An account of the trip from day 1 to day 16:
Day 1 – 26th November 2011: We departed KLIA for Mumbai
Day 2 – 27th November 2011: We arrived at Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad
We took the Malaysian Airline flight and landed at Mumbai International Airport, 3,626 km away by air and arrived approximately 10:20 pm, twenty minutes ahead of schedule. Upon arrival at the airport we immediately continued our journey with a bumpy nine hours ride to Aurangabad, 281 km away in an air conditioned sleeping coach. Midway here we experienced the “open toilet concept” due to necessity. We arrived at 8.30 am for breakfast at Prize Biz which was a new excellent hotel located about two and a half hours drive from Ajanta Cave. Breakfast with fresh Indian flavor well acceptable by all Malaysians was unexpectedly delicious. The hotel room was good and clean and it served mineral waters and even wi fi was free of charge. Hotel assistance was friendly and warm. After a short 1.5 hours rest we proceeded to Ajanta Cave where we had lunch at a restaurant owned by the Indian government.
Day 3 – 28th November 2011 (Ellora Caves, Aurangabad)
On the following day, the group started at 8.00 am in another sitting bus coach, after breakfast. We proceeded to Ellora Caves which took over an hour’s drive from the hotel, with a distance of about 45 km. The first cave we visited was cave number 16 which was a Hindu cave. I noticed here that all the Gates in the temple were “empty” with the side walls carved fully with Deva’s and Devi’s all around the walls. At that moment there was a question in my mind, WHY is that so? Buddhist Caves usually have The Buddha statue sitting right at the center of all Gates.
Ellora Caves gave me a calm and peaceful feeling. The situation was quiet and not as congested as in Ajanta Caves. I felt comfortable and at home as compared to Ajanta which was a bit more commercialised. We had the opportunity to carry out Puja at cave number 12. The feeling was amazingly pleasant. The architecture of this cave gave a cooling atmosphere echoing our chanting. Before leaving Ellora Caves we had a simple but good lunch prepared by the resort there. Here we all learnt to drink “masala tea/ginger tea”.
We encountered a peaceful park which had a beautiful view behind the restaurant where we all enjoyed sitting on the swing reminiscing the childhood time. From here we moved on by bus to Bhopal, capital of Madhya Pradesh which is approximately 600 km’s drive through a winding and hilly road. The journey took us almost 15 hours before reaching The Lake View Hotel at 4.30am local time. Another amazing travelling experience with open toilet concept, which some of us had not done for the past 40 years. For some members, it was the first in their life.
On the way to Bhopal we stopped for toilet and tea at a restaurant in a small rest house named Hotel Sai Milan. Here the group sat in a circle with joined palm for a short Puja and sharing session. In this sharing session, members were invited to share their feelings so far about the trip. Those who had visited India before were invited to share their previous experiences too. Several members spoke but not much in relation as places visited previously were not the same. Some members voiced the inner feelings they had in Ellora Caves and suggested to spend more time in future trip there. The sharing session ends with Transferring of Merits before continuing the journey.
Day 4 – 29th November 2011 (The World Heritage Sanchi Stupa, Bhopal)
Generally all the hotels and food we had were good. Everyone was able to accept it and enjoyed it very much. The hilarious journey upon landing in India from Mumbai International Airport to Aurangabad, in a sleeping bus coach, natural public toilet along road side are among experiences of something which most of us have not done for the past, perhaps over 40 years. The second hilarious journey was from Aurangabad to Bhopal. The journey here was hilly and narrow. The distance from Aurangabad to Bhopal is said to be approximately 700 km and due to the condition of the road, the travelling time was like 14 hours. Since we landed in Bhopal at 4.30 am early in the morning, we took a short rest before proceeding for breakfast and remained in hotel Lake View until lunch. In Bhopal we visited The World Heritage Sanchi by taking an hour’s drive from Hotel Lake View, 46 km north east of Bhopal, District of the state of Madhya Pradesh. Sanchi is the oldest extant Buddhist sanctuary. Although the Buddha had never visited the site during any of his former lives or during his earthly existence the religious nature of this shrine is obvious. Venerables Zhen Ru, Zhen Yuan and Zhen Dao led the team chanting round Stupa 1 several times. In Bhopal we were more relaxed due to the shorter travelling distance; many photos were taken here with great skills, something which I learnt during my last visit in 2009, to Taj Mahal. We had dinner in Lake View Hotel where special request was arranged for Chinese cuisine.
