Newar Buddhist Culture in Modern Context and its Future Implications
A Study of Traditional Vajrayana Buddhism of Nepal
- Mr. Min Bahadur Shakya
(This paper was presented during the "Newa Buddhist Culture Preservation seminar" in 1993.)
The Concepts of Foreign and Local Scholars
Vajrayana, the Integrated Practice of Triple Vehicle
Pratimoksha / Bodhisattva Samvara
Receiving Bodhisattva Vows
Vajrayana and Hindu Tantra are NOT the Same
Reactions from Modern Theravada Movement
The Influence of Tibetan Tradition
Buddhism as practiced by the Newar Buddhists of the Kathmandu Valley has some characteristic features not found in other Buddhist countries. It was the Buddhism of Shakyamuni as it manifested itself in the Himalayan region. Newar Buddhism is to be classified with the tradition of Indian Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism deriving its lineages from Siddha tradition of Nalanda and Vikramashila monastic Universities of India. Buddhism found in Kathmandu Valley represents the oldest continuous form of Buddhism in the world. This traditional Buddhism of Newars has recently become the subject of great interest and detail study by Siegfried Lienhard, John K. Locke, David Gellner, Prof. D. L. Snellgrove, Michael Allen and Prof. Bechert and others. Although some observers professed, as early as the last century, the fast disappearance of this form of Buddhism, but it has provided to be remarkably durable, an important factor in its conservation and social structure.
If we think of current situation of this traditional Buddhism, some observers have felt it very much a pitiful condition. Not being able to cope with the modern situation, here the Shakyas and Bajracharyas have been taking a little interest on their own traditional religion and culture. The Bajracharyas are beginning to neglect taking Acarya Diksha(Master Initiation) resulting in a conspicuous decline in the Buddhist priests. The patrons (Skt. Jajamana), too, pay little respect to these Buddhist priests because of their ignorance of Buddhist doctrine.
Bajracharyas get little remuneration for the services done to their patrons by performing life cycle rituals. Thus, they are compelled to seek various professions. These are the obvious reasons for the decline of traditional Buddhism of Kathmandu Valley. Furthermore, most of the Bahas and Bahis of three illustrious cities, due to the lack of proper conservation, are in ruins and dilapidated condition. In recent times, we see the concrete buildings replacing these Bahas and Bahis. Besides, the rare Buddhist manuscripts for which Nepal takes pride in Buddhist world, are being sold in the common markets for the exorbitant price they are offered. We also see the ancient Buddhist sculptures, Thankas and idols being exported to the foreign markets. To sum up, for all these reasons, scholars began to speculate the fast disappearance of this traditional Buddhism at the end of this century.
The importance of Newars, in South Asian Buddhist history, has been discussed at great length by Dr. Siegfried Lienhard who wrote "Nepal: The Survival of Indian Buddhism in a Himalayan Kingdom". Similarly in 1898 A.D. Prof. Sylvain Levi, who wrote " Le Nepal" discussed about the survival of Sanskrit Buddhism in Kathmandu Valley. He, with the help of Pandit Kulaman Singh of Kvabaha translated into French the Mahayana Sutralankara of Arya Maitreyanatha.
Buddhism disappeared in India. The Theravada tradition flourished in Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand whereas Vajrayana / Mahayana tradition was kept alive in Tibet, China, Japan and Korea.
How Buddhism disappeared in India is yet the subject of great controversy. But how Newars kept Vajrayana Buddhism alive in Kathmandu Valley is an interesting topic in itself. In this paper, I have tried to discuss on the same issue very briefly.
The Concepts of Foreign and Local Scholars
Concerning the traditional Buddhism of Kathmandu Valley, many scholars both local and foreign have expressed their views on it . A group of modern scholars has this to say: "The traditional Vajrayana Buddhism and Hinduism are different in name only". This statement was made by Prof. D.L. Snellgrove. This view has been shared by most Theravada believers and modern Shakyas and Bajracharyas.
Also in 1973 A.D. Mr. Michael Allen wrote his paper on traditional Buddhism of Nepal as "Buddhism without monks".
