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INDIA | Thursday, 25 February 2016 | Views [503] | Comments [1]

This is now my fifth day at Nagaloka (or more gutterally Nagloak). It has been a weird time with moments of low emotions and others that have been quite delightful.

On arriving it was lovely to see Akashamitra from the London Buddhist Centre, here in his Karuna capacity, who could not have been more welcoming. It was great to catch up over a couple of mealtimes and to be able to open my heart and mind to him. It was also good to meet  other members of the Karuna team here in India and to informally accept a very kind offer to visit Pune and it's projects from Savita and Omkar.

Otherwise my first two days were quiet, catching up on my blogs from the pilgrimage, resting, sleeping and making friends with some of the boys who are genuinely delightful: energetic, friendly and warmly interested. They are also incredibly helpful, making sure I am fetched for meals and that I am well watered and fed. 

On my second morning I joined them for a 6.30 meditation and yesterday for a two hour meditation session (mindfulness of breathing, walking meditation, metta bhavana/loving kindness meditation) all preceded by the tiratanavandana and starting at 6am.

This morning I reluctantly missed this to leave on the back of a honda scooter to visit Nagarjuna's cave some 50 kilometres away, and to see the temples and ruins of Ramtek and Mansar. This was one of those occasions where I felt genuine gratitude, for Manidhamma for arranging this and suggesting we leave early, for Nitish, Manidhamma's assistant, for driving and being such good company, for the early morning beauty of India and much else besides. 

Nagarjuna's cave itself has been 'captured' by the hindus and was locked to us though we could still hear strains of what sounded like popular music coming from inside. A short climb above the cave, however, the view opened up over a large lake and Nitish and I spent a quiet and lovely 45 minutes there enjoying the place. No wonder that Nagarjuna, one of the greats of Indian and mahayana buddhism, settled there for a while. I could have spent the day and it certainly put me in mind to book a solitary retreat somewhere quiet and beautiful once back home. 

From the cave we made our way to Ram Mandir, an impressive HIndu temple/fort and then to a jain temple which I had spotted from the ramparts. I really enjoyed the friendliness of the people at the jain temple and both Nitish and I thoroughly enjoyed a very good and extremely cheap thali lunch, freshly prepared and served by one of the nicest 'waiters' I have come across in India. We like the jains! I'll have to look into them a bit more but it seems that they are quite keen on nakedness from the statues on view.

So from the Jain temple, via the monastic ruins at Mansur and the well manicured and lush Dragon temple at Kamptee, we made our way home to Nagaloka. 

A short rest later I met up with a new friend, Pranay and his wife Ashwini, for a chat around the Buddha statue. I had met Pranay a couple of days previously where he had served me at a post office in Nagpur. Not only had he been extremely helpful and saved me some money but he had also seen the 'from' address as Nagaloka and told me that he was also a Buddhist. After that he had introduced me to his friend who showed me zero point, the column marking the centre or navel of India, and took me to a local canteen that served a good coffee, a great samosa and a refreshing fruit beer (non alcoholic) and chocolate bar.

That had been on my second unaccompanied visit to Nagpur, a 30 minute bus journey away from Nagaloka. On the first I had made my way to the Deekshabhoomi, the scene of Dr Ambedkar's personal conversion ceremony to Buddhism after which he led the largest mass conversion in known history, hundreds of thousands of scheduled caste hindus to Buddhism.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Deekshabhoomi learning a bit more about this incredible man, who rose from untouchability to create the constitution of India and achieved much more besides. One of the highlights was sitting in the shrine behind a father with two young sons and one daughter, all imaculately groomed and dressed very smartly in white.

I had also enjoyed the experience of being on my own again, shy and with no knowledge of the local language and relying so much on the goodwill of others which, in Nagpur, was very forthcoming. From the stationery shop keepers who drew me a map to get to the Deekshabhoomi, to the young man who gave me a lift partway on his moped, to local resauranteurs exhorting me to patronise their establishments or joints. I even got a free ride on a bus to the bus I should have been taking. I love all that. 

On the same trip I also paid an impromptu visit to the cinema to see a Bollywood film could Loveshhuda, part set in London with some awful, awful charicatures of English thugs and a beggar and involving a surprising amount of drinking. There was enough English in the film for me to understand the gist of a not very complicated plot line and to enjoy it. I also enjoyed a brief chat with a young Engineering student (female) from Nagpur to my right in the intermission and the frenzied excitement and cat whistles of the, mostly young, audience when any of the characters kissed or even threatened to.

Other highlights of my time in Nagpur so far have been an invitation to an English/ Indian wedding reception and attending a full moon puja and dharma talk (entirely in HIndi) with some of the boys from Nagaloka. Last night, again throught the kindness of Manidhamma, I was invited into Nagpur to dinner at an English teacher's home and into his classroom where I sat on a chair on a sort of stage and talked about myself and asked and answered questions. One of the things I was asked to do was to speak in French, which was a lot of fun and I think I managed to successfully set the French tourist industry from Nagpur back several decades in doing so (talking about awful charicatures). 

I had a really heartwarming evening, great food, great company and to be with the children in the class room was a priviledge and delight. 




Asked to speak French at a school in India! Must have been fun! Being up and about early in the morning is beautiful, and must be especially so in India. I'm admiring your ability and openness to 'be' and go with the flow. Your journey makes me reflect on how task-oriented I am. Take care. Michael

  Michael Inglis Mar 2, 2016 8:16 PM

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