Saturday Oct 15, 2005 - day 16 - Varanasi to Delhi - Kathy: 53 photos, Bob: 48 photos
Today, as promised, we visited the Sarnath Buddhist temple. This is supposedly the holiest place in all of Buddhism. As I understand it, this is where the Buddha gave his first lectures and teachings to his five original disciples when he started his mission. They built a sacred Buddhist temple here, and the Buddha lived there for many years, praying and teaching until his death.
On the bus, we got a little talk about the Buddhists from
our local guide. Here is what I remember
from both his lecture and my previous exposure to Buddhism in
Buddha taught that the cause of all human pain and suffering comes from desire. The only way to end suffering is to end desire, and escape the cycle of rebirth (reincarnation). There are two paths to salvation: Mochcha (not sure of the spelling, but it’s pronounced moke-cha) and Nirvana, which is to obtain your own enlightenment and extinguish the ego until all that remains inside your body is consciousness of God.
Buddha taught that it is not good to be extreme, like the extreme ascetics who deny themselves and abandon the world, or the extreme materialists. Instead, he stressed the middle path: everything in moderation. He also taught something called the “Eight Noble Path” which our city guide said was Right View, Right Speech, Right Determination, Right Action, Right Effort, Right Livelihood, Right Mindfulness, and Right Meditation.
We started out at the modern Buddhist temple, which was next to the archaeology site.
Inside, the temple had modern paintings of the Buddha’s life and a golden statue of Lord Buddha..
Outside the temple was a large fig tree.
This tree, they said, was
planted in 1931 from a cutting the holy tree in Sri Lanka, which was planted in
300 B.C. from a cutting of the original fig tree under which the Buddha gained
enlightenment. The site of that original
tree was in
Next, we went to the Sarnath archaeology site.
Unfortunately, the place was again completely destroyed by you-know-who. So the site now is pretty much an archaeology site. It is only partly excavated, and archaeologists could work for a hundred years uncovering things there. It was a very cool place.
At one end is the three remaining pieces of the famous Ashoka Pillar.
This pillar, with inscriptions on top, talks about the ancient ruler king Ashoka, who was long before the Muslims. He was a very early guy historically speaking, one of the ancient rulers. According to a book Kathy and I read, he tried to teach the people the concept of “Dhamma” which is an early predecessor of the more modern word “Dharma,” which is the concept of one’s duty and indeed destiny to do good things.
At the other end was a massive stupa that was supposedly just solid bricks and stones with no passageway. It was still impressive for its size.
After that, we went to the archaeology museum where we saw lots of stone statues and the beautiful four-lion faced crown of the Ashoka pillar. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to bring our cameras inside.
At one point today, I asked Sujay to talk about the
Zoroastrian community in
Anyway, I knew that the Zoroastrians were centered in
He said that they are a close-knit community and many Hindus are prejudiced against them. They think the Zoroastrians are weird, not to be trusted, etc. In other words, they just don’t like them. I suppose that’s just one man’s opinion of the situation, and I certainly don’t know the score. In my opinion, it sounds like classic prejudice, just like the Turks don’t like the Kurds. Anyway, I thought it was an interesting observation.
[Author’s note: On a return trip from
The rest of the day was spent going to the airport, going
through the security checks again, and flying back to
Once again, the security was overkill, checking and re-checking our bags and our identities dozens of times. I guess I don’t mind that, though, if it keeps me from being blown up by some terrorist idiot.
Once we arrived at the
Once we boarded the bus and headed for the hotel, we
borrowed Sujay’s cell phone and called Duni, the guy from Journey Masters who
is helping us plan and execute our extra three days in
When we got to the hotel, we met briefly with Duni, apologizing profusely for having been delayed and not calling him.
Earlier in the day, Sujay had invited the whole group
over to his home for some snacks and beer, whiskey and wine. It was a lovely evening, and it was sad to
see this part of the journey end. Sujay
was one of the best guides we’ve ever had.
He was a friend, colleague, wise guy, even jokester, and he took great
care of us. He was patient, kind and
understanding, and he did everything in his power to give us the best Indian
experience possible. He once told us
that former president Bill Clinton visited
When we got back to the hotel in our separate taxis, we realized that we wouldn’t have a chance to say goodbye to everyone in the OAT group before they had to fly back home. We passed our goodbyes on through Dorothy.