DR. AJAY RISAL
As soon as my parents came to know that I was going for a short academic trip to Sri Lanka immediately after Dashain, their first reaction was, “OK….Then you are going to the country of Ravana. You are flying over the ocean like Hanuman…..” They were actually referring to the “Ramayana” (a Hindu epic).
Actually, the three countries; Nepal, India and Lanka have been interconnected since ages (Treta Yuga as depicted in our Hindu historical system). Nepal is the birthplace of Janaki (Janakpur), India-the motherland of Ram (Ayodhya), and Lanka-the kingdom of Ravana. But, we always forget another important link between these countries, which was established only 2500 years ago. As a professional person, I visited Sri Lanka to attend a conference related to my own field Psychiatry. So, I was able to meet professionals from different countries, residential and non-residential SAARC delegates.
On the very first introduction, when I told them that I was from Nepal, a Sri Lankan psychiatrist couple, currently staying in UK, were very happy. They started inquiring about Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha. During the ten-minute chat with them, I answered many of their queries related to Buddha, Buddhism and its relationship with Hinduism in our country. Other delegates were also attracted by our discussion. A psychiatrist from West Bengal also expressed his deep devotion towards Buddha, and went on to say that our life would be a waste if we did not visit one of the four places related to Buddha; i.e., Lumbini, Gaya, Kushinagar and Sarnath. His sayings brought a flashback about my grandparents who would say, “Life of a Hindu is a waste if he does not visit any one of the four places: Badrinath, Kedarnath, Amarnath and Pashupatinath.” The more Sri Lankan delegates I met, the more I was asked about Buddha, Lumbini, Buddhism and Nepal. They had deep devotion towards our prince Siddhartha who enlightened his motherland as Buddha, “The Light of Asia” Buddha. They say the maximum number of statues and idols in the world are that of Buddha.
This was one occasions when I felt proud of being a Nepali in foreign land, because I am from the country where Buddha was born.
These interactions at the conference illustrated how much interconnected we are, and our countries belonging to the Bharatbarsha; Nepal-the birthplace of Siddhartha, India-the place where he became Buddha and obtained Mahaparinirvana, and Sri Lanka where he is worshipped, loved and admired so much.
When we visited Keleniya, considered to be the Raja-Mahavihara at Colombo, I was extremely amazed at how Buddha was being worshipped with beautiful flowers and sacred oil-lamps. Buddha-standing, sitting and lying down… I felt how little we have done to the place where Buddha had taken his divine first seven steps….The condition of Lumbini, where the whole world is pouring its respect, concern and faith is not meeting the standard.
Sri Lanka, where people became Buddhists so many years later can bring such divine monastery, but we Nepalis just boast of having Lumbini: What have we done?
Gangaramaya temple which also belongs to the capital city had more to offer. Buddha statues were everywhere but at the door, there were Ganesha, Vishnu and Shiva. I was happy to see the good instance of religious harmony. I was telling my Sri Lankan friends that in our country, there is no distinction between a Hindu and a Buddhist. Hindus consider Buddha to be one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu, and Buddhists worship all the Hindu Gods with equal respect and devotion.
Though we could not visit Ashok-vatika and witness Hanuman, Sita and Ravana, we were not at loss as we could observe the deep faith and love of Sri Lankans towards Buddha and Buddhism. Sri Lanka, which became independent just 64 years ago (3rd Feb 1948) from the British Empire, had been steadily rising in development and democracy until it fell into the trap of violence and terror. Decades of fighting, massacres and insurgency ended just a little time ago. Thanks to Buddha and his blessings Sri Lanka has been gaining momentum in establishing economic progress, developmental works and long lasting peace. Nepal has to learn from Sri Lanka. Still we are far behind in peace-keeping, development and economic growth. Why has Buddha forgotten his own brothers and sisters, children and grandchildren? Why does his motherland still needs to cry bitterly?
Actually, after meeting Buddha at Sri Lanka, I have prayed to him to come back home, at least once to his motherland, wipe her tears and bless his own countrymen so that they know the real value of peace, non-violence and love.
The four days, when I breathed Sri Lankan air, ate Sri Lankan food, drank Sri Lankan water, I felt I was being blessed by Buddha. Our own prince welcomed us in this foreign land. Really, I experienced serene peace on the bank of Arabian Sea, sitting on a chair of Gale Face Hotel in the evening hours of November.
The same tranquil words of the National Anthem of Sri Lanka repeating again and again, “…Apa Sri…. Lanka….Namo Namo Mata……..” reverberates in my ears even now.
Dr. Risal is a Psychiatrist at Dhulikhel Hospital