Early this week the news came of tragic bombing of World Heritage site in Bodhgaya, Bihar, India. It left me shocked and distressed. Any news of attacks bring with it sadness, helplessness where we are sorry for the people who have lost their lives and their effected families. Sometimes these attacks leave pain, anger and frustration that why our governments are not able to deal with it and protect its people. The attack on Bodhgaya brought with it a lot of questions to me as a regular citizen, that why was Bodhgaya attacked? Bodhgaya is a simple, spiritual, loving and peace loving town.
It was in February 2011 that I visited Patna a city in the state of Bihar, India. I was having a quite dinner and suddenly after a few minutes the place was buzzing with activity. I soon found myself with many Japanese tourist and monks. It surprised me to quite an extent. Now, Bihar as I knew till that time does not have tourist attractions which would interest tourist from different parts of the world, that to specially from Japan.
I soon inquired with the steward and he told me that the tourist specially from Japan come here to visit Bodh Gaya where Gautama Buddha obtained Enlightenment.
The mention of Bodh Gaya reminded me of a beautiful story I had read in my school. It was about the journey of a young man known as Siddhartha Gautama. He was Prince of Kapilavastua in Nepal who left his home in search of inner peace.
The story of Buddha fascinated me at lot. His journey from leaving his home full of luxuries and go on a path to search solution to human misery. This story and other similar stories which have happened around us have always put importance on Inner Peace. Inner peace has been always a very important element in anything I do in my LIFE, whether it my work with children, my friends and family around the world. Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment in Gaya around 2300 years ago, a jungle (at that time), praying below a tree for a week.
I promised myself on that day that I have to visit Bodh Gaya on the next given opportunity. I got in last month.
Bodh Gaya is around 135 kms from Patna city. It’s took about four hours to reach. The journey between Patna and Bodh Gaya was far from interesting, but once I reached the Mahabodhi Temple complex I knew it was all worth it!
When you first enter the complex which is also a world heritage site you see this magnificent temple of Buddha. The temple was built much later by King Asoka after 250 years of Buddha. It’s said that the temple has been intact for all these years, but in past few years a lot has been restored to bring the complex to its original shape.
Although the reason for many to visit is not the temple, but THE BODHI TREE
The place under which Buddha meditated to reach the stage of enlightenment. This place for sure had that feel of spirituality and peace for which people still travel thousands of miles to Bodh Gaya from different parts of the world.
The tree is behind the west side of the temple. Just sitting below the tree one feel likes a child and you feel closer to him. It was one of the most amazingly peaceful experiences which I have had. One feels at peace and relaxed. The branches of the tree had covered the people who were meditating like a father takes his child in his arms, loved and protected.
My thoughts were only disturbed when a leaf fall next to me, I picked it up, soon I realized that many pilgrims weighted below the tree to get a leaf as it was considered to be blessings. I believed in it too and have put it up on wall at Bal Asha Trust so that our work and children are blessed with almighty’s choicest blessings.
A little walk will bring you to a path which had lotus flower shaped stones. It is said that when Gautama Buddha walked on the path after his enlightenment, lotus flowers emerged from the earth. These were later built with stones by kings to retell the story.
You can see the pond which was built by Asoka which people now use to perform various Hindu ceremonies or an iron pillar.
Its believed that he meditated for a few weeks at different locations, each corner of the complex having a story. Here are some of the location pictures of the complex.
Several monasteries have been built by the people various countries around the world specially Bhutan, Sri Lanka, China, Thailand etc. I had a rickshawala baba who agreed to be my guide for the noon once I came out of the temple.
He first took me to the monastery built by people of Thailand. Very traditional in its architecture. I met a monk who was kind enough to tell me about the history of the monastery and his life for the past many years. He was more than 85 years old and has been to several countries to pray in different temples.
My last stop of the day was 80 feet statute of Buddha built by the Japanese. I called it a day as I had a long journey back to Patna, but I left with a amazing experience.