In traditional Buddhism of Kathmandu Valley, only Shakya and Bajracharya with few exceptions, can become Buddhist monks whereas other tribes and castes were or are forbidden to become monks. This view seems too conservative and acquired characteristics totally incompatible with Buddhism in any conventional sense and has parallel only in Hinduism. But if we think over the matter deeply, people seemed to have misunderstood the nature of Buddhism followed by Newar Buddhists. In fact, the form of Buddhism Newar people profess is Vajrayana Buddhism, not Theravada or Hinayana tradition. The Vajrayana Buddhism is the path of skilful means and wisdom. The use of Mantras, Sadhanas, Yogas and various disciplines which are used in Hindu Tantric methods are though apparently similar to Buddhism, yet they are dissimilar in nature in terms of their basic paradigms.
Vajrayana, the Integrated Practice of Triple Vehicle
Out of great compassion, Lord Buddha set forth three wheels of law to suit varying degrees of intelligence and receptivities. He revealed many different means to attain enlightenment and win liberation from the cycle of birth and death. At the Dear Park near Varanasi, he formulated his doctrines in the form of Four Noble Truths and designated as Sravakayana.
At the Vulture's Peak near Rajgir, he expounded the doctrine of emptiness and other Vaipulya Sutras and this approach constituted as Bodhisattva tradition or Mahayana.
At Vaisali he preached the doctrine of Buddha Nature in Sandhinirmocana Sutra. At various places such as Dhanyakataka, Sriparvata, Kamakhya, Sirihatta etc, including higher planes of existence, Lord Buddha revealed the methods of Mantrayana to his highly gifted disciples as shorter path to attain Enlightenment. This approach was termed as Vajrayana which integrates all three vehicles.
The casual reader or one who has not studied or fully realised the diverse nature of doctrines of Lord Buddha may find himself quite puzzled by seemingly contradictory statements between Sravakayana and Mahayana and also between Sutra and Tantra. But when one acquires a comprehensive knowledge of the methods and stages of the paths of the enlightenment, one finds that there are no contradictions in the teachings of Lord Buddha. Through the study of the Bodhipathapradipa of Atisha:
a) You will understand that in all the Buddha's teachings there are no contradictions.
b) You will be made aware that all the scriptural texts are to be taken as sound advice, as there is no contradiction between the text and the practice.
c) You will then discover the significance of the 'Three Themes' of the Buddha's teachings, i.e., renunciation, Bodhicitta and the correct view of Sunyata.
d) You will be protected from the abyss of the 'Great Mistake' (sectarian views).
The study of the stages of the path to enlightenment has these four benefits.
Lord Buddha gave various teachings to different individuals according to their capacities. Just as a medical doctor prescribes various diets in accordance to the progress of patient's health, so does a person practices these various methods as his mind develops progressively during his spiritual journey towards enlightenment. So within the Buddhist system, although Anuttara Yoga Tantra is the highest system, the Buddha did not teach Anuttara Yoga to every disciple. He would indeed have done so if every one were capable of practising it. To those for whom Annuttara Yoga Tantra was not suitable, he taught Yoga Tantra. To those for whom even this was not suitable, he taught Carya Tantra. To those for whom this was not suitable, he taught Kriya Tantra. To those for whom this was not suitable, he taught the Sutras. Even within the Sutra tradition, there are four views on the cognition of emptiness. He taught the Prajnaparamita teachings to set forth Madhyamika views. To those for whom this was not suitable, he taught Sutras like Lankavatara, Sandhinirmocana to express his Cittamatra (mind only) view. Again he set forth the vehicle of Pratyeka Buddha and even more, the vehicle of Sravaka.
Even within Sravaka tradition, there are seven sets of vows for monks and lay persons. The vows of the lowest type of lay persons consist in the acceptance of five precepts or simply the maintenance of the vows of the triple refuge. Sakyamuni Buddha instructed his disciples to consider Samsara as a disease, the Dharmas a medicine, the teacher as a doctor and the results of the practice as the cure.
As there are different diseases, we cannot tell that all patients must take one particular medicine. In taking different foods by different people, we do not have any dispute because one takes what is suitable for him. Similarly, we should not disparage the various teachings of the Buddha. This would mean disparaging the Buddha himself. Thus it would be wise not to have a sectarian views.
The practice of going for refuge in Three Jewels has an important place in the Buddhist tradition. It undoubtedly is a very important practice in Newar Buddhism since it is the entrance to all forms of the Buddhist practices. The recognition of being a Buddhist or not depends upon whether he has taken refuge vows or not. An evidence is presented here in the following lines how Newar Buddhists have preserved the practice of Refuge as stated in Cudakarma Vidhi Text.
