Monday, December 12, 2011

Nepali Religion

Nepal practices both Buddhism and Hinduism. 

Added to the enormous amounts of Hindu gods and goddesses are the Buddhas. It's hard to understand how people could have created such a complicated religion. Who has time for it?

You can tell religion is too big a subject for 500 words. The intricacies of the Hindu pantheon could fill up an entire MilWordy challenge if one wanted them to— same with Buddhism. 

I'll do my best to give a veeeerrry basic overview of both here.

There are three main gods and three main goddesses in Hinduism. Each of these has reincarnations (which in turn have reincarnations, which may or may not have reincarnations themselves). Some, like Shiva and Parvati, have children (Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of success, is one of their sons). Things are made more complicated because Hindus often worship reincarnations of gods and goddesses instead of the original deity. Illustrating this is Ganesha, one of the most important gods— Hindus worship him before they worship any other god or goddess.

Each god has many forms in each reincarnation— with two, four, eight, or a thousand arms (and probably more numbers in between), and one, two, four , seven, or eleven heads. More arms mean more power; more heads mean more wisdom.

Then there are the buddhas— some were born from an armpit, others studied to attain nirvana. They have disciples, students, wives, consorts, and children. Some have many eyes, which represent compassion. The more eyes, the more things you can see and help. Buddhas also have many arms or heads.

Though I haven't seen a large number of Nepali temples, they seem to be divided into Buddhist and Hindu.

Hindu temples often have roof braces carved into the shape of gods and their transportation animals. Underneath the goddess is usually another, smaller carving which is used for general education— there are temples with erotic carvings on them to teach people how to increase the population, and temples which explain what hell is like. There are temples dedicated to Krishna (god of love— reincarnation of Vishnu), temples dedicated to Vishnu (preserver of the universe), and temples dedicated to other gods. All of these temples have a statue of an animal outside, waiting to transport the god or goddess to his or her destination. Among these are bulls, rats, and peacocks. Each transportation animal is sacred.

Buddhist temples are often simple— a sort of shrine is in front, while in the center of the room there are seats for monks— they will sit here and chant during daily meditation/prayers. Around or inside the temple there are usually prayer wheels, inside which are six words: Om Ma Ne (knee) Pad (peh) Me Hung (oon). Long story short, they mean, in order: gods, demigods, people, animals, hungry ghosts, and living things from hell. Prayer wheels are turned clockwise— as they turn the words move, thus 'saying a prayer' for all these creatures.

That's the basics. I'll be expanding on this more in this week's posts.

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