Basanta Maharjan in Himal Khabarpatrika, 18-24 March

Last month, over 75,000 Nepalis gathered at Tundikhel of Kathmandu to recite a few verses of the Dhammapada – a collection of the Buddha’s teachings. Prime Minister KP Oli and some Buddhist monks were also there, reciting the Dhammapada in between racy songs and loud slogans of ‘Buddha was born in Nepal’.

The event was organised by the World Record Holders’ Association-Nepal to enter the Guinness Book of World Record for the biggest crowd ever gathered to recite the Dhammapada. The organiser wanted to prove through the world record that the Buddha was indeed born in Nepal.

To gather that many people, fake news spread through social media that the Indians had organised a similar huge gathering to claim that the Buddha was born in India, and that Nepalis had to step up to counter the claim.

The All Nepal Buddhist Monks’ Association also endorsed the gathering, probably concluding that such a huge gathering would help spread Buddhism. Monks are highly respected, and it is debatable whether they should have participated in such an event that essentially spreads hatred instead of harmony.

‘Buddha was born in Nepal’ has emerged as one of the most ubiquitous slogans of Nepali nationalism in the last few years, and it is largely directed against the perception that India wants to claim the Buddha’s nativity site.

But archeologists have already proven that the Buddha was born in 563 BC in the ancient kingdom of Lumbini, which now falls in the west-central Tarai plains of Nepal. No one has refuted this historical fact. So, shouting repeatedly that the ‘Buddha was born in Nepal’ only spreads hatred and exposes our own insecurity. And the Tundikhel gathering just did that: it spread intolerance and spite. It was as far removed from Buddhist philosophy as it could be.

Imagine how the Buddha would have reacted to such an absurd event. Those who are quick to jump on the ‘Buddha was born in Nepal’ bandwagon but have never contributed to Lumbini’s development must understand how the Buddha discouraged his disciples from debating irrelevant issues.

The Buddha in his lifetime liked to debate issues, he was fond of convincing his disciples through the force of argument and logic. Yet, if anyone had asked how the universe was created or whether god exists, the Buddha preferred to remain silent. The Buddha believed that was an irrelevant concern for ordinary people and their lives. So he encouraged his disciples to rise above mundane concerns and focus more on the philosophical underpinnings of human existence.