According to this text, before the neophyte's top knots are cut off, a ritualized exchange between this disciple and preceptor is supposed to take place, it is read out thus,
"Oh ! my preceptor, I wish to undertake the observance of going forth, please be compassionate. I, of such and such name, shall for the rest of my life go for refuge to the Lord Buddha who is foremost among two footed men, go for refuge to the Dharma, foremost among detached ones, and go for refuge to the Sangha, foremost among religious groups."
The five precepts followed in this observance are laid down with explanations. Now the neophyte's top knot is cut off with a gold plated razor to the mantra
" Om Sarva Jnanavarana Chedaya Chedaya Hum Phat "
(Cut all obstacles to understanding.)
The absence of top knot is perhaps the most crucial maker of the distinction between Shakya and Bajracharyas (Buddhists) and other castes in Kathmandu Valley. The above brief account throws light on how Newars have preserved this refuge vows. But it does not mean that this tradition is free from faults. How can a neophyte of 3-5-7 years maintain and understand Refuge vows and five precepts. Since it is observed for four days only how can the Buddhist monastic tradition having novice or fully ordained ones be preserved ?
That is why Mr. Michael Allen Labeled Newar Buddhism as "Buddhism without monks" in his essays on Vajrayana Buddhism of Kanthmandu Valley. The fact that Newar Buddhism has no place for monastic celibacy except the Four Day Observance of monastic initiation seems to the modern and western scholars as a serious weakness. Now the question arises.
1. Is it possible to continue this tradition without the Sangha of celibate monks in the changing Newar Society ?
2. Is it posible to continue the tradition as it is without any alteration ?
Pratimoksha / Bodhisattva Samvara
Concerning the first question, Newar Buddhists did not seem to have fully agreed on their downfall of Pratimoksha vows. According to Vajrayana/Mahayana principles, there seemed to be no indication that one must be a Buddhist monk for the attainment of Buddhahood or perfect enlightenment. It is the fact that Buddha's doctrine does not last long without the community of Buddhist monks as the Sangha. According to Theravada system, the sublime practice is the vows of restraint of a Buddhist monk. But it is not true for Vajrayana / Mahayana practices. According to the Newar Buddhist tradition, after the four days observance of monk's life, Sravakayana is replaced by the practice of beginner Bodhisattva or Adikarmika Bodhisttva. If we investigate deeply the historical background of other Buddhist countries, it becomes clear that a strong patronage from a ruling body needs to maintain, sustain and develop the monastic community. While considering the events during Buddha's period too, his monastic community was well patronized by King Prasenjit, King Bimbisara, King Ajatasatru. And in later periods, Emperor Ashoka, King Kaniska, Harsha Vardhana, Pala and Sena Kings too patronized the Buddhist Sangha and then flourished. Similarly, the Buddhist monastic San∑gha thrived and flourished with the support of kings and wealthy patrons in Tibet, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Burma. When Islamic invasion took place in important monastic centres of Buddhism in India, they destroyed it completely. There being no supporters to monastic community, the Sangha could not thrive in India resulting in the total disappearance of Dharma as well. The same truth can be applied to Buddhism of Kathmandu Valley too. Due to lack of support from Hindu rulers of Kathmandu Valley, the celibate monastic tradition could not survive and flourish.
Even if we carefully study the extant Licchavi inscriptions, there seem to have been no large number of Buddhist celibate monks. Although Chinese pilgrim Huen Tsang mentioned in his travel diary the number of Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhist monks was more than two thousand, it is not certain that they were celibate Buddhist monks following strictly Pratimoksha disciplines of Vinaya tradition.
It is very difficult to decide the number of Buddhist monks during the Thakuri period(879-1200) due to the lack of authentic documents. At that time also, Kathmandu Valley was said to be a learning centre where Vajrayana Buddhism was flourishing with many erudite Shakya and Bajracharya scholars and Pandits. This fact is substantiated by Tibetan history and by the extant documents or inscriptions of Nepal. It is very difficult to decide the actual time and cause of disappearance of celibate Buddhist monks in Kathmandu unless we find some authentic documents. In spite of the lack of fully-ordained Buddhist monks, Newar Buddhists, engaging in various professions, acted as ordained lay monks who contributed much to the diffusion of Buddhism until today. In fact, Kathmandu Valley was the centre of Buddhist learning especially Patan in particular. This view was also shared by Prof. D.L. Snellgrove.
