Friday, 6 June 2008

ลุมพินีวัน สถานที่ประสูติ (Lumbini or Rummindei,Nepal)

ลุมพินีวัน สถานที่ประสูติ (Lumbini or Rummindei,Nepal)

Lumbini Park, the Birthplace of the Buddha

I. Geography

The Buddha was born in the ancient village of Lumbini (Sanskrit for the lovely, named after Lumbini, married to Suprabuddha, the ancient king of Devadaha; also spelled as Rummindei, the queen of King Anjana of Devadaha). Lumbini lay in the district of Rupandehi near the ancient town of Kapilavastu (Bhairahawa, Piprahwa, Siddhartha Nagar) in the southwestern part of the Terai region of Nepal at the foothills of the Churia (Chure) mountain range (also Siwalik mountain range). The Himalayas, including Mount Everest, lie further to the northeast. Bhairahawa, about two and a half miles from Sunauli at the Indian border, is one hundred eighty-six miles west-southwest of the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu, and about sixty-eight miles north of the Indian city of Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh. The Terai region of Nepal is a narrow strip of fertile land about sixteen to twenty miles wide running across the southern part of the country from the far west to the far east. The ancient village of Lumbini no longer exists. At the time of the Buddha’s birth, there was a grove of sala trees there. The site of the birthplace remained unknown until 1886, when a German archeologist, Alois Fuhrer, discovered the Asoka pillar located there.

II. The Story of the Buddha’s Birth

In Buddhist tradition the Buddha was born at Lumbini in 563 B.C. The ruler of the kingdom at that time was King Suddhodana of the Shakya dynasty of the Kshatriya, warrior, caste. The capital city of his kingdom was Kapilavastu. His queen was Maya Devi.

According to the Buddhist text, one night at the palace during the Midsummer Festival, the queen had a dream that four Brahmins came to her bedside. They carried her to a place under a sala tree in the Himmapan forest. There were devas and other spiritual beings waiting there to attend to her. Then they took her to Anodard pond to be purified of her sins. Suddenly a white elephant (the future Buddha) brought her a white lotus flower in his trunk and made a triple circumambulation around the queen. Striking her on her right side, he seemed to enter her womb. (Cf. the Introduction (Nidana Katha) to the Jataka Commentary (i.4721), paragraphs 27-28).

The next morning the queen told the king her dream. The king called sixty-four Brahmins together to interpret the dream. They told the king that the queen had become pregnant and would have a son. If his son continued to live in the household, he would become a great monarch. On the other hand, if he left the household and abandoned the world, he would become a Buddha. When the time of birth came near, the queen asked the king for permission to return to her hometown of Devadaha to give birth to their child. According to the custom of the time, a woman ready to give birth had to go to her parents’ house to have her child. King Suddhodana consented and ordered a large number of royal attendants to accompany the queen on the trip. (Some sources indicate the queen traveled to Lumbini specifically to worship the sacred tree there.) The entourage traveled about twelve and a half miles, arriving at Lumbini garden on the fifteenth day of the sixth lunar month. The beautiful garden and the peaceful neighboring areas belonged to both the Shakyas and the Koliyas clans. The day was a Friday, the day of a full moon. (This date is currently celebrated every year on the day of the full moon in May.) Since it was almost noon, the weather was getting hot. So the queen ordered the attendants to stop so she could rest for a while. However, it was not long before she felt labor pains. She reached up and supported herself by holding the branch of a sala tree. Thereafter the queen, standing under the sala tree, gave birth to her son as the birds were singing. (Cf. the Introduction to the Jataka (i.4721), paragraphs 29-30, 32-37. Contrast the “Acchariya-abbhuta Sutta; Wonderful and Marvelous,” in The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (Majjhima Nikaya), III:123, 7-15; and the “Mahapadana Sutta: The Great Discourse on the Lineage,” in The Long Discourses of the Buddha (Digha Nikaya), II:14, 1.17-1.24. Neither of these latter texts mentions the Lumbini trip; both say the queen gave birth to her son standing up. One passage in the old Buddhist poetry text, the Suttanipata, alludes to Lumbini (cf. Lumbini; A Haven of Sacred Refuge, by Basanta Bidari, p. 36.) The “Mahapadana Sutta: The Great Discourse on the Lineage,” II:14, l.31, places the king’s consultation with the Brahmins after the birth of the future Buddha.)

