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Visit to AMDA Nepal and AMDA India (2): New Airport in Lumbini, Nepal

Publication date:2020-03-10
 
By Dr. Shigeru Suganami
President, AMDA International

On September 2nd 2019, I took a Buddha Air flight from Kathmandu to a local airport near Lumbini in Nepal. In a matter of thirty minutes, the plane arrived at this Buddhist holy place where pilgrims from around the world pay a visit. Responding to such needs, the local airport has currently been converted into an international flight hub, thereby allowing the visitors to have better access to Buddhist facilities of different countries set in the city.
 
Along with Bodhgaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar in India, Lumbini is known as one of the four major Buddhist sanctuaries. Lumbini is the birthplace of the Lord Buddha, and in its suburb stands the famous Kapilavastu castle, the Shakya clan’s home. The castle is no more than one kilometer in length, probably because the Shakyas weren’t a big family.
 
The Buddha literally means “a man of enlightenment”. Every now and then, the Buddha is said to appear in this world with teachings that suit the times.
 
The current living Buddha is of the 17th generation and is the third one to emerge from the Shakya clan. As of now, there are 200,000 descendants still living in Kathmandu practicing Buddhism. In ancient times, they came all the way from the Ganges basin to settle in the Lumbini region.
 
Some say that the current Buddhist teachings have limitations in responding to today’s needs. Whereas, it is believed that the new Buddha will emerge with right capabilities to cater to such demands in the next era. Come to think of it, this reasonably befits the current space age in which mankind is moving into the universe.
 
I was stunned by the fact, which I came to know in Sri Lanka, that there are several living Buddhas in existence. As a child growing up in Japan, we were taught and had never doubted that the Buddha was a unique being.
 
Most of the residents around Lumbini are Muslims who were originally the so-called “outcastes” in the Hinduist caste system. As they were considered the lowest in the hierarchy, they converted to Muslims, Buddhists and Christians to rid the shackles that bound them.
 
The incumbent Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a Hinduist hardliner who is currently increasing pressure on people of different faiths. Accordingly, a lot of religious organizations and trusts in India have been dissolved by the current regime, partly because of the fears toward the surging Muslim population. The Muslims make up 22% of the total population which used to be only 2% at the time of the national independence in 1947.
 
The similar cases have been seen in Myanmar, Thailand and the Philippines which have created huge political and cultural tensions. And although women’s social participation is less acknowledged in Islam, there are a lot of families with many children irrespective of their financial status. This brings to an estimate that about 50% of world population will comprise Muslims in the near future.
 
Lumbini seemed to have gone through a substantial transition from the time I visited the place three years ago. With each possessing unique characteristics, the temples of different countries truly projected diversity.
 
I have been consulted about the establishment of a cardiology clinic which a Malaysian NGO is aiming to launch at a location a few kilometers away from the temple district. The clinic is expected to conduct a screening test to detect children with congenital heart-related disorders. If needed, cardiac operations are also arranged depending on the test result.
 
While the screening will be conducted using a remote diagnosis system, I have asked my colleagues at AMDA Nepal (who are also professors at Tribhuvan Medical School) to provide technical assistance.
 
Furthermore, the fact that AMDA Nepal is running Siddhartha Children and Women Hospital in Butwal is a plus for the clinic. When the hospitalization is required, the Butwal hospital can accept such patients on its behalf.
 
The land for the clinic is leased by the Lumbini city government to a private trust run by a Nepalese priest. The trust is hoping to add educational and vocational training facilities alongside the clinic in a hundred-acre area.
 
The said trust is registered in Hong Kong while maintaining connections with the Chinese mainland. This gives us expectations to the extent that the Chinese authority could be of some help in supporting its activities. Whereas, considering China’s crackdown on Tibetan Buddhism, some remain skeptical if the trust could garner any assistance in this respect.
 
The biggest concern is about the land lease. When a city mayor changes, the situation could also change dramatically. As we have already experienced this with the Siddhartha hospital, the authority sometimes asks for an unreasonable favor which often grows into insatiable demands.
 
By contrast, we have forged a good relationship with the Damak municipal government in running AMDA Damak Hospital in Jhapa District. Since the property was donated by a local resident, I am most confident that we have built a genuine partnership with the municipality in serving the public.
 
    •  President's Message
    •  Nepal
    •  India
    •  2019

 
 
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