Beating the Drum: Maha Bodhi Editorials


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Dhammika, Later, in , Dhammika writes, Cunningham dug near the new tree and found two pieces of very old wood. He believed they were remnants of the tree destroyed by Sasanka. A monk lights up the butter lamps. Bodh Gaya. He was standing in a quaint corner of the Temple complex and filling water into odd small plastic glasses arranged in rows. I was inquisitive. I went up to him and enquired about what it was that he was trying to do.

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He came to Bodh Gaya at least once a year to perform some rituals that his monastic vows demanded. He had difficulty understanding both my Hindi and English.

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I repeated my question again, broken word-by-word and punctuated with facial expressions. The golden image of Lord Buddha, inside the main sanctum of the temple, and the pin drop silence cushioning it from the chaos outside, makes you pause for a moment and think. Think about your life, your desires and failures, and think about that prince who had left everything behind to serve mankind.


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A large group of young monks—shaved head and clad in red robe—sat in rows and chanted. The warm orange Sun pushed aside the greyish dawn and rose. Nine bombs went off in total —four within the temple complex and five outside—injuring two monks but killing none.

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Shrapnel penetrated the face and arms of Vilas Ga, a monk from Myanmar, while he was meditating under a tree. Tenzing Dorjee, a Tibetan Buddhist, had his left foot pierced by a five-foot long shrapnel. Photographs in leading newspapers, the next day, showed them with plastered limbs in robes soaked in blood, with blood clots all over their faces.

Sometimes, a seemingly innocuous juxtaposition often leads to a shocking image.

The second of the four bombs that exploded inside the temple complex destroyed a few wooden racks stacked with Buddhist scriptures, which, in all probability, had messages of peace, ethics and forgiveness written in Pali. The third bomb went off just outside the Butter Lamp House— basically a cluster of 7 houses—where, in reverence to that prince-turned-renouncer and the giant tree under which he attained Enlightenment, believers light lamps and pray for guidance, help, blessings and a good life, and what not.

It was built after the authorities realised that lighting thousands of lamp beneath the Bodhi Tree in a haphazard manner was dangerous for the Tree. The Butter Lamp House provided a proper facility to pilgrims to light lamps in an organised manner. Buddhist scholars believe that this practice of lighting lamps symbolizes the rejection of ignorance from our lives. Just as a lamp dispels darkness, offering light from a butter lamp represents removing the darkness of ignorance. The fourth bomb exploded near a Buddha image at a small shrine inside the Temple complex.

A small golden image of the Buddha in the Dharma Chakra Mudra— interconnected thumb and index finger forming circles—with a bright blue halo behind his head, somehow tamed the brutal force of the explosion and remained unscathed. Three of the five bombs that blasted outside the Maha Bodhi temple damaged a classroom in a monastery where children were given lessons on Buddhism. Luckily, none of the children were killed because it was a holiday that day. Fortunately enough, nothing happened to that gigantic statue as well.

But we do not really have any image like that. And, it was then that he asked his sister, Sanghamitra, to join him. Could he? The answer to this riddle is simple. It was magic. The branch which was sent with Sanghamitra to Sri Lanka detached itself from the tree and appeared before Ashoka, scriptures tell us. How would I take a branch? This branch, which was planted at the Royal Gardens at Anuradhapura, survives till today.

Certain Buddhist folk accounts also attribute some magical powers to this Tree—like the power to cause rains and to grant infertile women children. Folklore says, it can even predict the future—if there is impending danger, it will show some sign or the other of not being healthy. Their amber coloured robes must have been drenched with blood, as the monks fell, one by one, to the unending hail of bullets. It was just like one of those shooting games that children play today, on computers and IPads—they sit and shoot rather mindlessly while munching on pizzas and popcorn.

LTTE cadres entered in a hijacked bus, and opened fire indiscriminately at the main bus stop. More than two decades ago, visuals of a frenzied communal crowd demolishing a centuries old mosque, left us bewildered.

