Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Day Six... VIsit to Lord Buddha's Maha Nirvana Site

Today I am on way to the Kushi Nagar where Lord Buddha attained his Nirvana.

It was in Kushinagar, that Lord Buddha breathed his last with the last words, "Behold now, brethren, I exhort you, saying, decay is inherent in all component things ! Work for your salvation with diligence." The Mahaparnirvana Temple dedicated to the aforesaid event, stands amidst a serene grove of Sal trees. The huge statue of the reclining Buddha, excavated in 1876 at the temple, is one of the most momentous of all sights for the devout..

Known earlier as Kushinara, now Kasaya, Kushinagar is one of the most sacred sites for the Buddhists. It was here that Lord Buddha is said to have attained 'Mahaparnirvana', the freedom from the endless cycle of birth and rebirth at Kushinagar. At the time of the great event, kushinara was an insignificant settlement, a part of the Malla Kingdom.

Kushi Nagar is an archaeological site, significant for its close proximity with the life of Lord Buddha. So far, at least ten monasteries have been discovered. The Mukutabandhana Stupa, which was built to hold the Buddha’s cremated remains is considered of great sanctity. There is also a large reclining stone figure of the Buddha. The original image was made in Mathura and brought to Kushinagar by Haribala, a monk who lived in the time of king Kumargupta (AD 413-455). Although, the original image was destroyed, it was restored in the last century.

The place is about 40 KMs away from my village and the road is lined by majestic trees and the weather is cloudy which makes me feel good. I pass along the rice fields and many canals that criss cross the eastern UP which made me long to get down and play in the water the way I used to do long life time ago. How one grows fond of things that one has enjoyed in childhood. Along the way I passed one very rickety old bridge across a small river and found many wahsermen washing clothes upon its banks. The water is muddy and still has many children playing along its banks. All full of joy and fun. The town has an old world charm about it and the people seen all unaware of the importance of this town which has a major presence in all the Asian countries where Buddhism flourished. The Buddha who had succeeded in giving the peasants a freedom from the Vedic rituals and idol worship by giving them a way to attain peace in this life itself by Dhyan and Tantra mediation in the local language by discarding the Brahminical tendency of limiting to Sanskrit of all Vedic teachings. But how ironic it is to see, the people resorting to Idol worship of Lord Buddha Himself, who abhorred the idea of idol worship. But I feel that its for common people necessary to resort of focus ones simple mind to an image/ idol or of a character and its just a tool to attain enlightenment.

The place where Buddha finally rested has a beautiful garden and in the sanctorum I find the amazing statue of Buddha sleeping. I had visited this place many times earlier but this time it seemed to come alive to me. I felt the calmness that was spread over the serene face of Buddha and it enveloped me too. I went around the sleeping figure in reverence with bowed head and thinking of the peace that surrounds the sanctorum and the inner turmoil that I have within myself. How contradicting it is? like a hot water vessel immersed in the cold waters of spiritual peace. I sat down at one side of the place directly facing the Buddha’s smiling face. As I closed my eyes I felt his energy boring inside me probing and soothing the inner turmoil. The sprinkling of his calmness started to make my bubbling inner self calmer with each breath. I felt the place grow alive with thousands of Bhikshu’s going about the place from on place of worship to another. I find so many enthusiastic younger disciples crowding around the place where Buddha will finally emerge from his simple dwellings to talk to them. I find the trees swaying in happiness and fresh breeze flowing in from all sides. The atmosphere went from serene calmness to one of happiness bubbling with the joy of the Bhikshu’s who are able to be with Lord Buddha himself.

Slowly I opened my eyes to look into the face that provided me with so much of joy and I felt Him smiling and I bowed down and looked at the Bhiskhu who was around to attend to the pilgrims. He was smiling too. I went around the reclining figure once again and touched the huge feet’s of Buddha and went out of the sanctum to have a fresh look around. The foundations of the huts and the structures are still visible and give a great sense of reality to those stories that I have read about the Buddhist movement in India.

The town of Kushi nagar also offers many newly constructed monastries all around with aids from Japan, China, Sri lanka etc. they are all so beautifully done but then they lacked the power that one simple place that remains the center of all energy of the town.

Om Namah Shivaya

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