Journey to the four pilgrimage sites
–Namila Bajracharya, BA student from Nepal
The highlight of this year was visiting the four great Buddhist pilgrimage sites organised by Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery, led by H.E. Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. I was one among a group of approximately 2000 devotees who went on this pilgrimage. First, on December 26, 2022, we went to Bodh Gaya, the place where the Shakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment. One of the main objectives behind the Bodh Gaya trip was to attend H.H. the Dalai Lama’s teachings which was on Bodhisattva. I vividly remember his holiness’s radiant, joyful, blissful aura. His words on compassion were truly inspiring. The teaching venue was huge and the crowd was unlike anything I had ever seen before. It was heart touching to see numerous revered Rinpoche, excellent teachers and people with great devotion there. After the teachings, we went to Mahabodhi temple, where our group gathered along with Rinpoche and chanted precious texts like Buddha Shakyamuni Sadhana, the Heart Sutra, etc. recollecting the qualities of the Buddha together. We then went to Sarnath, where the Shakyamuni Buddha gave his first sermon, Kushinagar, where he attained nirvana and finally Lumbini, his birthplace during the last four days of our ten-day trip. In every site, the entire group came together and performed various practices such as prostrations, chanting prayers and mantras, making offerings, circumambulation of the sites, meditation etc. After reading about the Buddha’s life story and then visiting the very places where his significant life events took place, the experience felt surreal.
Not only did I have the opportunity to visit and practice in such sacred places with wonderful individuals but also got to make new dharma friends, encountered different culture and explored other beautiful locations along the way. Initially, I was slightly nervous due to the unpredictability and unfamiliar aspects of the trip, as it was my first time traveling for such a long duration without my family or close friends. However, the whole journey proceeded smoothly without much difficulty. The people I met throughout the trip were very welcoming, kind and fun. On the other hand, I also came across people experiencing acute poverty in some regions, which deeply humbled me. It was a powerful reminder of the privileges and opportunities that I may had taken for granted.
By the end of the tour, I had a bag full of blissful memories. I am immensely grateful to everyone who made this auspicious journey possible, particularly Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, who kindly invited his students and generously guided the journey. The conclusion of 2022 and commencement of 2023 could not have been more fulfilling.