Boudhanath as a Pure Realm: a Brief Study/Love Letter
-Hilda Mosa, a BA student from Finland
A buddha-field (Skt. buddhakṣetra) is a paradisiacal, purified realm that is often depicted as existing in its own dimension beyond the realm of our conventional world. Technically, in the creation of a buddha-field, a buddha “purifies” an already existing place, thus making it an ideal place for the study and practice of dharma.1 Such places are usually attributed to a specific buddha, such as Amitābha, Akṣhobhya, or Guru Rinpoche. While there are said to be countless buddha-fields, some of which can only be accessed by highly advanced practitioners, there are some that exist within our physical plane and within the grasp of the ordinary minds of ordinary beings. Boudhanath may be seen as one of them.
What makes a pure realm a pure realm? One answer might be faith. Often entrance to a buddha realm requires deep faith: faith in salvation, faith in buddhas and bodhisattvas as saviors, as well as faith in oneself and one’s capacity to achieve a rebirth in such a realm. Furthermore, there is collective faith in the community of practitioners in the existence and accessibility of a pure realm. One’s capability to access a pure realm seems to be dependent upon one’s spiritual accomplishments: for example, according to Garchen Rinpoche, Amitābha’s Pure Land (Skt. Sukhāvatī, Tib. Dewachen) is actually a state of bodhicitta attainable to no less than eight bhūmi bodhisattvas.2 However, other traditions disagree: a practitioner of the Chinese Pure Land tradition might argue that one may attain rebirth in the Pure Land simply by uttering the name of Amitābha.
Perhaps then the accessibility of a pure realm is dependent on pure vision. Through pure vision, any environment may become paradisiacal. The topography of a pure field is often visualized as a maṇḍala, similarly to the physical structure of a stupa. Furthermore, a pure field is filled with life: countless buddhas and bodhisattvas manifest in such places in order to study and practice. Likewise Boudha is filled with colorful people from various backgrounds. Yet, when looked at from afar, the kora goers of Boudha stupa form a singular, continuous stream that moves like a spontaneously manifesting circular dance, joined by the whirring of the prayer wheels, the smoke of sang and the mumbling of mantras.
Under the eyes of the Boudha stupa, one is blessed with the incredible opportunity to study a living tradition and become deeply involved in Buddhist practice. Similarly, in a purified buddha-field, one is granted, or rather, creates, an ideal environment to practice and advance on the Buddhist path, ultimately leading to complete liberation. Like a purified buddha-field, Boudhanath can provide one a realm of tranquility, beauty, and progress in one’s study and practice. Moreover, the entirety of Nepal may be seen as a pure land. Alexander von Rospatt describes how the Svāyambhūpurāṇa transforms Nepal into a buddha-field: Nepal becomes a kind of Sukhāvatī, a paradisiacal realm where a particular buddha manifests to the bodhisattvas reborn there.3 Consequently, these bodhisattvas practice and realize the Buddha’s teaching without any obstacles.
While the access to metaphysical pure realms may be dependent on the level of the practitioner, Boudhanath is open to all. After years of living and studying in Nepal, I still marvel at the beauty of this land and the extremely auspicious circumstances that lead one here. How fortunate is one to encounter Boudhanath in all its colors. Emaho!
- Gómez, Luis O. “The Land of Bliss. Sanskrit and Chinese versions of the Sukhāvatīvyūha sutras.” (1996).
- Garchen Rinpoche. “The Great Drikung Phowa.” Oct. 28, 2016. Stockholm, Sweden.
- Rospatt, Alexander von. “The Survival of Mahayana Buddhism in Nepal: A Fresh Appraisal.” Buddhismus in Geschichte Und Gegenwart 5 (2001): 167–89.