible disaster. The war will probably divide Nepal into two parts: a pro-Chinese North and a Pro-Indian South; or worse still, it might tear the country into smaller fragments as in the past when Nepal was once divided into seventy small kingdoms. China will certainly give the pro-Chinese force guns and ammunitions and other military facilities. And India will do the same with its followers in order to maintain an equilibrium. To China and India, as well as to any other powers in the world, I’d say please don’t ever sell or give armaments to the fighting Nepalese forces. The more armaments to Nepal, the more unstable the situation will be with deeper hatred and more distant possibility of peace. Eventually, no one will win in this war in Nepal, but everyone will certainly loose, and the people and nation of Nepal will be the single biggest looser. That is not to mention the horrible prospect of this war spilling over to neighbouring countries.
V. I have been a war victim
The 20th Century was the century of scientific and technological advances that brought about so much material comforts; but it was also a century of most brutal wars among nations, horrible hatreds among ideologies, and man-made sufferings. Humans tried to dominate and eliminate one another by guns and other sophisticated means. One of the bloodiest and fiercest wars of the 20th Century was the Viet Nam War. I came of age in the thick of that war and became victimized by it in the most brutal way. It’s safe to say that my homeland was the most unfortunate land of the past century. Hundreds of millions of tons of bombs and ammunitions ravaged my homeland during more than 30 years of continuous war. Viet Nam became the live experimental ground for every kind of modern weaponry. Millions were killed and maimed. Villages and towns were ravaged, even razed to the ground. And not only the Vietnamese. The Viet Nam War killed the largest number of people of different nationalities who had been forced to fight and get killed there.
Since the end of that war, millions of unfortunate souls of the war dead of both sides have not been salvaged. Nurtured by hate and wrong doings, they still cause troubles in Viet Nam under various forms. I wish that some day, the Government of Viet Nam and all those who are responsible for Viet Nam would get together for a grand ritual praying for the salvation of the souls of the war dead, military and civilians, Vietnamese and international, North and South, communist and non-communist, including the souls of boat people who had died on the high seas or in the deep jungles, every soul should be prayed for with the same respect and love so that they would be salvaged and rest in peace. This grand ritual will have to be organized with utmost sincerity and dedication.
When such a grand ritual has been done properly, Viet Nam will be able to develop. Age-old tradition in Viet Nam believes that only when Yin is through that Yang could move on, meaning only when the unfortunate souls are salvaged that the living could move on in peace and prosperity.
My wish is that when the war in Nepal has been ended, all political parties and Nepalese organizations, His Majesty the King, along with the people of Nepal will join hands in a grand ritual to pray for the salvation of the souls of more than 14,000 people killed in this long bloody war. If that will be done, Nepal will be able to move on and thrive, otherwise the unfortunate souls will continue causing problems in the country.
I ardently urge the Nepalese warring parties to learn the horrible lesson from the Viet Nam War. That war ended more than 30 years ago, but its wounds still remain unhealed. Most of the Vietnamese are Buddhists, with a disposition to forgive and tolerate and they have tried best to leave the painful past behind and move on; but suspicion is still latent in the mind of those who have been victimized by the war on either sides. It will take long years and incredible patience to dispel that curse of war and eliminate its hatred.
VI. The Law of Karma – Good Result From Good Seed And Bad Result From Bad Seed
The great part of my life is the period when I was educated and trained in the scientific environment in Europe and America learning the history of changes in an individual, community or country. I observed them with a scientific mind. Then I come to realize that every change and result is influenced by the law of Karma. The law of Karma is a really wonderful law, a very scientific process. As we sow, so we reap. Good will result in good and bad will result in bad, never the reverse case. We have to be very peaceful and mindful to observe this law of Karma working. We will notice the real change and its result of the universal law.
I would like to give some examples of history which I studied and researched about the history of world and Viet Nam. In the tenth century, Vietnam had a king named Le Long Dinh who ruled Viet Nam with crooked idea and cruel action. Whenever he got angry he could do any cruel things without thinking of its result. For example when he was not happy with some Buddhist monks he ordered to chop the sugarcane on the top of the head of the monks. Thus his dynasty created terrible sufferings to Vietnamese people and his dynasty did not last long time. Due to his heinous crime the king died with terrible sufferings.
In the third century B.C on the planet there was a king named Ashok. I believe everybody knows well the history of the king Ashok. After the Kalinga war, in which more than hundred thousand people were killed, Ashok was very much touched by the killings and sufferings of the people. Ashok took a vow to choose peace renouncing violence. He promised himself to conquer the heart of people through compassion and loving kindness. He established a new phase of history for humanity. This is a wonderful example for humanity. Although he was the successful conqueror in war he himself promised to stop war and violence. Therefore Ashok became immortal on this earth.
In the last century another personality like Mahatma Gandhi who gave us very good example of non-violence. He practiced and applied the teaching of Buddha that is Ahimsa or non-violence through which he brought independence to India and good changes in the world. If India had chosen violence it is not sure that the situation in India would have been as good as today.
A few years back I witnessed another significant example of the law of Karma working. There was a famous spiritual leader, when he was alive instead of practicing good moral he liked to accumulate money and power as his main objective of life. He could do anything in order to maintain his power and gather money. Alas! At the end of life, he could not even master his eating, drinking and even toileting. He had to be supported by a sophisticated machine for his action of body. His bad action reaped enough to give him bad result. This is due to his ignorance of law of Karma. At last when he passed away the bank confiscated his money.