Day 5 – 30th November 2011 (Travelling via NDLS Shatabdi train to Agra)
Today on the 4th day in India, 30th November 2011, a Puja was carried out at the garden area of Lake View Hotel after breakfast with the group sharing on issues which had arisen so far. Some issues were raised on the lack of information from tour guide on places visited. To my observation it was the miscommunication between the guide and us. After lunch we proceeded to the train station to catch a 2.40 pm train to Agra which is about 507 km from Bhopal. With a travelling time of 5.5 hours, we expected to arrive in Agra at 8.20pm. The train service was good and comfortable. Whilst waiting for the train to arrive we met a “bride-to-be” and it was a pleasant moment getting to know each other. We took some photos and chatted for a while. Coincidently she was on her way to Agra, accompanied by her aunt and uncle.
I visited Taj Mahal, Agra in year 2009 during a business trip. Therefore I had a rough idea of what to expect. It is the first time I took a ride in an Indian train. It was spacious and comfortable. We were served with sandwich in light refreshment pack the moment the journey started. It had the first class serving method, similar to that in an air plane except that the condition is different. The journey was pleasant throughout. The train was equipped with power supply and I was able to write the report on my daily trip. My personal opinion so far plus previous involvement in business with the Indian citizens are that the Indian people are friendly and helpful and the country has good potential. Due to the cultural differences we need to understand and learn their methods.
Here I learnt a few words;
Khana khaya? = Have you eaten?
Dhanyawad = Thank you
Namaste = How do you do
Mejarehhyhm = Good bye
Subh ratri = Good night
Subh yatra = Happy journey
We arrived at Agra station as planned. Everything was smooth until the unloading of luggage where it was a little mess up. I would say this was due to a slight unfamiliarity in their way of handling the Indian workers. They were aggressive, fighting for the job to earn an income. The confusion was that there were 3 workers who carried some luggage and proceeded to the bus coach speedily. Since only a few of us were at the front line, we followed them closely for 300 km where the bus was parked, to ascertain they were not stealing our baggage. Unfortunately the rest of the members were unaware of our motive and instead mistakenly thought that we did not follow the group. Nothing was missing and everyone was back in the bus which took us to The Presidency Hotel in Agra.
Day 6 – 1st December 2011 (Taj Mahal, Agra & Fort Agra)
On this day we visited Taj Mahal in the morning and Agra Fort in the afternoon. Both these places did not really interest me as I had visited Taj Mahal before. The impression given to me was that it was just for the sake of remembrance for the Love of His Wife, Mumtaz. It was done all for the purpose of her love alone at the expense and sacrifice of the nation. No other significance that I can treasure.
Today we have our Honorable Chief Venerable Wei Wu plus three other venerables joining us for the pilgrimage tour. They came from Delhi after attending a Buddhist International Conference and arrived at Agra hotel at 1.30 pm. In the afternoon we visited Fort Agra. About 5.00 pm, a total of 32 persons proceeded by bus to our next destination, Varanasi. The road condition to Varanasi was a little better compared to the road from Bhopal to Agra but the journey took us 16 hours for a travelling distance of 700 km. This was simply due to the bumpy road and the fact was that buses here were of the olden type. Hence the maximum driving speed is within 40 -50 km per hour as compared to 80-100 km per hour in Malaysia where buses are fixed with hydraulic absorbers. We arrived at Varanasi the next morning at 9.30 am. We immediately proceeded for breakfast at The HHL Hotel. Winter season here is cold in the night but the sun shines during the day.
