(75) Swayambhunath, a symbol of Nepalese Buddhism - Eyes gazing at us! The eyes are there!

Third Indian Expedition - Journey to Places Related to Buddha

Travels to Buddhist sites in India and Sri Lanka (74)
Swayambhunath, the symbol of Nepalese Buddhism - Eyes gazing at us! The eyes are there!

I am now headed to Swayambhunath, the symbol of Nepalese Buddhism. This temple is a world heritage site known as the oldest Buddhist temple in Nepal.

The famous Swayambhunath Temple in Kathmandu, an engraving from 1877Wikipedia.

Written by Kimiaki Tanaka and Kazumi YoshizakiNepalese Buddhism."According to the "The Nepalese Buddhist Temple," this temple may have been built in the late 4th or early 5th century. As shown in the image above, the most distinctive feature of Nepalese Buddhist temples is their eyes. The pagoda has a huge eye painted on it, staring at us. This is a culture unique to Nepalese Buddhism. I will visit Swayambhunath to meet such eyes.

We came to the parking lot of Swayambhunath. Swayambhunath is located on a hill in the western part of Kathmandu. Therefore, we had to walk up the stairs to the main temple building.

When I entered the precincts of the temple, its eyes suddenly appeared. The eye was painted on the chedi. It is said that this eye symbolizes the eye of Buddha, who sees through all things. Buddha is looking at us. And we are looking into his eyes.

Now we are going up.

A little further up the road, the view of Kathmandu became more visible.

Now, we arrived near the main shrine. We walked slowly, taking in the scenery, and felt less fatigue than we had expected. There were souvenir stores and food stores along the way.

This is the Great Pagoda of Swayambhunath (Mahachaitya). The golden chedi stands on a bun-shaped white base. The eyes are painted on all four sides of the chedi. They are the eyes of Buddha looking out over the whole world. A Buddhist flag is tied at the tip of the chedi, adding a vivid color to the blue sky.

Also from a different angle. The world changes at a dizzying pace, with stupas and shrines of various sizes being built near this great pagoda.

I was also struck by this unique atmosphere of small chedis lined up in a row.

And as this place is called "Monkey Temple," there are many monkeys here. If you are not careful, your belongings will be taken away from you, so be careful.

Further on from the main pagoda, you will come to a square. This square is lined with souvenir shops and crowded with shoppers.

Since I was there, I also took a look around the ornament store. If there was a good Buddha statue, I wanted to take it home as a souvenir. I liked the atmosphere of Swayambhunath so much that I wanted to take something tangible home with me.

As I was admiring the Buddha images in the storefront, the owner came over to me and the standard "come inside" exchange began. I told the shopkeeper that I wanted a Buddha statue and asked him if he could provide me with a high quality one in a smaller size. The owner replied, "Buddha! Buddha!" and brought out a number of Buddha images. Hmmm...this is not bad, is it?

The owner, perhaps sensing a positive response, brought more and more Buddhist statues.

And to my surprise the owner said, "Amita! Amita!" and brought out a Buddha statue.

Oh! Is there an Amida Buddha here? I was expecting to see an Amitabha here, but was surprised to see the statue. It did not look like Amitabha Buddha at all.

This Buddha image is sitting peacefully in the full lotus position, but he is holding something like a jar in his hand. Isn't the Buddha with a jar in his hand the Yakushi Nyorai? I was worried that the shopkeeper might be fooled by the Buddha image. Seeing me looking at the Buddha image suspiciously, the owner became concerned and showed me a book. It seemed to be a book explaining Buddhist statues. This is definitely the Buddha image," the owner said. The owner pointed to a page and showed me.

Oh! I see! So that's how it is!

This is the Amida of Tibetan esoteric Buddhism! So it is not the Amida Buddha I know!

Amitabha Buddha originally has two origins. These are the two names Amitabha and Amitayus. In Sanskrit, Amitabha means immeasurable light, or infinite light. Amitayus means infinite life.

Amitabha Buddha is a Buddha who possesses the characteristics of both Amitabha and Amitayus. We Japanese call him Amitabha Buddha. In Jodo Shinshu, we recite a chant called "Shoshin chorus," and this chant begins with the very phrase "Kimei Muryotsuyu Nyorai Namu Nigyo Hikari" (Return to Life: Muryotsu Nyorai, Nanmu Nigyo Hikari). In other words, the chant begins with the confession of faith, "I take deep refuge in Amitayus, the Light of Mystery (Amitabha).

And now I was shown that Amitabha Buddha image. There are many Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in esoteric Buddhism. You have probably seen mandala paintings.


Thus, in esoteric Buddhism, countless Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are manifested in the world. In Pure Land Buddhism, Amitabha Buddha is worshipped as Amitabha Buddha, but in Esoteric Buddhism, Amitabha Buddha is further subdivided and embodied as Amitabha and Amitayus.

If so, then perhaps they sell not only Amitabha but also Amitayus' Buddha images here. I boldly asked.

The owner smiled and brought it to me, saying, "I have it," just like in a certain popular TV drama.

This is Amitayus.

Although we Japanese are not familiar with this figure, it is truly graceful.

I was completely in love with these two Buddha images and decided to purchase them. They are now carefully enshrined in the main hall of the temple.

Nepalese Buddhism is known for its esoteric nature. Because of its proximity to Tibet, there has been a long history of exchange. It was truly a stimulating experience to encounter "Amitabha" in such a land, which I had not imagined at all.

Swayambhunath was a place with a unique atmosphere. It was different from both India and Sri Lanka. And it was the eyes that left such a strong impression on me that I said, "This is what I think of when I think of Nepal. It left such a strong impression on me that I would say, "When I think of Nepal, I think of this. In theory, I understand that it is the "eye of Buddha that sees through all things. But why should it be painted on a chedi? Why was this done only in Nepal is a very interesting question. It is not only a religious issue, but also a geographical and historical factor. It is a matter of endless interest.

In the following article, I will talk a little about the characteristics of Nepalese Buddhism. To my surprise, Nepalese Buddhism still retains the same wife-oriented Buddhism as that of Japan. This is a surprising fact in the history of Nepalese Buddhism.

Next Article.

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