A Blessed Pilgrimage

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

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Part 15 - Buddha's Birthplace


On the morning of the 21st of January, I saw, in a dream, numerous yellow blossoms spreading over fields; this was a sign of the wide propagation of Buddhism. In another dream, I saw a Chinese stupa in India, signifying that Yogi Chens hermitage (L. M. Lodge in Kalimpong where he had retreated for 25 years) is also a holy place worthy of pilgrimage. Our route could not include this sacred place, so I would have to wait for another opportunity in the future.

In the morning we pilgrimage to the Mahadevi Temple at Buddhas Birthplace. I offered two large and 10 regular size butter lamps with 100 rupees. Having lit my last package of Mandala Incense I held it and circumambulated the temple compound. An old Tibetan lady was prostrating repeatedly in the small corridor outside the left side entrance, and simultaneously chanting some hymn. Her voice was so beautiful that one intuitively sensed her inner beauty. Some pilgrims were worshiping the Bodhi tree on the top level of the temple. Many Tibetans were circumambulating the temple compound. Some of them used counting rosaries, some held and swirled Dharma wheels, while a few were doing one prostration at every third step.

The rectangular pond near the temple was believed to be the bathing place for the infant Buddha and his holy mother. Seven white geese strolled in the vicinity of the pond and sometimes swam leisurely in the water. Three Tibetan girls crouching on the side of the pond scooped up water with bare hands to clean their faces, signifying their receiving the blessing of the holy water. Following their example, I scooped up the holy water to wet my forehead.

All the holy sites that we had pilgrimaged had large flocks of crows. According to the Tantric teaching, crows were transformations of the protector Four Armed Mahakala. Once, in a dream, I saw a flock of crows all transformed into short men with weapons in their hands. Hence, the crows were there to guard these holy sites.

During our pilgrimage, we saw monasteries, temples, monks and nuns, and pilgrims from various Asian countries at each sacred site. Nevertheless, only the Dharma activities of the Tibetan people made me feel that Buddhism was alive in the heart of the people as a whole. Everywhere we went there were Tibetan style monasteries with resident Lamas, Dharma activities, butter lamp offerings, and pilgrimage crowds of all ages. They came in crowded buses or trucks, and they stayed in shabby tents. They came on the pilgrimage despite physical hardships. Some Tibetan families went on a pilgrimage once a year. Although they were refugees in a foreign country, the smiles on their faces and the brightness in their eyes revealed fully their indomitable spirit. Buddhism had been deeply rooted in the Tibetan hearts and infused in their lives, and had nurtured them to become such a relaxed, simple, happy and sturdy people.

After breakfast I visited the holy site of Buddhas Birth again. Near the pond there was a large Bodhi tree with half of its lower trunk hollowed; inside the hollow was a small stupa enthroning a statue of the reclining Buddha. Erecting a stupa for the reclining Buddha, which signifies Buddhas Parinirvana, at the site of Buddhas Birth, was indeed a very wise way to remind pilgrims of Buddhas life as a whole. I offered a khata and five fruits at the stupa.

In the afternoon I visited the holy site again. At the Tibetan Monastery I offered 50 rupees; at the Hinayana Monastery I offered 26 rupees; In the Mahadevi Temple I offered two large and 20 regular size butter lamps with 100 rupees. After having circumambulated the holy site of Buddhas Birth, I sat under the large Bodhi tree by the pond to the right of the small stupa for a rest. Janice, a member of our group, happened to walk by. She liked to ask me questions about Buddha Dharma, so I explained to her as well as Richard who had joined us, the essence of what I had learned from the Dharma:

What Buddha achieves at Full Enlightenment is the realization that everything is a boundless unity. The basic principles for Buddhist practices are: in the active realm, opening up and in the inactive realm, no attachment. Buddhist practices are based on the above Truth and principles, and will enable us to approach gradually the Full Enlightenment of Buddha.

In the serenity of Buddhas Birthplace the following reflections arose in my mind:

1. Our modern ways of living had been over saturated with the artifacts of civilization. Our lives have become so tense that it is of necessity for us to return to a simple and peaceful life style. People who understand this had better start changing their own lives, so that society can smell the fresh air of simplicity and relaxation. Eventually the multitudes will be affected by this.

2. The experiences of a pilgrimage can be infused into our daily life:

When one awakens in the morning, develop a pure Bodhi mind, just as the Birth of Buddha.

When one is learning Dharma, be attentive and respectful, just as listening to a sermon of Buddha.

When one is practicing Dharma, remember the renunciation and austerity of Buddha to encourage ones diligence, and pray for Buddhas blessing so that oneself and all sentient beings may soon achieve Buddhahood.

When one is preaching Dharma, follow Buddhas example of making no distinction between classes of people (Great Compassion) and giving teachings that suit the level of the audience (Great Wisdom).

When one is going to sleep at night, remember that Buddha went into Nirvana to teach us Impermanence, and hence, realize that all ones mental attachments are futile. Willingly let them go and then fall asleep soundly.

On the morning of the 22nd of January, I saw three times in a dream that I used a piece of paper to catch fire to light a cigarette. Today we had completed our pilgrimage to the four major sites of Buddhas life relating respectively to his Birth, Enlightenment, First Turning of the Dharma Wheel (First Sermon), and Parinirvana. Hence, the dream signified a continuation of Buddhas activities. During my sleep I heard a Heavenly voice saying: "If you moved back to Taiwan, you would not create as great an influence as you would by staying in the United States." This was to instruct me to continue my station in the United States for spreading of the Dharma.

In the morning I offered one candle at the reclining Buddha stupa by the pond. In the Mahadevi Temple 25 butter lamps were offered with 100 rupees from me and half a bag of coins from Bert. Bert bought a bag of coins for alms giving during our pilgrimage. Now that it was near the end of the trip he asked me to use what was left for offering to Buddha. I did my morning practice in front of the Buddha statue in the temple. Then I sat in meditation under the Bodhi tree by the temple. In my meditation I saw a statue of Amitayus, the Longevity Buddha, that my Guru had passed down to me and was revered on my altar. It was twice its original size, and was surrounded at each of the four corners by a smaller Buddha statue. The size of the Longevity Buddha had doubled, signifying a blessing to lengthen my life.

After meditation I went inside the temple to toll the bell five times to pray for the spreading of the Dharma to be like the propagation of bell, i.e. from near to far. Then I circumambulated the temple three times. At noon we flew in a small airplane back to Kathmandu. During the flight we saw the magnificent snowcap of the Himalayan Mountains protruding high above the clouds. Again, we stayed at Hotel Vajra.

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