Varanasi to Kathmandu - A Synopsis
28th of April, 2008 - 11:27
The blog has been silent ever since my departure for the grand pilgrimage... I am withdrawing for a month's silent retreat to the solitude of the hills surrounding Kathmandu after posting this synopsis of the journey so far.
Sanchi and Onwards
1st of April, 2008 - 14:02
This is a summary of our visit to Sanchi and a note to let everyone know I'll be for the most part off the grid during the two to three weeks to come.
The Peak of Arunachala
1st of April, 2008 - 13:00
A visit to Arunachala, the sacred mountain of Tiruvannamalai, and the ashram of the late Ramana Maharshi of Advaita-vedanta fame.
Varanasi to Kathmandu - A Synopsis
Posted: 28th of April, 2008 - 11:27
The blog has been silent ever since my departure for the grand pilgrimage... I am withdrawing for a month's silent retreat to the solitude of the hills surrounding Kathmandu after posting this synopsis of the journey so far. I assume I'll be writing more as I get back to the grid.
While I have some 300+ photos of the pilgrimage up to date, I don't have my laptop here to process them into proper publication shape. You can find some unedited photos at my Facebook albums.
Sarnath to Kushinagar
The first stretch of the pilgrimage was from Sarnath to Kushinagar, from the place where the Buddha gave his first sermon to the place of his departure, or parinirvana as we call it — the final nirvana. Some eight days of walking 30-40 kilometers daily brought us across many a small village with kind and hospitable people.
In Kushinagar, we were based at a small temple near the Stupa marking the place of the Buddha's cremation. The abbot and only monk of the place was Venerable Narasingha, and Indian monk in the ripe old age of 93 years but going on strong. "I am not dying soon. I am doing my tapasya now. I will live 150 years." His repeated advice, "Dhyan koro, Ananda, dhyan koro" -- "Meditate, Ananda, meditate" -- still echoes in my ears.
Our stop at Kushinagar was brief and didn't leave me with as much time as I'd have wanted for exploring the area. Something to get back to in the future... Five people and five minds inevitably means having to compromise one's wishes and ideals.
Kushinagar to Lumbini
Lumbini, the place of the Buddha's birth, is a short walk (some 20 km) off the border on the side of Nepal. A very serene and beautiful area with two monastery zones, Theravada and Mahayana, it hosts the ruins of old monasteries around the stone marking the exact place of birth. The vast fenced and undeveloped area around the monastery zones was a soothing sight. Finally someone understands the importance of trees and empty space!
Since we got 60 days visas at the border, a brief visit to Kathmandu was in place. The first few nights were spent at a Thai monastery, Sakya Simha Vihar, in the old town of Patan (a city grouped together with Kathmandu), and one at Kopan, the big daddy of the Vajrayana monasteries in Nepal. There are several caves of ancient masters and other sites of interest yet unexplored.
A casual trip to the surrounding mountains at Kopan is now turning into a 30-day silent retreat up at the hills. We've spent three nights at mid-way up the mountain, at the Nagaji nuns' monastery and around. Tomorrow morning we are heading up further on, to the solitude of the peaks.
People wishing to contact me after this message is posted — and as I start the walk back to the mountain — will have to come in with a notebook and a pen. You would find me in the cave next door, under the stump of that old pine tree, or in the belly of one of those jolly tigers that are rumored to be roaming around...
Closing the Circuit
Once the retreat is over, whenever and whatever that means, we return by bus to Kushinagar and start the longest stretch so far, covering some 900 kilometers on foot via Vaisali, Nalanda and Rajagiri to Bodh Gaya. From Bodh Gaya, I'll continue to Sarnath with another 400 kilometers to complete my pilgrimage (Dhammasaro and Cristiyana have already covered it) and pick up the excess stuff we left behind at the Chinese monastery there.
In other news, I will most likely end up staying in India until December — lack of finances cuts short many potential branches from my ongoing pilgrimage. I'm waiting for the heavens to open and rain in enough monies to get me a return ticket to the West by December, the deadline for getting out as my visa and passport expire.
Back on the road, I should be checking in randomly, but I wouldn't be expecting replies to e-mails for some eight more weeks from now. Internet just doesn't seem to be a part of the
Peace and joy to all! May all beings share the merits of this pilgrimage!