There are so many live examples about the law of Karma taking place around us all the time. Each one of us has to be mindful to think, to do and to understand this law of Karma.
VII. Peace is at hand for the Nepalese people
Many Nepalese have become despaired and exhausted by the current war. They came and told me that this is the gravest crisis in the entire history of Nepal, that this war will never end, that Nepal will disintegrate into hundreds of tiny states and everyone will be exhausted before they stop fighting one another. The situation is very bad indeed, riddled by negative attitude of every warring party, but I am still positive and believe in the prospect of peace in Nepal. Because Nepal is a holy land, and the Nepalese are benevolent and spiritual. This country is endowed with so many beautiful and good traditions. Many Buddhas, Bodhisatvas and Saints were born in this country. Especially, Nepal has a very precious philosophy. If applied and sincerely practiced by the Nepalese, this philosophy will become like a gold collateral for a solution to the current conflict, a guarantee for peace to be restored in Nepal.
1. The philosophy of Nepal should be sincerely practiced.
Twenty six centuries ago, the Buddha Sakyamuni, the son of Nepal, gained enlightenment. His teaching remains freshly valuable today: Hatred cannot be eliminated by hatred, but by compassion and loving kindness. With due respect, let me call this philosophy of the Lord Buddha Sakyamuni the philosophy of Nepal. Simple as it is, but when practiced, it will bring about great results.
For so many centuries, the human world has been using violence against violence, hatred against hatred, causing endless sufferings. The world is materially rich enough for all of us, but lacking loving kindness, lacking understanding and compassion, lacking fairness in managing ourselves and national resources, therefore we have been breeding our own crises, hatred and wars.
I strongly believe that the leaders of Nepal, from the King to the leaders and members of political parties, including the Maoists, if they sincerely want peace, this country will become peaceful immediately. Peace is in your hand. No need to seek and beg for it anywhere else. Following Sakyamuni’s teaching of peace and non-violence, we will certainly realize that a peaceful solution to this conflict is in the hands of the Nepalese and there is no need to import it from anywhere else.
Your Majesty the King and other political leaders were all born and grew up here in Nepal, and I am convinced that they are all blessed, directly or indirectly, with the love of Buddha and other great Nepalese. Sooner or later, the warring parties will come together to their common age-old heritage, forgive one another through understanding and compassion, and together put an end to this crisis.
If the Nepalese can do this, they would deserve to be proud of themselves and be the pride of the whole mankind, a glorious example for the world to learn and follow. When peace has been restored here in Nepal, millions and millions of people from all over the world will come to visit and learn how to make peace from the Nepalese, to pay homage to Lumbini – the birthplace of Lord Sakyamuni and enjoy the wonderful scenic beauty of Himalaya and its imposing Everest Peak.
When peace will be restored here in Nepal, I would be more than happy to welcome all the leaders of former warring parties to a reception at Viet Nam Phat Quoc Tu Lumbini, the first international monastery established in the birthplace of the Lord Buddha. I will certainly have the best chefs from Viet Nam and all over the world to prepare the specialties for the Nepalese leaders and the foreign guests in that history-making reception for peace in Nepal. I urgently wish that day will come soon, very soon.
2. Experience of how to defuse a war danger in the Nepalese history
By early 7th Century, Tibet had become a powerful state under the leadership of King Songtsen Gampo, who had nurtured a scheme to invade and occupy Nepal. The Nepalese King and his subjects knew about that danger and they met to discuss a solution. Some recommended a fierce resistance against the invaders. But they eventually came to a peaceful solution: King Amsuvarna decided to marry his daughter off to the Tibet King. Princess Bhrikuti went to Tibet as a Royal Bride, bringing along with her a statue of Aksobhya Buddha and all the good traditions of Nepal. She became the first messenger of Buddhist teachings to Tibet. The Tibetans loved her and called her Belsa or Trisung – the Queen of Nepal. And Buddhism was joyfully welcomed and accepted by the people of Tibet. The marriage of Princess Bhrikuti and King Songtsen Gampo ushered in an era of peace and friendship between Tibet and Nepal. The danger of war was defused. And the Tibetans became fervent Buddhists and remain so until now. Today, we can see lots of Nepalese influence in the pagodas and temples of Tibet, most obvious is at Jokhang Buddhist Temple in Lasha, which was built by the Nepalese artisans. And since then Tibet has become a good market for the Nepalese products. Both sides have been benefited from such a peaceful solution.
Twelve years later, King Songtsen Gampo of Tibet planed to invade China, but the Tang Royal family of China had followed the Nepalese example by marrying their Princess Wan Tsing off to Songtsen Gampo. Again, the war danger was defused, and the Chinese civilization was introduced to Tibet with wonderful results. Like her Nepalese predecessor, Princess Wan Tsing also brought along a statue of Buddha, and her noble personality as well as religious mind contributed to change warmonger Songtsen Gampo into a civilized and loving King. The statue of Buddha brought to Tibet by Princess Wan Tsing has ever since been worshipped at Jokhang Temple in Lasha.
