Bodh Gaya

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Bodh Gaya

Postby alan » Tue Dec 22, 2009 2:10 pm

Wondering if anyone has recent experience in Bodh Gaya. I was there back in 1994 in my young backpacker days and wasn't too impressed, but thought it might be feel different this time around.
Might as well ask the same question about Sri Lanka while I'm at it.
I'm close enough, thought it might be interesting.
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Re: Bodh Gaya

Postby cooran » Tue Dec 22, 2009 7:22 pm

Hello alan,

I haven't been to Sri Lanka for about 6 years, but loved it.

I've been to Bodh Gaya and the other Holy Places a few times in the last 8 years ~ here's an entry from my travel diary from about 3 years ago - I'm due to go again in February/March 2010.

"We visited the Bodhi Tree, at Bodh Gaya, which is the place where the Buddha attained enlightenment. This site is traditionally believed to be the place where the Buddhas of the three previous ages had also attained enlightenment.
No archaeological remains have been found of any structures dating from the time of the historical Buddha; the earliest temple seems to have been constructed by the Emperor Asoka around 250 BC. This shrine was replaced in the second century AD by the present Mahabodhi temple, which was itself refurbished in AD 450, 1079, and 1157, then partially restored by Sir Alexander Cunningham in the second half of the ninteenth century, and finally fully restored by the Burmese Buddhists in 1882. The temple's square, truncated tower rises 180 feet (54 meters) above the ground. Its two lower stories house shrines that have served through the ages as places of homage, ritual practices, and meditation. Its upper portion is crowned by a stupa containing relics of the Buddha. Inside the temple is an enormous statue of the Buddha said to be more than seventeen hundred years old. In front of the Buddha image is a Shiva Linga said to have been installed by the great Hindu sage Shankaracharaya. The Hindus believe that the Buddha was one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu; thus the Mahabodhi temple is a pilgrimage shrine for Hindus as well as Buddhists.(Gray)

Behind the temple are the two most venerated objects in all the Buddhist world, the Bodhi Tree and, beneath it, the Vajrasana, or seat of the Buddha's meditation. The 116 of us had brought with us silver lamps with candles and we did what the Thais called Wien Tien - we lit the candles and slowly circumnambulated the Bodhi tree Jedi in a single line three times in a clockwise direction, then sat for an hour waiting for the gates to the base of the Bodhi Tree to be unlocked. It has been locked for a number of years except at specific times, because the Bodhi Tree has been ill and required treatment by tree-doctors. Too many people touching it, and maybe it was stressed? Once the gates were unlocked, a few of us at a time were allowed to enter, kneel and pay respects at this most revered of sites. It is hard to describe ones feelings at such a time, mostly 'I can't believe I'm really here' and lots of attachment (lobha). But a little joyful rapture intermixed as well, I think.

The tree standing today, while not the original, is a direct descendant of the tree growing in Buddha's time. A cutting of that tree was taken to Sri Lanka in the third century BC, where it still flourishes at the sacred site of Anuradhapura. It is recognised as the oldest historical tree in the world. A sapling from that tree was later brought back to Bodh Gaya, where it is still growing today. The Bodhi Tree was harmed, burned, and cut down various times by fanatical Hindus but, according to legend, each time it miraculously regrew. Around the tree and the temple compound are numerous other places rich in association with the Buddha's enlightenment. The environs of Bodh Gaya have attracted sages, yogis, and meditators since the time of Buddha. Such great spiritual figures as Buddhajnana, Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra, Nagarjuna, and Atisha have lived and meditated beneath the Bodhi Tree.

It was fascinating sitting there watching the crowds of people - there were lots of drums and Tibetans prostrating and circumnambulating, other pilgrimage groups all dressed in white, and curious individual backpackers. Loudspeakers blasted out the Muslim Call to Prayer over this most Holy of Buddhist sites from somewhere close-by, competing with the measured chant of "Buddha.m sara.na.m gacchaami - Dhamma.m sara.na.m gacchaami - Sa.ngha.m sara.na.m gacchaami" from the hundreds of pilgrims, and from the stalls selling the CD by Hariharan in the temple forecourt. We were constantly landed on by thousands of grass hoppers and beetles in the warm night air, attracted by the lamps and lights of the area. Thin stray dogs were trying to eat the larger beetles and being shoo-ed away by a Lama. A Bengali Bhikkhu sitting on the wall, (a proper distance from the ladies) made polite conversation in very good english, and gave me a leaf from the Bodhi Tree.

