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Showing posts from March, 2008

A Pilgrimage Special: Pilgrims' Progress

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At Sujata Village, we were swarmed by locals out for a handout. Young or old, handicapped or not, these people were very persistent and to some extent annoying. There were a few men who dragged their lifeless limbs after us and some of us obliged with a dollar or two, never for once I suppose, wondered if there was a syndicate behind it; that there was a Fagin, the one featured in The Parish Boy's Progress aka Oliver Twist! An old man followed us everywhere we went, muttering in English that he was poor and had no family and of course , needed some rupees. Little healthy boys and girls stalked us too as if it was part of a daily routine. Some were straightforward in asking for money, their smiling faces indicating that it was fun too! Others were more tactful, chatting you up and thawing you for the final bombshell questions Are you going to help him? Don't you want to help him? Are you sure you don't want to help him? At Sujata Kuti, when we were admiring the stupa, there…

A Pilgrimage Special : White Temple

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Moving into Sujata village was memorable. Our bus stopped just after it had crossed the Niranajana River and as we alighted, there in the distance, we saw the Hong Kong heart throb, Daniel Chan Hiu Tung whom we had seen some days ago shooting a documentary Journey to the West at the ancient Nalanda University. He recognized us and we waved at each other and then we were both on our way, the film star went on with his shooting and we went to Sujata village. Sujata village at a glimpse looks like an African village but then after we have visited Sujata stupa, we walked through a farm, a more Indian scenery, I suppose, to a small white temple which houses both Buddhist statues and Hindu statues. The walk there through muddy lanes was tainted with healthy but untidy children, old men with gloomy look, young men who appeared like charlatans as well as handicapped people with lifeless limbs who dragged themselves after us, asking for money...

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Related Post: Star Struck!

Sujata Village looks…

A Pilgrimage Special: Remembering a Kind Lady

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Sujata is a common name for an Indian female which in Sanskrit means from a good family or bringer of luck. Near Bodhgaya, crossing a bridge over the river Neranjara, we came to the village of Bakrau where we were to visit the Sujata Kuti or Sujatagarh. During the time of Lord Buddha, a certain Sujata had prayed for a husband and a son at a Banyan tree. When her wish was fulfilled, she returned to the Banyan tree to offer food to the God she believed was there. Instead, she had found the then still unenlightened Lord Buddha meditating there and had thought that he was the God of the Banyan tree. She offered milk rice to Lord Buddha who upon eating, threw the bowl into the river, saying If I am to succeed in becoming a Buddha today, let this bowl go upstream. If not, let it go downstream. The bowl went upstream. The stupa here was built in three stages between the eight and ninth century AD and this is supposed to be the place where the Lady Sujata offered milk rice to Lord Buddha pri…

A Pilgrimage Special: Bump into an Ashram

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One minute, we were at the Mahabodhi Temple, and the next, after weaving in and out of some lanes, we were suddenly outside a big white building. We were supposed to be at an eye hospital to make some donations. In India, poor nutrition had caused some children to be born blind. As our leader and a small group of our fellow pilgrims crowded round an elderly looking Indian man with white beard to hand over our donation, I had a look round the building .Inside a big, dim and bare hall, there were groups of children studying as in a school. That must be the Samanvay Ashram. An ashram, in ancient India is a hermitage but nowadays, it could refer to an intentional community.According to the Internet, Samanvay Ashram is conducting a program of alternative basic education based on Ghandhian lines to 100 children who would also be provided with food, clothes and medicine on a long-term basis.This ashram which was founded in 1954, has worked towards the betterment of the downtrodden in t…

A Pilgrimage Special: Quiet Moments

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At Bodhgaya, especially at Mahabodhi temple, there were many Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world. But the crowd was not as impressive as the one you see in Mecca where people seem to be swarming and swirling round and round the Kaaba. In Bodhgaya, the Buddhists on pilgrimage went about their own business; most were just meditating...enjoying perhaps their own quiet moments...
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Buddhist pilgrims in Bodhgaya...








A Pilgrimage Special: Peaceful Tibetans

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The other day, I caught on TV, violence in Tibet. I checked the net and it was reported that demonstrators rampaged through Lhasa resulting in 10 deaths in this supposedly largest and most violent protests against Chinese rule in nearly two decades. The death toll a week later was reported to have reach 99. I have seen many Tibetans in Bodhgaya the last time I visited Mahabodhi Temple and the group there looked like a docile, peaceful group. Then, it could not cross my mind that Tibetans could come to this violent stage. The world is sometimes rather confusing. Somewhere the Dalai Lama was said to have been behind the unrest and elsewhere, he was reported to have hit back at Chinese leaders and Tibetan radicals by threatening to resign if violence in Tibet escalated and yet, there he was again said to be against the boycott of the coming Olympics as well as to have asked his people to live side by side with the Chinese. In one of my trip overseas, I have heard someone commented tha…

A Pilgrimage Special: Journey to the West

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Journey to the west...Journey to the West(西遊記) or Xīyóujì) is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. Our Indian guide quoted the book many times, saying that many of the holy Buddhist sites we visited were located with the help of the book.As far as I know however, Journey to the West is just a novel, a fictionalized account of the legends around a real Buddhist monk Xuánzàng's pilgrimage to India during the Táng dynasty to obtain religious texts called sutras. The real XuánZàng was of course a scholar, traveler, and translator and had recorded his seventeen year overland trip to India and back, in detail in his autobiography. I believe it must be through these recorded work that the holy sites were identified. Journey to the Westhas been adapted into movies, TV series and cartoons for as long as I could remember and in all these media, XuánZàng was depicted as always wearing a distinctive orange and red robe. I suppose that was why, I started muttering t…