Those two stories from history have made it clear that with loving kindness and wisdom, we can solve all problems
3. The cause of war and instability
While at war, the warring parties normally blame one another and refuse to agree for the root cause of the problem. Every problem has a cause, direct or indirect. Bush fire must have been caused by a first sparkle somewhere. Failure of peaceful endeavours will lead to poverty. History has shown that revolutions have their root causes in poverty and injustice. When every one has enough food, clothing, education and a stable life, no one would want any kind of revolution. War and instability might have various causes, but poverty and injustice always play a vital role. When the leaders of a society faile to address poverty and social injustice, these problems will accumulate and eventually explode into war or revolution. Peace education is also very important. Many rich countries could invest huge amount of money for education, but instead of educating their people about peace, they propagate violence and war, for example through the media and films, attracting both children and adults. Immoral and dehumanized killing stories are shown, applauded and awarded. This in fact is a systematic propaganda for war. That’s why we always have wars and violence.
VIII. I cannot sit and watch the killing that is going on around me in this country
I believe that my karma has brought me to live and work in Nepal, a country that has been considered as a symbol of peace and harmony between people and nature. But alas! I have come to see a prolonged war!
Seeing with my own eyes the killing, the turmoil, the fear and horrible repression and suffering, I cannot help recalling the war years in Viet Nam more than 30 years ago. It has been a painful anxiety seeing all those things and unable to do anything about it. I have been asking myself for long. For my own sake, it would be best for me to just leave Nepal. But I cannot do it. I arrived here when Nepal was so peaceful and the nation has accepted me as a son. Now when war befalls this lovely country, the only thing I should do is just to abandon it? No. I have decided to stay on here and do all I can for peace to be restored.
I am a foreigner. I do not have any right to interfere with the internal affairs of Nepal. But considered son of Nepal, I feel obligated to make my contribution to the restoration of peace in this country.
I want to do everything I can to persuade the warring parties to wake up to the age-old tradition of peace and love of their forefathers and come back to a peaceful life in this holy land.
IX. Initial steps of the movement for peace
1. A presentation about national reconciliation and peace at the Reporter’s Club of Nepal in mid 2004:
In the beginning, we were only a handful of individuals – I, some students of mine, and some friends – and in silence we plan and tried to execute our plan in a very difficult situation. It was like trying to subdue a raging fire with only a cup of water. But we believe that our cup of water would make the arsonists think about their doing.
The meeting with the media and the warring parties at the Reporter’s Club was a success. It was very encouraging. It was held on 12 June 2004 in Kathmandu. The Nepalese and foreign correspondents raised lots of interesting and significant questions; and the responses were straight and frank. The discussion began with lots of conflicting arguments and blames, but my intervention about peace was appreciated by most of the participants. A number of representatives of small political parties voiced their disagreement with me since they still believe in violence, repression and guns. But a few years later, they changed their mind and have turned to support my proposal of peaceful solution for national reconciliation.
One of my first proposals was that every party should stop immediately all hateful and violent words and acts, and practice tolerance and love. I believe this is a very important first step towards any meaningful dialogue regarding war and peace. Crises and wars are mostly caused by attitude first. A friendly, tolerant and benevolent attitude will lead to peace and security. An attitude of hate will lead to war.
I proposed that the warring parties came to meet one another at the Viet Nam Monastery in Lumbini – the birthplace of the Lord Sakyamuni who has been the messenger of peace and boundless love. I am convinced that everybody would be blessed and enlightened by Buddha when they were there in his holy birthplace. I also proposed that everyone would stay in Lumbini and calm down with meditation and other mental exercises for at least one week before talking to one anothers. If peace does not prevail in mind first, it would never prevail in talk and action, and every word would be just an attempt to camouflage a scheme to harm each other.
In response to my proposal, a number of political parties started to discretely arrange among themselves for that meeting in Lumbini. Unfortunately, this historical meeting has never been conducted due to some lacking of sensitivity and discretion in the organization process.
2. A call for ceasefire on the occasion of the New Year 2005.
Despite all the calls for peace from international opinion, the war went on and accelerated in late 2005. People hoped that the warring parties would agree on a ceasefire during the Dasain – the New Year Festival of Nepal – but there were no sign to be seen about it. My Nepalese friends, including some leaders of political parties, recommended that I should personally voice the call for that ceasefire. I was hesitating. I still did not believe in the prospect of my call. But then, a number of ministerial officials and politicians said they would organize a function in Kathmandu for me to speak about peace, if I accepted to do so.
And so I came to Kathmandu for that talk, held at the cultural center of the capital. Participants included representatives of political parties and government, the King’s envoy, the diplomatic corps, and reportedly the unannounced representatives of the Maoists. My speech was developed around some basic premises for peace: forgiveness, tolerance, love, friendship, sincerity, mutual understanding, and a genuine determination to find solutions for the conflict. I said if all the parties practiced these things, peace would certainly prevail. And finally, I urgently and ardently call for a Dasain ceasefire. That talk was enthusiastically welcome by all participants. People came up to thank me in person. And I knew that the Maoist representative was among them. Everyone there seemed to be convinced that my call for ceasefire would be responded positively.
That very night, I was woken up by a phone call. One gentlemen of the organizing committee of that talk, Mr. M. Pradhan, joyfully informed me that the Maoists had just announced their 9-day long unilateral ceasefire on the occasion of the New Year Festival. I was so elated with the news and immediately wrote a letter of thanks to the Maoist leaders, even asking them to extend their ceasefire further. I also wrote to His Excellency the King and Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa, calling them to declare a ceasefire in response. The Government told me they were still in doubt that the Maoist ceasefire was only a delay tactic to prepare for another acceleration of the war. But I still succeeded in persuading the Government to stop all military operations against the Maoists during the 9-day ceasefire and would only fight back if attacked.
