Bodh Gaya is a religious site and place of pilgrimage associated with the Mahabodhi Temple Complex in Gaya district in the Indian state of Bihar. It is famous as it is the place where Gautama Buddha is said to have attained Enlightenment under what became known as the Bodhi Tree.
For Buddhists, Bodh Gaya is the most important of the main four pilgrimage sites related to the life of Gautama Buddha, the other three being Kushinagar, Lumbini, and Sarnath. In 2002, Mahabodhi Temple, located in Bodh Gaya, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Traditionally, Buddha was born in 563 BC on the following auspicious Baisakhi purnima. As Siddhartha, he renounced his family at the age of 29 in 534 BC, and travelled and meditated in search of truth. After practicing self-mortification for six years at Urubela (Buddhagaya) in Gaya, he gave up that practice because it did not give him Vimukthi. Then he discovered Noble Eight-fold path without help from anyone and practiced it, then he attained Buddhatva or enlightenment. Enlightenment is a state of being completely free from lust (raga), hatred (dosa) and delusion (moha). By gaining enlightenment, you enter Nirvana, in which the final stage is Parinirvana.
At this place, the Buddha was abandoned by the five men who had been his companions of earlier austerities. All they saw was an ordinary man; they mocked his well-nourished appearance. “Here comes the mendicant Gautama,” they said, “who has turned away from asceticism. He is certainly not worth our respect.” When they reminded him of his former vows, the Buddha replied, “Austerities only confuse the mind. In the exhaustion and mental stupor to which they lead, one can no longer understand the ordinary things of life, still less the truth that lies beyond the senses. I have given up extremes of either luxury or asceticism. I have discovered the Middle Way.” This is the path which is neither easy (a rich prince) nor hard (living in austere conditions practicing self-denial). Hearing this, the five ascetics became the Buddha’s first disciples in Deer Park, Sarnath, 13 kms north east of Benares.
The following is from Nancy’s sharing:
Hi everyone, welcome to my channel, Rising of Bodhisattvas! This is Nancy from the International Buddha Dharma Society for Cosmic Law in America. It’s a great honor to be here sharing Pilgrimage trip with you. Today is Oct. 22ed. How are you doing! Today, I am going to share with you the morning Ganges, Sujata temple and the Mahabodhi Temple..
The morning Ganges and the evening Ganges are totally different. If time allows, visit the Ganges twice, in the evening and in the early morning before dawn. Take a three-wheeler and it’s also a chance to know and interact with Indian people.
In the early morning, everything is quiet here in the Ganges. Get in a boat and wait for the sunrise. Remember to bring some containers for Ganges River water and sand to bring them home if you like. People from different regions have different characters. Indian people also have their own characters. There are many poor people here, begging or try to get some tips from you. They would take chances to give you some help, so they could get some tips, like helping you put water or sand into the containers.
The morning Ganges is so very beautiful, the sunrise, the boats, the sea gulls, but at the far corner, you would also see the daily cremation going on. After death, being able to be cremated by the Ganges and have the ashes thrown into the Ganges is many Indian people’s wish, though not many can have this wish realized because it is not cheap to do so.
After returning to hotel, having the breakfast, another day started. Today, I will share with you three meaningful stops, the Sujata temple, the Snow Mountain Cave and Bodhigaya.
After six years of ascetic practice, eating only one rice and one grain a day, Prince Sidhartha realized that ascetic practice was not the right way to attain enlightenment. Intentionally making the body suffer also disturbs the mind, making it difficult to stay in peace. So he decided to give up ascetic practice and walk on the middle way. He accepted a bowl of rice- milk from a lady, Sujata, and which was an important moment in his journey, a changing point. In memory of Sujata, a temple was built where this happened and a stupa was built at where she lived. The temple at the place where Sujata offered the Buddha rice-milk was simple and coarse, but this does not stop people coming here to show respect. The little temple is under a big Bodhi tree with statues of the Buddha and Sujata on both sides. While the stupa built at where Sujata lived is much greater.
The Sujata Temple is only about 1-2 miles away from Bodhgaya. After the Buddha accepted rice milk from Sujata and walked on the Middle way, he walked to Bodhgaya where he meditated there under the Bodhi tree for seven days and became enlightened.
Bodh Gaya is located in the northeast Indian state of Bihar. It’s famous for the Mahabodhi Temple Complex, the Vajrasana and the sacred Bodhi tree which was a direct descendant of the original Bodhi tree under which the Buddha became enlightened. It’s said that it was planted around 250 BCE. Bodh Gaya means the place of enlightenment, or the place of wisdom.
The Bodhi Tress is located on the west side of the Mahabodhi Temple, and it is 12 meter high. To propagate Dharma, the daughter of Emperor Ashoka, Samghamitta, once transplanted one branch to Sri Lanca. Later, the Mother Bodhi Tree was destroyed by heretics, so this Bodhi tree was moved back from Sri Lanca.
