A Blessed Pilgrimage

by Dr. Yutang Lin | 1990 | 18,562 words

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Part 9 - A Famous Place Of Buddha's Sermons

The Vulture Peak

On the 12th of January, we rode in our bus to Rajgir on pilgrimage to Mount Gridhrakuta, the Vulture Peak. While traveling along the highway to Rajgir, we saw winding rock walls on the hills that stretched over 27 miles. They were the remains of an ancient regional defense. One by one we rode the ski lift up to the hilltop where we found a huge stupa that had been built by a Japanese Buddhist group. At each of the four cardinal points was a niche on the wall halfway up the stupa. The gilded statue of Buddha, therein, commemorated the Birth, the Enlightenment, the Preaching and the Nirvana of Shakyamuni. There was a Japanese Temple nearby. From there we walked down to a lower hilltop to the famous Vulture Peak. Near the top of Vulture Peak were a few caves of various sizes along the roadside. Some of the rocks at the entrance of these caves were adorned with gold leaves, and inside the large caves were relics of burnt incense or candles. Some of the main disciples of Buddha were believed to have retreated in these caves.

There was also a large pile of big stones on the roadside, which appeared to be Tibetan oboo, i.e. a pile of stones used to represent the local deity. On the Vulture Peak there was only a small square of low walls left with an opening at the center of one side. I offered flowers and incense, and made prostrations. It was customary for pilgrims to recite the Heart Sutra here. I recited the Chinese version of the Heart Sutra by Hsuan Tsang from memory, and then recited its English version. I also recited the English version of the Section of the Shurangama Sutra on Bodhisattva Mahasthanapraptas Achieving Complete Unification through Chanting Buddhas Name. Both were translated by myself.

There were no modern buildings here. The natural setting of the surrounding trees and hills brought one even closer to the essence flavor of Buddhas preaching. After circumambulating the square in reverence thrice, I sat down and meditated. I felt as if Buddha appeared in a huge size, sitting in the center of the square. Other members of our group arrived later at the top. They chanted an English version of the Heart Sutra together, and then sat in meditation for a while. We walked down from the hilltop. The road was originally built by King Bimbisara for easy access to Buddhas preaching. After a short ride, our bus stopped by the remains of an ancient monastery. We sat on the foundation of the ruins of a monastery and listened to Professor Pryors introduction to the basic rules of conduct for Buddhist monks and nuns.

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