Day 7 – 2nd December 2011 (Sarnath, Varanasi)
At 1.00 pm after a short rest, we travelled 10 km to Sarnath, the holy city of Varanasi. Varanasi is the site where Sakyamuni, after attaining Enlightenment came back in search for his five companions who had abandoned him in Rajgir. Sakyamuni Buddha had walked for 250 km via Ganga (Ganges) river from Bodh Gaya. The Buddha found the five ascetics outside the city at the Deer Park. Here the Buddha unfolded his path to Enlightenment, The Four Noble Truth, The Eight Fold Path or The Middle Way. The Lord Buddha delivered the first sermon, Dharmachakrapravartana to his five old companions, in Sarnath.
The park was also called Rishipattana or Issipattana after the rishis or sages who came to meditate under the shady trees. Its other name was Mrigadaya or deer sanctuary, because a King of Varanasi gave the land as safe haven for deers. The modern name of Sarnath is derived from the name of the Bodhisattva, Saranganatha.
Day 8 – 3rd December 2011 (The Holy River of Gangers & Bodh Gaya)
At 5.30 am the following morning we visited The Holy River Ganges in a boat ride. Traditionally, local people bathe in the river to wash away their sins and dead bodies are cremated at this site. Each day more than 100 bodies are being burnt here. Such activities remain irrespective of time today. There were three dead bodies in its burning process during our visit. The conditions in this area are of lower status.
After breakfast we proceeded to Bodh Gaya. Everyone was anxious for the arrival as this is one of the four main holy sites of The Buddha. In Bodh Gaya we spent two nights in Sujata Hotel which is just 10 minutes’ walk from the main temple of Bodh Gaya. Here it was crowded during the dry season which coincided with the International Chanting Event spanning from October to December 2011. Many Sangha members and devotees from different countries came to participate in the Puja. Venerable Wei Wu led the group with “The Eight Precept Cultivation” on 3rd December morning which ended on 4th December morning with a final walking meditation, three times round the main temple.
We also visited many other international temples such as the Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Sri Lankan, plus one free school named Siddhartha Compassion Trust High School & Vocational Center established by a Vietnamese Buddhist nun, Venerable Tu Tam. She had been very kind and explained about Bodh Gaya to us. She also shared with us her ten years of hardship in managing the school, with 700 students today in the primary and secondary level with the assistance of 16 teachers. She said that the Indian Government had verbally granted her the approval to start a college. The visit to the school lasted for about half an hour and our group made cash donations of Rp55, 000.00. When she was sending us to the car I had the opportunity to speak to the Venerable herself and my question to her was “how did you manage to carry on despite the obstacles, difficulties and the irresponsible and indifferent attitude of children towards the hardship and your determination to offer free education?”. The Venerable’s response was “Just think of The Buddha, The Triple Gems”. These were the words that she told me. That was how she actually motivated herself and generated courage to move ahead.
Day 9 – 4th December 2011 (Bodh Gaya)
On the day we left Bodh Gaya I could feel everyone was reluctant to go as the time we spent in Bodh Gaya was insufficient due to the tight schedule. However, we had a final Puja in the morning at 7.00am. I personally felt heavy in my heart to go too. We took more photos in the last few minutes before proceeding to the exit gate.
Day 10 – 5th December 2011 (Bamboo Groove & Nalanda University & Vulture Peak, Rajgrih)
Today we checked into Hotel Residency at Rajgrih about 250km from Bodh Gaya. Before checking into the hotel we visited several sites including the first holy site which was offered by King Bimbisara, half of his Magadhan Kingdom also known as Bamboo Grove to the Buddha. King Bimbisara was amazed by The Buddha’s serenity and grace which overwhelmed the citizens of Rajagriha. After visiting the Bamboo Grove we stopped by a small area which was said to be the place where the King kept his wealth. The door of the cave was unbreakable even using cannon.
