November and December 2010
In November and December 2010, a group of ten students travelled with Khenpo-la on pilgrimage to the holy places of Bodhgaya in India, Bhutan and Kathmandu in Nepal. It is a most fortunate thing to make a pilgrimage to the holy Buddhist sites, but to do so with one's teacher, to receive his guidance and instructions along the way, is indeed blessed. This was the 7th pilgrimage that Khenpo-la has undertaken with students.
During the pilgrimage, we made many light offerings throughout India, Bhutan and Nepal , particularly at the holy sites, including butter lamps lit and sponsored at Bodhgaya, on behalf of members of the centre and for the benefit of countless sentient beings. It was an extraordinary journey on many levels and the pilgrim group will continue to reap the benefits for many years and lifetimes to come.
During our short stay in Delhi we visited the Red Fort, India Gate and the Indian holy site of Gandhi's memorial, before embarking on the 20 hour train journey to Bodhgaya.
Bodhgaya is the most important of the four major holy sites, being Bodhgaya (where Buddha attained enlightenment), Varanasi (where Buddha first turned the Wheel of Dharma), Kushinagar (where Buddha passed into Mahaparinirvana), and Lumbini (where Buddha was born). Khenpo-la likened these holy sites to the Four Noble Truths – Kushinagar as the truth of suffering, Lumbini as the truth of the cause of suffering, Bodhgaya as the truth of the cessation of suffering, and Varanasi being the truth of the path.
Many teachers stress the importance of staying in Bodhgaya for the longest time, so we were fortunate to stay there for over five days days doing group and individual practice, circumambulations (kora), prayers, making many light offerings, dedications and other virtuous deeds at the Mahabodhi temple, built by emperor Ashoka in the third century BC, and around the sacred bodhi tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment. In particular, our beloved teacher Khenpo-la gave us a concise yet perfect teaching on "Parting from the Four Attachments" by Sachen Kunga Nyingpo.
India presented us with both the mundane and extraordinary - an unexpected audience with His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, a night visit to a Mahakala cave, and visits to Vulture's Peak and Nalanda University. At Vulture's Peak, where Buddha gave the teaching on the Heart Sutra, we recited the Heart Sutra and the mantra of the perfection of wisdom. Nalanda University was the largest and first residential international university in the world founded in the 5th Century, and where, at its peak, 2,000 teachers and 10,000 students from all over the Buddhist world lived and studied. Nalanda was visited by Buddha and was the birth place of Sariputra, one of the chief disciples of Buddha, as well as being the home of Nagarjuna, founder of the Madhyamika school of Buddhism, who trained and taught at the university. The energy of so many great monks and scholars was still very palpable and we were able to make light offerings and do practice in the grounds.
Click on a thumbnail image to enlarge it.