Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What! More Nostaliga!

After I became a monk I decided to try to retrace some of the Buddha’s journeys. The longest and most wonderful of these was the walk I did from Bodh Gaya to Rajgir and back again. The these two places are about 100 km from each other and are linked by a line of rugged, treeless mountains. I walked along the south side of the mountains on the way and returned walking along the north side. I begged for my food all the way, slept in the open and bathed in irrigation tanks and villages. The knowledge that I was walking where the Buddha had, in a manner similar to the way he did and through countryside he would have recognized, filled me with such elation bordering on, that I did the whole trip in an almost dream-like state. Thinking about it now, I realize how much danger I was in, this part of Bihar being infested by very ruthless bandits, although I had no sense danger. And everywhere, villagers were kindly, generous and helpful to me. The only difficulties I had were with village curs, buffalos (for some reason Indian buffalos always freak out when they smell Westerners) and nosey jackals at night. I have no pictures from that time because I had no camera.
During my time in Sri Lanka I often visited India and did other journeys –from Bodh Gaya to Sarnath, from Allahabad to Kosambi, and the longest, retracing the Buddha’s last journey from Rajgir to Kusinara. Here are some photos from some of these journeys. This is me in some Bihari village with a jatila, a matted-hair ascetic. These guys are often mentioned in the Tipitaka as dialoging with the Buddha, and of course three of the Buddha’s early disciples, the Kassapa brothers, were jatilas. It looks like someone is pointing a rifle at him, ‘OK swami! One move and I’ll blow your head off!’ Actually it is the handle of the village pump.Once I passed through a village in UP and half the population came out to stare at me. The local school teacher, who spoke some English, stepped forward to welcome me and then informed me that outside the village under the local sacred tree was an ancient Buddha statue. This is it. The villagers begged me to stay with them which I did for three days; blessing them and their children, listening to their problems and concerns, telling them about the Dhamma, and they shared their meager food with me. Peasants in this part of India must be amongst the most neglected, the poorest and most exploited people in the country – but this does not stop they from being very hospitable to strangers and respectful to swamis. This is me wading across the river near, I think Wazieganj, a village roughly between Gaya and Nawada in Bihar. There are ancient Buddhist ruins at the foot of the mountain. Here I am with Venerable Chandraratana Nayaka Thera, the High Priest of north India, and the then vice-president of India, Shankar Dayal Sharma, at the opening of the Nava Jetavana Mahavihara at Sravasti in, I think, 1987.


Branko said...

Dear Bhante,
this nostalgia is very interesting and inspiring. Just keep on! :)

Samsara said...

Haha, no worry, New Year is the perfect time of nostalgia! I am doing my own version (though a lot less adventurous). Gee, I find I am really lucky when I count the friends and good things happened to me!

And, I read your blog through Bloglines, so rarely visit your blog unless I need to leave comments.

To count the total number of readers you have, you could add up those subscribers of google reader, bloglines, etc.

qwerty said...

Dear Bhante
Why was it that you were in the bright yellow robe? It seems that you have another yellow t-shirt under your robe.

I seldom see monks wear such robe, which tradition or area does monks such like that?

Thank you.

Ananda See said...

It's nice that you sharing us your life story. Thank you.

mchean said...

Dear Bhante: Thanks for sharing your story with us. I look forward to hearing more.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Qwerty,
In my case the color of my robe depends entirely on the color of the robe I was last given. And that will depend on the color of the cloth that was available when the manufacturer made the robe. A bright yellow, as I am wearing in the last photo, is quite common in Sri Lanka. In that picture I am wearing a T-shirt because it was winter and it was very cold. You will notice the other monks in the picture are also wearing T-shirts or covering both shoulders. Their robes, like mine, are just the standard robes.

bobzane said...

good stuff!

I'm getting a kick out remembering events in my life at the same time as yours, since we are around the same age, I think. I conjure a mini spiritual autobiography in my mind.

I am anxiously awaiting "The Attack of More Nostalgia."

Praveen_1975 said...

Hello Ven,

Wish you a very Happy New Year !

My name is K Praveen and I am an Indian. I have been doing some research in the field of Indian Chronology and in particular the life of Gautam Buddha for the past 1 year. I think I have finally made a breakthrough discovery regarding the exact year of Ashoka's coronation and consequently Buddha's Parinirvana, his year of Birth and Enlightenment.

I have read your article " The Edicts of King Ashoka " and I would like to discuss my findings with you as you are an accomplished scholar of Buddhism.

How can I contact you?



Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Praveen,
Given that the available evidence has been examined in extrodinary detail, many times, from every conceivable perspective, by some of the greatest scholars of our time, it will really be amazing if you have come up with something both new and credible. I look forward to hearing about your researches with some trepidation. Please contact me on pitijoy@yahoo.com

aah-haa said...

It would be interesting if Praveen could share in this blog his researches and findings. Let's hear what the breakthrough discovery is amid some trepidation.