Sunday 22nd January, 2012: (Tour Day 2)
I had a rough first night on the train, with little sleep due to the almost constant rocking and some heavy breaking of the train. At least the breakfast was nice. Since we arrived 1 1/2 hours late at Gaya station, the tour leader took us straight to the hotel by bus where we checked into a nice room with bath, I washed my clothes, showered and had lunch.
We then took the short trip to Bodhgaya. The places visited were:
* the giant Japanese Buddha statue and temple
* the Bhutanese monastery
* the Tibetan temple
* Niranjana River (now mostly a dry river bed, which I crossed onto) in which the Buddha bathed
* the Sujata Stupa (apparently the spot of Sujata’s home – the girl who fed the Bodhisattva rice pudding before his Awakening) and
* the Kusha Grass Temple (where an old buffalo herder offered Siddhartha a bundle of grass to use as a cushion before his enlightenment)By far the biggest highlight was the Mahâ Bodhi Temple (the place where Siddhartha reached enlightenment) which includes an Ashokan pillar, the Mucalinda Lake (recalling where it is said a giant cobra sheltered the Buddha from the first rains some six weeks after becoming enlightened), and the Bodhi tree or “ficus religiosa” (a descendent of the original brought back from Sri Lanka). The temple was built around the 4th century CE. It was very busy, with many monks chanting, hundreds of people showing devotion by circling the grounds three times clockwise, and lots of hawkers outside. For me, being able to sit under the Bodhi tree and meditate undisturbed for almost 30 minutes was truly superb - among the best moments of the entire journey, in fact. Of course, the Buddha, after achieving enlightenment, spent one week standing nearby simply gazing at the tree out of gratitude, so I couldn’t match that.
In the evening we had dinner back at the hotel and an overnight stay. I did my best to dry my washing (sat them on the bed under a ceiling fan) and to have a decent night's sleep.