kirtu wrote:So how is Sarnath?
Sarnath was interesting. The ancient stupa there is run by the government. The ticket checker at the gate just took my ticket and tossed it into a bag full of other tickets that had not been torn. Usually the staff are supposed to rip off the stub and hand you the other part of the ticket. I suspect the guy inside the ticket booth and him have a system where they collect all the untorn tickets, put them back into the pile in the office and take the money from the cashbox pretending they were never sold. Foreigner tickets are 100 rupees each, so pilfering several of those would make a tidy sum.
I even asked him for my half of the ticket and he said refused.
So, corrupt staff running a racket in a Buddhist holy site. That's India for you. Not as bad as the fake monks in Bodh Gaya.
I stayed at the Gelug-pa temple in Sarnath and ate so many vege momos across the street at the Tibetan cafe.
Kushinagar was nice, too. I stayed at a run-down dusty Gelug-pa temple there. Very cozy actually. The monk there was smiling and warm.
Lumbini is the most beautiful place I've ever been to in my life.
I added the Lumbini and Nepal photos earlier:http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2 ... 1c0ec8fb73
I had several deep experiences visiting the four major holy sites. When I first walked into Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya where the Bodhi Tree is I became speechless and wandered around feeling composed, but somewhat relieved in an odd way. I sat down some distance from the Bodhi Tree on a quiet stone bench and broke down into tears. I was not sad or upset, but shed tears for probably ten minutes or so. It was profoundly deep. I felt I had accomplished something I had set out to do long ago.
I think in some past life, or past lives, I had sought to visit the Bodhi Tree, but was probably in some land so distant that it was just not possible. Having done it now, I considered how much immeasurable merit and good fortune I must have, owing to the Buddha and countless teachers and Dharma friends, both in this life and past lives, to be able to actually visit the Bodhi Tree and pay respects.
I felt relieved and satisfied. Happy and content. I felt such gratitude to the Buddha. It was because he attained enlightenment there a few meters away from me that I have been able to cure myself of so much suffering. Moreover, it was due to a long chain of teachers, nuns, monks and devoted practitioners over the last 2500 years that I have the good fortune to study the Buddhadharma. I felt such gratitude to them and considered how in how many other past lives it was due to them that I didn't live a life of sloth and non-virtue. If I hadn't had the good fortune back then to study the Dharma, I probably would not be a Buddhist pilgrim at the Bodhi Tree today.
I had similar experiences where I just broke down into tears at Kushinagar and Sarnath. I just though about my good fortune and the merit I must have, which again I owe to the Buddhas and all my teachers and loving friends and family both in this life and past lives, to visit these sacred places.
I also just happened to run into a Dharma friend from Canada in Bodh Gaya. I saw this Tibetan nun at the internet cafe which looked familiar and sure enough it was my friend from the temple back home. Quite auspicious indeed. We share the same guru. I had a feeling before that it might happen. So, we had coffee and caught up. I hadn't seen her in close to two years.
Again, in Kathmandu I turned the corner to the stupa and ran into a "Dharma internet friend" from eSangha and Facebook. I knew he was in Kathmandu again after a retreat, but we had not been in contact yet or arranged to meet up. But I had a feeling in the back of my head I would run into him and sure enough I did. Right in front of the holiest stupa in all of Nepal, too! It was interesting because if I had turned that corner five seconds later I would have missed him.
These experiences have inspired a lot of conviction and insight into Buddhadharma. Strange things have occurred on my pilgrimage and I have learned a great deal from meeting people, visiting the sites, reading, reflecting, meditating and simply being at these places. I feel more confident than ever before that if I pursue the Buddha's teachings to their full extent I really can become enlightened, free from suffering and genuinely aid others. It isn't just some fantasy or dream, but a reality.