"Patan must have been a kind of vast University city, differing little in its mode of life from similar towns in medieval Europe. In fact its buildings, its traditions, its ways of life must have been modelled on the great monastic Universities of India. This city was once a place of sanctity and learning where monks and Pandits were glad to come and visit. Some came from India to teach. Others from Tibet to learn."
This statement has also been substantiated by Nepalese source. It reads thus:
"Vikhyata Lalitapuriti Nagarią
Dikshu Sarvasvapi Vidyabhyam"
(Lalitpur city is famous in all directions for its academic life.)
This is the inscription of N.S. 350 (1230 A. D.) found in Guitah Vihara of Patan inscribed on the statue of Dipankara Buddha.
In the same inscription, the name Gautamasri and his disciples are mentioned. Furthermore, according to Padma Ka Thang around the end of Licchavi period, many outstanding Buddhist masters such as Guru Padma Sambhava visited Sankhu, Pharping and other places in Kathmandu Valley and diffused Buddhist teachings. He took two female disciples called Sakyadevi and Kalasiddhi as his consorts for the practice of Mahamudra.
In 1041 A. D. great Guru Atisa Dipankara Srijnana founded Than Bahil in Kathmandu and ordained a prince called Padmaprabha. He even composed the texts entitled Carya Sangraha Pradipa and Vimala Ratna Lekha Nama in Kathmandu. These texts are extant in Tibetan translations in Tanjur collections.
Nepalese Buddhist Acaryas had constant touch with the Indian and Tibetan Buddhist masters. Especially Guru Paindapa and sPhyitherpa were the famous and gifted disciples of Naropa. Marpa, the great translator, stayed in Patan and Kathmandu for three years to study Anuttara Yoga Tantra under Paindapa and sPhyitherpa. According to the biography of Marpa, he received teachings on Catuhpitha Tantra and Cakra Samvara Tantra from these Nepalese Gurus at Ratnakara Vihara of Patan. Marpa later went to India to meet Naropa and studied for 21 years under Naropa thereby realising the Mahamudra.
As a gesture of grattitude, Marpa sang a Caryagiąta in honour of his Nepalese Gurus at Ratnakara Vihara.
In the travel accounts of Dharmasvami Chag Lotsava (13th century A.D.), he had mentioned of his visit to Sthavira Ratna Rakshita and his offering of Vajra and Ghanta as a token of respect to him. He had also mentioned of an important Buddhist Ravindra living in Swayambhu area.
Among these Vajrayana Acaryas, guru Advayavajra and Anupamavajra stand prominent and their works had great influence in Nepalese Buddhist tradition. Among the numerous works of Guru Advayavajra, the texts Kudrsti Nirghatana and Adikarma Pradipa of Anupamavajra deals with the practice manual of a beginner Bodhisattva. It is surprising that Adikarma Pradipa which was composed in 1098 A.D. by Anupamavajra has great impact on the daily practice mainly with following subjects:
1. Reciting Namasan∑gati after meditation at the dawn
2. To recite Bhadracarya Pranidhana
3. To offer Preta Bali
4. To circumambulate Caitya, Buddha statues etc.
5. To worship Gurumandala
6 To meditate on Tutelary deity
7. To recite Prajn˛aparamita and other Sutras
8. To recite Dana Gatha
9. To perform Bodhisattva practices
10. To study Buddhist Scriptures.
In Newar Buddhist tradition, there had been a provision for lay Buddhist monkhood which became very popular in Kathmandu Valley. The validity of this tradition was also corroborated by the text Sikshasamuccaya of Santi Deva. It runs thus:
Punara aparam kulaputra bhavisyanti anagata adhvani
grahstha pravajita adikarmika bodhisattva.
