There’s not much more to say about Bodhgaya since our arrival here on January 17th. At that time there was a ten-day Buddhist ceremony underway and the small town was clogged with monks in burgundy and saffron robes. We were dismayed by the litter on the streets and were sad to think that it was no longer the clean, quiet place we had first visited in 1999.
We were delighted to find that the peacefulness had returned to Bodhgaya and much of the refuse had been cleared. We visited the Mahabodhi Temple at sunset and I took a few pictures of things that I wasn’t able to photograph before due to the crowds. It was great to find the temple with only a handful of visitors, but I was glad that I had seen it earlier, at the height of the religious pilgrimage. There was an air of intense devotion that was awesome to witness.
We spent the night at a small hotel that had recently opened and in the morning Arun and Neena took us to visit the Vipassana Meditation Centre where they go to attend the ten-day sessions. I had imagined a very different place and was pleased to see how comfortable the accommodations are there. We were able to peek into the dharma halls and see the participants meditating. I have always felt that this was something I could never attempt because of the difficulty I have sitting cross-legged on the floor. I did not realize that students are allowed to use pillows and cushions to change their sitting positions until they are comfortable.
After a light lunch Arun and Neena drove us to the airport, said a very fond farewell and carried on home to Patna. We arrived three hours before our flight in order to ensure that nothing went wrong with the change from Drukair to Thai Airways. All the paperwork was finally processed and we waited to clear customs and immigration. After almost three months in India where we were treated so graciously by most people we met, we had to endure the famous ‘attitude’ of the immigration officer. He behaved as if we were the biggest inconvenience of his day and literally ‘threw’ our passports at us once he had stamped them. No ‘hope you enjoyed your visit to India, please come again’ or anything like it. There is a name given to people in positions of authority who behave this way – they are referred to as babus by the Indian public.