Though privileged to be born in the land of thunder dragon where the Buddhism has flourished, yet every Buddhist devotees of Bhutan have a desire to go for pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya once in their lifetime. Like the snowbirds that visit the southern valleys in extreme winter, they head towards the south where Buddhism began, and most important of all sites that they visit is Bodh Gaya (commonly known as Dorji Dhen for Bhutanese). Bodh Gaya is the holiest of Buddhist destinations and a World Heritage Site. It was here, under a pipal or Bodhi tree, (Ficus religiosa,) that Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment and became the Buddha. It is the most important of the main four pilgrimage sites related to the life of Gautama Buddha, the other three being Kushinagar, Lumbini, and Sarnath.
I too was determined to make a visit to the holy site, when I came to learn that Bodh Gaya is not so far from my college three years ago. But we being immersed in the ephemeral world of suffering where we are more attached towards materialism, and our thoughts more afflicted towards the path of illusion and negativity, achieving karmic actions becomes impossible if not a difficulty. Same happened with me. Days passed into months, and years have come to an end. Whenever the vacations came closer, I longed to head towards home. So my dream has turned futile.
Realizing that my dream is remaining unfulfilled, I made my mind to visit the site in this winter which I could do finally. Though the seven hour journey and the two hour wait in the morning for the rising dawn on concrete was dreary, sighting the magnificent temple amidst the trees (Ficus religiosa, Polylthia longifolia, Alstonia scholaris, Jacaranda mimoseafolia, to mention few,) I was enthralled by sigh of completeness, of happiness, and felt as if I was enlightened.
There were hundreds of faithful devotees circumambulating the MahaBodhi Temple, monks in colorful robes prostrating and meditating, a folk of lamas chanting religious ceremony. On the trees were the birds of myriad variety chirping and twittering in euphoria, the squirrels jumping from branch to branch and the fishes swiftly swimming in the pond. Even such creatures were lucky to be born in such a sacred place, unless they fall in the hand of local atheist, who without mercy trap in their cages and roam in the locality, asking for the devoted monks and laymen to escape them, only to quench their greed for money.
The surrounding town, by contrast, is dusty and somewhat noisy but moving around we can see several Buddhist temples and monasteries of different Buddhist countries like Bhutan, China, Japan, Myanmar, Nepal, Sikkim, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tibet and Vietnam. Separate temples for Drukpa Kagyued, and Nyingma, and a temple of Karmapa are also seen besides those national identities. These buildings reflect the architectural style, exterior and interior decoration of their respective countries.
Hotels are many and all kinds of food stuffs are available, including the salivating Bhutanese Ema-Datse, and other dishes from Bhutanese hotelier. Goods of varied items ranging from colorful jewelries to religious ornaments are available for sale but if not cautious, one may fall victim to the greed of highly eloquent local vendors, whose only desire is to make money.
Having stayed there for three days mostly circumambulating the temple and uttering prayers, I felt myself blessed to have visited the seen the foot prints of Lord Buddha. I was selfless there; I prayed for the well-being of all sentient beings, I prayed for almighty that the world be peaceful, the people’s peace lover and their deeds virtuous. I wished to stay for a longer duration and experience the joy of meditation but, unfortunately, as time slipped off, I was to retrace my path back to the world of materialism, where we get deceived by the three poisons of lust, hatred, and ignorance.
For anyone aspiring to awaken their full potential, BodhGaya today is truly a field vibrant with the potentiality of enlightenment. Enriched by devotion of Buddhists of all traditions, this holy site is a powerful inspiration to the modern world, awakening people of all nations to the real possibility of enlightenment.