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December 31st 2011
Published: January 22nd 2012
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rural countryside enroute to Bihar state
I've been back in New Delhi for the past week after three weeks in Bodhgaya. For non-Buddhist readers, Bodhgaya is in Bihar State, which is in central northeastern India, near Nepal. Bodhgaya is like the Mecca or Jerusalem of Buddhism, as it is the location where Shakyamuni Buddha, the forth Buddha of this world system attained enlightenment 2500 years ago beneath the bodhi tree. We are currently under his teachings, until the manifestation of the next Buddha, his disciple Maitreya, the Buddha of Loving Kindness.

I was in Bodhgaya for teachings with His Holiness The Dalai Lama. I arrived Christmas Eve after two days of train travel from Dharamsala in North India. The journey was exhausting. My Tibetan travel agent could only route me to Gaya proper via Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, a city I wanted to go to in and of itself. Travel to Bodhgaya was effectively booked by everyone coming to the teachings, including the 5,000 Russians traveling on there from Dharamsala as well as the 1,200 newly arrived Tibetan refugees, the rest of the Tibetans in India, and the rest of us from all over the world.

I arrived in Varanasi @
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rural countryside enroute to Bihar state
5AM and immediately headed to the Police pre-paid taxi stand in search of the bus station. The agent said to take a bus of which there were many to Gaya, that it'd be about a 4 hour ride. The policeman manning the desk initially quoted me Rs 60.00 (rupees), but then did an about face and refused to book me for what I could only understand of him was that there were no (tourist) buses. Another man in the office said there was a "metro train" to Gaya. A metro? Some auto-rickshaw hack then offered to take me for Rs. 70.00. We went to a couple of stations, and there weren't buses to Gaya, so he said. He made me stay in the rickshaw while he asked. He then offered to take me to the main road to Gaya where there surely would be a bus he said, and quoted me Rs. 200.00 as it was "35KM". Not. It wasn't even 5. Complete BS. We get there, there, no bus was scheduled. He offers to take me to a train station instead as there was a train leaving within an hour. Says it's another Rs. 75.00. He then literally drives
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rural countryside enroute to Bihar state
me around the corner to the station. Then demands Rs. 750.00. Another total rip-off artist/extortionist. In a way, it was kind of my fault. I was so stubborn and insistent on finding a bus, and everyone kept saying "train", even the driver but I wouldn't listen. The ride cost about ⅔ the price of my entire train journey there. Ah, India. I was sick, having caught a nasty cold up north, was tired from my journey and just wanted to get to my destination.

So I booked a train, and it was a "Superfast" class. This other hack is chasing me down the train platform offering to taxi me to Gaya for the equivalent of a couple of hundred dollars. No thank you! He kept saying "this train makes too many stops." I blew him off thinking if it made the handful of stops like the train from New Delhi, no problem. Not. He was right, the train left at 6AM, and stopped at every backward place every three minutes for like 10-15 minutes at a time. "Superfast." Not. India paradoxical misnomer. I think I got into Gaya after 3. So 9 hour train ride vs. 4
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rural countryside enroute to Bihar state
hour bus ride.

I checked into Root Institute, and what a beautiful place. It was pristine oasis, a total compound complete with it's own police station. Christmas was lovely. I hired a very nice bicycle rickshaw driver to take me into Bodhgaya to get my security pass for the teachings, and to find the tent city camp I'd be staying at for the duration. He was very friendly, and quoted me Rs. 30.00 for the trip into town ($.55). I had problems finding the location where they were issuing the pass, but eventually the driver did. So after that, then checking out my tent my friend and dharma/vajra-brother Chris offered to let me share, I returned to Root in time for a special Christmas dinner (served at lunchtime).

I liked the driver. He had a great attitude, was very helpful and kind. I asked how much, and he said "well three hours at Rs. 30, so Rs. 90.00." I was expecting him to ask me for a flat Rs. 200.00. Some of the prices these hacks throw at you are completely arbitrary. I found him so refreshing, and it being Christmas, I gave him a Rs.
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rural countryside enroute to Bihar state
500.00 note, a lot of money here (but really just $10.00). I thought he as going to cry. He first was reluctant to take it. I had to insist. He hugged me and about cried. I ran into him a few days later, and he told me some sob story about one of his kids needing surgery, and he would loose pay to be with him, and he wasn't making his usual Rs. 500.00 a day, blah blah, then asked me for Rs. 20,000. I was floored. I actually asked for a specific amount. I'd have given him another Rs. 500.00, but that was about $400.00, which is a big chunk of my budget traveling as a monastic. Seeming truth the adage you give people an inch and they'll take a mile.