When the future Buddha was born, he did not touch the earth: four gods received him. He emerged from the womb unbloodied, unsoiled. When he was born an immeasurable light appeared throughout the world. His body and that of his mother were washed with two streams of water, one cold and the other hot, falling from the sky. (The hot water symbolized the harshness of asceticism, the cold water the coolness of Enlightenment.) The streams from the sky formed the water within the sacred pool of Pokarani. The future Buddha, once born, looked in all four directions. (This scanning of the four quadrants, according to the commentator, meant unobstructed knowledge.) He saw no one who was his equal. He then took seven steps and stopped. (The seven steps symbolized he would acquire the seven Enlightenment factors.) He spoke the following words with a bull-like voice: “I will be the chief one, the supreme one, the eldest one in the world. This cycle of birth will be my last. There will not be another existence for me”. (Even the “bull-like” speech is significant as setting in motion the irreversible Dhamma wheel. The statement that there would not be another existence signified the “lion’s roar” of the coming Nibbana of the arahant.) The future Buddha was born with the thirty-two Brahmanical distinctive marks of a great man, for instance, a bright, golden complexion, and blue eyes. (Cf. the “Acchariya-abbhuta Sutta; Wonderful and Marvelous,” III:123, 16-21.; the “Mahapadana Sutta: The Great Discourse on the Lineage,” II:14, 1.25-1.32; and the extensive discussion of the distinctive marks in the “Lakkhana Sutta; The Marks of a Great Man,” Middle Length Discourses, III:30. Cf. the continuation of the story line in the Introduction to the Jataka (i.4721), paragraphs 40-43, 54, and 31. The Introduction also describes in paragraph number 31 how, when the future Buddha was born, thirty-two prognostics appeared, for instance, all the worlds filled with an immeasurable light, and the blind saw and the deaf heard and the lame walked.)

III. Archeology and Monuments

As an archeological site Lumbini is significant today for the Asoka pillar; the sacred pool of Pokarani (the Sakya bathing tank); the temple of Maya Devi, built over other successively built temples which were built, in turn, over one of Great King Asoka’s four stupas; the stone presumably placed by Asoka to mark the exact spot where the Buddha was born; the many stupas; the monasteries (viharas); and the bas-relief of Maya Devi giving birth. (Lumbini, by Bidari, is the principle text utilized in the following discussion. Middle Land Middle Way; A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Buddha’s India, by Ven. S. Dhammika, also has a brief discussion of Lumbini.)

1) Asoka Pillar. Great King Asoka was responsible for the construction of at least forty pillars throughout his country. The pillar at Lumbini dates from 249 B.C., the time of the king’s visit to the site to commemorate the birth of the Buddha there. Like the other pillars, this one was built of sandstone with a monolithic shaft, a separate bracket sculpture placed on the top. The shaft, over twenty-four feet high, is cracked and has two iron “belts” around it. The bracket figure (capital stone) still exists separately at the site, but it is broken. The sculpture at the top no longer exists. The inscription on the pillar reads: “King Piyadasi (Asoka) the beloved of Devas in the twentieth year of the coronation himself made a royal visit; Buddha Sakyamuni having been born here, a stone railing was built and a stone pillar erected . . .” (Department of Archeology, H.M.G. Nepal, translation, quoted in Lumbini, by Bidari, p. 60). There is some discussion as to whether the Brahmi word, silavigadabhica, in the inscription means that a stone railing (wall) was build or that a stone figure of a horse was built for the capital of the pillar. More often than not, the translations opt for the former rendition.

2) Sacred Pool of Pokarani. This pool is located just to the southwest of the temple of Maya Devi. Though mentioned in Buddhist literature and in other sources, there is no indication there of shape or size. The current structure and configuration date from only the 1930s. From 1933 to 1939 General Kesher Shumsher conducted excavations at Lumbini in a rather ruthless manner. He destroyed a lot of structures. To his credit, however, it can be said he improved the site of the sacred pool by adding steps and a brick veneer. In 1993 when dirty water and mud were removed from the pool, two artesian wells were discovered at opposite corners. As it exists today, the bottom of the pool is approximately forty-eight and a half feet long by forty feet wide.