Next we visited the monastic university, Nalanda Mahavihara, a magnificent architectural structure where The Buddha visited often and stayed at Setthi Pavarika’s mango grove. This was the most renowned university in ancient India and is said to have 1,500 teachers with over 10,000 monastic students then. The name Nalanda was given by Lord Buddha meaning Insatiable In Giving. Two of Sakyamuni’s chief disciples, Sariputra and Maudgalyana came from the vicinity of Nalanda. Sariputra, who was the foremost in wisdom, attained Nirvana here.
Griddhakuta Hill or the Vulture Peak is another site we visited. We went right to the top and carried out Puja. Venerable Wei Wu reminded everyone the importance to chant with their sincere and truthful heart in this holy site.
Day 11 – 6th December 2011 (Mauryan Empire, Patna & Vaishali, Kushinagar)
The 10th day of pilgrimage tour had passed and the Venerable continued to give motivation by saying that the difficult travelling conditions was basically over and the following trip would not be so hectic. This morning we departed from Rajgir to Patna, a five hours drive, and before reaching Hotel Mauryan for lunch we stopped over at the remain of Mauryan Empire. During Emperor Asoka’s reign from 260BC to 239BC the Master’s message of peace and non-violence, compassion and love was spread far and wide. The third Buddhist Council was held here in Pataliputra, the massive assembly hall with bases of 80 pillars have been excavated at the site, of which only one pillar remains intact. Fa Hien who came here in the 5th century AD found the pillars shining brightly as glass.
Vaishali was the next stop after lunch. Vaishali is bound by the hills of Nepal on the north and the river Gandak on the west. As the Lord Buddha set foot on the soil of Vaishali, loud thunder followed by a heavy downpour purged the plague-infected city. The Buddha preached the Ratna Sutra to those who assembled, and eighty four thousand people embraced the new faith.
The Buddha visited this capital five years after his Enlightenment in Bodh Gaya. Here is where women were ordained into the Sangha for the first time. It was Venerable Ananda who successfully persuaded the Buddha to allow women to join the Order after being rejected three times. Led by The Buddha’s foster mother Mahaprajapati Gautami, 500 Sakyan women made a pilgrimage by foot from Kapilavastu to Vaishali, seeking to join the Order. After The Lord Buddha rejected them, they ultimately shaved their heads, donned the orange robes and beseeched the Lord once again. Lord Buddha was convinced and admitted the women as bhikshunis or nuns.
Kutagarshala Vihara built by the Lichchavis Princes for Sakyamuni, known as Buddha Stupa 2. Here there is a story about a monkey who took the Lord’s alms bowl and climbed a tree to gather honey for him. The Buddha accepted his humble offering and the monkey was in great joy. Leaping from tree to tree, he accidentally fell and was impaled on the stump of a tree. The monkey went to Heaven because of its noble death.
At Vaishali, Amrapali the famous courtesan earned the respect of the Sangha and a place in history with her generous donations. Once the Lord visited Vaishali, Amrapali invited him to her house and the Lord graciously accepted the offer. When the Lichchavi princes found out they actually wanted to exchange Amrapali’s honor for one hundred thousand gold coins but Amrapali steadfastly refused the offer. After Lord Buddha’s visit to her house she was purged of all impurities. She gave her mango groove to the Sangha. Amrapali joined the Order after realizing the transitory nature of all things, including beauty.
Vaishali is also renowned as the place where The Buddha delivered his last sermon. Following a severe illness, the Master asked Ananda to assemble all the bhikshus. The Enlightened One told the gathering that the Mahaparinirvana (final extinction) was imminent. The Great Master asked the monks to spread the Dharma in order to bring about the good and happiness of the many.
Day 12 – 7th December 2011 (Kesariya Stupa, Mahaparinirvana, Kushinagar)
We arrived at Kushinagar Hotel Clarks Inn Park for dinner and departed the next morning after breakfast for Lumbini Garden, Nepal.
