Pilgrimage to Bodhgaya
The Buddha himself mentioned in a sutra that a pilgrim who comes and pays respect to the four sublime places will not be reborn in the lower realms. During this year’s fall reading week, Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche lead a pilgrimage to Bodhgaya as he has for the last twenty-seven years. This time, he also decided to visit the Buddha’s other three holy places as well. Many people, including me, decided to join him for this important journey. People went with different motivations. Some hoped spending a few days in Bodhgaya, practicing under the sacred Bodhi tree and receiving instructions from teachers would help them to reconnect with what is meaningful in their lives.
Others sought to reduce physical or mental suffering. Before going to Bodhgaya, I made aspirations to be able to clear away obstacles for practice, to meet teachers I can aspire to follow, and to receive teachings that would help to transform my mind.
Going on pilgrimage is important. Our busy, stressful day-to-day lives are filled with activities and responsibilities. Often we don’t find that precious peaceful mindset that helps us to turn everything we meet into spiritual practice. Although Buddhist masters teach that we can practice wherever we are, we often need to draw our inspiration from the power of place. At least that is how it is for me. Places like Bodghaya have a special energy. Blessings have merged with the place thanks to the practice of great masters. Such places are said to be able to diminish physical pain and mental neurosis, and indeed we all felt blessed on our pilgrimage. It is said that all good wishes in Bodhgaya come true. We were all blessed to spend time with great teachers, to receive their instructions and to try to apply them while sitting at the place where the lord Buddha himself attained full and complete enlightenment.
In closing, I would love to share the pithy instruction of our Indian guide. He said, “The Lord Buddha, after spending six years enduring hardships, had a dream in which three young ladies were playing a musical instrument. One instrument’s strings were too loose, another’s were too tight, and the third one’s were just perfect. And then, the Buddha realized the middle way. Which is, if you eat too much you won’t attain enlightenment; if you eat too little you won’t attain enlightenment; if you eat the right amount of food, only then you will attain enlightenment!” Coming closer to the Middle Way was the great blessing of our pilgrimage. Let us all follow the Middle Way wherever we are, and whatever we are doing!
~ Anya from Russia