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Citizenship of Buddha: Beyond India and Nepal war of words’

  • Category
    History
  • Published
    17th Aug, 2020
  • As though the bickering over the birthplace of Lord Ram and his nationality was not enough, statements were flying about Gautam Buddha and his nationality. This time, Buddha was drawn into Nepal-India politics by S Jaishankar, the Indian minister for external affairs.

Context

  • As though the bickering over the birthplace of Lord Ram and his nationality was not enough, statements were flying about Gautam Buddha and his nationality. This time, Buddha was drawn into Nepal-India politics by S Jaishankar, the Indian minister for external affairs.

About

Who was Buddha?

  • “Buddha” means “one who is awake.” Gautama Buddha was a contemporary of Mahavira. Gautama Buddha’s royal name was Siddhartha.
  • He was the son of Suddhodhana, the Chief of Sakya clan of Kapilvastu in the Nepal Tarai area. He was born in 566 B.C. in the village of Lumbini a few miles from Kapilvastu.
  • The Buddha who lived 2,600 years ago was not a god. He was an ordinary person.
  • Facts also suggest that a young Siddhartha Gautam left his father’s palace before settling at a site where he attained enlightenment. The place is now in present-day India, and is known as Bodh Gaya.
  • He discovered four noble truths and the Eightfold Path to Nirvana, or ultimate bliss.
  • Noble Truths: The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism:
    • existence is suffering
    • the cause of suffering is craving and attachment
    • suffering ceases at some point and turns to Nirvana (liberation or total bliss)
    • there is a path to Nirvana which is made up of eight steps, sometimes called the Eightfold Path.
      • The Eightfold Path to Nirvana is to be "right" in all these areas: concentration, views, speech, resolve, action, livelihood, effort, and mindfulness.
    • Major Schools: There are two major schools of Buddhism: Mahayana and Theravada or Hinayana. There is a third school, the Vajrayana, but it only has a small following.

A war of words

  • Nepal's Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday evening issued a statement to assert that Buddha was born in Nepal. He stated-
    • It is a well-established and undeniable fact proven by historical and archaeological evidence that Gautam Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal.
    • Lumbini, the Birthplace of Buddha and the fountain of Buddhism, is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • Meanwhile, in a damage-control exercise, India’s Ministry of External Affairs also issued a statement.
    • He referred to the shared Buddhist heritage [between Nepal and India].
    • There is no doubt that Gautam Buddha was born in Lumbini, which is in Nepal'.

India and Nepal

  • India and Nepal enjoy shared history, culture and heritage. And, naturally, they share some irritants that raise their ugly heads once in a while.
  • The relationship between the two countries has hit a low lately over territories on the north-western ridge of Nepal.
  • Even though both Kathmandu and New Delhi have expressed their willingness to hold diplomatic dialogue to resolve the issue, talks have failed to materialise. Amid this, a controversy over Gautam Buddha certainly does not help.

Can India claim legitimacy?

  • Despite the fact that it is host to a relatively small population of Buddhists, India can claim legitimacy in its promotion of Buddhist diplomacy for a number of reasons.
    • First, the Buddhist faith originated in India, therefore granting it singular historical legitimacy.
    • Second, India has numerous sites of importance to the Buddhist faith, such as Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, and Nalanda.
    • Third, India has nurtured an image of being a protector of the persecuted through the presence of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan parliament-in-exile in Dharamshala.
  • Deepening ties with Asian nations on the basis of Buddhism could potentially feed into the government’s larger policy objectives, for example, the ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, and the ‘Act East’ policy.
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