A Blessed Pilgrimage
by Dr. Yutang Lin | 1990 | 18,562 words
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Part 12 - The Site Of Buddha's First Sermon
On the morning of the 15th of January, we went to Sarnath. Professor Pryor led us to the park of historical sites to see the remains of the Asokas pillar and the nearby apsidal temple; both were considered to be the possible spot of Buddhas first sermon. Then we visited the Archaeological Museum near the park; the most famous item displayed there was the Lion capital of Asoka. Ancient stonecutters were able to polish the statue so well that one had to admire and praise their skillful craftsmanship. The current Hindu coins were engraved with the image of this Lion capital.
Then we went into the park again and I went to circumambulate the huge Dhamekh Stupa. This was the monument where the pilgrims presently did their veneration. I offered six candles, lit a package of incense and holding it, did the circumambulation. While circumambulating I felt a force coming from the stupa, which went into my body through my right side, hence I believed that this was the spot of Buddhas first sermon. Five months later I came across the pamphlet on Sarnath published by the official Archaeological Survey of India, and found therein, arguments based on archaeological evidences supporting this identification.
Many Tibetans, clergy and laity, men and women, elderly and young, were engaged in doing circumambulation, prostration, recitation or offerings. I offered two Lamas 10 and five rupees respectively, and gave three disabled beggars one or two rupees each. An old Tibetan lady was offering dried petals of small white flowers on the foundation of the stupa and she placed small stones on the petals to keep them from being blown by the wind. She kindly gave me some white petals and I offered them to the stupa following in her fashion. Inside this park were ruins of many stupas and monasteries. On one side there was a wire fence to keep the tourists away from a herd of domestic deer.
We had our bagged lunch in the park. After lunch a few of us went to the nearby Chinese Monastery where I offered 50 rupees. Then we went to the temple of the Mahabodhi Society to attend the ceremony honoring the Dalai Lama. We waited amid the audience (outside the main hall) for almost two hours for him to appear; we finally saw him, surrounded by monks and security guards, walking into the main hall. From the loudspeaker came the sounds of the ceremonial proceedings inside the hall. The deep voice of the Dalai Lamas chanting was resonant. There were hundreds of Tibetans gathered outside the temple holding a khata in their hands and waiting for a chance to offer it to the Dalai Lama in person. But the Dalai Lama left right after the ceremony.
In this temple, one relic of Buddha was kept in reverence. Every year this holy object would be displayed only once for one hour for the public to venerate. It was shown as recently as last November; nevertheless, today, in honor of the Dalai Lamas visit and to celebrate his receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, the Buddhas relic was displayed for veneration after the ceremony. There were a few hundred people in the audience, and most of them were Tibetans. As soon as the door to the main hall was opened many Tibetans swarmed the entrance trying to get in, but, consequently, clogged the entrance so that no one could move forward. The situation remained so for quite a while and then the clergy in charge of the temple opened all the doors to let the crowd in and sit on the floor. A monk went up to the altar platform and instructed the crowd on the necessity of orderliness; then the crowd was ordered out of the main hall to start a new single line. Even after the monks instruction some people still tried to squeeze themselves into the line, and those in the line kept pushing forward. The Western tourists, seeing such a scene, shook their heads in disbelief and gave up. It was already dusk and I did not want to delay the schedule of our group, so I entrusted a khata and a red envelope with 21 U.S. dollars inside to the Tibetan people that were in the line with me for offering to the Buddhas relic.
After I went back to Taipei, fortunately, on the 3rd of February, I got the chance to see a photo of the Buddhas relic, which was taken by Professor Tseng during his pilgrimage last year. I held the photo and tapped the top of my head with it signifying my reverence, and thereby receiving its blessing. Thanks to the Grace of Buddha, I had unexpectedly fulfilled my wish to revere the Buddhas relic within such a short time.