Monday, 19 January 2009
Day 3: Bodhgaya
Day 3 (10 January 2009): Bodhgaya (Bihar)
More than three times, I had looked at the map of India before and saw where Bodhgaya was… and imagined what it would be like to go there. Well, suffice to say that my picturesque image of beautiful greeneries where Lord Buddha sat in deep meditation at the bank of a clear water body 2,500 years ago dissolved in a speed of light when our two cars entered the vicinity of dusty and smoggy Bodhgaya. A man sitting next to me en route Bangkok-Varanasi already said that Bodhgaya was very dusty; to the point that you must wear a mask if you want to keep your lungs healthy. I didn’t believe him until I found myself in the dusty town. It was worse than Varanasi.
The temples were great, though. Bodhgaya’s income seems to be mainly generated from tourism, Buddhist pilgrimage tourism to be exact. There are many temple compounds around the town, ranging from Tibetan, Burmese, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, and Nepali. We just have to add an Indonesian temple there, and it should complete the configuration. We went to see a Japanese temple with a giant Nara-style Buddha in sitting dhyana mudra and to a Tibetan Buddhist temple. We also went to an old relic called Sujata Temple. This relic is almost 2,500 years old, and was named after a milk maiden who gave Baghavan Buddha some milk when He was meditating. But the best experience was going to the main Bodhi Temple itself.
The Bodhi Temple was built around the Bodhi tree where Buddha obtained His Enlightenment 2,500 years ago. It was fully packed with people, of course, and you have to take your shoes off and paid INR 20 for one camera. Not bad. The best part of the compound is where the Bodhi tree is, or rather, was. I am certain they planted a new tree years ago, for there is no way a Bodhi tree can survive more than two millennia. We sat there meditating, next to Guruji Anand Krishna, and I felt that immense peace that everyone always looked for. For a rustic path walker like me, it would be only 20% at the most of the peacefulness and enlightenment that Lord Buddha experienced, but it was so beautiful already… I could stay there for another 1-2 hours for meditation, had time not dictated us.
After the meditation under the Bodhi tree (I’m not sure if I received any insights yet…but the enlightenment process for someone as rusty as myself might take years to take effect…), we resumed with a more ‘down-to-earth’ mission: Shopping. Strolling the dusty shopping lane of the main Bodhi Temple, we went inside a shop that sold various wooden, brass and bronze statues. Mbok Wayan immediately fell for a piece of Kali and Shiva (I have to say that any pose of Shiva resting peacefully underneath Ma Kali’s foot is incredibly sexy…). Myself, inexplicably my hand reached for a statue the same time as Wayan reached for her. It was a standing brass Tara statue, with her clothes flowing as if caressed by the wind, her left hand in Abhaya (fear not, and also blessing) mudra and her right hand in the Varada (giving) mudra. As if dancing while protecting us. She reminds me of my Dakini statue at home, and I immediately fell for her. My eyes met Mbok Wayan’s, and with resignation I said that the statue was hers. But she shook her head and said that she did not like this Tara’s face for some reasons. I frowned and checked that the Tara: her Tibetan countenance looked beautiful and serene to me. But I did not complain of course. First: I really wanted the statue. Second: every piece of statue, especially those hand-made, is special and personal. The statue finds the person, not the other way around. In this case, the Tara statue does not find mbok Wayan. She found me instead. The Tara was then ‘mine’.
We had to wait for more than 45 minutes for our lunch, for seemingly the cook in the Sujata Restaurant where we chose to eat later decided that cooking with slow mindfulness will satisfy the empty stomachs of his guests. It was a quick and good lunch, but I didn’t eat too much, lest I might get motion sickness on the way back to Kashi. And shortly afterwards, we found ourselves back in our cars, heading back to the Beloved City of Shiva-ji, fighting our way back amidst the falling smog and occasional bad road.
I didn’t regret going to Bodhgaya. I went there with my Guruji who risked his own health for us, I meditated under the Bodhi tree, and I found my Tara statue. But the next trip shall not happen again unless they make a radical change in the pollution management of that town. Meanwhile, I shall have to visit the Buddha within me instead.
Pic 1: The giant Japanese-style Buddha inside the Japanese Buddhist Temple in Bodhgaya
Pic 2: Interior of the Tibetan Temple in Bodhgaya
Pic 3: The Bodhi site, where Bhagavan Buddha obtain the enlightenment 2,500 years ago