After the New Year Festival, a number of Nepalese came to thank me. They said this was the first time since the beginning of the war that they were able to go home to their native villages, which were still under Maoist control.
3. Reverting the order for a general strike during an international summit at Lumbini:
An international summit meeting of political leaders and Buddhist delegations were scheduled from 30 November to 2 December 2004 in Lumbini, under the sponsorship of the Nepalese Government and with support from Lumbini Development Trust and many other organizations. The objective of this summit – the Second of its kind – was to consolidate Nepal’s diplomacy to get more international assistance and support.
Lots of efforts had been exerted for several months in the preparation for this event. But nothing could be done about the ongoing war in Nepal. The Maoists had been invited to participate in the summit, but they refused and continued with their hostility. Calls for a ceasefire from various parties for the sake of the summit were all seemingly unheard.
Three days before the opening of the summit, the Maoists conducted a couple of bomb attacks in a village near Lumbini, causing maximum reverberation. The following morning, the local Maoist leader issued an order for a general strike that banned all traffic and shut down all shops.
The next day, streets were deserted. Only government and diplomatic corps vehicles were seen, escorted by fully armed military and police convoys. The situation looked threateningly tense. Like others in the organizing committee, I felt like fighting would break out at any time then. Rumors even said that hundreds of bomb attacks had been planned to undermine the summit.
The gentlemen in the organizing committee as well as many politicians asked me to meet with the Maoists and talk to them to agree on a ceasefire during the days of the summit, at least in the Rupandehi District where Lumbini is.
After some hesitation, I accepted that request, but did not know how to approach the Maoists yet. I entered for a praying session and meditation. Ten minutes later, I decided to fly to Kathmandu immediately to meet with the press and ask them to convey my message to the Maoists. I believed that was the best way to go about it.
The meeting with the press that day lasted for about one hour and thirty minutes. On hand were only the press and some intellectuals and industrialists. I made it clear that I was not acting on behalf or at the request of the Government, but absolutely on my own, for the honor of Nepal and the safety of the international summit. I said the summit was a chance for Nepal to be seen by the world as a peace-loving nation, an opportunity for the nation to be further supported by the international community. I solemnly requested the press to convey to the Maoist leaders my request for an end of bombing attacks and a revoke of the order for the general strike in Rupandehi District. Miraculously, only 4 hours after the press meeting, we were so relieved to hear from the FM radio and other foreign press agencies that the Maoist leaders had revoked their order for the 3-day general strike.
Although the war is still going on, those miraculous incidents show that peace is still possible in Nepal
X. Peace is not only a gift descending from heaven
Now and then I would hear people blaming one another. I sincerely wish that people would let the bygone be bygone and practice what they need for their own happiness: forgiveness, tolerance, love, and doing good deeds to overcome fear. I used to say that the Nepalese are living in a fire, they must not pour in more oil or any kind of fuel, but only cold water. If each person pours in one bucket of cold water, the fire will be subdued, sooner or later.
Indeed, we must be calm to overcome the differences among us, every problem should be solved if we come to each other with compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, friendship and love.
Many people are still mistaken in thinking that peace needs to be asked for, begged for if need be, as though peace is a gift from others. Buddha has a very well-defined precept of peace: Peace is the outcome of an unswerving will, the result of a persevering struggle, the matter of self-control, self-training and self-education.
Peace is not a hollow theory, it requires consciousness, responsibility, and actions. Peace depends on the leaders and the citizens of the involved nations.
XI. Solution for a guaranteed peace
1. The political parties openly operating in Nepal should organize themselves on the basis of sincerity, mutual respect, and civility. Leaders of political parties should not criticize one another. Whichever party that has been trusted by the people to rule with good policies and has proven itself with concrete actions should be supported by other parties, whose operations should contribute to maintaining peace and stability of the nation.
2. Regarding the Nepal Communist Party (Maoist), dialogue should be conducted in the spirit of open-mindedness, forgiveness and tolerance towards the leaders and members of this Party, who must not be outlawed, repressed or eliminated through violence. Doing so is the sure way to perpetuate this war. Leaders and members of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) should be brave to abandon violence and participate in the free and democratic elections as has been done by the Marxist-Leninist Party of Nepal ( U.M.L) and all other political parties in the country.
3. Political parties and the Maoist Party should have a place to meet with one another on a regular basis, say monthly or weekly if possible, to create mutual understanding. The more we understand each other, the more we can live in peace with each other. I have already recommended that Lumbini should be the meeting point for this purpose. Lumbini is a holy land where I myself have witnessed so many miracles. If people come to meet one another at Lumbini with sincerity, mutual understanding and wisdom, I am convinced that peace will be soon restored in Nepal.
