Special places and interesting points of note in your trip to the sacred places associated with The Buddha's life:
- Site of the birth of Gautama and also the three Buddhas preceding Gautama.
- Sal trees still visible;
- The Buddha walked as soon as he was born;
- The Buddha talked a soon as he was born;
- First footprint of the infant Siddhartha (Siddhartha => “one whose aim is accomplished”), as soon as he was born is still preserved;
- Siddhartha's Mother Queen Maya died within a week of his birth;
- Siddhartha was born 10 months after Queen Maya was conceived;
- Queen Maya was conceived by a sacred white elephant who entered he womb from her right side;
- Queen Maya was an exceptionally pious lady. Hence, she was selected by the Buddha Himself to be His Mother.
- Please visit the Mahabodhi Society of India's monastery at Lumbini. They are very helpful.
- Located close to Lumbini;
- The place where Siddhartha grew up, married, became a Father and left his kingdom;
- Stupas of King Sudodhanna and Prajapati Gotami, the Buddha's Father and Foster Mother exist till today;
- Stupa of his beloved horse exists just outside the palace gate. His horse died of grief when Siddhartha left the palace to seek answers. Just after Channa returned with the horse after leaving Buddha on the other side of the river, the horse passed away.
- The moats on the periphery of the palace at Kapilavastu still exist. These were filled with vicious snakes. These would attack any intruders.
- The Buddha's palaces still exist.
- The gate from which he left his palace still exists in some form.
- Engage the services of a guide over here. They are both needy and very knowledgeable.
- Have the tea and snacks available at the lone canteen over here;
- Visit the small museum over here.
- Visit Velu van – the bamboo grove gifted by King Bimbisara. It is at this site that the Buddha performed a miracle: King Prasenjit's wife was very, very beautiful. She was annoyed that the Buddha would not even look at her. One day she visited Velu Van in the afternoon. She saw a woman much more beautiful than her fanning the Buddha. She gradually saw the woman aging in front of her eyes. She saw her grey, become white, toothless and even all bent over until finally she died. This made her realize the impermanent nature of her beauty.
- Visit the Jivaka monastery. This is the site donated by the Buddha's physician to the Sangha.
- Visit Bimbisara's prison. The King was imprisoned by his own son, Ajattasattu, upon the urgings of Devadatta. He was starved to death. Even today, a steel ring is visible in the floor of this structure.
- See the spot where Devadatta hurled the boulder on the Buddha;
- See the spot where Nalagiri, the rogue elephant was tamed by the Buddha's maitri.
- Visit the Gridhakutta Parbat or Vulture's Peak where the Buddha delivered some of his most vital sermons.
- The young among you must approach Gridhakutta by the same route which the Buddha used to take. This is a steep climb on steps made of dressed stone. Be careful of snakes and wild animals.
- On the way to Gridhakutta, at the very base of the hill, see the caves in which the Buddha, Sariputta, Mogallana and Ananda used to meditate.
- Visit the Satapanni caves where Maha Kasappa and 500 other arahants held the first Buddhist Council 3 months after the Buddha's Mahaparinibanna.
- Travel by horse- drawn buggy. They will take you every where and wait patiently for you.
- Visit the birthplaces of Sariputta and Mahamogallana.
- Visit the famous monastery at Nalanda;
- Visit the University at Nalanda – at its time the greatest University in the world;
- Nalanda was burnt to the ground. Nobody knows who did this;
- Visit the stupas of Mogallana and Sariputta;
- Visit the impressive museum at Nalanda.
- Nalanda is close to Rajgir.
- Most of the sites, especially the stupas, are closely monitored by the Archaeological Survey of India. Upon request, they will allow you to visit the stupas.
- The single most important place in your itinerary;
- Have littis (litti chokha) and tea from the mud stoves by the road side;
- Experience the vibrations at the Mahabodhi tree; Meditate there;
- Observe Arya Maun;
- Observe the Asokan pillar. All these pillars are the largest man-made monolithic structures of the world of that time. Observe the mirror finish;
- Visit the museum;
- Visit the Vipassana centre. This centre was Guruji's first choice for a centre in India. However, he was unsuccessful initially in procuring this centre. Many years later, the then owner personally came up to Guruji and said, “Sir, this land was waiting for you. Please come and take possession of it!”
