Monday, December 8, 2014

Return To Ellora

It was 1976 and I was a newly “gone forth” monk making my way through India to Sri Lanka, bare-footed, with almost no money and where feasible, begging for my  my food. I arrived in Ellora to see the famous cave temples. Walking along the scarp into which the caves are cut I noticed a very merger waterfall trickling over the highest and most vertical part of the cliff. I decided to climb up and have a look and although there was no path and it was very rough I managed to get to the top and walk along to where the waterfall was. An almost idyllic scene opened up before me. A small stream tumbled from one rock pool into another and eventually over the cliff. It ran through a narrow rocky gorge into the side of which were carved a collection of small cells and rooms, some with modest verandas in front of them. I inspected some of these and finding that they were all fairly clean and except for one, bat-free, I  decided to spend a few days in one of them. And so I did. For the next four days I slept and meditated in a cave just big enough for one person, bathed in  the rock pools and climbed down to the main caves with my begging bowl once a day to get food from the visitors, most of them Indians. These few days remains one of the highlights of my many trips to India. 
This rocky gorge is interesting. I strongly suspect that it is where Ellora started.  It seems likely that the first monks at Ellora lived in this gorge, originally under the few rock overhangs and  later, when they began to attract devotees, in the small cells cut out of the rock for them. Ellora’s main cave temples cut into the scarp below speak of highly institutionalized monasticism, lavishly patronized and probably both wealthy and powerful – the very opposite to the  simple modest caves in the gorge. After attending a conference in Pune last month I took the opportunity to revisit Ellora, and of course after seeing the main temples I wanted to see the place where I had stayed all those years ago. I clambered up the incline only to find when I got to the top that the Archaeological Dept. has built a path up there, although it did not look  as if it got much use. Anyway, I followed it and soon I was back at the gorge. But a path means people and people means rubbish and indeed most of the rock pools has plastic bottles and other rubbish floating in them. Almost as bad, the AD has built an unsightly iron railing around the stream, no doubt to stop people falling in or swimming in the water, something for which it is completely useless as one can easily climb through it. Initially these changes left me a bit disappointed. But it wasn’t long before the silence, the beauty and the spirit of those monks who lived in the gorge so long ago filled me with happiness once again.  


Unknown said...

Dear Sir,

My name is Sri and I read some of your writings and just found out that you are visiting Maharashtra, India. Are there any speaker series in Pune or Mumbai. Is there a possibility of meeting you? Is there a number I can reach you?

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Sri, thanks for your message. I am no longer in Maharastra having returned to Singapore. You can contact me on Singapore 63522859

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

It was great to hear your adventures in India. But i am too fascinated to see the images you posted. They look amazing and to think you spend 4 days in that place is quite amazing too.
And you spend you time meditating. So you are spiritual advisor of Buddha Dhamma Mandala Society in Singapore.
I thank you for expressing your great experience with us.

GiDo said...

Dear Bhante, having lost your email I want to ask you: Is there a blog-entry here explaining your "counting" of the verses, and an online reference/source for it? Someone asked me about Vin.I,205 which you have quoted for the explanation of sura (made from rice or flour) and could not find it. I would like to point him to an online source.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Gui Do, the reference system I use is to the volume and page number of the Pali Texts Society’s editions (not translations) of the Pali Tipitaka. Thus Vin.I,205 refers to volume 4, page 278 of I. B. Horner’s translation of the Vinaya published by the PTS. This is equivalent to Mahavagga VI, 14. However, looking there I note that it mentions mixing alcohol with oil and various other things although I can see no mention of rice or flour. Where do I mention sura made of rice and flour?
If it is a recipe for various types of alcohol you are after, and I seem to recall you like a bit of drink, you might try the Arthasastra II,25, which tells how to make mearya, majja,asava and arista but unfortunately not sura. Have a look at Patrick Olivelle’s new translation (King, Governance and Law in Ancient India) page 155.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Gui Do, a bit more searching bought this to light; Vin. IV,110, i.e. page 385 of Horner’s translation, i.e. Pacittya LI,2, the supplement, mentions sure being made out of raw rice, cooked rice, cakes, probably stale ones, and yeast. I hope that helps. It also mentions flour as an ingrident for other types of alcohol.

GiDo said...

Thanks a lot, Bhante!
The quote was from your entry of August 31, 2009:
"sura was brewed from rice or flour (Sn.398; Vin.I,205)"

Although I liked cocktails in the past (for their taste and the funny mood they brought), for a long time now I had to abstain from alcohol due to my weak stomach. This won't change anymore but is on the other hand no problem at all.

Anyway, I found that sura - here called a "brandy" (Branntwein): - was used as an anaesthetic at around Shakyamuni's lifetime by the famous physician Sushruta (you probably know all this).

My argument therefore is that a strict rule that also limits the amount of alcohol in medicine goes against the actual help in reducing suffering that was derived from knocking out patients by rather large amounts of sura.

GiDo said...

Dear Bhante, maybe you can help me with one more guy: Rudra. He appears as Rudra-Siva or Isâna in Dhajagga Sutta or Sakka Samyutta 11.3 (German version, sorry). This Godking seems to take fear away from people.

In Hindu tradition he was probably a forerunner of Shiva. In the Chinese tradition he is considered to be a demon of egohood. In the Tibetan tradition he is swallowed by the Buddha and has to travel through his anus (!, page 301 in Sins and Sinners by Shinohara.

My question: Has Rudra any negative connotation in the Palikanon or only the positive one as a reliever from fear?

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Gui Do, a good deal of searching reveals that the name Rudra does not occur in the name index of Bhikkhu Bodhi’s new translation of the Samyutta. It does not occur anywhere in the Jataka, nor is it in the Dictionary of Pali Proper Names. The Pali equivalent luda or rudda is used to mean awful or dreadful, which is what the Vedic god Rudra was, a fierce and terrifying god of storms and hunting. In the oldest Vedic text Rudra so sometimes called Isana and this name occurs, I think only once in the Tipitaka, in the Dhajagga Sutta, as you correctly say. Given that the name only occurs once in the whole of the Tipitaka I think that it would be fair to say that Isana, aka Rudra, has/has no importance in early Buddhism.
The translation brandy for sura seems to me to be a bit far-fetched. As you know, brandy is distilled wine. Distillation was probably known in India during the Buddha’s time but grape wine (a very poor quality wine) was only produced in the far north-west of the subcontinent (Afghanistan, Pakistan) and was probably unknown in the area where the Buddha lived. Sura was probably like modern arak or vodka, a white spirit. This is just a small point but it might interest you anyway. Oh, and one other fact that might interest you. The oldest still ever found in India was recovered from a Buddhist monastery dating from about the 6th century CE. You can see a picture of it here.