Ah… feels good to be back and writing for the blog. A few days ago, I finished my vipassana service in Bodh Gaya. It was one of the most difficult services or sits that I have done since I began meditating over two years ago. A combination of a negatively-energized course manager, extreme 112 degree heat and loud construction was a trying time indeed. One thing I know for sure though is that Dharma will always put in my path exactly what I need to move further. This was certainly true for this case and my meditation has proceeded very well since around half way through the course. Besides the course manager (which was a fluke), I met some very nice people from India and around the world at the course.
After the course was finished, I made one last stop at the Maha Bodhi temple and meditated with some of the new and old students in the temple and under the Bodhi tree. A new student from France that I made a close bond with during the course named Gregory and I decided to go to Rajgir for one night and day of sightseeing of many places that played important roles in the Buddha’s life. It was around a 3-hour bus journey and we eventually arrived around 5 PM.
We finally found a place to stay at a Bengali temple and our room was quite nice. The next morning we first visited Venuvan, which was the Buddha’s favorite place to go during the monsoon season. Furthermore, after the Buddha passed away it was were the first council was held and the Buddha’s words were compacted into the Tipitaka. It was an extremely serene and peaceful area.
Next we decided to make a climb up to the caves of Saptaparni, which was a strenuous 30 minute hike in crazy heat. Once we got there it was pretty unbelievable. I had a feeling like I had been looking for these caves for sometime and finally found them. The Buddha supposedly lived there for 8 years and I could see why. You could literally see for miles North in a 180 degree vision and inside the caves were truly amazing.
When I entered, there were bats and spiders everywhere, but it was like I had no fear. I went in with my flashlight as far as I could go and found a place where he either slept or sat as it was the flattest place around. I entered into a meditation and can’t recall the last time I felt so safe and secure even if it may have seemed to be “scary”. It was perfectly dark and silent except for the bats who I could sense were flying around me and sending there sonar signals in my direction. Even a short meditation there brought great results and clues or tips in proceeding forth.
I walked the long distance up with a heavy weight on my shoulders and came down with a boundless lightness. At the bottom, Gregory and I took a dip in the holy local hot springs and then in the man-made pools built in a classical old-style Indian design. The combination of the caves, hot springs, and cold pool was perhaps one of the most refreshing moments of my life.
I was hoping to visit Nalanda, which was the oldest and largest university for Buddhist monks until the Muslims invaded India and destroyed nearly everything there in the 12th century. I can see myself coming back to Rajgir and Nalanda in my next trip to India, perhaps with cooler weather.
After this, we had lunch and then took a horse-cart since our time was dwindling to the Shanti Stupa a little outside of town. There we took a single seat trolley from the bottom of the mountain up to the top where the stupa was located. This is the 3rd Shanti Stupa or “Peace Pagoda” that I have been too now, with the others being in Lumbini and Pokhara. The view was breathtaking and it was nice to share this last experience with my new friend before we had to part ways.
Eventually we had to leave and take the horse-cart back to the Bengali temple, before rushing to the train station for Gregory to leave. Unfortunately, his train had been canceled and so we both went to the bus station and took buses in our own separate ways. Him to Patna and I to Newada and then to Kolkata. My journey went smoothly and I arrived in this major city, 2nd only to Mumbai in population, yesterday morning. After searching a few guesthouses around Sutter Street, I finally found one within my price range at 200 rupees per night. No wifi and no AC, but it will have to do for the next week while I wait for my train to leave for Pondicherry.
I am very happy to be in Calcutta (Kolkata) at the moment. I seem to always do my best work when I am in a comfortable place to myself for a week or longer. I feel there is a special energy here and it is like Mumbai, but different in some way. I spent a few hours wandering around the city today visiting the Indian Museum, as well as the Mother Theresa Home and Missionaries of Charity headquarters. I am 99% sure I will do some volunteer work with them in the coming days. Hopefully I will get to work with sick or dying people and provide whatever comfort and metta that I can. Reading about her life is a real inspiration for the journey that I am on.
Changes to the Blog
I plan on from this moment forth updating the expense and donations once a week rather than every single post. This will make it easy for me and perhaps my mind can focus more on content and experience.
List of daily expenses and donations between May 14th and 29th, 2015:
Total spent on food: $16.05
Total: $51.89 + 171.18 = $223.07 divided by 38 days = $5.87 per day
Donations given to random strangers = 40 Indian rupees or $.65
Donation to Dhamma Bodhi vipassana center = 1500 rupees or 23.81
Total = $24.43 + 1009.40 = 1033.83 divided by 38 days = $27.20 per day
Expense account = $478.52 – 51.89 = 426.63 (Avg. $5.87 per day will last 73 more days)
Donations account = $140.18 – 24.43 = 115.75 (Avg $27.20 per day will last 5 more days)