Today we visited Kesariya, the second among four of the “must” visit places of pilgrimage which is about 350km from Vaishali. I noticed that the people in Vaishali were more friendly and humble. Children are more discipline with the guidance from the parents. They are not encouraged or rather not allowed to “beg” in the public as much as other states. Most children here go to the school.
As usual our schedules were tight with wake-up calls set at 5.00am local time, breakfast at 6.00am and we started the journey at 7.00am. This was due to the unavoidable fact that we spent most of the time travelling in the bus from one destination to another. The first place we visited today on the way to Kushinagar where we stopped over for a quick lunch was the Kesariya Stupa where The Buddha’s Alms Bowl was kept before. Immediately after this visit we proceeded to Kushinagar, the place where the Lord Buddha entered the Mahaparinibbana. Finally we visited the third stupa, Ramabhar Stupa, where one eighth of The Lord Buddha’s ashes (the holy relics) was kept here.
Kushinagar is the place that the Buddha chose for his Mahaparinirvana, or final exit from this earth. Kushinagar or Kushinara as it was then known was the capital of the Malla republic, one of the republican states of northern India during the 6th and 5th centuries BC. Kushinagar is identified with the modern village of Kasia, 51 km from Gorakhpur City, in Eastern Uttar Pradesh.
During his lifetime the Master traversed the dusty plains of the Ganga valley, subsisting on whatever he collected as alms, and pausing to rest only during the rainy season. In 543 BC on the full moon night of Magh (January-February), the Master lectured to the Sangha at the village, Beluva, near Vaishali, on the impermanence of all living things, and said that his own life on earth would soon end.
How transient are all component beings!
Growth is the nature and decay
They are produced, they are dissolved again
And then is best – when they have sunk to rest
From Vaishali the Lord went to Pava, where a humble metalsmith, Chunda, invited the Sangha for a meal. Having tasted the food, the Master immediately realized that there was something wrong with it and asked Chunda to bury the remaining so that others would not be harmed by it. Chunda was overcome with grief and guilt when he realized that his offering was the cause of the Master’s fatal illness. But the Buddha consoled him saying that the one who donated the Buddha’s last meal acquired great merit.
The Buddha desired to leave his corporeal body at the Sal grove on the banks of the Hiranyavati River in Kushinagar. The Master asked the Sangha, whether anyone had any queries. Sakyamuni then uttered the last words;
“Now, bhikshus, I declare to you: all conditioned things are of a nature to decay –
strive on untiringly”
On a bed which Ananda had prepared under two Sal (shorea robusta) trees, the Lord entered the sphere of No Nothingless, then the sphere of Infinite Consciousness, then the sphere of Neither Perception, nor Non-Perception.
The great, wise, and most compassionate Sage converted everyone – gods, men, asuras, yakshas and nagas to the eternal Dharma and Vinaya.
Kind and commoner, villager and townsman, from far and near, flocked to pay obeisance to the earthly remains of the Lord for the next six days. On the seventh day the Lord’s body was bedecked with garlands and taken in a procession, to the accompaniment of music. The revered bhikshu, Mahakashyapa, lit the funeral pyre at Mukutabandha Vihara (Rambhar Stupa) in Kushinagar. Thereafter there ensued a war among eight great powers of north India for the possession of the holy relics. Finally the sacred relics were divided and encased in eight stupas in different parts of the country.
The Mahaparinirvana Temple enshrines a 6 metre long statue of the Buddha in the Parinirvana posture. Carved from black stone, the statue now looks metallic gold because of the application of gold leaves by pilgrims.
About 366 metres from the Mahaparinirvana Temple is the small Mathakuar shrine, built on the spot where the Buddha delivered his last sermon. Here there is a black stone image of the Buddha in the bhumisparsha mudra built in the 5th century AD.
