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Turning the Wheel

INDIA | Saturday, 20 February 2016 | Views [361]

Sravasti was left behind after one further visit to Jetta's Grove for me to enjoy its quiet and, as mentioned yesterday, reflect on my irritability.. Also, after a good Indian breakfast, Manidhamma and I having given up on mock English breakfasts. What's the point of having something that vaguely resembles the familiar and tastes nothing like when the locals know what they are doing with their own dishes. Still, sometimes the pull for home food is strong enough to override the obvious good sense of this.

The drive from Sravasti to Sarnath is around 270 kilometres, again not too far in European terms but in Indian terms that's a whole days driving, this time punctuated by a really good roadside thali, a sort of a dash.

Arriving in Sarnath around 9pm we bid Guddu a fond farewell on my part and what looked like a begrudging one on his. Maybe the tip was not sufficient to his liking? A quick dinner and then a good night's sleep at the Dhammaloka Buddhist Centre, part of the Triratna movement and sometime home to ManiDhamma. For the first time I did not share with Manidhamma, with whom I had shared a room and a snoring duet for the rest of the trip. I had also slept really well in his company so I was a little anxious about how I would fare alone.

I need not have worried, as it turned out, as I was not alone in the room but merely a guest. Whilst attaching my mosquito net I had heard scurrying from the shelf above my bed, had quickly blocked this out, but was awoken in the night by the tinkling of pans and bells and the scurrying of little feet. 

Needless to say I was a little perturbed but, thank goodenss for Shantideva, was able to reflect on the benefits of minor discomforts in the building up of the fortitude to bear major ones and, after a little while, managed to get to sleep. For the next couple of nights I was aware of my host, the sound of his scampering and the silhouette of his little tail and, besides opening the door to the adjoining room so my fellow guests could also share his hospitality, did little and was surprisingly unbothered.

As for Sarnath itself I generally enjoyed it. The Buddhist centre was a little haven off a main street, with birdsong and quietude, and some of the sites, notably the deer park where the Buddha turned the wheel of the Dhamma (as in taught his first discourse) afforded me time to meditate, reflect and get my photograph taken with a friendly bunch of school children.

The Sarnath museum, an attractive, collonaded sandstone (I think) building was also impressive, housing some very beautiful carvings, one in particular of the Buddha in the teaching mudra.

On my last day I found a very good reproduction of this (photograph taken) in the Chinese Buddhist Temple along with a lovley Dharmachakra (symbolic wheel of the Buddhist teaching that must have been heavy to turn). I spent about an hour in this temple quietly enjoying the sculptures and gardens, exhausted from 8 days of travel and pilgrimage and, once again, templed out. 

The whole trip has been worthwile and I am pleased to have done it. Manidhamma has been incredibly accomodating to any wishes I have had and obviously concerned that I should have a good time, improvising with a cycle ride in Lumbini for example. Still, by the end I was pleased to be ending my spiritual tourist phase. I had the luxury of travelling in a car with a friend and guide (and entertaining driver)  but each major site we were joined by bus loads of Burmese, Thais, Koreans and in Sarnath for some reason plenty of Europeans. This was in many ways fine (from  my perspective) but it also made for much business and bustle.


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