Root Institute was booked for the entire HH Dalai Lama teaching. I was able to stay Christmas night as I didn't want to give up the unlimited hot water from the solar heated shower, and a clean toilet just yet. I couldn't stay past then, and moved to the tent on the 26th. I wasn't expecting to have electricity, planning on having to read at
Root InstituteRoot InstituteRoot Institute

Christmas Day after I arrived late in the afternoon Christmas Eve.
night by headlamp. I was delighted to find our tent was wired with an light bulb. I checked for outlets, and there weren't any on my socket. A few days later, some neighbors, a nice young Franco-Polish couple said they had two electrical outlets on their socket. I searched some adjacent not yet occupied tents and sure enough, there were some. So I just swapped mine for one, and BAM! Fully powered tent! With my travel power surge protector strip, I was charging my Braun razor, running my MacBook Pro, charging my iPad, and iPhone simultaneously! It was glorious! I had internet connectivity and power IN my tent!

Bodhgaya was just packed! Mind you, Bodhgaya is a small rural village a few miles out of an adjacent city, Gaya proper. Bodhgaya is full of Buddhist monasteries and centers from every tradition and every country, even China. 100,000 people were expected. There were rumors circulating there were 400,000 people there. I believed around 200,000, which was confirmed were at the actual make-shift temple (teaching venue), and His Holiness's office did confirm it was 400,000 at the entire event in Bodhgaya. Tibetans were seated in the streets of Bodhgaya where they also had large monitors for them to view the teachings. These Tibetans were Tibetans that snuck out of Tibet to attend the teachings. Most I'm told got visas for Nepal, then took the "green road" and snuck into India. They didn't want to be recorded as being there and this have the Chinese authorities now for fear of reprisals, so these Tibetans didn't register for the event. Needless to say, it was mobbed. But it was fun. The entire teaching flew buy.

I was trying to get over a cold I picked up the second day of HH Dalai Lama's teachings at His monastery Namgyal last month. I'd gotten over it, only to be met with a different more nasty one a week later. Many others seem to have had the same thing. The problem was the air quality in Bodhgaya was awful. They burn something 24-7, bet it cooking food at the street vendor food stalls, garbage on the streets, these dung-straw disks they burn for heating fuel, and as I later learned from a report from the Tibetan Youth Congress who coordinated the entire event, cremation of 13 Tibetans who died during the teachings. The ubiquitous smoke just really trashed my respiratory system. I couldn't believe finding myself last week saying it was refreshing to get back to New Delhi where the air quality is actually better. Here they replaced the auto-rickshaw and bus fleets with compressed natural gas vehicles. I told this young Indian woman from abroad I met last night I think they shipped the old auto-rickshaw gas fleet to Bodhgaya!

So, although the tent city was fun, and they did a reasonably good job maintaining facilities, and supplying water, after almost three weeks, and being sick, I was ready to get out. Hotel and home owners-cum-Trump-real estate opportunists jacked prices for hotel rooms or rooms in their homes up to unaffordable western prices. I moved into a guest house (hotel), and even with a discount were charging me Rs. 2,000.00 a night, which is unheard of here. I refuse to pay more than Rs. 600.00. But it was good to be in a bed, in a dry room and try and shake this cold.

I went to the Tibetan clinic at the camp, and they gave me a lot of conventional Indian pharmaceuticals they were dispensing to everyone. I wasn't happy the Pfizer cough syrup had 10mg of Codeine (cocaine based pain killer). I was hoping for some aryuvedic-homeopathic Tibetan medication. A few days later, I went down to the Tibetan Men-Tsee-Kang clinic (The Official Tibetan Bureau of Medicine and Astrology) to see a Tibetan doctor. I'm a monk, so I get free treatment from them. Tibetan doctors can diagnose you from checking your biorhythms on your wrists. He nailed my symptoms! And prescribed me some natural Tibetan medicine that addressed the CAUSE rather then the symptoms of conventional medicine.

