Buddhism in Nepal and Nepal Mandala

                                                           

- Dr . Naresh Man Vajracharya,

Vajracharya Preservation Guthi, Kathmandu

 

(This is the summary of the paper presented in Newari during the 'Conference on the Buddhist Heritage of Nepal Mandal' in 1998.)

 

The historians of Nepal have given different views about the origin of Nepal.1 Some historians have argued that the country was named Nepal as a sage called 'Ne' had protected it. Some argued on the basis of Swayambhu Purana that the country was called Nepal Mandala because it was ruled judiciously by Dharmakar, the first king of Nepal.2 Nepal grammarians of Nepal Bhasha are of the view that Nepal is also called Nepa.

 

According to ancient Buddhist text, Mulasarvasti vadavinaya, Shakyas of Kabilvastu  (Kapilvastu) and Baniyas of Sravasti, came to Newal (Nepal ) from the north. Sometime later, Bhikshu  Ananda also entered Newal.3 The word Kabilvastu refers to Kapilvastu and Newal refers to Nepal.4 It is to be recalled that   the indigenous   people of Nepal call themselves Nepami or Newami. Other people call them Newar.

 

Another Buddhist text Manjushrimula Kalpa has mentioned Manadeva as king of Nepal Mandala.5 Researchers have  guessed that the time of the composition of Mulasarvastivadavinaya is 2 century A.D.6 And the time of the composition of Manjushriulakalpa is not beyond the reign of Manadeva (464–506A.D). Swayambhu Purana, the Buddhist Purana text, has mentioned Nepal Mandala.7 The word Nepal Mandala has also been carved in a Licchavi inscription.8

 

Vajracharyas often use the word Nepal Mandala. In each and every Buddhist worship  activity, first of all Nepal Mandala is uttered and only after this, Kantipur,  Latitpur and Bhaktapur are mentioned. It is thus evident that the use of Nepal Mandala is prevalent since the pauranic time to the present day. Contextwise Nepal Mandala may  mean different things. An attempt is made here to explain about Nepal Mandala. The Buddhism of Nepal was greatly influenced by the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The Buddhism of the Kathmandu Valley was influenced by Theravada Buddhism imported from Myanramar (Burma), Sri Lanka, Thailand, etc. since the last five decades. After from these two traditions, Buddhism prevailing in Nepal since the ancient times to the present day with its own typical tradition, culture, rituals, art is the original Buddhism of  Nepal.

 

Nepal lipi (script of Nepal), Nepal Samvat, Nepal Bhasha have helped preserve the originality and identity of Nepal. Buddhism obtaining in Nepal and the traditional culture has also done the same. The terms like Nepal Mandala, Nepal Samvat, Nepal Bhasha, the religion, art and culture of Nepal are all connected with the Buddhism of Nepal and its tradition.

 

According to the Buddhist tradition of Nepal, Vajracharya Gurus, Shakya used to practise Samadhiyoga in 24 important religious sites of the Kingdom of Nepal. This is called  purva–seva or pitha–seva. This tradition is alive to the present time. These pithas are the following:

 

1 Chandralakhu   - Pritha inside Narayanhitti Royal Palace
2 Pasikwo            - East of Tindhara Pathshala and behind Royal Nepal Academy
3 Kamaladi          - Kamaladi Ganeshsthan pitha
4 Lumadhi            - Bhadrakalipitha near Tundikhel
5 Phiwo               - Pitha near Army Headquarters
6 Pachali Naiajima 

- Pachalibhairav Pitha

7 Kanga               - Kangesvaripitha. The way from Maruhiti and Dhoka Tole
8 Luti                   - Indrayanipitha, near Shovabhagavati
9 Tanaju              - Phaikha, Harisidhi behind, Swayambhu
10 Mhasapi     - Mhepi, Nayabazar
11 Todana      - Nara, Tunaldevi
12 Kati           - Danchhi, below Changu hill
13 Misido       - Mahankali of Bhaktapur
14 Soruthi       - Shankhamol, Patan
15 Jallandhar  - Panga, Charkhala, charghar
16 Balkhu       - Way to  Machhenarayan
17 Gwakhu  - Bhinduga, Chhetrapati, on the bank of river, on the border between Kathmandu and Dhading
18 Gadebheru     - Devighat, Trisuli
19 Tupya        - Navalinga (Bhadrakali), left of the way to Buddhanilkantha
20 Sadukuna     - Sadukola, Sankhu
21 Sameda     - Dolalghat
22 Otirtha - Koshi area, Dumjaghat
23 Tyanga - Bade Tyanga, Tikabhairab
24 Jhanga - Jhangu, Koduwal

 

The above 24 places have been classified into three chakras (circles). The first eight pithas(1–8) have been included into the first circle. The second eight (9-16) pithas have been included into the second circle. The final eight (17-24) pithas have been included into the third circle.  Kantewar Chhetrapala at Indrachowk is considered to be the centre of all the three circles.9

 

The first circle is called chitta (consciousness) chakra. The second one is called vaka(speech) chakra. And the third one is called kaya (action) chakra. All the three chakras are also called chitaamandala, Vakamandala and Kayamandala respectively.