Thus, in Newar Buddhist tradition, there seemed to be no harm giving Shakya and Bajracharya, the status of lay Buddhist monk or Adikarmika Boddhisattva. If so, one can raise the question, have they maintained Boddhisattva vows? The rationale behind the abandonment of Sravaka practice is given in disrobing ceremony of Cudakarma. The text runs thus:
Bho natha guru bhavatanubhavena pravrajya vrata
samvaram grhitva pancashila astashila dashakushalani
papani tyaktva shravakacaryam cakre ham tato
mahayanacaryam dharayami krpadayam kuru
Gururuvaca sadhu sadhu upasaka shisya
mahayanacaryatvam grhna grhna
Mahamokshadhipati shriguru vajrasattva
cakresvarasya caryam dharaya
Mahayanacarya katham ! vakshami srnu
Mahayanacaryasthita muladharmah saktya vina naiva yadi kadacit
Mahayana dharmatvam api vratam ca
Diksha vina naiva katham ca moksham
Tasmat tvayapi mahottama ca prajn˛opaya devadevi
jn˛atva mahayanacaryam dharaya shravakacaryam tyaja.
"O lord guru, by your grace I have undertaken the vow of triple refuge, given up the ten non-virtuous deeds in accordance with the five and eight precepts and carried out the Sravaka vehicle. Now I shall take up the path of the Mahayana. Please accede to this request.
The Guru says ; Very good, lay disciple, take up the path of the Mahayana. Take up the practice of the great lord of liberation, the guru Vajrasattva, lord of the mystic circle. What is the practice of the Mahayana like ? Listen and I will tell you. The most fundamental of religious practices which is comprised by the Mahayana can never be fulfilled without a consort. Nor can the Mahayana or its observances be complete. Without Tantric initiation, how much more (is tantric initiation necessary for) liberation. Therefore, you, knowing the ultimate god and goddess who as skill-in-means and wisdom, take up the practice of Mahayana and abandon that of the Sravakayana."
In this way, the fault of abandoning the monastic vow can be made up by entering the Mahayana under the instruction of a Guru and going on to take a Tantric initiation. Furthermore, according to Acarya Dipan∑kara Srijnana, lay Bodhisattva life is much more favourable for the practice of Vajrayana disciplines as stated in Bodhipathpradi cpa:
Abhista bodhi sambhara paripurti sukhena ceta
Kriyacaryadi tantroktama guhyacarana bhisyate
Prasanne ca gurau bhute purnacaryabhisekatah
Sarva papa visuddhatma siddhi bhagi bhavisyati
Adibuddha mahatantre prayatnena nisedhatah
Guhya prajn˛abhisekastu na grahya brahmacarina
So abhiseko grhitashceta brahmacarya tapah sthitai
Nisiddhacaranatvat tat tapah samvara kshayah
Jayante vratinastasya parajika vipattayah
Sah patted durgati nunam siddhi naiva kadacana
Sarvatantra shrutau bhasye homa yajn˛adi karmasu
Labdha caryabhisekashca tatvavid naiva dusyate
For attaining Bodhisambhara in a simple way it has been set forth in the Kriya Carya ways. If one is desirous of the practice of Guhyamantra by pleasing the Guru, receive the complete Acaryabhiseka. Blessed thus, you will purify all the negatives and become suitable vessel to achieve realisation. In Adibuddha Maha Tantra, it is strictly prohibited that secret wisdom initiation is not the privilege of the celebate monks.
The ordained one who abides in the ascetic if receives that initiation the vow of ascetics will degenerate due to the practices of restrictions. The practioner will be defeated, downfall will arise, due to which he will fall among the lower realms never will there be realization.
Teaching and listening of the Tantras, making fire rituals, Yajnas and so forth the knower does not fall into impurities who had amassed the knowledge (of the scriptures with sacrament).
For lay Bodhisattvas who wish to attain enlightenment easily and quickly the path of Mantra is most favorable one. For this one should please the Guru for getting Acaryabhiseka with numerous offerings. It is to be noted that for celibate monks the practice of Guhya / Prajna initiation is forbidden for it defiles the vows of restraint and no realisation will take place for him. Instead he will have to fall into lower realm as a result.
It should also be noted that for those who are conversant in Tantra, knowledgeable in Homa rituals, have realized emptiness, there is no fault in receiving these secret and wisdom empowerment. That's why Newar Buddhists preferred to lay-Bodhisattva practice rather than the practice of celibate monks.
