We arrived in Delhi and it was as if we had never left. Our friend and guide Rohit was smiling as we exited the secured terminal area. He held a welcome sign and gave us a a hug. It was so wonderful to see him and to be back in India. The traffic had improved since our last visit but the air quality had not. Still, we laughed and joked and got caught up over the happenings of the last year.
Our first day would be a catch up day, a day to do all the little things needing to be done like laundry, writing and a nap. Also, I wouldn’t be driving again for several weeks which was a relief because I couldn’t imagine driving in India, and honestly I needed a break. That evening we’d have dinner at a fantastic local restaurant “India Accent”. While in India I intended to eat vegetarian. I’ve said that Buddhism made sense and appealed to my head while Hinduism was beautiful and deep and appealed to my heart. Either way, eating vegetarian in India felt like the right thing to do.
Next on our agenda was a flight to Bodh Gaya, to see the Bodhi tree where the Buddha first attained enlightenment. Bodh Gaya was little more than a small rural community thronging with travelers, monks and nuns from all over the world. First we stopped at The Great Buddha statue. We were required to remove our socks and shoes to walk around the site, thankfully the ground was very smooth and comfortable on the feet. We circumambulated the stupa and spoke to a few of the monks. I watched a group of nuns clad in pink walk in and sit to listen to a brief discussion of the site so I walked to the back of the group and sat with them. I’m not sure what was said but I found the experience really enjoyable. On the way out several groups of Indian travelers stopped us and asked to have their picture taken with Christy and myself. We happily obliged and walked the photographic red carpet so to speak back to the entrance.
I’m not sure what I expected the main Mahabodhi Temple complex to be like, maybe like Sarnath and Deer Park where the Buddha gave his first teaching. The complex loomed before us and it wasn’t at all like Sarnath, whereas Sarnath was an ancient stupa surrounded by a ruin, the Mahabodhi Temple was bright and alive. The air vibrated with footsteps and chanting, incense and light.The Bohdi tree was there as well, nearby was a small stupa marking the very spot where Buddha attained enlightenment.
After entering the main stupa, we spent time in quiet meditation. It was filled with devotees and as they continuously filed through, many made offerings of flowers and silks. Inside, a 10th century seated Buddha painted in gold, was having it’s robes changed by a monk as people bowed and made prostrations. It was rare and wonderful to be in an ancient place so alive and active, where you felt as if time itself stood still.