Day 17 October 19th 2014
Kushinagar, India to Rajgir, India
We visited the place where Buddha died (the remains if ancient kushinagar) as well as the Ramabhar stupa which is the location of Buddhas cremation today. Kushinegar is this tiny little town in Uttar Pradesh state that has not witnessed much development over the last few decades, it feels like your walking back in time here. Visiting the place where Buddha died was such a humble experience. We went into the temple where a statue of him lay. There we sat and began to meditate. A group of Chinese worshiper proceeded into the temple shortly after all chanting what I assume we’re prayers to the great Buddha. The sounds of their voices echoed through the temple. There was so much passion in their voices you could almost feel their emotions. Some worshipers were crying as we exited the temple and made me almost wish I had a belief in something that much, whether it is the belief in an idea such as peace or a god or holly person. The further along I go on this journey the more humbled I become towards people who have a religion. I have yet to feel a desire to become a holly person but the understanding of why people search for a greater understanding of our world is starting to evolve within me.
We left kushinagar shortly after visiting both sites and made our way to Rajgir which is in the Bihar state of India. You hear of bad places in India, the areas of the country that you should just never go to, whether you are a foreigner or a citizen of India… Well Bihar is that place! Apparently it’s a state were bandits come and rob buses at night, the state used to be run by corrupt vigilantes. Women here are often raped, murdered and sometimes hung. I was completely unaware of this until Metteyya mentioned on the bus today. Foreigners think India is rough and Indians think Bihar is rough. Recently over the last three years though the new Governor General of the state elected three female police officers as chief officers of the state and since then they have cleaned the state up a bit. Driving though Bihar it seemed like just another state in India, with slightly worse for wear roads.
Along our journey to Rajgir we stopped at the Buddha Stupa Kesariya in east Champaran. This stupa was vandalized and left to rot during the Islamic invasion of the region some time ago. The really interesting part about this stupa is that there are still statuses in tacked of Buddha along the stupa walls. The stupa was also in much better shape than the previous ones we looked at.
Before retiring for the evening, we visited the excavated remains of Vaishali, kolhua which was home to the very first monetary for nuns. The site is also home to the only fully erect monolithic polished sandstone pillar. While Metteyya was telling us the story of how females emerged into Buddhism as nuns, school children where at the site all taking pictures of us; we were celebrities to them! They watched us all watching them, taking pictures of us taking pictures of them. It was funny to see them all so interested in us. Growing up in Canada, people of different ethnicities is so common, the word foreigner is never really in mind back home when you see Indians, Chinese, Koreans, etc. here though everyone knows your different! Even with our world being so connected these days with the internet you’d think there would be less shock and awh, but nope we were quite the crowd to see apparently.