Sunday, November 11, 2012

Final Reflections on Yatra to Northern India

* Now I've had time to review the trip, I think the highlight remains meditation time under the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya.
* The lowest point was throwing up in the space between two carriages of the train.
* The happiest time was meeting fellow travellers, particularly those exploring Buddhism. Erin was my main travel buddy, since we sat next to either other on the train (actually, she was meant to sleep on the bunk above me) and the bus. Others included an incognito Catholic priest, a Zen student priest, a retired Westerner living in Thailand, and many others also from Taiwan (mainly Taipei and Kaohsiung).
* One unfulfilled wish is to see Lumbini in Nepal.
* I would have liked more meditation time also, but I now realise that even short distances in India take time to reach, particularly on country roads.
* I learned about the loss of Buddhism in India, particularly after the 11th century, and about the rediscovery and unearthing of many remains since the 19th century, thanks to mainly British and Burmese exploration and the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India). It is a sad loss for the country where the Buddha spent most of his life.
* I also learned that King Ashoka (crowned around 270 BCE) took seven of the original eight sets of relics of the Buddha and re-distributed them into 84,000 portions throughout his kingdom.

* I am grateful to the tour staff (especially Abhay Pandey, Vjiay Kumar and Mr Prateek) who looked after us and our security so well, to my wonderful travel companions (all of whom got on so well together), and to those who have been re-discovering the sites of Buddhism throughout India for our benefit today.
* I thoroughly recommend the Buddhist Circuit Special Train, also called the Maha Parinirvan Express, which is operated by IRCTC (the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation).