The sheltering canopy of Buddhism in Nepal becomes apparent with a few visits to monasteries scattered across the Kathmandu valley; indeed, you can immerse yourself in local handicraft stores selling Buddhist artifacts too. But a monastic tour is recommended to understand the influence of Buddhism and its seemingly limitless enchantment. There are no satisfactory guidelines to follow a Buddhist circuit in Nepal except that you pick a spot and randomly move on to the next. For pilgrimage tours, Nepal’s great reservoir of sanctity and solace produce a welcome note to almost any one for whom the ways of the Buddha are fascinating. Because it is in Nepal that prince Siddhartha was born who later became the Buddha, the enlightened one. From the colossal monasteries to small nunneries and gompas amidst pristine forests, the glory of the Shakyamunis and the Bodhisattvas are evident throughout this country. From Swayambhunath to Namobuddha and straight to the heart of Buddhism, Lumbini, the road to spirituality is as exciting as any adventure. It could well be defined as a quest to understand the philosophy of life and to discover yourself in the process. Monastic tours are a part of that quest, where we move into the unknown to known oneself. A Buddhist circuit is one where we visit monasteries to discover Buddhism’s vast significance on man’s soul and his deeds. You could visit Namobuddha; a place which is revered as a site where kindness and mercy were both personified by the Buddha by offering his body to be eaten by a hungry Tigress. Begin this trip from Boudhanath and then we move to Namobuddha and then to Pharping. End at Swayambhunath where the wise eyes of the Buddha bids you farewell only to further encourage you to begin your journey anew.
Boudhanath is a massive Stupa which lies in the outskirts of Kathmandu, about 11 km away from the city centre. It is believed that this syupa was built by the Lichavis but many historians disagree on this fact. This dome shaped Stupa represents the mind of the Buddha and is today a popular pilgrimage destination for many Buddhists.
The Kopan Monastery was established by Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rimpoche in 1970 as a center of Buddhist Teachings. Kopan is a thriving monastery of 360 monks, mainly from Nepal and Tibet, and a spiritual oasis for hundreds of visitors yearly from around the world.
This monastery is situated to the south of Kathmandu. It is believed that this is the spot where Guru Rimpoche (Saint Padmasambhava) attained level of a Mahamudra Vidyadhara. Some Buddhists also believe that this is the spot where Milerapa (the deity of hard work) took shelter in a cave one night.
Pharping has numerous monasteries and temples including an important Vajrayogini temple and the Palyul Retreat Centre, which is the residence of Khenpo Namdrol Rinpoche and home to the Rigpa Shedra.
This monastery lies to the east about 45 km away from of Kathmandu. We will have to make a two hour drive to reach here. It is widely believed that the Lord Buddha during his 7th reincarnation offered his body to a hungry Tigress and its cubs. This is considered a great act of mercy and kindness and has ever since attracted millions of people to this spot.
This great temple is just on the outskirts of Kathmandu. No one actually knows who built it. Many believe that the Lichavis constructed it while others believe that emperor Asoka had already visited it in the 3rd century. The Swayambhunath complex consists of a giant Stupa, a large ensemble of shrines and temples, and also includes a Tibetan monastery, a museum and a library. This site has two access points: a long stairway, claimed to have 365 steps, leading directly to the main platform of the temple, which is from the top of the hill to the east; and a car road around the hill from the south leading to the southwest entrance. The first sight on reaching the top of the stairway is the Vajra.