XII. Nepal could become one of the richest nations of the world.
1. Potentialities of a holy land:
Nepal is a land-locked country with transportation routes running via India and China over difficult terrains, and therefore the costs of a number of commercial goods are understandably higher than in other countries. Many international experts coming to Nepal have expressed their pessimistic views about the nation’s prospects of development. Some of these experts suggested that Nepal should invest in high tech industries, some others recommended agriculture with a focus on rice for export. Many programs sound quite scientific in their justifications and proposals, but in fact they contain lots of great risks for the country, particularly the risks of losing national resources and upsetting the ecosystem. In my opinion, with a population of less than 30 million and a difficult mountainous terrain, Nepal is a lucky nation endowed with the glorious Himalaya and blessed with the Enlightened One the Buddha with his birthplace at Lumbini.
There are more than one billion Buddhists and lovers of Buddhism in the world today, all of them wish to visit Lumbini at least once in their life time. I often say that if Viet Nam, Thailand or Japan, or any other country in this world, has a holy land like Lumbini, that place will become valuable not as a gold mine but as a diamond mine. If the Government and people of Nepal successfully defend and sustain the ecosystem of this land, build up a good network of transportation routes and facilities for visitors, millions of pilgrims will certainly arrive in Lumbini every year. Now, if each visitor spend only USD 500 during their stay here, this money will be a great national income of Nepal. And more than money and economic benefits, the pilgrims will help make Nepal a symbol of world peace. And not only a symbol: millions and millions of people, when blessed by their pilgrimage to Lumbini, will become messengers of peace and love to the whole world.
2. Proposal for a world conference and a Peace University
If the current conflict in Nepal were peacefully solved through non-violence, a great example will be set that will usher in a new era for the human kind, and many nations will come to learn from Nepal the lesson of peaceful coexistence. The world peace conferences will be held at Lumbini.
Then, the Nepal should organize a Peace University for students from around the world to come and learn from the Nepalese philosophy of peace.
3. A state-of-the-art and active banking system
Nepal is sandwiched between India and China, the two nations with population accounting for one third of world population. In my opinion and analysis, India and China will certainly become two new superpowers of the world in many aspects, including economic and financial. Nepal should build up an effective and efficient banking system on the basis of trust and absolute security. If this banking system is reliable and discrete as it should be, the people of India and China would entrust it with their money. Nepal will have a source of investment money for national development and will not have to borrow from any one.
4. Tourism and Pilgrimage
Nepal should be the great destination of the world. Tourism alone should become a great source of national income. Besides, pilgrimage should be tapped as a great resource, too, since along the relic areas of Buddhism like Lumbini, Nepal also has lots of Holy Places of other faiths.
Nepal is endowed with a hydropower resource that has been ranked to be one of the greatests in the world, with powerful waterways from the great Himalaya. Nepal should tap this resource carefully and effectively to become self-sufficient in electricity and an exporter of this important energy to the neighbouring countries.
Nepal should plan to make the best of land for a sustainable production of rice in order to maintain food security first, and export later if possible.
When peace has been restored and becomes a reality, the Government should have well-defined policies and plans to develop the above-mentioned sectors. Success of this endeavour will launch Nepal onto a powerful development era without being trapped with foreign aids and lending.
XIII. The secret of success
Success of all the things mentioned above depends on two factors: right policies and their right implementation in practice.
1. Cleaning up the Government system and addressing social injustice
The Government needs to improve the material and spiritual life of its employees, boost up their morale and responsibility at work, eliminate different form of corruption, abuse of power and all other bureaucratic vices, which are the source of every trouble and instability of the society. If the national resources are abused by a handful of individuals who pocket most of the public benefits, the people will revolt to demand justice.
Meanwhile, the Government needs to put into practice urgent policies and plans to improve the life of the people living in remote mountains and jungles, as well as the life of the urban and rural poor, in order to alleviate the current social division and injustice.
2. Right education and right training need right appropriate programs
Right education should be balanced with physical and spiritual training according to the Nepalese traditions. Education has been in great crisis in many places of the world, with the emphasis on certificates and diplomas and not on quality of learning, particularly morale teaching. Nepal should be able to avoid this kind of educational crisis, the outputs of which would certainly do harms to the country in the long terms. I propose that Nepal builds up its national education that is balanced between knowledge and morale learning. Only when this is done that the country could have a sustainable peace and stability.
A nation would only develop on the basis of good national education along with good infrastructure. Getting rich with a deteriorated morality means national disaster. The best way to destroy a nation is to destroy its national culture and traditions.
I am a foreigner who came to live and work in this country for more than a decade now, and have learned to love this land as my own homeland, have discovered so many good and beautiful things, so many wonderful values and practices in the cultural and moral traditions of Nepal. I am a disciple of Buddha Sakyamuni, who was born at Lumbini Garden more than 2,600 years ago, who has taught me how to live in peace and harmony with the nature and the universe, a life without hate and violence, a life full of love and shared happiness with all living things of this world. I am boundlessly grateful to my teacher Hoang Nhon who has introduced me to Buddhism. I am boundlessly grateful to Buddha Sakyamuni, to the country of Nepal where He was born to become the messenger of love and peace to billions of humans who have been saved from painful suffering with his teachings. I am grateful to the people of Nepal who have managed to preserve the holy relic area of Lumbini. I am also boundlessly grateful to the land and people of Nepal in general for accepting me as one of their sons. In the course of history, of each individual as well each country, unfortunate events sometimes occur. Nepal has been unfortunate with this war that has killed and maimed tens of thousands of people, destroyed the habitation and living environment of hundreds of thousands, with the brunt falling on women and children.
