Appearances can be deceiving. Bhikshu Krishna Man Manandhar appears to be just a simple monk dedicated to his calling. But as he speaks, and his life begins to unfold, we become aware of a man with a great vision. Just as the Buddha, more than 2,500 years ago, advocated peace and compassion, Krishna Man has been trying to bring the world’s major religions together in an effort to bring peace to a world in turmoil. Born in the late 1920s, he has lived through turbulent times and has seen major changes in this Himalayan kingdom. He observed Rana rule come to an end in his youth, went through middle age under Panchayati rule and welcomed democracy in his 60’s.
Krishna Man’s father Chandra Man Sainju, was a compounder who served as medical assistant to late King Tribhuvan. Krishna Man spent his childhood in his hometown Kathmandu and later moved to India to complete High School from Allahabad. He then returned to Kathmandu and earned a B.A. degree from Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur. He joined the American Library in 1956, and also started writing as a freelance journalist. Krishna Man spent 27 years of his life as a librarian and followed up with a book he authored, “The Library Science Book” in Nepali. A deeply religious man, becoming a monk after his retirement was only natural. And so he joined the order of the Mahayana Buddhists to become a monk in 1992. He then began to play a larger role in life, writing books, organizing international peace walks and has now become a sort of a cultural historian. He is preparing a cultural history of gaines, Nepal’s traveling musicians and has started on a book on the study of differing religious significances of Muktinath in relevance to Buddhism and Hinduism. Manandhar’s past
achievements tell us why this monk is different from the others. Besides the book on library sciences, he has written, “Peace Pilgrimage Nepal-America,” an account of the peace walks he organized in the US and has also translated two books by Buddhist monks based in the United States into Nepali. He was awarded first prize in an international essay contest sponsored by the Reiyukai—a Layman’s Japanese Buddhist Sangha in honor of the “Lumbini Year” announced by the United Nations. The prize came in the form of a free trip to Japan and was later extended to include a trip to America and Europe. He recalls, “While I was in America, I visited the The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. There I noticed that the museum had musical instruments from all over the world, but none from my home country, Nepal. So, I later went back and offered them a set of Nepali instruments called ‘Panche Baja’.” Today, he is very proud that it was accepted and Nepal has been represented in such a prestigious museum.
By the time Krishna Man became a monk his parents had both died and his children were grown up and well settled. Thus, he felt he had no more responsibilities towards his family. His mother was a Theravada Buddhist and not a practitioner of Mahayana Buddhism. “She had a desire to send her youngest child to a monastery to become a monk, but contrary to her wishes, the youngest became a businessman. So I took it upon myself to fulfill her desire.” says Krishna man.
In 2001 Manandhar organized a Peace Walk to Lumbini. Thirty-two walkers took to the road from Kathmandu and walked 400km to Lumbini via Pokhara. It took a whole month and they were there in time for the opening of the Peace Pagoda. ‘Peace Walks’ had been started by Japanese Fuji Guru, who came up with the idea after the atomic bomb had been dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His mission was to put an end to all wars and bring peace to the world. There is a plan to build 95 peace pagodas all over the world and Krishna Man says, “75 such pagodas have already been built and we aim to build one in America. The plan is for six sections and six symbols representing the six major religions of the world and the prayer wheels will have embedded in them, six different religious mantras.” The six religions are Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Native American. At a gathering in the US, an American Buddhist lady named Sandra Easner announced that she would bear the expense of making the prayer wheels. A master plan is being made in Nepal and the design will be based on the Swayambhunath stupa. He has been promised help from Fulbright scholars for the design. The plan is to have the different religious groups build their own section. When the construction is completed, various committees will be formed and responsibility for maintaining the shrine will be shared by all the religious groups involved.
Krishna Man organized a ‘Peace Walk’ in America that lasted two weeks in 2001. The walk commenced from Albany and wound up in Ground Zero, New York. This was conducted in the Japanese style beating a drum and chanting mantras. The next Peace Walk is slated for Bucks County, Pennsylvania in the spring of 2005 where the participants will carry prayer wheels with the six mantras from the different religions. He participated in the first Peace Walk in Bucks County and it took them one month to complete.
By organizing such peace walks, Krishna Man hopes to bring solidarity among peoples of different religions, embracing diversity and awakening the true human spirit of sharing and caring for one another.
Krishna Man can be reached by e-mail: email@example.com
Visit website: www.buckpeacewalk.org
Photo: Pramod Neupane-WWF Nepal From red pandas swaying on branches in the eastern Himalayas...