While walking around the Jedi with the candle-lamps, one of the Thai ladies reminded us of what Tan Acharn Sujin had said earlier "There is not one square foot of ground here that has not been trodden on by hundreds of Arahants. Are you going to walk on their footprints? Or follow in their footsteps?"

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Bodh Gaya

Postby cooran » Tue Dec 22, 2009 7:48 pm

Hello alan, all,

And a little more:

On the last night in Bodh Gaya, the group presented to the MahaBodhi Society the funds donated to assist in the their activities. Among many other charities, the donation also kept the lights at the Bodhgaya stupa and temple on for a month, and a senior member of the group was given the privilege of turning them on. Previously we had provided a meal, robes and necessary requisites for each of 120 monks, half Theravada and half Tibetan, Chinese. In gratitude, 60 or more mainly Sinhalese monks came to Bodhgaya and - sitting just to the left of the Bodhi Tree - chanted in Pali the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta - the chanting was quite magnificent by lamplight in the very warm evening - with crowds of Hindus, Buddhists of all traditions ... some doing the three steps and a prostration practice, some walking and chanting continually, backpacking tourists, monks in every colour and type of robe, grasshoppers, moths and dogs. As usual, the local Moslem call to prayer echoed over the site at sunset with the assistance of loud speakers. A political meeting was being held outside the grounds, also with loud speakers. India = Sound.

During a dhamma discussion, behind and to the right of the Temple, we placed candles all around the scene. There are strict rules about candles - none to be carried around the Stupa unless sheltered in candle Lamps, none to be placed on the Temple or walls (as is usually the custom with Thais). None to be left unattended anywhere.
For those who requested ~ candles (sorry, not butter lamps) were lit for you and placed in a special covered area after the Wien Tien. The Wien Tien was quite thrilling .... apart from our large group, all the monks were given candle lamps, and many passing buddhists as well. A very long line of pilgrims and Sangha carrying the lamps wound around the Temple three times and then went through the grounds to where the candles and lamps could be left in a glass walled covered area. The long line dotted with light was something to see as it wended its way through the grounds. We had our own loud speaker this time broadcasting the sounds of Refuge ~ Buddham saranam gacchami; Dhammam saranam gacchami; Sangham saranam gacchami.

Since coming back, still trailing clouds of memories, everyday life seems repetitive and pointless - fairly much the same as always, when you think about it.

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Bodh Gaya

Postby alan » Wed Dec 23, 2009 6:44 am

Thanks Chris. That helped in my decision-making process.
About Sri Lanka then...
If you are willing to share I'd love to get your impressions on daily life--hassles or lack of them compared to India, etc.
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Re: Bodh Gaya

Postby cooran » Wed Dec 23, 2009 8:33 am

Hello alan,

I can't find my travel diary for Sri Lanka - but I do have a post I wrote on Dhammastudygroup six or seven years ago, after arriving home. Some of the people from that group were on the pilgrimage - and so the post contains some personal chit chat.

GETTING THERE:
Getting to the starting point is often a lot of fun when meeting friends in Bangkok. This time travelling from Brisbane to Bangkok via Singapore, I had an inquisitive Singaporean two year old sitting
on her Indonesian Nanny's lap next to me. Smiling eyes, playing the game of "I'll hand you everything in the seat pocket, and you hand it back to me." Eventually she went to sleep and I got a chance to read
Nina's "Perfections leading to Enlightenment" - 52 pages on my printer. Thank you Nina, I found it absorbing, it stimulated reflection, and I look forward to learning more on the second reading shortly. I feel the phrase "whatever comes, let it come" may have been an omen.....
Landing in Singapore at 6.30 p.m. was a lesson about 'no control'. A series of announcements through the evening changed the departure gate three times, from one end of the terminal to the other <groan>, and delayed departure until "who knows when" the next day. The Acapella singers, the live game shows and the on-line gambling were a little at odds with the alert armed soldiers in patrol formation carefully moving through the crowds.
At 4.00 a.m. I checked into the Transit Hotel and rebooked my ticket on another airline who could guarantee I would get to Bangkok in time to join the tour to Sri Lanka. Changi Airport is an interesting
place to be marooned (though I did feel I might have wandered into the song lyrics of "Hotel California") ....
"Last thing I remember, I was running for the door
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before
'Relax' said the nightman, We are programed to receive.
You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave"