Day 13 – 8th December 2011 (Lumbini, Nepal)
The Birth Place of Prince Siddhartta at Lumbini Garden, Nepal was formerly part of India. Here we viewed the supposedly exact place where the Queen Maya gave birth to the prince on her way returning to her parent’s home for delivery, according to the ancient Indian custom. We walked from the Hotel Lumbini Garden (New Crystal Pvt. Ltd.) where we stayed just across the opposite side of Lumbini Garden site. Here there are many temples of world standard including Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Tibetian being built with some development in progress. The atmosphere here is cooler and serene located 27kms from Sonauli on the Indo-Nepal border.
Three hundred years after the Mahaparinirvana, Emperor Ashoka visited Lumbini and erected a pillar there. This pillar, though broken, still remains at the site. It is known as the Rummendei Pillar after the earlier name of the place (modern name Rupandhei) in Nepal.
The Mayadevi temple and the tank nearby are part of the sacred complex. Here Queen Mahamaya had her bath before the delivery in the same pond where Prince Siddhartha had his first purification bath.
The sacred site of the Buddha’s birth is at the southern end of Lumbini grove. Excavations have revealed a series of rooms and a stone slab which is now believed to mark the exact location at which the Buddha was born.
Day 14 – 9th December 2011 (Saraswati, Lucknow)
After arriving at Lucknow City at mid-night after dinner, everyone proceeded to sleep because we would have to get up at 5.00am for departure to Delhi by 6.30am in another 307 km’s drive. The morning visits included several stupas with the main one in Sravasti (ancient Savatthi), the capital of Kosala situated east of Uttar Pradesh. Here, according to history, Lord Buddha spent 25 years during the annual Vassavasa (rain retreat) with the sangha congregated at one place. Situated in Gonda district the eastern Uttar Pradesh, Sravasti is also called Sahet-Mahet.
There is a story on the origin of this site: During the time of Sakyamuni, Sudatta, a rich and pious merchant, lived in Sravasti. While on a visit to Rajgir, he heard the Buddha’s sermon and decided to become the Lord’s disciple. But he was caught in a dilemma and asked the Lord whether he could become a follower without forsaking worldly life. To his query, the Master replied that it was enough that he followed his vocation in a righteous manner.
The saying goes:
“Not by a shaven head does an undisciplined man
Who utters lies, become an ascetic
How will one be an ascetic who is full of desire and greed?
He who wholly subdues evil – both small and great – is called an ascetic, because he
has overcome all evil”
Sudatta invited the Lord to Sravasti and began to look for a suitable place to build a vihara. A beautiful park at the southern edge of Sravasti attracted his attention. The Park belonged to Jeta, son of the king of Sravasti, Prasenjit. Jeta demanded that Sudatta cover the entire park with gold coins. Sudatta painstakingly paved every inch of the land with gold. Then Jeta said that since the trees were left uncovered they belonged to him. But finally, he had a change of heart and donated valuable wood to build the vihara. The park came to be known as Jetavana Vihara after Prince Jeta’s donation to the Sangha.
One unique and most beautiful spots in Jetavana is under the Anandabodhi tree. An eternal witness to the vicissitudes of history, this sacred tree was brought as a cutting from the Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka, which itself grew from a sapling of the original Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya.
Sudatta came to be known as Anathapindika (the incomparable alms giver). He built a magnificent, seven storied vihara whose grandeur was commented upon by Chinese travelers several centuries later. The ruins of Anandakuti and Gandhakuti exude an aura of sacredness because it was here that the Lord stayed during his many visits to Jetavana Vihara. In Sravasti, the Master expounded a major part of the Tripitakas. It was also in Sravasti that the Lord performed the only miracle of his life in response to a challenge from six non-believers.
Mahet, to the north of Jetavana, was once a heavily fortified city. All that remains are two stupas known locally as Pakki Kuti and Kachchi Kuti; the latter identified as Sudatta’s Stupa.
Pakki Kuti is said to be Angulimala’s Stupa. Angulimala (literally, necklace of fingers) was a dreaded dacoit who wore a necklace of fingers that were chopped from his victims. One day in a fit of brutal rage he tried to kill his own mother. It was at this moment that the Lord met Anguliumala and Sakyamuni’s enlightening words had a calming effect on his stone heart. Angulimala decided to give up his evil ways and follow the path of the Lord.