I, Thay Huyen Dieu, Chairman and Founder of Viet Nam Phat Quoc Tu in Lumbini, the first international monastery built in the birthplace of the Lord Buddha, Chairman of the International Buddhist Federation, I urgently and ardently call on the warring parties to stop fighting, to put an end to every thought and act of violence and hate in any form, and to sit down with one another and talk about how soon to bring peace back to this land of Nepal.
The country and nation of Nepal will be forever grateful to you who successfully solve this conflict with forgiveness, understanding, compromise, sincerity and compassion as expected by the age-old tradition of Nepal.
As any war in this world, this war will never be ended with violence, hate and guns. Hundreds of millions of Buddhists and lovers of Buddhism around the world would be so happy if you become a living example of Buddhist philosophy and art of living: No hate, no violence in any form. The secret key to peace in Nepal is in your hands. No need to search for it anywhere else. No need to import it from anywhere. When peace has been restored in Nepal, if you still believe in me, I will be well prepared to give you a hand in building Nepal into one of the richest nations of this world in the 21st Century, a happy nation living in peace not by force but by love, understanding, forgiveness, tolerance and sincerity. It is my compassionate hope that the warring parties would listen to this urgent call of mine and stop immediately every act of violence. I call on all of you to sit down with one another and solve your problems with forgiveness, fairness, and a spirit of freedom and democracy. I wish that you would be completely sincere in this work in order to turn Nepal onto a new chapter in its history. I strongly believe that love and non-violence would help solve every kind of problem. I pray that peace will soon be restored in Nepal. My best wishes and blessing to all of you Nepalese and your family.
With best regards
Viet Nam Phat Quoc Tu
Lumbini, full moon day of May 2006
Thay Huyen Dieu
December 2, 1998
Buddha's Birthplace Hopes for a New Incarnation
By BARRY BEARAK
UMBINI, Nepal -- Some 2,500 years ago, on a spring day under a full moon, Siddhartha Gautama was born in Lumbini. His mother had gone into labor while on a stroll in a verdant grove, smelling the flowers and listening to the songbirds. The baby would grow up to be the Enlightened One -- the Buddha -- and this village would become holy soil to millions of Buddhists who, for the most part, would these days never think of coming here.
Situated in the flat, steamy lowlands of southwestern Nepal, Lumbini is not only off the beaten track, it is away from an adequate supply of sewer pipes, telephone lines, electric lights, clean sheets and mosquito control. Thirty years of planning to develop the site have thus far failed to make it the Buddhist counterpart of a Mecca or Jerusalem.
The royal government of Nepal would like to change that. On Tuesday, it convened a two-day conference of religious leaders and political officials from 19 nations, trying to promote Lumbini as "the fountain of world peace" and open the way for a torrent of pilgrims and tourists to this impoverished country of 21 million. The conference began with prayerful chanting, a peace march and a plea for help. "His Majesty's government will leave no stone unturned to cooperate with individuals, organizations and friendly nations to develop Lumbini into an international complex for all the world human community," Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala promised.
Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala of Nepal, center, marched with religious and political figures from some 30 countries Tuesday at the opening of a two-day conference in Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha.
At best, such cooperation has been inconsistent in the past, a sad matter for many of the devoted. As if working through some inescapable karmic process, the development of Lumbini seems required to overcome sorrow, greed, egotism, despair and countless other human frailties before it can attain its realization. "Five and a half years ago I found so much jungle that it made me weep," said Thay Huyen Dieu, a Vietnamese scholar who is building a monastery here. "This was not the beautiful garden of scripture. We Buddhist people sometimes talk too much and do very little. This is what Lumbini needs. People doing, people believing."
But while the area may lack well-sculpted gardens, it does not want for tranquillity. Dawn's first brush strokes come in brilliant greens and golds. A few bicycle rickshaws plow through powdery roads. An occasional pair of cranes gracefully swoop across the sky. The spot believed to be Buddha's birthplace is now a modest excavation site. There are piles of red-brown brick once used in ancient temples. For Tuesday's occasion, red bunting was hung across the area. Multicolored streamers swayed with the breeze.
Priestly delegates wore robes of brown, maroon or yellow, depending on their sect. Many also carried small black briefcases, gifts of the Nepalese government. "What Lumbini needs is the right concept," said Noritada Morita, a retired economist with the Asian Development Bank. "This is Buddha's birthplace. It has to be a peace-oriented, high-quality meditation place, not just for Buddhists but for everybody. The problem with the Nepalese is that they are so nice, they don't how to market."
Not everyone was being so charitable to the Nepalese. This is a declared Hindu kingdom; upward of 80 percent of the population is Hindu. And many Buddhists feel that the government's Lumbini efforts have been half-hearted -- and sometimes even corrupt. "The word pocket is supposed to be a noun, but here it is also very often a verb," the Rev. Hiroyuki Kawashima of the powerful Japan Buddhist Federation remarked wryly. The Tokyo-based federation has helped finance the archeological exploration of the site.
For centuries after Buddha's death, Lumbini was a place of pilgrimage. It is described in writings left by seventh-century travelers. But with the Muslim invasions of the subcontinent, Lumbini was abandoned as a religious shrine, its location ceded to uncertainty. The village was rediscovered only in 1896, when excavators unearthed a half-buried pillar in the Nepalese countryside. It had been left in the third century B.C. by Maurya emperor Ashoka, a once-fierce warrior tamed by Buddhist compassion. An inscription claimed the spot to be Buddha's birthplace. The pillar stood near a destroyed temple that contained a relief sculpture of Maya, Buddha's mother, giving birth.