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Our mental frames were put to test yet again. He answered in the affirmative. The Enlightened One himself survived three attempts on his life by his jealous cousin Devadatta. But, Devadatta was jealous of his brother, nonetheless. First, he hired a band of archers to kill the Buddha. Unfortunately for him, the hired killers laid down their arms upon meeting the Buddha, and became his followers.

Scriptures tell us that though the mad elephant charged at him, the Buddha fearlessly went ahead. With his gentleness and compassion, the Buddha tamed the elephant which then bowed in front of him, touched the dust at his feet with its trunk and sprinkled it on itself. When Perfect Ones attain final nirvana, it is not through violence on the part of another. Go to your dwellings, monks; Perfect Ones need no protecting. Kumar and his Canadian wife Christa ran the cafe which specialised in delivering pizzas—freshly bake and deliciously cheap. I met Christa, couple of years ago, during a Vipassana training course at the Dharma Bodhi School here.

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The cafe was small and cosy, and had shelves stacked with photo-books on India, travelogues and a few novels. Apart from pizzas, their menu had sandwiches and salads. Foreign tourists and the urbane Indian ones thronged the joint. Niranjan Kumar was managing the restaurant, while his wife prepared the dishes. Now both of us together run this small cafe! He told me that during festivities like Buddha Jayanti or Kalachakra ceremony, there is a huge rush of tourists and pilgrims from all over the world. We had a brief chat about tourism and Bodh Gaya, and how his cafe was gaining popularity because of being listed on Wikitravels.

He told me about the other attractions in Bodh Gaya apart from the Temple and the Tree. The statue overlooks the entire town. I thanked him for the pizza and left for the feet statue. Bodh Gaya is a small town and almost all its major tourist attractions lie approximately within a radius of 2 km. The town is littered with Buddhist temples and monasteries of different countries- Thailand, Japan, Bhutan, Malaysia, China and Vietnam.

Each one has an architectural pattern unique to their country, a huge image of the Buddha, specially designed walls and gates- often painted with traditional art related to Buddhism from their own respective country, and each one offers a unique experience to learn, and get a taste of the Buddhist impression around the world.

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Walking across the town, through the temples, I finally reached the ft high grey statue of the Buddha. Dominating the skyline, Buddha sat there in meditation on a lotus flower. Next day, I planned a road trip to Nalanda and Rajgir—the former an ancient centre of learning and the latter, the capital of the ancient state of Magadha. Road trips always have a romantic air about them—travelling in a speeding car through a highway, with gusts of wind rushing through your hair, gives you a sense of breaking free from the monotony of everyday life, from duties and responsibilities.

During the journey to Nalanda and Rajgir, all the towns and villages that I passed through, portrayed a very depressing state of affairs—every drain overflowed with dirty black water, roadsides were littered with garbage, polythenes and plastic packets, mal-nourished children in dirty school-uniforms stared at vehicles passing-by with vague and expecting eyes and the sweets in the roadside motels and shops kept in the open were covered by a thick layer of black flies.

Bihar has a great history and heritage attached to it. It is the land of the rise of Buddhism and the seat of the rise and fall of the Mauryans. But today things are different. My driver informed us that the highway stretch between Nalanda and Bodh Gaya, was not quite safe to drive through at night- small time miscreants create hassle for tourists. Mindfulness of Breathing anapanasati Satipatthana Positive Emotion Just Sitting Pure Awareness Mahamudra Dzogchen Zen Practices Chod Tonglen General Introductions Personal Practice Mindfulness in Action Accounts of student teacher relationship Advise from the tradition Positive Emotion and Compassion Ritual and Devotion Personal Relationships Working with difficult emotions Caring for Others On parenting story books for young children encouraging positive qualities For the Young Living with others Practice in the context of the sangha Women in Buddhism Women in Buddhism Practicing the dharma as a woman In the Kitchen Visual Art Journal writings and reflections Personal memoirs and autobiographies Fiction Music and Chanting Politics Science and Knowledge Time and Space Neuroscience Language and Dictionaries Engagement Diaries Permaculture Diary Calendars Bodhisattva images Green Tara Padmasambhava Avalokitesvara Buddha images Shakyamuni Medicine Buddha Amitabha Mandala images Meditation Supplies

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