The clinic was located at Ling Rinpoche's monastery (he being the Sr. Tutor of HH Dalai Lama). While there and waiting, I looked up and saw one of my teachers, Chamtrul Rinpoche. I was so happy to see him, especially since learning I'll be assisting hosting him teaching in my native Colorado Springs in August. I look forward to seeing him this spring back in Dharamsala at his monastery. Also while waiting for the Tibetan pharmacists to fulfill my Rx, I saw a woman with a picture of Ling Rinpoche (the current incarnation). An older Tibetan woman said "he's upstairs teaching at the gompa." I wanted to go to see him, but just missed him after I'd gotten my Rx filled. Oh well, just to know he was there was fulfilling. I hope to connect with him another time. I would even go back to Bodhgaya to do so if I could before leaving India.

There was a state run pilgrimage bus that travelled to various Buddhist holy sites, including the great Nalanda University and Rajagira. I really wanted to go to Nalanda, if anywhere. Nalanda was the Indian equivalent to the Library of Athens, the intellectual seat of India for centuries, and the entire Tibetan monastic university education system model is based on Nalanda.

I'd hoped to take this bus on Saturday before leaving Sunday. I went to the office on Friday afternoon check on getting a ticket, and the un-helpful state employee insisted I return in person at 7PM at their office at Mahabodhi Stupa to see of the bus was even running Saturday or not. I asked if I could simply call, he said no. I showed up, and he was nowhere to be found and the office was closed. A guy comes t shut the gate so I ask him, and he says "the bus is full." I was disappointed. However, I was still quite ill, and used the day to rest. There's a special train that goes to these places I may take before leaving India, but it's expensive as it's charged in Western terms, not Indian. So, we'll see if I can swing it. I'm hoping to go to Japan on my way home in June, so may skip that notion entirely.

It was good to leave Bodhgaya, I was ready to go. I'd hope to do my personal practice at Mahabodhi Stupa, but wasn't feeling up to it. Chris and I got up at 4AM one morning to go to Lama Chopa Guru Yoga puja with His Holiness one morning, so that suffices. That was something really special. I didn't even get a chance to go downstairs and see the Buddha statue. Next time. I'm sure I'll be back.

I was extremely disappointed to learn my root guru, His Eminence Choden Rinpoche had cancelled his Vajravali Cycle teachings next month at Sera Je I was so looking forward to attending. I learned
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Huge statue in the main courtyard
this from Sera Je when inquiring about arriving early. His attendant Geshe Gyaltsen since informed me that Rinpoche would still be giving Getsul ordination on the 29th as planned. I was so relieved. So I'm off this evening, the 22. January from New Delhi to Sera Je for this next Sunday. I'm so happy I will even get to see him, and fulfill Lama Zopa's instruction to me last February in San Francisco to take Getsul with Choden Rinpoche at my earliest opportunity.

New Delhi has been relaxing. As I knew based on the amount of Tibetans on the train with me back that the Tibetan Colony Majna-Tu-Kila here in Delhi would be completely booked. So I stayed down here at the Pahar Ganj district near the New Delhi Train Station which turned out to be a lot of fun. It has a lot of character, there are a lot of tourists here from all over, it's very lively. I found a beautiful, new Sri Lankan guest house for Buddhists I would like to stay at next month. I went down to Connaught Place the other night to see Mission Impossible 4 (I'm a huge espionage buff).
Archaya NagarjunaArchaya NagarjunaArchaya Nagarjuna

This too is a giant statute of the great Indian scholar whose coming was predicted by Shakyamuni Buddha 400 years after Him. Nagarjuna received a fresh coat of paint for Christmas, and then a huge snake appeared, cicrumambulated once and disappeared giving the obvious approval of the nagas.
Connaught Place was built by the English. It's a huge round ring about for roads wide and a mile in diameter, and in colonial style. It's very nice. It's now one big outdoor shopping mall of western shops. It was fun.

Well, that's it for now. Internet access is precarious so I can't update this blog as often as I'd like. My cell phone provider here, Airtel offers an unlimited data plan for $2 a month. My antiquated three year old iPhone second generation dinosaur legacy 3G wasn't supposed to work and support that, but it did for the first few weeks I was here. I was using as my modem tethering it to my Macbook Pro. It stopped supporting the unlimited plan when I was in Bodhgaya, and I haven't been able to get it to work since. It still works, just bleeds my airtime at $10-20 a day for like 30 minutes of usage which is outrageous. So I just try and use whatever wi-fi hotspot I can find.

So until the next installment, which may not be until I get back to New Delhi in mid-February, as Tigger the Tiger says - TTFN - ta ta for now.

Additional photos below
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Memorial stupasMemorial stupas
Memorial stupas

offered for loved ones who've passed
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reception hall at Root Institute.

14th July 2012

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