The Vajrasana (or the Diamond throne) under the Bodhi Tree is where all the one thousand Buddhas became and will become enlightened during our current kalpa, Bhadrakalpa. When a Buddha was enlightened, the earth would shake in many ways, only this vajrasana is sturdy and solid.
It’s said that the current Vajrasana was built by Emperor Ashoka. It’s made of red sandstone,
2.3 meters long, and 1.47 meters wide. The seat is completely covered with golden cloth canopy, so it’s not seen from outside of the stone railing.
After six years of ascetic practice in the Dungeshwari (Mahakala) Cave (some said not just one cave), prince Siddhartha accepted a bowl of rice-milk and walked to Bodh Gaya. On this vajrasana under the Bodhi tree, he entered deep Samadhi. On the seventh day, he was enlightened and obtained Oneness of the Heaven, the Earth and the Human, the supreme enlightenment, called by the world ‘Buddha’. After enlightenment, the Buddha spoke the truth of the universe, the society and the life just in one sentence, “Strange! Strange! All sentient beings are equipped with the wisdom and merit of Tathagata. Because of their false thoughts and attachment, they could not attain. If away from false thoughts, all wisdom, natural wisdom, unimpeded wisdom will appear.” This one sentence spoke the whole tripitaka and the twelve canons.
Everyday, Buddhists from all around the world come and pay homage to the Buddha. They would sit under the Bodhi tree, hoping to resonate with the Buddha, be blessed by the Buddha across the time.
The Mahabodhi Temple, also called the Proper Enlightenment Stupa, the Great Enlightenment Stupa, was built right by the Bodhi tree. It’s said that it’s first built around the Third century BC by the Emperor Ashoka, which was recorded in the Western Regions of Tang Dynasty by Hsuan Tsang. It was destructed many times later. The current temple was rebuilt by the King of Myanmar in 14th century, excavated and restored during 1861-1880. It’s made of bricks and stones, 52 meters tall. On its outside appearance, it has 9 floors, while inside, it has two floors, majestic and magnificent.
Stone tablets were erected in the complex, and they recorded the Buddha’s seven weeks of enlightenment period. It says at a full moon night in 623 BC, Gautama became enlightened on the vajrasana under the Bodhi tree after he spent one week in meditation.
This stone tablet says, “AFTER ENLIGHTENMENTLORD BUDDHA SPENT THE SECOND WEEK IN MEDITATION HERE GAZING UNWINKING AT TE BODHI TREE.”
This stone tablet says, “LORD BUDDHA SPENT THE THIRD WEEK HERE WALKING UP AND DOWN IN MEDITATION. ON THE PLATFORM LOTUSES INDICATE THE PLACES WHERE THE LORD’S FEET RESTED WHILE WALKING.”
This stone tablet says, “LORD BUDDHA SPENT THE FOURTH WEEK HERE IN MEDITATION REFLECTING ON THE PATTHANA OR THE CAUSAL LAW.”
This stone tablet says, “LORD BUDDHA SPENT THE FIFTH WEEK UNDER THIS TREE IN MEDITATION AFTER ENLIGHTMENT. HERE HE REPLIED TO A BRAHMANA THAT ONLY BY ONE’S DEEDS ONE BECOMES A BRAHMANA, NOT BY BIRTH.”
This stone tablet says, “LORD BUDDHA SPENT THE SIXTH WEEK IN MEDITATION HERE. WHILE HE WAS MEDITATING SEVERE THUNDER STORM BROKE OUT; TO PROTECT
HIM FROM THE VIOLENT WIND AND RAIN, NAAGRAJ MUCALINDA (SNAKE KING) CAME OUT FOR HIS SAFETY.”
This stone tablet says, “AFTER ENLIGHTENMENT LORD BUDDHA SPENT THE SEVENTH WEEK HERE IN MEDITATION. AT THE END OF MEDITATION, TWO MERCHANTS- TAPUSSA AND BHALLIKA OFFERED RICE CAKE AND HONEY TO THE LORD AND TOOK REFUGE-BUDDHAM SARANAM GACCHAMI, DHAMMAM SARANAM GACCAMI (SANGHA WAS NOT FOUNDED THEN).”
When you are in Mahabodhi Temple, after walking around all the places, leave enough time to meditate or read sutra here. All the important holy places are special energy fields and blessed by the Buddhas. All are ONE. Our hearts are all connected. We and the Buddha are also connected. Because of our false thoughts, our minds are clouded. However, the hearts knows, and every rising thought of ours are known to the Buddha there. The Buddha is there, and is everywhere. The Buddha is omnipresent. Also, like Ganges River, you may visit Mahabodhi Temple in the evening and in the next morning too.
Amitabha, this is today’s sharing. I can only show you a small part of the trip, and the other part will be waiting for you to explore and experience yourself. Next time, I will share with you the Snow Mountain Cave where the Buddha had his six years of practice, the Cave of Seven Leaves, or Saptaparni Cave, and Venuvana Vihara.