Searching for Enlightenment
Trip Start Aug 03, 2008
40Trip End Aug 18, 2009
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So I spent most of the 5 hour train ride on the edge on a crowded bench with half of my ass hanging off using my legs for balance
After such a horrid train ride, and it being about 11:30 pm with still a good 30 mins tuk tuk drive, I opted for staying at one of the high end hotels. We arrived and immediately they got us food and a decent place to stay. We left the next morning only because for the price, the hotel wasn't really worth it. We got a room pretty similar for half the price the next day and that hotel also made it easy to get our laundry done by that night which we needed desperately
We then went for some food, Bill had already eaten some breakfast as it was part of our room, but I couldn't stomach anything at that point. So we ended up having Thai food for lunch, it's surprisingly hard to get Indian food in India. It seems that most Indians only want to make Asian food esp chow mien which can be very spicy since it's easier to make than their own food. On most menus, they'll only make half the things they list. Well, it's mostly at the hotel restaurants but at times those are the only ones available. If you want nan here, which is basically Indian bread, it's easier to find it from a street vendor than a fancy hotel. This trends continues along our journey, so more on that later.
Our first stop was the Mahabodhi temple, which is the temple created by the tree where Buddha received his enlightenment. The tree was "murdered" by Emperor Ashoka's wife. The Emperor Ashoka was the one to create the temple. Luckily, a part of the tree was taken to Sri Lanka by Ashoka's daughter, and flourished there, and then a piece was returned to Bodhagaya which is the tree we saw. I think my tongue is tied from that explanation... Inside the temple complex, many Buddhist monks chanted away as they sat in front of the tree and around the temple other monks and lay people did prostrations, a repeated gesture that starts from standing and ends with a slide across the ground, in reverence towards the temple.
Bill and I spent some time in the lawn area soaking up the peacefulness and discussing religion and how all these different ones work. We had also been listening on audiobooks to HOLY COW, which discusses one woman's journey through India as she learns what all these different religions have to offer. Unfortunately, the actually meditation garden which looked extremely peaceful was gated off. Nonetheless, we soaked in the quietness we could find in India.
We spent both evening attending meditation class at the Japanese Temple. It was called Zazen meditation. We weren't really sure what to expect, but when we arrived, we saw round red pillows nicely laid out along the floor as if class was set-up. We found a set and waited. Eventually, the whole place filled up the first night, and the gong went off. We sat silent in meditation for awhile, but eventually a bell went off and it was a signal most people took to quietly stretch. Then you plump up your seat as you rise to your feet and bow once to the back of the temple and once to the front. Then with some instruction from the monk we learned that you make your left hand into a fist and cover it with your right leaving them right below your chest.
Then the walking phase begins, you breath in and then out and take a slight step
We spent our second day we visited Dungeshwar cave, the cave where Buddha had deprived himself trying to find enlightenment but eventually realized that way was not going to bring enlightenment. So inside the cave is a statue of a emaciated Buddha which his ribs popping out. It was a long journey to get to the cave, and so when we returned, we had the tuk tuk driver drop us off at the Karma Temple just outside of town. We later figured out it wasn't the Karma temple listed in the book, but what looked like a new temple being created. We then started to walk towards Temple Street but weren't sure how far we were outside of town since this temple wasn't on our map and took a rig shaw driver back to town. We hadn't been that far.
But we went down Temple Street where there was a Japanese, Thai, Bhutanese, Tibetan, and Nepali temple to see. However, most temples just had a small area that you were allowed to see as the gardens we also blocked off. We were thinking it might be to keep people from making these gardens a place to sleep. And last we saw the Big Buddha surrounded by his 10 disciples. It was surely an eventful day.
We also had our first good Indian meal at the Swagat restaurant which a teenage monk helped us find saying it would bring him good karma. And so it was now time to get up early for our morning train that our hotel booked and claimed that we had reserved seats...