Lumbini, the Birthplace of the Lord Buddha (1997)

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Nepal 1973. View of Lumbini, the birth place of Buddha, with the commemorative pillar erected by the Indian emperor Ashoka.

Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha, was born in 623 B.C. in the famous gardens of Lumbini, which soon became a place of pilgrimage. Among the pilgrims was the Indian emperor Ashoka, who erected one of his commemorative pillars there. The site is now being developed as a Buddhist pilgrimage centre, where the archaeological remains associated with the birth of the Lord Buddha form a central feature. 
  • Nepal 1973. Lumbini, with the commemorative pillar erected by the Indian emperor Ashoka. 
As the birthplace of the Lord Buddha, the sacred area of Lumbini is one of the holiest places of one of the world's great religions, and its remains contain important evidence about the nature of Buddhist pilgrimage centers from a very early period. 
  • Nepal 1994. Lumbini, Buddha's birth place. A very modest stamp for an important religious center. 
  • Nepal 1996. The commemorative pillar erected by emperor Ashoka in Lumbini. 

Nepal 1994. Lumbini, Buddha's birth place.

Nepal 1996. Commemorative pillar erected by emperor Ashoka at Lumbini.

Buddha (c. 563 - c. 483 BC), Indian philosopher and the founder of Buddhism, born in Lumbini, Nepal. He was the son of the head of the Sakya warrior caste, with the private name of Siddhartha; in later life he was known also as Sakyamuni (Sage of the Sakyas). The name Gautama Buddha is a combination of the family name Gautama and the appellation Buddha, meaning “Enlightened One.” 

All four stamps in the below set featuring Buddha's life, exist in another version with the same face value, but with a reddish colour in the selvedge. 

Nepal 2005. Birth of Buddha in Lumbini, Nepal.

All the surviving accounts of Buddha's life were written many years after his death by idealizing followers rather than by objective historians. Consequently, it is difficult to separate facts from the great mass of myth and legend in which they are embedded. From the available evidence, Buddha apparently showed an early inclination to meditation and reflection, displeasing his father, who wanted him to be a warrior and ruler rather than a religious philosopher. Yielding to his father's wishes, he married at an early age and participated in the worldly life of the court. 

  • Nepal 2005. Birth of Buddha in Lumbini, Nepal. 
Buddha found his carefree, self-indulgent existence dull, and after a while he left home and began wandering in search of enlightenment. One day in 533, according to tradition, he encountered an aged man, a sick man, and a corpse, and he suddenly and deeply realized that suffering is the common lot of humankind. He then came upon a mendicant monk, calm and serene, whereupon he determined to adopt his way of life and forsake family, wealth, and power in the quest for truth. This decision, known in Buddhism as the Great Renunciation, is celebrated by Buddhists as a turning point in history. Gautama was then 29 years old, according to tradition.
  • Nepal 2005. Enlightenment of Buddha, Bodhgaya. 

Nepal 2005. Enlightenment of Buddha, Bodhgaya.

Nepal 2005. First sermon by Buddha in Samath.

Wandering as a mendicant over northern India, Buddha first investigated Hinduism. He took instruction from some famous Brahman teachers, but he found the Hindu caste system repellent and Hindu asceticism futile. He continued his search, attracting but later losing five followers. About 528, while sitting under a bo tree near Gaya, in what is now Buddh Gaya in the state of Bihar, he experienced the Great Enlightenment, which revealed the way of salvation from suffering. Shortly afterward he preached his first sermon in the Deer Park near Benares (now Varanasi). This sermon, the text of which is preserved, contains the gist of Buddhism. Many scholars regard it as comparable, in its tone of moral elevation and historical importance, to Jesus Christ's Sermon on the Mount. 
  • Nepal 2005. First Sermon by Buddha, Samath. 
The five disciples rejoined Buddha at Benares. Accompanied by them, he traveled through the valley of the Ganges River, teaching his doctrines, gathering followers, and establishing monastic communities that admitted anyone regardless of caste. He returned briefly to his native town and converted his father, his wife, and other members of his family to his beliefs. After 45 years of missionary activity Buddha died in Kusinagara [Kushinagar], Nepal, as a result of eating contaminated pork. He was about 80 years old. 
  • Nepal 2005. Mahaparinirvana of Buddha [Buddha's death and Nirvana], Kushinagar. 

Nepal 2005. Mahaparinirvana of Buddha [Buddha's death and Nirvana], Kushinagar.

Buddha was one of the greatest human beings, a man of noble character, penetrating vision, warm compassion, and profound thought. Not only did he establish a great new religion, but his revolt against Hindu hedonism, asceticism, extreme spiritualism, and the caste system deeply influenced Hinduism itself. His rejection of metaphysical speculation and his logical thinking introduced an important scientific strain heretofore lacking in Oriental thought. Buddha's teachings have influenced the lives of millions of people for nearly 2500 years. 

Nirvana (Sanskrit, “extinguishing”), is in Indian religious philosophy a transcendent state free from suffering and individual phenomenal existence, an ultimate religious goal most frequently identified with Buddhism. The word is derived from a verb meaning “to become cool,” or “to blow out,” as in the extinguishing of a candle. The connotation is that only in nirvana are the flames of lust, hatred, greed, and ignorance extinguished. With the attainment of nirvana, the otherwise endless cycle of rebirths is broken. Its nature has been much debated in Western scholarship, some scholars maintaining that it involves total annihilation and others interpreting it as eternal bliss. Both views are problematic, for nirvana is ultimately indescribable and can only be known directly. Mahayana Buddhists in East Asia interpret nirvana not as an external goal, but as one's own innermost nature, which needs only to be recognized. They speak of it as Buddhahood, suchness, and emptiness. 

Sources and links:

Other World Heritage Sites in Nepal (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Nepal section, for further information about the individual properties. 

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Revised 21 jul 2006  
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