Little was done to reclaim the site and its relics until 1967 when U Thant of Burma, the secretary-general of the United Nations and a Buddhist, visited Lumbini. Its neglect distressed him, and, with his prodding and U.N. funds, an ambitious master plan for developing the site was created by the Japanese architect Kenzo Tange. Tange's plans call for three zones, each a mile square in area: a lavish garden surrounding the pillar and temple; a place for monasteries with a canal dividing Buddhism's two main traditions, the Mahayana and Theravada; a space for tourist accommodations.
To get moving, the project needed infrastructure, something hard to come by in a nation where most people still earn less than $1 a day. It also required political leadership, which many would say has also been in short supply. Before democratic reforms, Nepal was ruled by its royal family from 1960 to 1990. Since then, there have been a succession of failed coalition governments -- each one making its own political appointments to a succession of failed Lumbini development committees. "There is no way to make plans when people know you won't be around for long and they cannot believe what you say," said Ram Lal Shrestha, a recently departed head of the Lumbini staff. "Then there is the problem of the master plan. It is too ambitious for us. So we build a library, for instance -- who is going to pay to operate the air-conditioning?" At present, perhaps only 20 percent of the original master plan has made it off the drawing board. A handful of monasteries are complete, deep set into the emptiness.
Archeological work goes on. Three years ago, in the temple ruins near the pillar, a reddish-brown slab was found in a position that indicated it had been left as a marker. The stone was alien to the area, and Nepalese scholars have concluded that it denotes the precise location -- down to the inch -- of Buddha's birth. Other scholars are not so sure. "Academically, it cannot be determined -- and I don't think there is any way to ever know for sure," said Hiroyuki Kawashima of the Japan Buddhist Federation.
All in all, the present sluggishness made this a wise time for the Nepalese government to solicit help. The U.N. Development Program has agreed to review the master plan and consult on future management of the project. Donors have said they would be more inclined to contribute to Lumbini if ledger books are kept open and politics kept out.
In the few Lumbini monasteries, among some of the monks drinking tea, there is impatience: Why has it taken so long to pay the proper respect to Lord Buddha? When will millions come to this place and learn of its peace? But other monks are undisturbed by such things. "Why would anyone hurry to create gardens and buildings and monuments?" they ask, echoing the Buddha in reply:
Everything is transient and nothing endures.
VIETNAMESE MONK SUGGESTS PRAYER IN NEPAL
The Dhamma Times, 17 June 2004
Indo-Asian News Service, Kathmandu
- A Vietnamese monk has a
prescription for peace in insurgency-hit Nepal: pray at the Buddha's birthplace.
Anmerkung der Redaktion: Auf Wusch von Rev. THICH HUYEN DIEU, Indien,
veröffentlichen wir folgende Dokumente:
Ref: 0100/VP/04 Date: 12/06/2004
Subject: Proposed peace process in Lumbini
To: - H.M. King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, Royal Palace, Kathmandu
- Mr. Sher Bahadur Deuba, Prime Minister
- Mr. Girija Prasad Koirala, President, Leaders and Members of Nepali Congress Party, Teku, Kathmandu
- Mr. Sher Bahadur Deuba, President, Leaders and Members of Nepali Congress Party (Democratic), Maharajgunj, Kathmandu
- Mr. Madhav Kumar Nepal, General Secretary, Leaders and Members of Nepal Communist Party (UML), Balkhu, Kalimati, Kathmandu
- General Secretary, President, Leaders and Members of Nepal Communist Party (Maoist)
- Mr. Pashupati Shumsher Rana, President, Leaders and Members of Rastriya Prajatantra Party, Kamal Pokhari, Kathmandu
- Mr. Narayan Man Bijukchhe, President, Leaders and Members of Workers and Peasants Party, Bhaktapur
- Mr. Amik Sherchand, President, Leaders and Members of United People’s Front, Sanepa, Lalitpur
- Mr. Hridesh Tripathy, General Secretary, Leaders and Members of Sadbhawana Party (Anandi Devi), Tripureswor, Kathmandu
- And all other political parties in Nepal
Your Majesty the King, Hon. Prime Minister, Leaders and Members of all Political Parties:
At the beginning of the spring of 1969, after having gone through many difficulties, I was lucky enough to visit Lumbini, Nepal -- the place where the Lord Buddha Sakya Muni was born. At first, I was deeply shocked and saddened to see Lumbini faded into a state of disarray and ruin. I was so confused that I even wept. Yet I soon regained my confidence as I still believed this to be the holy land in which Buddha had chosen to be born. So I made a wish to Lord Buddha: “If this is really the exact place where the Lord Buddha was born, I would like to see Lumbini restored and developed before I die.” Miraculously, at the beginning of the spring of 1993, I was the first foreigner to be invited to build a monastery in Lumbini. At that time we began to construct Lumbini’s first international temple and monastery, Viet Nam Phat Quoc Tu. In those days, my life was really a struggle, and everything was so difficult. I had to live under a plastic tent for six and a half months and few believed that Lumbini would be developed as it is today. However, ten and a half years later work has begun on 19 international monasteries, stupas and cultural projects; some of them have already been completed. The miraculous development of Lumbini has been witnessed by the very eyes of the late H.M. the King Birendra, H.M. the present King Gyanendra, different Prime Ministers, Ministers as well as many Nepalese citizens.
