Below is the portion of article I wrote for Bhutan airline's in flight magazine 'Kuzuzangpola'
|Baudhanath Stupa and I|
We all know Katmandu is home for some the most ancient Buddhist monuments. Therefore as a Buddhist, there is something so fulfilling about being able to go to Katmandu. Some Buddhist structures there are listed as UNESCO heritage monuments. Back then, as a village lad, I grew up hearing stories about the magical Baudhanath stupa. They are long and each story often differ from one another. It seems there are Tibetan, Nepalese and Bhutanese mythologies each explaining the legend of the stupa. However there is portion in every story that is common and captivating: the wish fulfilling power of the stupa. Combining several stories together, I got the story as follows:
In Bhutan, the magnificent stupa is popularly known as Jarung-khashor. In course of our story, we will come to know why it was called so. For now, some sources suggest that the construction of a legendry stupa was initiated by an ordinary lady, called Jazima, the poultry woman. She bore four sons from four different husbands; horse trader, pig trader, dog trader and poultry trader.
Jazima, in her past life was a heavenly being. After suffering a downfall in her religious merit, she was reborn as an ordinary lady on earth. However she and her family maintained deeply religious attitude. She saved all her earnings from her hard work and when she knew she had saved enough, she approached the king and asked him for a piece of land. She told the king of her desire to construct a stupa on it.
Confused, dazed and after serious contemplation, the king granted her plea. But on one condition. Jazima could have the land; the size of which should be equivalent to a skin of a bull stretched on the ground. Crafty Jazima then sliced the skin of a bull to a size of a thread. She then extended the thread size string of bull hide on the ground to claim the land. Alarmed, many people complained to king about the size of land the king has granted to an ordinary lady. But king had no option other than to grant her plea. This is how stupa came to be known as Jarung-Khashor meaning ‘word of permission’ or ‘to be allowed’ or ‘given permission to do certain work’.
Few years on, after overcoming many major obstacles, the construction met a tragedy. Jazima died. But before her death, she told her four sons to complete the construction. She told her sons that completing it will not only fulfill her wishes and bring immense benefit to other sentient beings, but also fulfill their own. With this divine advice she died. Her death was marked with so many auspicious symbols. She regained her merit and attained buddhahood.
Her four sons kept their mother’s word and finally completed the construction. The relics of the Buddha of previous age were sealed in the stupa. When viewed from the sky, the shape of stupa is said to resemble Tibetan mandala. It is believed that the sanctification and empowerment ceremony of the stupa was attended by thousands of buddhas, deties and dakinis from the sky and of course by many mundanely people from. Therefore, today the stupa is viewed as great object of worship by devotees around the world.
The four sons of Jazima, then prayed. The son of Horseman wanted to become king and was reborn as King Trisong Dutsen of Tibet. The son of pig trader wanted to be reborn as compassionate Bhodisattva and was reborn as Zhiwa Tso. The son of dog trader wanted to be reborn as great master and was reborn as Guru Rimpoche. The son of poultry man wanted to be reborn as the religious Minister and was reborn as Songtsen Gompo. In brief, four brothers were reborn as the principle propagators of Buddhism. But they completely forgot to pray for the donkey that carried construction materials all through with four of them. So the donkey prayed for himself. He prayed devoutly to be reborn as the minister who could destroy the dharma so propagated by four brothers. But a crow on the tree top knew about the disparaging prayers of the donkey and so prayed to be reborn as preserver of the dharma from the destruction of the donkey’s incarnation. Accordingly, the donkey was reborn as demon Langdarma, who nearly wiped off Buddhism in the Himalayas. Later crow was reborn as Pelgi Dorji who then subdued Langdarma and subsequently revived Buddhism. Due to such legends, people today believe that pilgrimage to Baudhanath stupa of Katmandu, Samye Monastry of Tibet and Baudha stupa in Gaya have the power to even exempt a murderous sinner from miseries of samsara.
The legendry stupa has survived the onslaught of many turbulent times. But things seemed to have changed. Once pilgrimage and religious center has now become a commercial center. Globalization has not even spared religion. Sacred objects are produced in mass for sale. If not paid monks wouldn’t say prayers. Today, the monumental stupa is surrounded not by alters and temples but by shops and restaurants. Time has taken its due toll on the surroundings. Crowded, littered and dusty, the holy place is succumbing to the forces of modernization and over population. Everything appeared cramped. There were monkeys, lamp sellers and film makers. Nearby people were attending a funeral rite. Not far away wedding ceremony was in full swing.