Will We Find Peace and Quiet in Bodhgaya?

Whilst waiting for the next train we are both trying to recover from multiple assaults on our senses and wondering if we’ll find some peace and quiet soon. In the waiting hall life goes on as normal: people shouting, pushing, falling over others snoozing on the floor, drinking chai. Meanwhile, a cow is also wondering when the next train is due and what platform it is departing from. We’ve never seen that at Bath Spa station 🙂

We take a bicycle rickshaw to our accommodation. Our driver seems very cheerful and happy to take us with our luggage, even so we have great trouble squeezing both our bottoms into the seat. Luckily we’re only going a couple of miles, but hanging on gets more difficult as he cycles us off the broken tarmac and along deeply rutted farmland tracks.

We arrive safely at the Root Institute, which is a Buddhist meditation centre, happy to take tourists who sign up to their code of ethics, including no killing (anything, even the mosquitoes).There are some parts of the complex which are Silent Areas – yeah, bring it on! But, you can chatter with fellow inmates on the roof terrace.

We have a simple room in the main building and have to outwardly stick to another of the principles which is not to make any gestures of affection to each other. Hmm.

The gardens and grounds are beautifully kept and the habit here is to walk clockwise around the main buddha, all pretty calming. Paul joins in with the early morning meditation sessions at 6:45am, whilst Diane has an extra lie in.

We walk into town, which is not quiet at all. It does have a giant 80 foot Buddha, reputedly with 20,000 mini-Buddha’s inside, many other Buddhist temples financed by different countries, one brilliant coffee shop and a fabulous canteen-style restaurant when we feel the need to escape the Institute’s healthy menu.

The big attraction in Bodhgaya is the amazing Mahabodhi Temple. Near the entrance we see one of our favourite icons being fed bread by a nun. Looks like our friend from the railway station got his train 🙂

The Temple and gardens are huge and bring together Buddhists from many nations.

This week hundreds of Tibetan monks are chanting for World Peace, we’re with them on that one. They are sitting under the Bodhi Tree where the Buddha achieved enlightenment, or rather a direct descendant of that tree.

When the monks and followers aren’t chanting it’s likely they have moved to an area to the side set up for people to perform prostrations – it seems to us as onlookers a bit like a continuous but more onerous ‘Salute to the Sun’ needing a lot of stamina! Traditionally, the worshipper performs 10,000 of these.

Two other guests at Root propose sharing a car to visit Rajgir, an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists, some 50 miles away. We hadn’t read the guidebook properly and were surprised to find ourselves in a huge line-up for a rickety old chairlift!

It saves us negotiating a few hundred steps and we scoot safely off at the top to admire the 40m high stupa with golden statues representing the four stages of Buddha’s life.

Wandering around the peak we found the area where he preached to his followers. It was a pretty impressive, gentle (and quiet) spot to visit – we only had to watch out for the pesky monkeys.

So, did we find peace and quiet in Bodhgaya? In a way yes, and in a way no. The Root Institute was a very calm and tranquil place, and the life there uncluttered: nothing much happens after dinner at 6pm, so early nights are in order (no TV here!). During the day, though, a lot of normal India noise drifts in, including while we were there pop music from a fairground, complete with wall of death riders. The monk taking morning meditation said to treat this as good practice for cultivating compassion for all sentient creatures, even those who play loud pop music at all hours. Easier said than done, readers 🙂

Off to Kolkata next.

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