One morning in my second year at Lumbini, I spotted a couple of Himalayan Sarus Cranes, who had built a nest near my thatched hut. I immediately recognized the presence of this rare and endangered species as a good omen for this truly holy place. Throughout many Asian traditions and cultures, cranes are sacred and revered. Many friends and I have undertaken efforts to protect the birds and now Lumbini’s Himalayan Sarus Crane population has increased dramatically.
One day as I was walking to observe and protect the Sarus Cranes, I observed a moving sight. With my own eyes, I saw many people struggling to cross a rushing river on the East side of Lumbini’s garden during the monsoon season. When I learned of the number of people lost every year to this river, I prayed and wished for the ability to make a bridge for ease and freedom. The bridge has now been completed and many lives have been saved. Within a few months, many wonderful works began happening, including the construction of a hospital and school. Many thousands of jobs have been created for the people. This series of events has given me the belief that if one does a good deed, many more good deeds are sure to follow. Seeing this authentic miracle occur has been a wonderful experience for me in Nepal, your lovely country.
When I first arrived in Nepal, everyone lived in peace. Suddenly the war came and many people were killed. I am incredibly sad to see the war still happening today in this serene land. I always pray for the end of the war. I pray that all of the political parties and the Maoists will make mutual concessions for permanent peace and can stop the horrible scene of war between brothers. If we can share our true love for one another, everyone will be able to live happily in peace.
The auspicious festival of the Lord Buddha’s birthday is one of the most holy days for Nepal and for all human beings. A Nepali was born 2628 years ago in Lumbini, and later became the Buddha. In the holy land of Lumbini, I myself have witnessed many other miracles as well. I was lucky enough to be able to build Viet Nam Phat Quoc Tu, the first international monastery in Lumbini. We are proud that Nepal has produced one of the greatest teachers in the history of the world. It is to him whom thousands of millions of people around the world bow their heads, showing enormous respect and genuine desires to follow his teachings.
Lumbini was the land to birth such a touching outpouring of peace, freedom and the light of wisdom to the world. We are proud that Lumbini has a sacred garden, which attracts millions of international pilgrims every year. In September 1997, UNESCO finally agreed to inscribe Lumbini in the World Heritage List, recognizing the importance of the teaching of Lord Buddha. This has futher enhanced the importance of Lumbini in the world community.
As a student of Lord Buddha, I will always be ingrained with his teachings of compassion, loving kindness, goodhearted happiness, safety and peace, not just for this present life but for many lives after. That is why I feel so very sad and hurt when I see brothers and sisters fighting and killing in this holy land. I am worried that all humans in the world will look at Buddha’s land, now blanketed in war.
The Lord Sakya Muni Buddha himself mediated and resolved many conflicts and wars. The Rohini River marks the site of one compromise that he helped negotiate. Since Buddha’s passing into Nirvana, many kings and leaders have accepted and followed his philosophies of loving kindness and compassion. These leaders have been able to stop fighting, building monasteries and Ashoka Pillars as remaining historical evidence.
Therefore, I, Thầy Huyền Diệu, Ven. Dr. Lam, President of The International Buddhist Federation and also the Founder of Viet Nam Phat Quoc Tu, the first international monastery in the land where Lord Buddha was born, do hereby sincerely and respectfully invite H.M. the King, Prime Minister, the leaders and members of all political parties in Nepal to come to Lumbini for starting the process of true peace. On the occasion of the Buddha Anniversary of this year, let us follow in the footsteps of our greatest Kings and Heroes of the past. Please drop the weapons. Please stop speaking of hatred and criticizing each other. Please get together sincerely and generously and find a reasonable solution for peace in Nepal. If this peace occurs, many Nepali people will be rescued from deep misery. In peace, the Nepal economy certainly will grow and everyone will gain a better life and Nepal will be able to walk abreast with our neighbor countries and the world.
Viet Nam Phat Quoc Tu, Lumbini, many other monasteries in the holy land and I would be very honored to welcome you all to begin this historical peace process. Viet Nam Phat Quoc Tu, Lumbini, a gift from Lord Buddha, is the ideal place for this historical conciliation. I strongly believe in Lord Buddha’s teachings of meta (compassion), karuna (loving kindness) and pranna (wisdom); this wonderful philosophy comes from this country, Nepal. This is the good medicine that would certainly cure the present conflict and many troubles in the world. In life sometimes there are conflicts and misunderstandings that create war among the people. But my personal philosophy is that we can solve the problems through mutual respect and understanding with goodwill. I pray and hope that you all will accept my sincere invitation. I hope to meet all of you in Lumbini.
Thank you very much for your kindness. My blessing to you, all of your family members as well as all people of Nepal.
With best regards and respects,
Thầy Huyền Diệu
(Ven. Dr. Lam), the President, International Buddhist Federation
- Founder Viet Nam Phat Quoc Tu, Lumbini
P.S. I do not have the addresses of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) Leaders and Members. I request of those who’ve received this letter to please copy and deliver it to the Leaders and Members of the Maoist Party. Thank you very much for your kind co-operation for peace.