Day 15 – 10th December 2011 (Delhi)
It is day 15 of the Pilgrimage Tour which was coming to an end. The day was spent mostly travelling from Patna back to Delhi for a one night stay, sightseeing and shopping before departing to Delhi Airport for KLIA on 11th December evening flight. Distance from Patna to Delhi is another 350km’s drive and we arrived at Park Plaza Hotel, Delhi close to mid-night.
On 11th December, we visited India Gate Delhi and Mahatma Gandhi, Raj Ghat also known as The Father of Our Nation, a memorial park with a black marble platform that marks the spot of Gandhi’s cremation on 21 January 1948. Finally we had some domestic shopping at the nearby area before dinner, thereafter proceeded to Delhi Airport.
Day 16 – 11th December 2011 (Delhi)
Departure via MH 191 from Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport at 23:10hrs we arrived at KLIA on time at 6:50 hrs on 12th December, 2011.
Venerable Wei Wu took the opportunity of the long hour drive to have everyone voiced out their sharing pertaining to the pilgrimage. Everyone spoke with thankfulness and how the trip benefited one another. I personally am very thankful as I am able to experience such pilgrimage tour for the first time after several years of waiting. Two days before the trip, I was able to settle all matters back home. This is very important so as to prepare myself with 100% full heartedly concentrating on the trip. The 15 days of pilgrimage touring was very pleasant and smooth. Although some of the experiences such as “open toilets”, long hours of travelling, sleeping in the bus coach etc are something which I did not expect, everyone was able to accept and face the situation amidst having a happy time together. Due to my many experiences in travelling before, I like to keep myself handy and light.
Thank you very much to all the Venerables who led us through the entire trip for initiating Pujas in each of the holy sites visited, even in hotel or sometimes in the bus too. They were also participants yet they had to take the lead which made a big difference compared to the normal visitation. It is also very important for the adequate information prepared by many members prior to visiting each of the holy sites; otherwise we might not be able to understand and hence it would become less meaningful for the visits. Coupled with the historic stories available, the efforts put in by each member are uncountable. The group sharing, joy and cooperation through the past 16 days are immeasurable. Here is a big thank you to “Than Hsiang and The Triple Gems” for initiating this faith.
I had special feelings particularly in several sites like Ellora Caves where I felt much like home. It was cozy and peaceful even at the park. We including the venerable had an enjoyable time sitting on the swing. The atmosphere at Ellora Caves was comforting and most members shared the idea of having a night stay in future trip. Ajanta Caves should be good too but I guess the demand for donations by local staff members who were paid monthly salary by the government had led to some unpleasantness.
The next site that excites me was Bodh Gaya where The Buddha achieved enlightenment. The main temple was crowded with monks and devotees from all over the world including Tibet, Thailand, Vietnamese, Korean, Myanmar, China, Taiwan, Sri Lanka and many more. It was so crowded that we had to wait for our turn to get a place to begin our Eight Precept Cultivation Ceremony. After receiving the eight precepts we proceeded to visit several temples operated by different countries recommended by Venerable Wei Wu. One of them was known by the Venerable and with compassion the group made several donations to these temples.
On our way to Nalanda University from Bodh Gaya we had a stop for rest room, a new facility provided by a Thai monastery. Being so kind and having taken the needs of travelers for rest room into consideration, they had actually built the public toilets even before their monastery was constructed. This touches me on the sincerity and truthfulness of Buddhism. The journey is getting more excited as we are moving ahead to the main holy sites from Sarnath and Bodh Gaya and now to Kushinagar and Lumbini. We saw other important sites such as the Deer Park, Vulture Peak, Vaishali, Bamboo Groove, Nalanda University, Jetavihara which carries lots of meaning during the Buddha’s existence. All these are real life experiences compared to what we have read and watched in CD’s, books and the internet.