Receiving Bodhisattva Vows
The practice of receiving refuge vows and Bodhisattva vows are enumerated in Gurumandala Puja of Newar Buddhist tradition. So it is not apt to call Newar Buddhism, a debased form of Buddhism. If we observe Nyingma, Sakya and Kargyupa tradition, most of the masters of these traditions have consorts and children serving themselves as the masters of Buddhist doctrines. They are the great Bodhisattvas versed in Tantric Buddhist lore and philosophy. They stay in monastic environments and practice meditation, teach, recite the Sutras and perform empowerments. They have wealthy sponsors in general unlike Bajracharyas. To continue their religious life, they do not have to bother for their living and look for secular professions.
Unfortunately, Newar Buddhist masters, on the other hand, have to depend entirely on other secular professions for their living.
For example, Ven. Urgyen Tulku Rinpoche is the great Tantric Buddhist master. He has three sons. During empowerment sessions he performs the duty of a Buddhist monk and a Tantric Buddhist master too. The same process can be applied to Newar Buddhist monks too. Only difference lies in the fact that they were given a respectable status for their expertise on Tantric Buddhist realization whereas Newar Buddhist masters were given lower status. If Newar Buddhist masters too could maintain the Bodhisattva and Tantric vows and become knowledgeable in Tantric Buddhist system, I think there wouldn't be such a situation as it is today. For Vajrayana Buddhist masters, the practice of keeping the vows of Bodhisattva and Tantra is very essential.
Vajrayana and Hindu Tantra are NOT the Same
Vajrayana Buddhism is also called the path of skilful means, secret path or effect vehicle. It is not limited to the Tantric process only. Its main principle is based on Madhayamika and Vijnanavada doctrine of Mahayana Buddhism. The main goal of Hindu Tantra is to actualize the permanent, eternal Brahma as the realisation of the ultimate truth. In Vajrayana Buddhism, on the other hand, there is the system of meditation of the unity of Samatha and Vipashyana according to the Tantric or Sutra Mahamudra systems. These methods are unknown to Hindu Tantric systems.
The purpose of Vajrayana Buddhist practice is to attain the perfect enlightenment of Buddha where as in Hindu Tantric system, the basis is to realize the Ten Mahavidyas as the highest forms of deities. In Vajrayana Tantric meditation, the method is the generation and completion stage of the meditation whereas in Hindu Tantric meditation system, the method is limited to the generation stage. As a result of these meditation, the Vajrayana practitioners achieve the state of complete enlightenment whereas in Hindu Tantric system, the attainment is the Brahma realm. Therefore, it is a gross mistake to state that Vajrayana and Hindu Tantra are similar. Furthermore, in Vajrayana Buddhism, there are innumerable methods of meditations on Gurus, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Istadevatas, Dakiniąs and Dharmapalas. The Ten Mahavidyas which is considered highest deities in Hindu Tantric system, are relegated to the positions of only protectors of the Dharma (Dharmapala) who can only clear obscurations in a practitioners' practice but not really give enlightenment. The deities in Buddhist Tantras are considered as the manifestation of our mind whereas in Hindu system, it is the ultimate principle itself.
Reactions from Modern Theravada Movement
If we observe the present situation of Newar Buddhism, a tremendous impact from modern Theravada Buddhist movement can be seen.
1.On the Nature of Monasticism.
In an attempt to list the most important points of controversy against the traditional view of Newar Buddhism and Buddhist modernism of Theravada, they are on the very nature of monasticism. As stated earlier, Newar Buddhists lacked the foundation of monastic upgrading. So the Theravadin monks who are trained in Burma, Thailand and Sri Lanka even charged Newar Buddhists as having no disciplinary rules. The basis of their charge is that Newar Bajracharya and Shakyas are lay Buddhists and no celibate monks.
So the non-practice of Pratimoksha rules by Newar Buddhist system is one major disagreement and distasteful event for the new Theravada Buddhists of Kathmandu Valley.
2.Performance of Yajna (Ritual of Sacrificial Fire)
The performance of sacrificial fire (Homa Yajna) according to Buddhist Tantric system is another feature distasteful to Buddhist modernism. Homa Yajna ritual is performed according to Kriya and Carya Tantra system which is quite unknown in Theravada system. For Theravadins the act of Yajna is basically a Hindu practice and hence they assumed this practice as heretical.