What I thought of as the 'Singapore Debacle' was viewed in a different way by the man sitting next to me on the Singapore/Bangkok sector. He noticed I was reading Nanamoli Thera's "The Practice of
Loving Kindness" and introduced himself. He is a practising Buddhist and saw the overnight delay as fortuitous, something to be delighted and joyful about, as it caused us to meet. (Hard to remember the
meaning of fortuitious after 28 hours without sleep.). We had a lovely two hours of Dhamma discussion and I told him all about the Yahoo Lists, and hope he will join us. Eventually arrived in Bangkok around midday - just 24 hours late. That evening, finding K. Amara, K. Betty and K. Sukin felt miraculously wonderful - hugs and smiles all round - mine the most fervent! 39 hours without sleep, and I still appeared to be a sane human being (apart from tipping a waiter in Bangkok $US30 - but he was deliriously happy!) Is a mistake counted as Dana? :)

In Colombo, we were 'permanently' allocated to one of five coaches. Our Thai tour leader (name 'sounds like' Cook-ai) and our Sri Lanka tour leader (name 'sounds like NissanCar [seriously!]) were patient and efficient ), and a bit shell shocked with over 150 delightfully individualistic Thais to deal with. But lots of laughter, no dosa. They just wouldn't stay on their allocated buses, would they Amara? -
And a decision is only a 'preliminary' step - one needs to make and remake them in a dozen different ways.. :)

PLACE IMPRESSIONS:
Others on the tour will have their own favourites and their own special reasons for valuing certain places. Two places stood out for me -
1. The Aluvihara Temple about 20 miles out of Kandy. Here in the 2nd Century B.C., the Tipitaka was first committed to writing by about 500 monks over very many months. I'm not usually impressed by 'significant sites' but the emotions experienced here are indescribable. This place....this place..... the thought of the Teachings and those responsible for its preservation and dissemination fill me with awe, gratitude, reverence, and moved me to tears.
2. The Sacred Bo Tree at Anuradhapura - the oldest historic tree in the world - grown from a branch of the tree under which the Buddha gained enlightenment. I managed to collect a few leaves from the
ground to press as keepsakes.

COMPLAINTS:
The Sri Lankan Tour leader frequently spoke about 'The International Women's Problem'. He said that the desperate (but beautiful) ladies on the bus had a problem that would require the stopping of the bus
in ten minutes - if they could be patient that long. And, he said, "Gentlement - you must just bear with me please" - (big grins from the men - did you think we didn't notice Jon, Sukin, Jaran??) I would like to propose that, on future trips, once the desperate (but beautiful) ladies had alighted, the doors of the bus should be locked with the male passengers inside, until departure .... THEN we would
see just 'who' was desperate (but beautiful), and 'who' was being scapegoated.... :)

And to THAT staff member of THAT Hotel in Kandy ... 4.30 a.m. is NOT the time to knock on the door and want to check the mini-bar in a lady's room. Next time you may get a worse reaction than an incredulous "You want to do WHAT??" Luckily for you, you beat a hasty retreat. (Clearly another reading needed of the Perfection of Equanimity ... why is equanimity the last of the Perfections? :))