- Guruji led a group sitting at the Mahabodhi temple at Bodhgaya. After the sitting, Guruji's Mangal Maitri continued, even after Guruji got up from His seat. Even when he entered the car, he continued. The car drove all the way to the centre. Guruji continued His Mangal Maitri. After reaching the centre, Guruji continued the Mangal Maitri. Finally, when he did stop, the participants asked Guruji how the Mangal Maitri was so long. Guruji replied: “Until now, the message of the Buddha was confined to the Maha Bodhi temple. Now it has come out and from here it will spread all over the world!”
- Guruji has said that one course in Bodhgaya is equal to 10 courses elsewhere.
- The Vajrasana on which the Buddha attained enlightenment is a square block of diamonds.
- Only a Buddha can sit on the Vajrasana.
Village Senani (or Bakrour):
- This is the place where the Buddha ate the rice kheer offered by Sujata;
- Sujata's house exists till date;
- The Buddha had starved himself with a very strenuous fast along with his five co-meditators. Reduced to skin and bone, dark complexioned, eyes sunk in, and veins drying up, he was on the verge of death. Then, Apsaras from heaven sang to him urging him to give up the path of extremes. Heeding them, he partook of the rice pudding that the lady Sujata offered him. The other bhikkus recoiled in horror and deserted him, thinking that Siddhartha has gone off course;
- After finishing his meal the Buddha returned the gold bowl to Sujata, who refused to take it back;
- The Buddha was then offered Kusa grass by a deity on the banks of the Niranjana river. This site still exists.
- While crossing the river, Siddhartha thought: “If I am indeed to be the next Buddha, may the river change its course.” The river did! He then left the gold bowl in the river, and it flowed away until it merged with the gold bowls of the earlier Buddhas in the river Ganga.
- Observe the lush vegetation and the luscious vegetables in this area.
- The bathing pond over here was built by monkeys for the Buddha;
- When the Bhikkhus were fighting with each other, the Buddha went away in the jungle. He was tended to by a monkey and an elephant;
- It is here that he spent an entire year eating cattle fodder, as there was no other food for him to eat;
- This is also the site of the mango grove of Ambapali, which she gifted to the Sangha;
- Visit the various stupas.
- The litchis over here are very famous.
Suvatti (or Sravasti):
- The site of the famous Jetavana. Anathapindika bought this grove from the prince Jet, the son of King Prasenjit, by spreading gold all over the land. In like manner, this same land was also purchased to provide for an appropriate place for the three earlier Buddhas.
- Observe the vibrations on this sacred land;
- The Buddha spent 24 rainy seasons in this place;
- Nearby to Jetavana is Pubbarama, the vihara built by Ma Visakha. Visakha visited Jetavana one day to visit the Buddha. She forgot (?) her priceless head scarf over there. Now she could not take it back, as per the custom of the day. So she asked the Bhikkhus of Jetavana to keep it. They could not sell it as there was nobody who could afford such an expensive ornament. So, Ma Visakha herself bought the head scarf back! From this money, Pubbarama was purchased and built.
- The Buddha spent 5 rainy seasons at Pubbarama;
- Many of the Buddha's discourse are from Jetavana;.
- Anathapindika died here. His stupa exists;
- Angulimala lived here. His former cave still exists;
- Cinca – the girl who tried to deceive all by claiming that the Buddha had insulted her modesty – died in a lake after being exposed. The lake still exists;
- Devadatta also died here when the earth opened up and swallowed him alive;
- Nearby is the site where the Buddha performed an astounding miracle. The followers of Mahavira started saying that the Buddha is inferior to Mahavira. The Buddha had earlier ascended into the sky to teach the Dhamma to his Mother. He then descended to the Earth at a spot that was close to Jetavana. While doing so, he asked all doubters to assemble there. It was then that the Buddha caused a miracle whereby all men could see the Gods in Heaven and all Gods could see the men on Earth! This silenced his critics once and for all.