 

Picture No -1

Nepal Mandala

 

 

 

 

If we look at all the 24 pithas or Chinttachakra, Vakachakra and Kayachakra as an organised unit, we have the picture of  great  mandala. This is  the  main reason why Nepal  is called Mandala. The final circle  represents the climax of Nepal Mandala. The final  circle is also the boundary of Vajrayana Buddhism in Nepal. Now let me discuss how Nepal was conceived as a mandala and kayachakra.

 

Vajrayana is an important branch of Buddhism. It is not necessary to tell about the popularity of Vajrayana and its influence and spread. Mandala occupies an important place in Vajrayana. The  teaching of Vajrayana is not complete  without  Mandala. Without it the teaching of Vajrayana is not  authentic. It is difficult to mention the number of Mandalas required in Vajrayana education. This is to say that there are innumerable Mandalas in Vajrayana. One of them is chakramandala, a short account of which is given below.10

 

Picture No. 2

Nepal Mandala

 

 

 

 

    

According to  Chakrasamvara mandala, 24 cells in Chittacakra, Vakchakra and Kayachakra mandalas are known  by the following names :

 

Chittachakra :

1.  Pullilamalaya    

2.  Jallandhar    

3.  Odiyana

4.  Aburda            

5.  Godavari    

6.  Rameshwari

7.  Devikot            

8.  Malawa    

 

Vakachakra :

9.  Kamarupa        

10.  Odra         

11.  Trisakuni

12.  Koshala    

13.  Kalinga    

14.  Lanpaka

15.  Kanchhi    

16.  Himalaya    

 

Kayachakra :

17.  Pretapuri    

18.  Guhyadevata    

19.  Saurastra

20.  Suvarnadevata 

21.  Nagara     

22.  Sindhu

23.  Malu         

24.  Kulata

 

The above metioned 24 pithas are again  classified into 10 special places. They are :

-    Pullilamalaya, Jallandhar, Odiyana and Aburda fall under  pitha.

-    Godavari, Rameswari, Devikot and Malawa fall under sub-pitha.

-    Kamarupa and Odra fall under Trisakuni and Koshala sub-area.

-    Kalinga and Lanpak fall under chhandoha and Kanchhi and Himalaya fall under sub-chhandoha.

-    Pretapuri and  Guhyadevata fall under Melapaka. And Saurastra and Suvarnadwipa fall under sub-Melapaka.

-    Nagara and Sindhu fall under Samshan  and Malu and Kulata  fall under sub-Sanshan

 

     The Concept is given in Picture No. 3

 

 

Picture No. 3

Chakrasamvara Mandala

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture No. 4

Nepal Mandala

 

 

 

 

 

 

The centre, the three circles and 24  cells of Nepal Mandala and Chakrasamvara Mandala are identical. Therefore, Nepal Mandala was conceived on the basis of Chakrasamvara Mandala. Nepal Mandala may be called a realization of  Chakrasamvara Mandala.

 

There are other possible reasons.

     a.     Chakrasamvara is the principal deity of Vajrayana.

     b.     Compulsory chakrasamvara initiation of Vajracharyas, Shakyas, Urayas in Nepal.

     c.     Mention in Tibetan history of the  handover of Chakrasamvara initiation tradition to Tibetan disciples by the Vajracharya Gurus of Nepal.11

     d.     Continuation of Purva Seva in accordance with Chakrasamvara  tradition.

     e.     Only those who are initiated into Chakrasamvara are entitled to Purva Seva.

     f.     Deity in Agam  houses in most of the vihars of Nepal is chakrasamvara.

     g.     Availability of tantras related to chakrasamvara in adequate number in Nepal.

     h.     Tri samadhi (three kinds of samadhi) Kriya (activities) are compulsory in

          Buddhist worship activities in Nepal.

 

Chakrasamvara mandala is not the only basis of Nepal Mandala. But, it is only one of the factors connected with Vajrayana.

 

Just as there is the practice of Purva Seva  on the basis of Chakrasamvara Mandala by conceiving Nepal Mandala, simplarly, there is the tradition of purva  seva on the basis of Swayambhu Purana by coceiving Nepal as a different mandala. It is to be recalled here that when Manjudevacharya cut Kanpotalaparvat, water began to flow out of the valley. Even then the water did not dry up. Water was coming out from the root of  lotus flower. In order to stop this Manjudevacharya did Jalastambhanyoga.  On completion of this yoga, water began to come out from  the root of the lotus. At that time Manjudevacharya had a darshan (glimpse) of the origin as well as sight of Sri Nairatmadevi (Hevajranairatma) and other vajrayana deities in the water that flowed out.12 Here, Sri Nairatmadevi and other  deities must mean Sri Hevajranairatma and Sri Hevajranairatma Mandala.13

 

According to the account of Swayambhu Purana, the establishments of Hevajranairatma by Manjudevacharya and Shantipur by Shantikaracharya is known. It is a traditional belief that the presiding  deity of Shantipur is Mahasamvara. It is but natural that Mahasamvara should be connected with Mahasamvara Mandala. It is very much likely that Nepal Mandala was   conceived in the tradition of Mahasamvara Mandala.