IMPRESSIONS OF DHAMMA AND FRIENDS:
On a few occasions, some of us didn't go on the day trips so that we could have Dhamma discussions with K. Sujin. How precious those times are ... Much gratitude for K. Sujin's unstinting giving of her
energy, and time, whenever she felt she could be of help to any of us regarding the Teachings.
And the Dhamma topics - I usually remember what is impacting on me at the time, often quite different to, or only a tiny part of how anyone else remembers a discussion. Metta, again, came up ... that there is no need for a special method, time or place; that metta arises conditioned by understanding; 'Who' is developing metta? No self - so there are just moments of understanding, seeing, metta etc. but no self who is 'experiencing' or 'doing'. Conditions for having metta - right understanding of what metta is; understanding at a theoretical level more about realities; association with the right friends.
'Dust rags' were mentioned again. Being a Dust Rag - losing the concept of self - indicates and absence of conceit. This was a bit difficult for me as I spend part of each day 'empowering' people to stand up for themselves, resisting unfair, unkind people and circumstances ... I came to see that 'being a dust rag' is an 'internal' attitude to what has occurred and it doesn't mean that we don't try to change situations and help people. (I hope that's right, otherwise I'm in trouble again.)
There was also an interesting discussion on attachment/bonding to our babies and children. Some of us (me) wondered what affect biology/hormones/survival of the species has, as opposed to others (everyone else) who consider 'bonding' is 'accumulated tendencies'.
Hmmmm ... If there has to be a unanimous agreement then we have a 'hung jury' - if 'majority rules' we have a result favouring 'accumulated tendencies' with one dissenting vote.

No need for me to ponder or discuss 'no control' anymore - I'm in the middle of it - can't escape it, can't 'control' it.

Meeting Ranil and Sumetra, Sumane, Nihal, and Suren and Cinta, was a joy. Ranil and Sumane - lovely to see your keen enthusiasm, knowledge and interest in the Dhamma, please talk to us more often on
dsg, and, who can tell what the future holds, we may all get to meet again face to face.

Good to see Ell has posted. Nina, Sarah, Betty, Lucy, Azita, Joyce and I need more feminine support here. Now that we know about this 'International Women's Problem', we may have to roster someone
on while the rest of us leave the List when struck by desperation for short periods. :)

ANIMAL IMPRESSIONS:
NissanCar (who is a well known presenter on Discovery Channel about animals and birds) was giving us a talk about elephants and what to say to one who was at the 'kicking up dirt' stage of an inevitable
attack - (sorry, I've forgotten just what to say (and it would only have worked if the elephant spoke Sri Lankan anyway), but don't run - elephants are faster than humans and can swim further.).
As he was talking, a mahout and an elephant passed the other way in the stream of traffic. This elephant - flapping his pink ears, trunk held high, eyes bright and happy, tail up, swaggering and sashaying,
all body parts wiggling like an articulated heavy vehicle. NissanCar said he was an 'exuberant' young male - isn't that a lovely word? - exuberant? - means joyously unrestrained - and, indeed, he was.

- a very long, very fat slithering snake making it safely across the road. (didn't hear a gulping sound though, Sarah) .

- dogs and more dogs, looking surprisingly like the Bangkok dogs - how far can a dog swim? :)

- Then, there was the time I was standing on the verandah outside my room in Dambulla, contemplating jungle and mountain views, listening to unfamiliar morning bird sounds. Suddenly a large monkey scrambled up the corner post within arm's reach (his and mine!). The monkey paused and checked me over (for food? for jewellery?) and was completely unfazed. (not so, the human). - I've found a weakness in those Women's Safety lectures I went to, where the Police Constable said "If in danger, scream loudly" - Screams don't happen with frozen vocal chords - (He was a VERY large monkey) - and monkeys are completely and utterly unimpressed by squeaks. I have learned since (from my dear friends) that monkeys are 'probably' vegetarian, and 'probably' don't have rabies. Sukin, tell me again about re-birth and just who could have been my grandmother? Only teasing - I know it wasn't the monkey - it was the elephant, right? :)

metta,
Christine
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dhammastu ... sage/13833
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Bodh Gaya

Postby alan » Wed Dec 23, 2009 11:55 am

Thanks Chris.
I might post a separate thread on Sri Lanka to catch the eyes of people who didn't respond to Bodh Gaya.
(Sri Lanka sounds like a nicer place to visit).
alan
 
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