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Articles Taken from LUMBINI magazine, November 1998, volume 1:
Ven. Bhikkhu Aniruddha:Patriarch of Nepal
One of the fast growing religions in Nepal is Theravada Buddhism. According to many historical manuscripts it is known that Theravada Buddhism which is also known as Hinayana was prosperous in Nepal along with other form of Buddhism (i.e. Newar Buddhism and Highlands Buddhism) and Hinduism. However, with some reasons, living Theravada tradition was discontinued in Nepal. It is only reintroduced to Nepal by Nepalese themselves in this century and it is accepted by all walks of life regardless of castes and ethnic groups.
Now it represents as a Nepalese Buddhism. Within a century it has been adding a vast number of literature to existed Buddhist literature in Nepal. Before most literature on Theravada Buddhism were only available in Nepalbhasa, which is a vernacular language of Newars, the indigenous of the Kathmandu Valley. Now it is available in most Nepalese national languages e.g. Tamang, Gurung, Tharu. Nepal Television, the only government run television channel, broadcasts Buddhism once a week which is mainly characterised by Theravada Buddhist monks.
It is a form of Buddhism which is different from other tradition of Buddhism in Nepal. Its simplicity, meditation and universality attract all Nepalese. Unlike Buddhism in Nepalese highlands and Newar Buddhism which characterise according to ethnic back-ground, Theravada Buddhism crosses the border of ethnicity and serves as a pragmatic religion for all Nepalese.
Most Theravadin monks in Nepal are trained in India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand. At present, there are altogether just over 100 Buddhists monks and 72 Theravada monasteries in Nepal. In this series I would like to introduce to some prominent Nepalese Buddhist monks to acquaint them more.
Venerable Bhikkhu Aniruddha Mahathera, 83, is the most senior monk of Nepal. He was honoured as Sangha Nayaka or Patriarch of Nepal by All Nepal Bhikkhu Association and the Prime Minister of Nepal on 25 April 1998 after the previous Patriarch was passed away.
Bhikkhu Aniruddha Mahathera, Patriarch of Nepal was born on Monday, 15 December 1915 at Asan Tol in Kathmandu to Mr Dasaratna and Mrs Dibyalaxmi Tuladhar, a merchant Newar caste. He was named Gajaratna. At the age of eight, his mother died and Gajaratna had to go from one place to another along with his father. As he was getting naughty his father put him in the Central Hindu Boarding School in Varanasi, India where he spent nearly three years before his father took him to Lhasa with him. Even before reaching his teens he has been to Lhasa, Tibet for twice. The only transportation at that time was horses, yaks and walking. For sometimes he lived with his maternal uncle in Calcutta, where he attended Pali classes run by the late Nepalese Buddhist scholar Dharmaditya Dharmacarya at Dharmarajika Vihara.
In 1930, he was sent to Sri Lanka according to the advice of his father’s friend, a great Indian Buddhist scholar, Rahul Sankrityayana. In Sri Lanka he met Ven. Bhadanta Ananda Kausalyayana, a great Singhalese Buddhist scholar of the period who took him and placed him at Vidyalankara Pririvena, a Buddhist college and had him ordained as a novice (Samanera). He was given new Buddhist name— Aniruddha.
Five years later, after learning Singhalese, Pali, Sansakrit and English languages, Samanera Aniruddha went to Kusinagara in India. In 1936 he was then sent along with another novice to Myanmar (Burma) for further study of Buddhism by Ven. Chandramani Mahasthavir of Kusinagara. A year later, at the age of 21, he received the higher ordination from Mahapandita U Chakkapala Mahasthavir at Moulmein, Myanmar.
For ten years he studied Burmese and Buddhist literature at Taum Pok Chyau Vihara in Moulmein, Myanmar. Unfortunately, in the middle of his study, the Second World War broke out. For four years, he had to keep moving from one village to another to escape from the war.
In 1946, he returned to Nepal. With his scholarship in Buddhism and skill in languages, he became editor of ‘Dharmodaya’, the first Buddhist magazine of Nepal for two years from its beginning.
Later, he then devoted himself entirely to the task of preservation of Lumbini, the birth place of Buddha and Kapilavastu, Buddha’s native town which his father, who had become a monk himself in 1933 with the name of Dhammaloka, had initiated. He built a Vihara and a rest house for pilgrims at Lumbini and he served and helped the pilgrims who go there to the best of his ability.
In 1968 U thant, the then Secretary General of the United Nations Organisation, visited Lumbini on a pilgrimage, and Ven. Aniruddha was able to speak with him in Burmese language about the need to develop the sacred birth place of the Buddha. As a result of the visit, the Lumbini Development Master Plan was drawn up eventually and the Lumbini Development Trust came to be established by the government of Nepal as a part of UN project.
After 46 years in Lumbini he returned to Kathmandu in 1991 and became the abbot of Ananda Kuti Vihara in Swayambhu hill where he has living since then. He has built a small meditation hall in the memory of his mother at Matatirtha, a holy site for both Buddhists and Hindus in Kathmandu Valley.
He has translated books from Singhalese and Burmese into Nepalbhasa. Similarly, he also translated and published books on Buddhism from the Pali Canon directly. He is conversant in nine languages and he has to his credit more than 20 books on Buddhism.
Honouring his praiseworthy contribution to Buddhism in Nepal the Bhikkhu Association of Amarapura school of Sri Lanka entitled him with religious honour titled ‘Buddha Janma Bhoomi Jyotaka Sasana Kirti Sri...’ on the 3rd March 1995.
Similarly, Myanmar government and Bhikkhu Order also honoured him with entitlement of ‘Agga Maha Saddhamma Jotaka Dhaja’ on 12 March 1998.
He was in the United Kingdom with the invitation of Ven. Rewata Dhamma of Birmingham for few weeks in July 1998. On the occasion many members of the Lumbini Nepalese Buddha Dharma Society had an opportunity to meet him, listen to his teaching and help him during his stay in the United Kingdom.
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