Thursday March 21, 2019

A prayer for Nepal quake victims: Traditional manner of celebrating Buddha Purnima holds the key to solace in calamitous times

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By Gaurav Sharma

At a time when a horrendous earthquake has shattered Nepal by killing more than 7,000 people and injuring countless others, the world needs the blessings of the Buddha more than ever before.

Majority of the population in Nepal comprises of Hindus. But the landlocked country boasts a strong Buddhist tradition as well. In fact, Gautama Buddha was born at a place called Lumbini in the Himalayan kingdom. Most of the temples in Nepal are common places of worship for both Hindus and Buddhists.

This year, however, most of the temples in Nepal lie in ruins, devastated by the whiplashes of the Nepal earthquake.

Swayambhunath temple, one of the oldest Buddhist temples in the nation will close its doors to the visitors for the fear of losing sacred objects and artifacts that no longer have the protection of temple.

However, irrespective of the desecration of the formal places of worship, which has left the bhakts (devotees) without any idol to offer their obeisance to, the prayers to and from Buddha will reach the mass of suffering people in Nepal nonetheless.

The traditional manner of celebrating Buddha Purnima holds the key to solace in such calamitous times.

Usually, the devout Buddhists and other followers assemble in the temple before dawn and sing hymns in praise of the holy trinity of The Buddha, the Sangha (disciples) and the Dhamma (his teachings).

The various offerings of candles, flowers, among other things, that they make at the feet of the teacher are symbolic of the ephemeral nature of life. As the candle flame burns out and the flowers wither away, the bubble of life will also in time.

In a symbolic act of Moksha or liberation, thousands of birds, animals are freed from captivity, to remind people not to torture someone against their will.

The happiness of other people or compassion assumes great significance in Buddhism and hence extols offering help to the aged, the sick and the handicapped.

But perhaps the greatest teaching of the Buddha, which holds a lesson in such traumatic and tragic times such as the Nepal calamity, are his words at the time of death.

When he saw his attendant weeping for his imminent passing away, the Buddha told him not to weep but to follow his teachings and understand the Universal Law of disintegration of every compounded thing:

If this exists, that exists; if this ceases to exist, that also ceases to exist.

By leading a noble life of peace and love, we can conquer death.

Next Story

Fear of Leprosy Resurgence in Nepal

There are only three staff working in the leprosy section and the same team looks after the disability programme, as well, he told the newspaper

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Leprosy, Wikimedia

Health officials in Nepal fear leprosy resurgence in the country with prevalence rate reaching 0.94 per cent in 2018.

Leprosy-free status was given to the Himalayan nation after it declared elimination of the disease in 2009. However, that status could be lost if prevalence rate reaches one per cent of total population, Kathmandu Post reported on Thursday.

Experts already fear that this marks the resurgence of the disease in Nepal. The percentage could be more, an official said, as the current given figures have been derived just from preliminary data.

The Leprosy Control and Disability (LCD) section of Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD) of Department of Health Services said that the prevalence rate was 0.92 and 0.89 in 2017 and 2016, respectively, the news report said.

“It will be a great setback for the country if it loses the status,” said Rabindra Baskota, a doctor and chief of the LCD section.

Incubation period of leprosy varies from one to 20 years and diagnosis of more patients could help stop the further spread of the disease, according to him.

An amputated leg, claw toes and claw hands of leprosy patient Gopal Bag are seen at the Leprosy Mission Trust India hospital. Kolkata. VOA

“It will take only a couple of years to reach one percent if this upward trend continues,” he added.

The prevalence rate is over one per cent in various districts of the Tarai region, Baskota said, adding that the country had received the leprosy eliminated status, after reducing its prevalence rate by 0.77 per cent, in 2009.

Sishir Silwal, a focal person for the leprosy control programme in Gulmi district, said regular review meetings for leprosy, which should be held every four months, has not been held for the last eight months.

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Kathmandu Post quoted Bibek Kumar Lal, Director at EDCD, as saying that there is a severe crunch in manpower that hinders proper functioning.

There are only three staff working in the leprosy section and the same team looks after the disability programme, as well, he told the newspaper.

Leprosy, a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, is transmitted through nasal secretion or from droplets from the mouth. It affects the skin, peripheral nerves and eyes, leading to disfigurement and nerve damage. The disease is curable with a multi-drug therapy. (IANS)