Lest We Forget : Lumbini and Its Message to the Modern World

Rama Prasad Manandhar

General Sir Ian Hamilton presented an image of Buddha to Winston Churchill and said, “If ever your mind gets perturbed and perplexed, I want you to see this image and be comforted.” Aatole France writes in his autobiography, “On the first of May 890, chance led me to visit the Musee Guimet in Paris. While standing in the silence and simplicity of the gods of Asia, my eyes fell on the statue of the Buddha who beckoned to suffering humanity to develop understanding and compassion. If ever a God walked on this earth I felt here was he. I felt like kneeing down to him and praying to him as a God.” Anatole France was widely known as a sceptic and even an atheist. Bertrand Russell, also was a great sceptic, heas remarked, “Of all the religions which prevail in the world, I am attracted to early Buddhism.”

 

What is it that makes Buddha’s message appeal to the most intellectual and sophisticated persons in the modern world< The answer is simple. His message is deeply rational and scientifically logical. He takes us right into the root of the problems of life and helps us fund out the solutions for ourselves. It is rational because he looks into the world and sees what the problems of the world are and pursues a quest and arrives at the complete fulfillment of that quest. When he gets out of his house and sees a sick man and dead man, he asks, “Is this world full of sickness, disease and death? Is time the final destroyer of all things or is there a way out< Buddha’s message is lucid pointer to this way out — the way to conquer the tyranny which time exerts over us, the tyranny by which the greatest civilizations, the greatest works of art, the greatest empires — all these things are brought to ruin.

 

The appeal of Buddha’s message is not only to those who have been brought up according to his tradition but to all thinking people of compassionate mind whether they are found. This is because Buddha has answered in his preaching the problems of our age.

 

Throughout this week, celebrations have been held over the world, in different countries to commemorate the Birth Anniversary of Gautama Buddha who was born 2517 years ago in Lumbini in the lovely, wooded basin of the beautiful Gandaki River of Nepal within sight of the wonderful Dhauwagiri and Annapurna range of the snowy Himalayas.

 

Much as the world needed Buddha’s philosophy when he was living, it is all the more needed today when the so called civilization of mankind is floundering in many distractions; and te happiness of men attainable after all-round bodily, mental, and spiritual perfections seems even further away than when Buddha taught these disciplines to his followers.

 

This explains why the teachings of Buddha are today spreading on the most alien soils throughout the world. Buddha proclaimed this message not as religion but as philosophy, not even also much of a philosophy, as a way of life. Whatever philosophy there is in Buddhism is a scientific body of thought analyses to satisfy the most dissident sceptic: its objectivity to approach to the higher problems of the civilized man is what can fill-up the psycho-physical needs of the modern man in his most dissatisfied moments. If the religiosity of India bound by its priest-craft discarded the scientific rationalism of Buddha some years after his death, the civilized humanity today re-accepts him because of this very reason. Today, in the most sophisticated centres of material civilization in Europe and in America not to mention the more conventional Buddhist countries of Asia, Buddhist societies, institutions, and study forums have been springing up like mushrooms to supply the much needed function to removing the discontents which have filled the minds and hearts of men despite the greatest affluence known to history which they have been enjoying as a result of technical developments coupled with organizational efficiency.

 

The greatest forum, of course, should be and, we hpe, will be, in the near future, Lumbini Park itself when it has been properly reconstituted and reconstructed. The environment of the area are some of the best in the world — the central Himalayan massif in the background gently sloping down to the green hills in the immediate vicinity which in turn imperceptibly mingle with t flat plains where Lumbini is actually located. Centuries of neglect have, however, to be corrected. Right now, there is nothing to strike the eye except Asoka’s pillar and a few modest pagoda structures and habitations for pilgrims. Otherwise, it is all a monotonous landscape of hot paddy fields.

 

To build up a park which will fulfill the world dimensions of mankind’s cultural aspirations will take some time. Generous contributions are needed for this gigantic task, and it is gratifying to see funds coming in from different countries, Buddhist as well as non-Buddhist, directly as well as through the United Nations. A body of dedicated persons in Nepal and elsewhere are working together sincerely and earnestly to bring to early maturity this great endeavor if creating for the spirit-hungry people of the world a park of peace with contingent gardens, temples, monasteries, hostels, and numerous other necessary amenities.

Courtesy : Nepal Magazine.