Prince Siddhartha Gautama who later became Buddha, the Enlightened One (God) was born in Lumbini Garden, Rupandehi District of Nepal on the day of Vesakh Poornima (full moon day) in 623 BC. He renounced all luxuries of palatial life in search of supreme wisdom to liberate all sentient beings from suffering. Having undergone extreme hardship and multitude of pain, finally he found the sublime Path in Bodhgaya. Yes, it was the path of ultimate Truth; that wipes out all forms of sufferings and yields peace, solace, tranquility and harmony further leading towards liberation from bondage, the mental state of boundless bliss.
The pilgrimage of then UN Secretary General U. Thant to Lumbini, Nepal remained a milestone in the development of Lumbini. He together with late the then King Mahendra saw a dream of developing Lumbini into international pilgrimage center. Ar. Professor Kenzo Tange of Japan prepared beautiful master plan for systematic development of the Buddha’s birthplace with the initiation of Government of Nepal and United Nations. The First World Buddhist Summit held in Lumbini in 1998 passed a resolution to declare Lumbini as “the Fountain of World Peace” for all Buddhists and peace loving people around the world. The declaration stands on the base of earlier vision seen by the three renowned personalities.
The Second World Buddhist Summit held in 2004 in Lumbini was concluded with the theme of recognizing Lumbini as “the Symbol of Unity in Diversity- the Fountain of World Peace” that strengthened spirit of the First Summit. The summit also declared Lumbini a “Five Precept Zone” and conveyed the message of global peace and universal brotherhood. The declarations of the summits I & II spotlighted Lumbini as a source of eternal inspiration for peace, harmony and goodwill to mankind.
As Lumbini, holy birthplace of Sakyamuni Buddha is designated as “Fountain of World Peace” and “the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage”, millions of Buddhists and peace loving people of the world crave for visiting Lumbini at least once in life time. Pilgrimage to Lumbini has been a life time dream of many Buddhists. Visit Lumbini Year 2012 was declared by the government of Nepal on the special request and attempt of Lumbini Development Trust to encourage people world over to visit Lumbini and other sacred places in its periphery related to the Buddha and his life in order to feel live experience of Sambega (devotional emotion) and to gain Paramita (virtue or, religious merit). The Visit Year has aimed to achieve the following objectives
– To highlight historical, archaeological, cultural, religious and philosophical significances of Lumbini and other Buddhist sites lying in its peripheral of Rupandehi, Kapilavastu and Nawalparasi districts.
– To firmly establish the fact world over that Lumbini, Nepal is the holy birthplace of Sakyamuni Buddha.
– To promote spiritual tourism in a sustainable manner in Nepal.
– To create more employment opportunities in local level and contribute to the national economy.
– To increase publicity of Lumbini world over so that many will get opportunity to have life time experience of peace, tranquility and solace.
The Government of Nepal has formed various committees within the country and abroad and set various programmes to mark the very event and make the campaign a grand success. Various national and international Buddhist institutions and diplomatic missions are extending their helping hand to make the Visit Lumbini Year 2012 a successful event for common benefit.
Buddhist canonical doctrines encourage a Buddhist for pilgrimage to the birthplace of Buddha to accumulate paramita (religious merit or spiritual perfection). Such Dharmaviharas (pilgrimage) have a long history and is considered to be highly meritorious work. A true devotee purifies mind and body during a pilgrimage. A devout pilgrim develops faith and cultivates virtues from a pilgrimage. A Buddhist can be fortunate to accumulate more virtues and merits by paying homage to the birthplaces of three human Buddhas in Lumbini and its peripherals. According to early Buddhist literary sources and archaeological evidences, Krakuchhanda, the first Buddha, Kanakamuni, the second Buddha and Sakyamuni, the fourth Buddha were born in Gotihawa, Niglihawa and Lumbini of Nepal respectively. Gotihawa and Niglihawa are situated in Kapilavastu district while Lumbini is in Rupandehi and these holy sites fall within the radius of 28 km of two districts of Lumbini zone. Hence, it can be a golden opportunity for the pilgrims to worship three pilgrimage sites within the same day in a single visit. A devout Buddhist can not find such place elsewhere in the world.
The population of Buddhists exceeds 2 billions who can be an attractive market for Buddhist Circuit of Nepal. We can receive large number of tourists from Buddhist countries like Sri Lanka, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, China, Myanmar etc every year. Similarly, Lumbini can be an attractive pilgrimage destination for American, European, Asian, Australian and African people as well in present globally chaotic situation. Nepal can be benefited a lot from Buddhist pilgrimage tourism. Pilgrimage of even very small fraction of Buddhist people to Nepal can bring about a breakthrough change in Nepalese economy. It has been a high time for the government of Nepal and Nepalese people to tap such a big potential of Buddhist pilgrimage tourism in the country. Well developed infrastructures and professional services to the tourists in part of Nepal will not only promote national identity but also contribute much for the nation’s economic boom. Visit Lumbini Year 2012 is one of such attempts organized for promotion of Buddhist pilgrimage tourism in the country. The success of the campaign depends on equal participation and cooperation of all concerned. The government, public and private sectors should join hands together for collective efforts to make the VLY 2012 a grand success.
Among many objectives of the Lumbini Visit Year, the loftiest one is to spread the message of peace and harmony among the global citizens of the 21st century as taught by the Buddha. Peace is a mental state of being calm, quiet, serene or composed. Peace can be also defined as tranquility and as an absence of disturbance or agitation. Peace is an art of living in friendship with somebody without arguing. Peace is a state of harmony or the absence of hostility. Buddha taught that peace is a non-violent way of life. The term “Harmony” is defined as a state of peaceful co-existence and agreement or a pleasing relationship among the people. The event will be considered to be successful if the hostile world soothes itself in some extent with the message of peace and harmony spread from Lumbini, the holy birthplace of the Buddha.
By Gyanin Rai
Senior Administrative Office
Lumbini Development Trust
Government of Nepal