Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Travel in Buddha's Footsteps in Bihar

We travel to Bihar in eastern India. It's real wealth is independent of the earthly world. Here you can find space in spirituality. In fact, its name, Bihar is derived from the Sanskrit vihara or abode. It reflects the fact that it was here that the first Buddhist monasteries arose.

Bihar pays tribute to one of the most widespread religions and philosophical doctrines in the world.

Ashoka Maurya, after converting to Buddhism, pledged to make it the state religion by sending missionaries to neighboring countries to preach the true Dharma. Thus the great Buddhist monastic centers today allows us to relive timeless emotions.

The Buddhist circuit starts from Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, a city that preserves its old world charm among the Bara Imambara intact. It was built in 1784 by Asaf-Ud-Daula. There is the Chattar Manzil. The clock tower was built by Nasir-Ud-Din Haider in 1880. The Hussainabad Imambara is also there where Mohammed Ali Shah and his mother rests.

Another stop is the Shravasti district, closely linked to the life of Buddha. Surely, one of the most vibrant sites is Lumbini. It is an important religious site where Siddhartha Gautama was born. He was a mystic philosopher and ascetic monk and became Gautama Buddha.

An important place of pilgrimage is the city of Lumbini. It was registered in 1997 in the UNESCO list of World Heritage as a unique and exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition. The extraordinary architecture illustrates significant stages in human history. The Bodhi Tree, the column of Asoka, the ancient ruins of temples and monasteries, such as the one dedicated to the mother Maya Devi are not to be missed.

Among the routes affected in the course of his life also include Vaishali. During the rule of Licchavi, Gautama Buddha preached his last sermon in 483 BC. Here you can admire the Kutagarasala Vihara, the monastery that he frequented during visits in the city.

Rajgir is also fascinating. Buddha spent thirty years meditating on the hills and walked through bamboo groves. For those who want to fill up on culture, the ruins of Nalanda are the most important ancient Indian Buddhist university founded in the fifth century AD. Nalanda is dedicated to the study of theological, scientific, medical and astronomical disciplines.

The process on the Buddha's footsteps touches Bodhgaya, another jewel protected by UNESCO. Bodhgaya is one of the four most important places of Buddhist pilgrimage. It was here that the Buddha attained enlightenment around 530 BC. Today it is home to monuments such as the sacred Mahabodhi Temple, the Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment or even a Buddha statue built in the eighties.

The visit to eastern India is not complete without visiting Varanasi. It is one of the strongest places in the country where Hindus go to purify themselves in the waters of the Ganges. After Sarnath, here actually spread the message on the median life. You can reach Kushinagar, where the great Gautama Buddha died.

Mahavira was born in the same period in fifth century BC and lived in the same places of Prince Siddhartha. Even their lives greatly resemble each other, between luxury and comfortable life of aristocratic childhood and austerity in the years of maturity and then enlightenment. Both attained Nirvana through a series of miracles up to the complete liberation from the cycle of rebirths. Despite all these similarities, Buddhism has experienced such a great popularity globally while Jainism remained confined to a few million Indians.

There are some theories supported by history. Probably the true motivation and the fact is that the latter is nothing more than a hard and fundamentalist version of the first. There are no concessions to luxury and exoticism through colored temples, trumpets, and prayer flags. There are no flashy clothes. In Jainism vegetarianism and nonviolence pushes up the level. It considers the life of every living being as precious. Jain monks wear masks over the face and clean the path on which they walk, to avoid killing even a small insect.

The monks of the Digambara sect live totally naked! They follow the supreme act of adherence to the teachings when they get to a certain age. They simply leave themselves to die of starvation by stopping eating and drinking. The main feature, and perhaps their total and unshakable faith is the rule of Karma, for which everything but everything depends on oneself and of one's actions.

Fortunately, we have 24 teachers of life (the Tirthankara) to inspire us, and the last and most important of them, Mahavira was born in what is now the small village of Kundalpur in southern Bihar. Probably he traveled a lot, and also died a few steps from here, in nearby Pawapuri. Today it represents as one of the most important pilgrimage sites of this religion.

But this and also a land of Muslim saints like Sharfuddin Shaikh, Yahya Maneri in Bihar Sharif and Sikh Guru Gobind Singh in Patna.


Max Coutinho said...

Hi K,

It's a great show, that's for sure.
I wish it all the success in the world. And of course, I hope Jamal wins (he's far more talented than Hakeem).