On the second day I again visited Mahabodhi temple and visited a few monasteries around the city. There are many monasteries in Bodhgaya with all countries vying to out do each other in terms of architectural splendor and creativity. Although there is no comparison to Lumbini, Bodhgaya has a few wonders. The Thai monastery ( left pic) is very prominent and beautiful while I personally feel The Bhutan monastery is fantastic. The Japanese monastery is also huge and splendid. Among the prominent monasteries present around Bodhgaya include monasteries from Thailand, Japan, Bangladesh, Korea, Tibet, China and Sri Lanka.
Sadly there is no popular or famous monastery from India and Lord Buddha was an an an ? What? What did you say? An Indian. There is a 80 feet statue of Lord Buddha near Mahabodhi temple. The Statue is one of the most prominent states of Lord Buddha in Bodhgaya and a must visit. The statue has some of the most prominent disciples of Buddha surrounding the statue.
( Left pic). Some of the prominent disciples statues include Ananda, Sariputta, Upali, Maha Kaccana among others. The Dude with monk in Bangladesh monastery right pic. If you want to known the lives of prominent disciples of Lord Buddha, then the best book to read would be Great Disciples of Buddha by Venerable Nyanaponika Thera with foreword by Great Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi.( More coming up).
I decided to eat at a cheap restaurant near Bodhgaya. As I was eating, I noticed a trio of people sitting next to my table. I was curiously listening to their conversation and amused when they mentioned that they had come to Bodhgaya for sightseeing. I politely intruded and suggested sightseeing is not the correct word to use especially for a place like Bodhgaya where Lord Buddha got Enlightened. I noticed a smart southeast Asian sitting with the two Indian dudes and enquired if he was from China and presented him my visiting card. It turned out that he was from Japan and had come to India for about a year on his spiritual awakening trip. We exchanged pleasantries and we all left. As soon as I left, I felt a queer feeling in my stomach. Since I was staying a bit away from the Mahabodhi temple, I decided to take a Tuk Tuk to Root institute. The pressure kept on increasing and I tried to be as mindful as possible.It worked..For sometime..I slowly kept on observing inside and I knew I had to go to a restroom as soon as possible. As my tuk tuk approached my destination, I quickly alighted and tried to run as fast as possible to the restroom. Since I was new resident at the institute, I had forgotten direction to the dorm ( not surprised since I keep on shouting be mindful and self aware) and asked an American for the same. The pressure was so high, there were girls sitting on the lawn and I was hugely embarrassed. Somehow I was able to reach my ultimate destination at that point of time and 5 minutes late wow what a relief…
So what was the Middle Path here? There is no middle path during such situation and only the shortest path i.e. to reach as soon as possible to restroom. Sadly there are not many clean restrooms in Bodhgaya. What I should have done is to go to the closest decent hotel and use the restroom. I took rest for the entire day, took my usual meditation for upset stomach and decided to read something. It’s been more than two weeks ever since I came back from Bodhgaya and my stomach has still not fully recovered. I vow never to visit the restaurant again when I visit Bodhgaya next time.
On day three I decided to check out Sujata caves and the cave where Lord Buddha meditated for a long time. Both these two sitess are not officially recognized since there is not sufficient archaeological evidence to justify the claim. I am not sure if I am following the right sequence of my travel in Bodh Gaya and will try to ignore numbering order of dates going forward.
I hired a Tuk Tuk to take me to Sujata temple. According to Tipitaka (writings of Lord Buddha’s teachings to be discussed in detail later), Sujata had offered Kheer (an Indian sweet pudding made of milk and rice) to Lord Buddha before he became Enlightened. Kheer plays a major role in Lord Buddha’s life since Buddha had fallen down on road from the extreme austerities and penance which he practised to attain Enlightenment. When Sujata offered Buddha Kheer, partaking it Buddha got the message of Middle Path : to avoid severe austerities which included punishing your body to extreme limits by avoiding food. Lord Buddha would then partake Kheer to regain his strength and attain Enlightenment. I meditate for sometime there and left to visit Sujata stupa a bit farther up.
There I would meet a very interesting Indian, who himself is inspired on the path of truth and Lord Buddha and we became Facebook friends. Facebook, undoubtedly has been a great innovation thanks to Mark Zuckerberg which has revolutionised the way we socialise and exchange information these days. More coming later on this.
Next day I hired a Tuk to take me to Mahakala caves (also known as Dungeshwari Cave). I paid about Rs 400 for the entire trip. There are two small caves where you can go and practise mindfulness. You could look to visit this place and I leave the decision entirely to you. They are surely not a must visit.
After my visit to the caves, I came back to Mahabodhi temple for my evening mindfulness session. Bodhgaya, Bihar is located on the eastern part of India and hence by 5.30 in the evening it gets dark. I recorded a bit of video of the ceremonies near Bodhi Tree.
As I cam back to my institute, I met a French guy with his partner and mother. His name was Fred and is a Phd in Astrophysics. Fred works in Europe where he stays with his partner Sandra who is an aspiring yoga instructor.
More coming up on him in Nalanda session.
He was a very friendly and nice guy and we made plans to visit Nalanda and the great Xuanzang memorial. I would eventually go there twice..Next Nalanda
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