The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Newar Buddhism is the form of Mahayana-Vajrayana Buddhism practiced by the Newar community of the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. It has developed unique socio-religious elements, which include a non-monastic Buddhist society based on a caste system and patrilineal descent. The ritual priests (guruju), Bajracharya or Vajracharya (who perform rituals for others) and Shakya or Banre (who perform rituals mostly for their own families) form the non-celibate religious sangha while other Buddhist Newar castes like the Urāy act as patrons. Uray also patronise Tibetan, Theravada, and Japanese Buddhist clerics.
Although there was a vibrant regional tradition of Buddhism in the Kathmandu Valley during the first millennium, the transformation into a distinctive cultural and linguistic form of Buddhism appears to have taken place in the fifteenth century, at about the same time that similar regional forms of Indic Buddhism such as those of Kashmir and Indonesia were on the wane. As a result, Newar Buddhism seems to preserve some aspects of Indian Buddhism that were not preserved in Buddhist schools elsewhere.
Newar Buddhism is characterized by its extensive and detailed rituals, a rich artistic tradition of Buddhist monuments and artwork like the Chaitya (stupa), Baha and Bahi monastic courtyards, statues, Paubha scroll paintings and Mandala sand paintings, and by being a storehouse of ancient Sanskrit Buddhist texts, many of which are now only extant in Nepal.
According to the authors of Rebuilding Buddhism: The Theravada Movement in Twentieth-Century Nepal: "Today traditional Newar Buddhism is unquestionably in retreat before Theravada Buddhism." Chachā (Charyā) ritual song and dance and Gunla Bajan music are other artistic traditions of Newar Buddhism. Although Newar Buddhism was traditionally bound to the Kathmandu Valley and its environs, there is at least one new Newar Buddhist monastery in Portland, Oregon.
The main events are Samyak (almsgiving and display of Buddha images), Gunla (holy month marked by musical processions and display of Buddha images), Jana Baha Dyah Jatra (chariot procession in Kathmandu), Bunga Dyah Jatra (chariot processions in Lalitpur, Dolakha and Nala), and Bajrayogini Jatra (processions in Sankhu and Pharping).