On a Saturday morning, the ten or so of us who were able to brave the February cold got on the bus and reached Swayambhunath promptly. Just after entering we encircled Father Greg who was our gracious guide and listened to him talk about the history of Swayambhunath Temple and its importance in Newari Buddhism.
Swayambhupuraṇa is the Sanskrit text in which is written the story of the origin of Swayambhunath Temple. Swayambhupuraṇa is unique; it is the only puraṇa text associated with Buddhism. The rest of the puraṇa texts concern Hindu gods.
The story goes: Where the Kathmandu valley is today, there used to be a lake filled with Nagas (snakes). In this lake, a Buddha called Bipaswi Tathāgata planted a lotus with one thousand petals. This lotus flower emanated a bright light signifying the Buddha nature. According to legend, Mañjuśri who was called by a Buddha cut a gorge and drained the lake, leading to the creation of the valley. Then, at the location of the lotus, the stupa of Swayambhunath was built. Thus, the place of Swayambhunath is in the centre of the maṇdala of Kathmandu valley even though (if you look at Google maps) geographically the Swayambhunath Temple is way in the west.
What is fascinating about Buddhism in the Kathmandu valley is that it never suffered the decline that Buddhism did in many places in India. Thus, a visit to Swayambhunath Temple solidifies my idea that the Kathmandu valley is an authentic place to receive Buddhist teachings.
~Sameer from India