|I am staying in Bodhgaya at the Root Institute for Wisdom Culture. The institute offers programs and retreats and sponsors a school, as well as a number of other community projects. It is located in the countryside, a quarter mile off the main road to town. It's essentially a walled compound surrounded by open fields. There are many large trees, shrubs and flowers making it quaint and charming. The campus consists of various one and two story buildings with a central dining building and of course, a statue of Buddha in the central courtyard. The Italian girl who checked me in invited me to morning meditation at 6:30am and breakfast at 8:00am.
My room is cottage-like with a ceramic tile floor and front porch. The single room contains two single beds, an empty bookshelf, a desk and garbage can. That’s it. There are two pictures of Buddha on the wall and when I adjusted the one the one hanging crooked, a six inch lizard scurried out from behind. There is a bathroom and shower room, both a short distance from my quarters, down the gravel pathway. Inside the bathroom is a reminder that I'm in India. There is no commode, just a hole in the floor. A mirror and sink hangs from an outside wall as a place to comb your hair and shave. It's all very clean, campy, peaceful and serene.
At breakfast a girl sat down next to me. She is from Brazil and has been at the Root for a couple of months. I don't know much more, as breakfast is a silent time. After breakfast I followed the specific instructions posted for washing of my dishes. Step one, two, three and so on led me though a proper wash. Buddhists appear to be simple, practical and structured. They are known for quoting the many inspirational sayings of the Buddha that direct one towards a righteous life. I found the prayer wheel outside the dining hall to be interesting. It is large wheel and the sign posted nearby says it contains the equivalent of five tons of texts and mantra's. It also boast the power of the wheel. Spinning it gives the benefit equal to two years of retreat, it says. Also mentioned, is the power of the wheel to cure AIDS and cancer.
This morning I took a cycle rickshaw to see the "Big Buddha". It is a big one, standing eighty feet tall. There's really not much else to say about it. Later, I made a second trip to the Mahabodhi Temple complex. I had my photo taken with a couple Tibetan monks. One told me he escaped from Tibet when he was 14 and he has been a monk for twenty years. Outside the Temple complex I noticed a sizable construction project, consisting mostly of a many bamboo poles. A worker told me they are building a structure for use when the Dalai Lama visits Bodhgaya next month.
Midday,I departed Bodhgaya for the train station in the nearby town of Gaya. My train to Varnasi was delayed, so I had a couple hours to kill. Indian train stations are notoriously dirty places with few benches. Many people just sit on the terminal floor awaiting the arrival of their train. This wasn't an option for me, so I decided to take a seat. in the station restaurant. Subsequently, I felt compelled to place a food order. The best choice appeared to be the thali, a set veg meal that cost the equivelent of $2.50. As I picked at the food, I caught a glimpse of something and looked down to see a large rat at my feet nibbling at some crumbs. I shuffled and the rat scurried away. A few minutes later, there's another rat. I moved my bag on the floor and another scattered. Needless to say, what appetite I had, quickly disappeared.
While waiting for my train I met Simranjit. He is 24, a Sikh and says he is a journalist for the Hindi publication "Prabhat Khabar". It's a local morning newspaper and his specialty is politics. He started out by asking me the four questions all Indians want to know; name, age, occupation and salary. Sometimes I make things up, just to pique their interest! Simranjit is youthful, educated and optimistic. He told me how much the Indian people like Barack Obama. He was impressed that Obama spoke Hindi when recently greeting India's leader. "America is India's friend", he said. He explained that Indians are poor, but happy people. He talked about India being a secular, but spiritual country. I lost track of time and suddenly realized that my train had arrived. I showed Simranjit my ticket and we ran like hell through the station, maneuvering through the crowds of people. With Simranjit's help, I boarded my train, just in time. After my trip, I hope to find articles written by Simranjit's on the internet and translate them to English.
I arrived in Varanasi after 7pm and was conveniently met upon exiting my train car by two babu's (Mr. or guys) Mintu sent to pick me up. We loaded into their auto and headed to the Kedareswar B&B. Traffic was heavy, at times gridlocked. "It's bad because it's Sunday evening during the wedding season", the driver told me. We discussed driving the streets of India and he jokingly said I should drive. He told me that he started driving at age 14. "It's easy to drive here", he said, swerving to miss an oncoming vehicle. "Just like America, we have rules for driving" he continued. But "in India nobody follows them". That's for sure, babu.