3. Wrathful and Peaceful Deities and its Worship
Newar Buddhists are familiar with multifarious pantheon according to Guhyasamaja Tantra, Cakrasamvara Tantra, Kalacakra Tantra, and others which they use in their paintings and sculptures. For example: Avalokiteshvara is the most popular Boddhisattva among Nepalese society. There are many temples dedicated to this Bodhisattva. As much as 108 varieties of Avalokiteshvara's forms are found in the paintings, stone sculptures and wooden arts. Rational jusification of myriad forms of deities are not familiar topic to Theravada believers. So they labelled Newar Buddhist system as believers of Ishvara.
4.Varieties of Rituals and Ceremonies
Theravadins are familiar with a simple form of ritual called Paritrana and Buddha Puja whereas Newar Buddhists use a varieties of rituals called Dashakarma starting from the birth of a child until his death. It seemed to them these practices are heretical.
5.Denial of Mythology
Traditional Buddhists believe in superhuman aspect of Lord Buddha as described in Lalitavistara Sutra whereas Thervadins stress the human aspect of the Buddha. They denied every form of mythology and miracles. Although they are not consistent to their principles.
6. Lack of Learned Scholars and Experts
In modern Theravada tradition, many Buddhist monks and nuns seemed to be well educated and they are active in teaching to the local mass but on the other hand, there are conspicuous lack of learned scholars and teachers in Newar Vajrayana Buddhism thereby resulting on disrespect to the tradition itself.
7. Lack of Systematic Meditation System
Modern Buddhists seemed to have taken great interest on Vipassana meditation. To satisfy these needs, traditional masters of Newar Vajrayana Buddhism could not organize the systematic meditation courses. As a consequence, most Newar Buddhists seemed to have taken great interest on meditation system on S. N. Goenka or Mahasisayadaw.
On the other hand, the meditation techniques of Vajrayana Buddhism seemed to be very popular in the west and the rest of the world because they were administered by the worthy and learned Tibetan Buddhist masters. In this way, in order to preserve Newar Vajrayana Buddhist tradition, it is strongly felt the need for scholarship and monasticism. If it is limited to Buddhist rituals only, the result will be obviously, a gradual disappearance of the Dharma itself.
The Influence of Tibetan Tradition
We have already dealt briefly about similarity between Tibetan and Newar Buddhist tradition. After the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959, many Tibetans found their way into Nepal valley. They have livingVajrayana Buddhist tradition of theory and practice, indeed. Since the introduction of Buddhism into Tibet in seventh century, as much as eight important Buddhist traditions found its way to Tibet via Nepal. They are as follows:
Founder Guru Rinpoche
Dzog chen tradition - Guru Padma Sambhava
Mahamudra - Guru Advayavajra
Six Yogas - Guru Naropa
Niguma's tradition - Guru Niguma
Lamdrey - Guru Virupa
Lojong - Guru Atisha
Chod - Guru Kamalashila - Dampa Sanghe
Lam rim - Guru Atisha
All these Buddhist traditions are intact in the four major traditions of Tibetan Buddhism such as Nyingma, Sakya, Kargyud and Gelukpa in pure form continued uninterruptedly since its inception. So it is advisable for Newar Buddhists to take the lineage from these Tibetan Buddhist traditions to enhance Newar Buddhism. Unfortunately, there seemed to be no Newar Buddhist authority to have taken special interest over this matter.
His Holiness XIV Dalai Lama, too, calls himself a Sakya Bhikshu as current in Newar Buddhist tradition. To be a Bajracharya, it is necessary to study Sutra and Tantra for more than 20 or 30 years and has to meditate on long retreat. Hence Newar Buddhist Shakya Bhikshu and Vajracharya have to study and practice Buddhism as much as possible for the enhancement of Newar Buddhism, and, of course, generosity from the patrons is expected as well.
As we discussed earlier, the tradition of Newar Buddhism is faultless according to the textual tradition but if they failed to study and practice Buddhism then it becomes obviously an obsolete religion. It can contribute a little for the development of mind of people at large. As a solution to these problems some suggestions are set forth. They are as follows :
1. It is necessary for Newar Buddhists to receive the teachings from Tibetan Buddhist masters to fulfill the lost lineage of the practices of Vajrayana.
2. The establishment of a Buddhist college in which it is essential to study all three vehicles of Buddhism.
3. To establish monasticism in Newar Buddhism, a good relation with Theravada and Tibetan Buddhist monks should be maintained.
4. As Vajrayana is the integrated practice of triple vehicles, the followers of Vajrayana should never disparage Theravadin monks and vice-versa.