- This is also the place where Kissa Gotami, Patacara and Bharadvaj got transformed.
- Please ask for guidance from the centre regarding the various spots pointed out. Ask for Shri Baburam Yadav to guide you here and at Vaishali and Sarnath, if possible. You may mention my name to him, and tell him that I have humbly requested his assistance.
Kusinara (or Kushinagar):
- After the Buddha partook of the poisonous food (Sukara-maddava) at Pava at the blacksmith Cunda's house, severe abdominal pains visited him along with a deathly dysentery. He then asked Ananda to prepare a bed for Him between two Sala trees. He then asked Ananda to fetch Him water from a stream nearby. As many carts had just passed over this stream its waters were very muddy and Ananda refused, saying that he would fetch waters from another river further away. Upon the Buddha entreating Ananda thrice for water, Ananda finally went reluctantly to this very dirty stream to collect the water for his Lord. To his amazement, as soon as Ananda put his hands in the stream, its waters became crystal clear.
- When the Buddha was presented a robe of burnished gold to wear by Pukkusa, a young Mallian, the robe seemed to have lost its lustre when the Buddha wore it. The Buddha then explained that there are two occasions when the Buddha's skin shines exceedingly bright: one one the night of the Tathagatha's enlightenment and the other on the eve of His Mahaparinibbana;
- Heavenly Mandharva flowers, heavenly sandalwood and heavenly music then began to pour on the Buddha. Sal flowers were in full bloom and out of season.
- Ananda then entreated the Buddha to not pass away in the small town of Kusinara, which was even then in the middle of a jungle. The Buddha then explained to Ananda that this was not really a small town. At one time it was the capital of a mighty king, Maha Sudassana's empire. This empire stretched through the entire world. The king was a very righteous man. He was a King of Kings. At that time, the name of Kusinara was Kusavati. This Great King possessed seven great treasures. One was a Heavenly Wheel with thousand spokes. This Wheel moved on its own. When it moved eastwards on the King's command, wherever it would stop, the Great King would set up abode. All the rival kings of the east would then come to this King and pay homage. They would say, “Come, O Mighty King! All is yours. Please be a Teacher to us.” Then the Mighty King Sudassana would ask them to observe the five Shilas. In this manner the Wheel would move West, North and South, and exactly the same thing would happen wherever it went.
- The second great treasure which the mighty King possessed was the Elephant Treasure. It was all white and would fly though the sky. When the Great King would mount it early morning it would pass all over the earth upto its ocean boundary and then return again in time for the morning meal to the city of Kusavati.
- The third Treasure was a Horse treasure which was very similar in powers to the Elephant treasure. The fourth Treasure was Gem Treasure. When the Great King set this treasure upon his standard top and marched out with his whole army in pitch darkness, all the villagers in the kingdom would rise, thinking that daylight has appeared. The fifth Treasure was the Woman Treasure, who had attained the beauty of the Gods, in thought word and deed. The sixth Treasure was a Treasurer who could discover treasure. The seventh Treasure was a Wonderful Adviser who guided the King most astutely.
- The Buddha then explained to Ananda that it was in this very spot, that his body had been buried six times earlier. The seventh time was when he was the Great King Sudassana. He further said that he finds no other spot in the world of Gods or men, where the Tathagatha for the eighth time will rather lay down his body
- The Buddha then told Ananda to assemble all the Mallas and to inform them that The Blessed One would pass away in the last watch of the night.
- Discussions with various Vipassana Teachers and Trustees;
- “Dialogues of the Buddha”, Volume II T.W. And C.A.F. Rhys Davids, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, First Indian Edition, 2000.
Notes Compiled by Mr. Malcolm Printer, PhD.
These notes have been compiled by my dear friend, Mr. Malcolm Printer, PhD, Philosophy and shared very graciously and generously by him. Do remember him and his family in your Mangal Maitri. May they be Happy, Peaceful and Liberated