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Beneath the Bodhi Tree

INDIA | Friday, 12 February 2016 | Views [212]

I had agreed to meet Manidhamma beneath the Bodhi Tree at 8am and had gotten up a bit earlier to spend some time there alone. Not for the first time I found myself in an irritable mood which I tried to shake off by circumambulations and then sitting quietly. Neither stratagem worked particularly well and I was struck by the difference between my mood and that of two beaming Tibetan monks who posed, arm in arm, for a photograph before me. They did cheer me up mind.

I eventually found Manidhamma beckoning to me from beneath the Bodhi Tree at around 8.15 and rather self  consciously recited the refuges and precepts with him before settling down for half an hour of meditation, which I was very glad to do. Fairly soon into the meditation a Bodhi leaf fell from the tree, landed on my knee and fell to the floor in front of me. An auspicious sign? A minute or so later three rather more heavy, wetter and softer objects fell in quick succession, landing on my new jeans and shirt with an ominous splat. Bird droppings of course. 

I tried to take these gifts as a teaching on equanimity, the accepting of the ups/downs, good and ills of phenomenal existence. I wish one of my fellow 'pilgrims' had thought the same, hovering and then stooping to pick up the auspicious Bodhi leaf without caring to wipe the bird droppings from my clothing. I could say another teaching but that verges on the tiresome.

After meditating and wandering around the Stupa site, Manidhamma and I removed ourselves for an English breakfast at Mohammad's, where we had also dined the previous night after an excursion to Sujata's stupa and temple just over the river from Bodh Gaya and a short walk or Chug Chug drive away. I was glad to do this, taking ourselves to farming country, looking beautiful in the soft twilight. It was another side to Bodh Gaya, away from the tourist bustle and begging, and I was able to imagine, however accurately or not, the Buddha, emaciated from his austerities, walking down from his mountain retreat and receiving the milk rice from Sujata that would give him the strenght to move on to Bodh Gaya and Enlightenment.

Breakfast consumed, I returned to my hotel to pack and say fond farewells to the management and staff who had been so welcoming and friendly. Having booked in in error (Manidhama had got the name mixed up) for a while I had been one of three guests I think, though in the last few days I'd been joined by a group of Korean pilgrims who would stay up in the evenings singing lilting and beautiful songs.

So, farewells made and a couple of opportunities to tip regrettably passed over, Manidhamma, myself and our driver, Guddu, set out for the first of our stops on our/my pilgrimage, this being Rajgir, ancient Rajagriha. We started by visiting what is left of the mango grove, or 'Squirrels' Feeding Ground' gifted to the Buddha by King Bimbisara and then spent a little while checking out the hot springs, more of a HIndu thing (sorry cannot think of a better word). These looked quite fun and I would not have minded joining the hindu men, young and old, in their ablutions had I had more courage and a much easier opportunity. Manidhamma did not seem very keen on the idea.

From the springs to our lodge in Nalanda, which at first glance brought to mind a comment made by my brother, often quoted by my mother, at a hotel on a holiday in Paris that it was not 'up to our usual standards'. ANYWAY, I soon got used to the place, helped by the thought that it was only for the one night, had a decent Indian meal with Guddu and Manidharma and even a pretty good night's sleep.

Tags: pilgrimage

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