Travels with Two Buddhas: Turning the Dharma Wheel

Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Two thousand five hundred years ago at Sarnath, then just known as Deer Park, the Buddha gave his first sermon to five ascetics: Kondanna, Vappa, Bhaddiya, Mahanama and Assaji. These five, who abandoned Siddhartha earlier to pursue their own ways, became his first disciples and the Wheel of Dharma turned for the first time.

The exact location of the sermon is not known, although several stupas commemorate the event. Ruins of monasteries and temples, foundations of a once-great Buddhist community, surround the stupas.

Lee, Lu, the two Buddha statues, and I walked around the temples and stupas and lawn graced with trees. At the nearby Deer Park, we fed the Spotted Deer who were fenced into a small barren park, a far cry from the original Deer Park, when they roamed free and were able to graze on lush grasses and shrubs.

Now new Buddhist temples surround the ruins and Deer Park--the Tibetan, the Japanese, the Chinese, the Maha Bodhi Society Temples. Most of them are less than 100 years old. A Tibetan University lies, newly built.

At this Tibetan University, the Dalai Lama gave a several-day lecture to the most learned scholars in India: this was not your ordinary dharma talk. As it was open to the public, I was able to attend. The main text of the lecture was A Commentary on the Awakening Mind by Nagarjuna, the great scholar of Nalanda, the historical center of Buddhist learning.

The Dalai Lama said this about Buddhism: "Buddhism is nothing but a search for reality and acting accordingly."

The Dalai Lama entered the tented lawn with a dignified manner, sitting with ease on his throne overlooking thousands of Tibetans--monks and laypeople--and others from around the world. He then began to speak with a powerful yet gentle voice.

The discourse was highly intellectual, with topics such as partless particles, the emptiness of mind, continuity of consciousness, nirvana, dependent arising, and impermanence covered. His grasp of Buddhism, particle physics, and psychology, among other things showed as he talked incessantly about the subjects for hours on end.

At one point, however, he paused, as he "lost his connection," as he put it, because of his old age! Such a modest and humble man, embodiment of the Bodhissatva of Compassion, Avalokiteshvara.

Earlier, near the Maha Bodhi Mulagandhakuti Vihara Temple, the World Buddhist Leaders Council, which included the Dalai Lama, gathered. They passed a resolution, which stated:

At the global level, bodies like the United Nations have tried to eliminate human suffering through regulation and resolutions. Yet, more that 27 million people have died since World War II due to conflicts. We need more effort within the Buddhist community to initiate such actions that were targeted to eliminate this avoidable human tragedy.

Lee and I waited near the meeting, along with many others. When the Dalai Lama left, he touched my hand gently. Lee wished him a long and happy life in Chinese. Being near and being able to listen to such a great leader, scholar, and spiritual being was truly a blessing.
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