 

As mentioned in Swayambhu Purana, Manjudevacharya initiated Dharmashri Mitra, the Acharya of Vikramshila Mahavihar by writing the mandala of Dharmadhatu Vagisvara. He also gave instructions of Dwadasachchyar. Then Swayambhu chaitya became famous by the name of Dharmadhatu Vagisvara.  Dharmadhatu Mandala is the foundation of Dharmadhatu Vagisvara Chaitya.14

 

Within the Nepal Mandala itself, Lalitpur Mandala, Bhaktapur Mandal and Madhyapur Mandala have been conceived. Vajracharya and Shakyas are used to visiting the separate eight pithas of Lalitpur. There is also  Kirtipur Chakramandala.

 

Vajracharyas who are involved in Bodhisattva charya activities create at least one chakra wherever they settle and  consstruct the vihar there  for propagation of Buddhism.

 

Eight pithas in Lalitpur Mandala,15 Bhaktapur Mandal,16 and Madhyapur Mandala17 are as follows :

 

Lalitpur Mandala :

1.  Nakhupitha    

2.  Balkumari   

3.  Yeppa    

4.  One on the way to Chovar

5.  Dhantil    

6.  One on the way to Jawalakhel

7.  Sikubi    

8.  Mahalakshmi

 

Bhaktapur Mandal

1.  Centre at Bhairab-Tamadhitol

2.  Brahmayani    

3.  Maheswari    

4.  Kaumari

5.  Vaishnavi    

6.  Indrayani    

7.  Chamundra

8.  Mahalakshmi

 

Madhyapur Mandal - Thimi

1.  Brahmayani    

2.  Maheswari    

3.  Kaumari

4.  Vaisnavi    

5.  Indrayani    

6.  Barahi

7.  Chamundra    

8.  Mahalakshmi

 

Now, an attempt is  made to present Nepal Mandala from the angle of Prithvimandala.

 

According to the Buddhist tradition, there are four  continents and four sub-continents. The names of four continents are :

1.  Purva videhadwipa - in the east

2.  Jambudwipa - in the south

3.  Apar godavari - in the west

4.  Uttara kuru - in the north

 

The names of four sub-continents are :

1.  Yaudwipa -  in the Agnaya side.

2.  Randwipa - in the Nairitya side.

3.  Laudwipa - in the Vayuvya side.

4.  Waudwipa -  in the Ishan side.

 

Among the above four continents, Jambudwipa is a very important one.18 According to the Buddhist tradition Jambudwipa is divided into ten  pithas. If study is done on the initiation of Vajracharyas, the role of Nepal Mandala in the Buddhism of Nepal becomes clear.      

 


 

 

Notes:

 

1.  Gyanmani Nepal, Nepal Nirukta. Kathmandu. 1984. p 9-13.

    

2.  Bardi Ratna Bajracharya, Buddhism of Nepal (Kathmandu, 1986) P.4

 

3.  Dr. Bagchi S., ed., Mulasarvastivada  Vinayavastu, (Darbahanga, 1970), Vol. II, p. 178.

 

4.  Edgerton F., Buddhist Hydrid Sanskrit Grammer and Dictionary, (Delhi, 1953), Vol. II, P. 313

 

5.  Dr. Vaidya P.L., ed., Mahayanasutrasamgraha Vol. II, Manjusrimulakalpa- Rajavyakaranaparivata, (Darbahanga, 1964), chapter 53, P. 485.

 

6.  Dr. Bagchi S., ed., Mulasarvastivada Vinayavastu, (Darbahanga, 1967), Vol.I, Inttoduction P.xiii.

 

7.  Badri Ratna Vajracharya (trans), Swayambhu Purana. Kathmandu. 1942. p.27

 

8.  Nepal Nirukta, p. 9.

 

9.  Manda, Vol. V, No. 4, 1984  p.  155-157.

 

10.  Dr. N.M. Bajracharya, A Critical Edition and a Study of the Srisampurnacakrasmvarasamadhi, (Ph.D. Thesis,  University of Delhi- 1997) pp. 73-83,

 

11.  Dr. N.M. Bajracharya, Buddhism in Nepal, - 465 B.C. to 1199 A.D., (Delhi, 1998), pp. 71-75.

 

12.  Swayambhu   Purana. p. 32.

 

13.  See. Nairatmamandalam, Bhattacharyya, B. (ed.), Nispannayogavali, (Baroada, 1972)  pp. 16-17,

 

14.  See Dharmadhatumandalam, Nispannayogavali, pp. 54-65.

 

15.  Name list of pithas  received from Bhuvan Vajracharya.

 

16.  Name list of pithas  received from Gyan Ratna & Hirachandra Vajracharya.

 

17.  Name list of pithas received from  Manjuvajra Vajracharya.

 

----------