3) Temple of Maya Devi. This famous white temple was totally dismantled so that excavations could be conducted underneath it. The excavation of the temple site took place from 1992 to l996 (cf. Bidari, Lumbini, pp. 91-97, for a detailed discussion). The archaeologist in charge of the project, K. P. Acharya, has outlined various periods of construction at the site that account for the time from the third century B.C. (before the time of Asoka) to the twentieth century A.D. Acharya has outlined six different periods, with the sixth period being divided into six phases. (The Japanese archaeologist, S. Uesaka, has another take on this difficult matter: he concludes there were five periods, the fifth period being divided into five phases.) Acharya’s Period II, coinciding with the construction of the Asoka pillar, saw a great deal of construction at the temple site. A structure about seventy feet by eighty-five feet consisting of fifteen chambers of various sizes was unearthed. At the center of the second chamber was found in 1996 an apparently conglomerate stone seeming to mark the exact spot where the Buddha was born. What is worthy of note is that the placement of this marker stone, based on the evidence, would be rather late, the time of Asoka’s reign. In 2003 the Maya Devi temple was restored over the excavated site reopened by the king of Nepal.

4) Stupas and Monasteries. The stupas at Lumbini were constructed during the time from the third century B.C. to the eighth or ninth century A.D. All the stupas currently excavated at Lumbini, thirty-one in all, have been more or less leveled over the years. Almost all of them were votive stupas (erected by pilgrims to the site to gain merit). Numbers six and thirty-one seem to have been Dhamma stupas (built over religious books of various materials). Stupa thirty-one has nineteen terra-cotta seals that would typically characterize a Dhamma stupa. Number six is the only saririka stupa (one built over relics), but it is unclear whose relics were contained in the casket. The largest stupas are the square stupa ten, roughly thirty feet across, situated to the southwest of the Asoka pillar; and the square stupa thirty-one, roughly forty-five feet across, southeast of the meeting hall to the east of the Maya Devi temple site.

Lumbini contains four groups of monastery (vihara) remains to the southeast of the sacred pool of Pokarani, three groups being clearly delineated. The initial construction of the monasteries lasted from the third century B.C. to the fourth century A.D. (T. N. Mishra has detailed descriptions of the monasteries in Bidari’s Lumbini, pages 108-110.)

5) Bas Relief of Maya Devi. The bas-relief of Maya Devi giving birth to the Buddha is enshrined in Maya Devi temple. The bas-relief of the nativity was initially installed at the time of the Malla Kings of the Naga dynasty from about the eleventh to the fifteenth century in the Karnali zone of Nepal. (Bidari offers three views on the date of the carving of the panel, one view ascribing the work to the time of Asoka; another to the Kusana period, spanning the time between the second century B.C. and the fourth century A.D.; and a third to the Gupta period, which extended from the third to the eighth centuries A.D. (pp. 73-74).) The sculpture is a realistic depiction of the Buddha’s birth. As well as featuring the Buddha and Maya Devi, there are images of the queen’s sister, Prajapati, supporting the queen; the Hindu creator of the universe, Brahma, bent to receive the future Buddha; and the leader of the devas, Indra, who assisted him in the difficult task of teaching humanity the path to Enlightenment. The panel is over six and a half feet high and almost three and a half feet wide.

IV. Conclusion: Lumbini Today

Lumbini is currently located on 6,000 acres of land. Additional trees have been planted, and fences have been built to protect it. It is being developed under the master plan of the Lumbini Development Trust, a plan devised in 1978 by the famous Japanese architect Kenzo Tange. UNESCO lists Lumbini as a World Heritage Site. It is now under the supervision of the Nepalese government. The Government has invited Buddhists from around the world to participate in the building of Buddhist temples at the site. Many beautiful temples have been built in recent years to honor the Buddha—among others, the Myanmar (Burmese) Temple with a monastery complex nearby, the International Gautami Nuns Temple, the China Temple with its huge Buddha statue, the Dae Sung Suk Ga Sa Korean Temple, the Nepal Buddha Temple and monastery, the Japan Peace Stupa with its four Buddha statues at the dome, as well as the Thai Temple. The Lumbini International Research Institute (LIRI), dedicated to the study of Buddhism and religion in general, is also located on the premises. The weekly Lumbini bazaar offers insights into the cultural life of southern Nepal. As a religious, historical, and cultural center, Lumbini Park, after centuries of neglect, is of the utmost significance today for Buddhists worldwide.

By PhramahaThanat Inthisan Ph.D.

Edited by Duwayne

October 4, 2005

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