Title:The Dasakarma Vidhi: Fundamental Knowledge on Traditional Customs of Ten Rites of Passage Amongst the Buddhist Newars
Author:Pandit Vaidya Asha Kaji
Publisher:Mandala Book Point
Remarks:Colour and B&W Illustrations, Appendix.
Size:140 x 215 mm
The Dasakarma Vidhi (ten rites of passage) are performed in two different ways, namely jnana sambhara and karma sambhara. The former refers to the prerequisites of spiritual knowledge, whereas the latter refers to the prerequisites of action. Even the Buddha is said to have spiritually performed the dasakarma before he attained Buddhahood. It is said amongst the Buddhist Newars of the Kathmandu valley and elsewhere that one cannot achieve enlightenment without performing the dasakarma, either spiritually or ritually. The dasakarma begin with the birth ceremony (jatabhiseka) and end in the ceremonial initiation of the Supreme Seniormost or Head of the Community (cakresvarabhiseka). The system of the dasakarma is so instilled in the life of every Buddhist Newar that the rites have become part and parcel of the life-cycle, thus presenting as inseparable traditional and cultural rites unique among human beings on earth.
The practices of dasakarma were initially performed by King Pracanda Deva of Gaud (India), who is said to have come to Nepal on a pilgrimage to pay homage to Svayambhu. This king, being highly inspired by the supreme serenity and spiritual tranquility of the Svayambhu jyoti rupa the rays radiating from Svayambhu a made up his mind to renounce his kingship and sought ordination of cudakarmabhiseka (first initiation of entry into the life of homelessness), subsequently followed by acaryabhiseka (initiation into priestly life) bestowed on him by Manjusri. By thus performing the dasakarma vidhi he became the first Vajracarya, who was later known as Santikaracarya, the father of all Vajracaryas in the past and the present.
The English translation of the Dasakarma Vidhi is thus a complex text that has its origins in Kuladatta's mid-eleventh century work and has subsequently been altered in various ways by numerous other practicing Vajracaryas, including most especially Asha Kaji Pandit himself, and finally rendered in its present form through the work of Nhuchhe Bajracharya, Min Bahadur Shakya, Michael Allen and a number of other scholars.
The book you hold in your hands is a distillation of Asha Kaji's wisdom as a practising Buddhist priest and simultaneously as a learned pandit with a deep knowledge of his own tradition. Sadly, with modernity many young people in Nepal who wished to study Buddhism held their own elders in contempt because they did not have modern degrees and could not express themselves in English. The time has perhaps come when another generation is not so insecure and is ready, with the help of an English translation, to return to the knowledge and traditions of their grandparents.