Despite Nepal’s colorful collection of ethnic groups, when it comes to religion there are only two that dominate the country. The Hindu religion is the most dominant religion in Nepal. However, one of the most famous people from Nepal are steeped in the Buddhist religion. Some would say that the most well-known Buddhist group is the Sherpa who rose to fame on the dangerous peaks of Mount Everest as they assisted climbers to defeat the world’s most foreboding mountain for years.
The most famous person from the Buddist faith is Siddhartha Gautama, better known as ”Buddha”. Siddhartha Gautama, it is said, was born in a small village in Nepal, by the name of Terai. His exact date of birth is cause for speculation but it is thought that he was born in 543 BC. There are many versions as to how Siddhartha became the Buddha and the time lines vary in some stories. However one underlying fact remains: Siddhartha was searching for peace and understanding. Born a prince, he was the son of Suddhodana who ruled the Sakya, and led a fairly normal, privileged life. He married and fathered a son but was completely oblivious to the pain and suffering that surrounded his secluded his world. His father encouraged him to remain within the palace walls but, as any curious child would do, he left the safety of his palace and stared the cruelty of reality in the face. It was then that Siddhartha Gautama decided to find answers to his questions.
Strangely, Siddhartha was a follower of the Hindu religion, but wanted to know why some people were living in poverty while others did not; why some had to suffer illness and injury while other lived healthy lives. He wanted to know why, when he had all the riches in the world, he still remained unhappy. After leaving the safety of his kingdom, Siddhartha decided to fast – to starve his body from food. He came near to death. He spent years trying to find the answers he was looking for. While sitting under a tree he started to meditate and finally reached the state of enlightenment.
He went out into the world to teach others what he had learnt and later he came to be called “Buddha”, meaning “The Enlightened One”. His followers were called Buddhists. Siddhartha taught his followers how to find a balance in their lives and the devoted Buddhist Monks were required to strip themselves of their egos and earthly possessions. Even today, monks wear saffron robes and abstain from desiring or using worldly goods. They dedicate their lives to enlightenment and their quest of rebirth to transition to Nirvana.
Of all the famous people from Nepal, Buddha has become a legend and a leader. His teachings are still practiced today both in Nepal and in other corners of the world. Buddhism is a religion that was founded on peace, understanding and the balance of life. Buddha may no longer walk the earth but his spirit lives on through his followers.