The origins of modern-day Buddhism in Nepal can be traced back to the birth of Gautam Buddha in Lumbini, Nepal. This religion and its values are focused on personal spiritual growth.
After Hinduism, Buddhism is the second most common religion in the world. According to the 2011 census, Buddhist adherents account for approximately 9% of the total population, although the Tibetan Christian Society estimates it to be 16% in 2017.
The faith is further subdivided into different sects (or sects). These various subdivisions were allegedly created after Buddha’s death, citing various reasons to continue Buddha’s teaching and honor his principles.
The following are some of the main Buddhist sects practiced in Nepal:
Mahayana, which translates to “greater vehicle,” is the most common and widespread type of Buddhism in the world, as well as in Nepal. This sect was discovered 400 years after the death of Buddha. The Mahayana Buddhists believe in Buddha’s ascension to heaven and worship idols. They believe that salvation is attained by the grace and assistance of Buddha and Bodhisattva. The texts and literature of Mahayana are written in Sanskrit. The religion began to spread across the world from northern countries such as China, Korea, Mongolia, Japan, Sri Lanka, and Tibet.
This is the most common sect in northern Nepal, descended from Tibet, with approximately 3,000 monasteries. During medieval times, the Buddhists of the Shakya clan are thought to have brought this type of Buddhism to Nepal. It is also the branch of Buddhism that includes many different schools of thought, such as Zen, Pure Land, and Nichiren, several of which are still active in East Asia today. Similarly, Mahayana is divided into two branches: Shunyavad/Madhyamika and Yogachar/Vijnanavada.
Tantric Buddhism is also known as Vajrayana, which translates to “the way of the diamond or the thunderbolt engine.” According to this faith, redemption is attained by the use of magical powers known as Vajra. This means that reciting mantras is meant to help you gain magical powers and, as a result, redemption. This religion’s adherents also believe in idol worship and revere Taras, a goddess of meditation, as their chief divinity. It is common in East Asian countries such as Tibet, Bhutan, Bengal, and Eastern India, and is thought to have spread from there.
This esoteric sect of Buddhism is prevalent in Nepal as an esoteric sect that is predominant in Tibet and Nepal. Newa Buddhism is a form of Vajrayana Buddhism practiced primarily by the Kathmandu Valley’s Newa community. This sect, also known as Newa Vajrayana Buddhism, has a rich ritual history in Nepal and is a very ancient form of practice. The Vajrayana Buddhist guru or gurju (priests) ensure that Buddhist rituals are performed by domestic Buddhist priests in order to preserve the Vajrayana Buddhist scripts and rituals.
Theravada, which translates as “the school of the elders,” is Buddhism’s oldest school. People in Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos practice Theravada Buddhism. The Pali language is used in the text and literature of this Buddhist religion.
In Nepal, the Ven Dhammaloka Thera constructed the first Theravada vihara, Ananda Kuti, on the hill of Swayambhu Stupa in 1943. (monk). When the vihara tried to ordain a lady as a nun, it sparked outrage. After learning of the incident, the Rana government ordered the monks to stop preaching or leave Nepal.
Following that, monks and Ven Amritananda founded the Nepali Buddhist Association (Dharmodaya Sabha) in order to gain foreign government support. Ven Amritanada returned to Nepal in 1946 with the famous Sri Lankan bhikchu (monk), Ven Narada Mahathera, and was granted permission to preach at Ananda Kuti once more. They began openly preaching after 1952.
There are currently many active Theravada organizations in Nepal.
4. The discontinued sect: Hinayana
Hinayana translates as “lesser” or “smaller” vehicle. Hinayana is further subdivided into two subsects: Vaibhasika and Sautantrika.
Hinayana is also used interchangeably with Theravada. However, they are not identical, and those who practice Hinayana emphasize that they should not be confused with one another.
According to practitioners, Theravada Buddhism existed in Sri Lanka during the third century BC, even before Mahayana, while the Hinayana sect originated in India and existed independently of that in Sri Lanka.
However, it is currently said that no Hinayana sect exists anywhere in the world. The World Fellowship of Buddhists, established in Colombo in 1950, unanimously agreed that the word Hinayana should be dropped when referring to Buddhism practiced today in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and other countries.