John Tyman's
Cultures in Context Series
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069. When you meet someone in Nepal, even passing them on the street, they will put their hands together (with the palms facing each other) and say "Namaste" -- which means "I bow to the God in you" ... for religion is still a potent force in everyday life here.
070. Nepal is a land of two great faiths -- Hinduism and Buddhism -- and both have a significant impact on the way people actually live here from day to day. Both faiths spread  from the south initially, though Nepalese Buddhism now has closer ties with Tibetan Buddhism than it does with the Buddhism of southern Asia. (Buddhist chorten and prayer wall near Manang)
071. Theological purists in North America and Europe sometimes question whether either of these faiths can be defined as a “a religion”-- since Buddhism acknowledges no god, and Hinduism has many gods and people can choose which ones they worship. However, both give meaning to life and offer hope of escape from the pain and uncertainties of this world --  through cycles of reincarnation leading to the liberation or salvation of the individual through union eventually with that which is pure and absolute. (Ornamental doorway in Kathmandu)
072. In contrast to many other countries, Nepal has a tradition of religious tolerance -- in stark contrast to the divisions within the Muslim world and that between Protestant Christians and Roman Catholics. This is obvious visually from the images of Hindu gods found in the grounds of Buddhist temples, and sometimes even images of Christ. At Swyambhunath the red and yellow Buddha figures at the bottom of the eastern stairway are guarded by statues of Ganesh and Kumar (son of Shiva).
073. At times it is also difficult to determine whether a person is a Buddhist or a Hindu. The Tibetans here are pure Buddhists and most Brahmans are orthodox Hindus, but among the older tribal groups there are many who revere both Buddha and Hindu gods, plus a range of spirits derived from their animist background. (Shrine of Bikram Baba, a Tharu deity)
074. Many Buddhists in Nepal consider the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu to be earthly incarnations of the Buddha: and Hindus believe Gautama Buddha to be an incarnation of Vishnu. With such a diversity of mainstream religions and cults, tolerance is essential, and proselytism (making converts) is forbidden by law. Those who try to do so face the prospect of a long jail term, as do their converts. (In gompa at Bodnath)


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