Tham Bahil and Tshongpon Norbu Zangpo

I started my pilgrimage from here from Tham Bahil – one of the oldest viharas (Buddhist learning centres) in Kathmandu Valley. I close it with a visit there with a prayer and moelam to be back again.

Tham Bahil, also known Vikramshila Vihar, appears in the records of Nalanda as established as early as in the first century BC. It was later expanded and repaired by Atisha Dipankara (Dzongkha: Jowo Pelden Atisha), n the 11th century. He is believed to have stayed here for 2 years, while on his way from India to Tibet. He later revived Buddhism in Tibet and is regarded by many as the founder of the Sarma tradition, from where the Kagyu, Gelug and Sakya schools emerged.

Since ancient time, Kathmandu was a mandatory stop for all Buddhist masters travelling between Tibet and India, and of all places in the Valley, this temple played the host. Prominent figures include Nagarjuna, Atisha and Manidhara Tshongpon Norbu Zangpo (known here as Manidhara). Tshongpon Norbu Zangpo is referred to as Jewel Trader here. In Tibetan Buddhism he is considered as one of the mahasiddhas.

The most important relic at Tham Bahil is a set of 108,000-line Prajnaparamita sutra (known as Ser Bum in Dzongkha and Newari), and the original copies Mulamadyamika sutras. Tham Bahil also also has Medicine Buddha, which is believed to possess miracles with health issues. The main temple is dedicated to Dipankara Buddha (Sangye Marmezay), which is one of the favorite deities in Newari Buddhism.

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