Friday, January 5, 2007

Part 5: Mahabodhi Stupa and HH the Karmapa

After arrival and checking in, I went to the Mahabodhi Stupa alone. Actually I was supposed to go with the KL people but I after waiting for some time and could not find them, and moreover my watch time was stopped (it fell down in the bath room!) and hence, I was not aware at the time we were supposed to meet. Anyhow, those KL people didnot go in the afternoon, they went in the evening, after dinner.

I went there by riding on a rickshaw - it's about 15 minutes ride from the gate. There would usually be a few rickshaw peddlars at Root's gate waiting for potential customers. If there were none, then you need to walk out a bit to the main road, that will take you 10 minutes walk through the paddy fileds, along the way you will see a lot of cowdungs lay everywhere. These local people would pick the cowdungs with both hands and put it on the road side for it to dry. For them, they see it as money or fuel or somekind of cement to patch up their wall. But for most of us, we shun those dirty "shit". See how different our perceptions are. The same thing but different mind see it differently. This is a good example that objects have no inherent existence. Emptiness is form. Form is emptiness.

All along the narrow road to the Great Stupa, there were rickshaws, motorbikes, tut-tuts like those in Thailand, old rusty cars and occasionally you see some new cars. And the culture here seems to be that you need to hon to every vehicle you pass by. Initially it was quite annoying. Everywhere they go, they would sound their hon or ring their bicycle bell when from my own judgement most were not necessary at all. All these noise make the road seem busier than the roads backhome such as Penang Road. I guess maybe because the road have no lines and were not properly divided into lanes. Or maybe it has become part of their road culture. I don't know but after one or two days you get used to the hons and rings on the road.

There were smaller temples all along that stretch of road: Cambodian, Thai, Japanese, there is supposed to be a Korean but I didnot see it, Chinese temple, and of course, Nyingma, Gelug and other such Tibetan-styled temples. And needless to say, motels lined up all along the way to the Mahabodhi Stupa for the many tourists. Towards the Stupa, there were petty traders manning stalls selling from clothes, fruits, beads, bells, and other Buddhist prayer accessories. The scene reminded me of the night markets ("pasar malam" in Malay) back home in Malaysia. It was busy and you can see hundreds of saffron-robed lamas - young and old - almost everywhere. There wasnot much time for shopping really, but yet time and again I had reminded myself that the reason I was there was not for shopping. It's for the Maitreya Retreat and my aim was seeking some kind of realisation (even if a little) from Rinpoche. If I had wanted shopping, then I might as well stay home - there's a spranging new shopping mall back in Penang.

At the main gate, there I saw the majestic Stupa. Rising up into the sky, it seemed to greet me and at that moment I just felt extremely grateful for the Buddha's blessings to enable me to actually be there - on the same earth that the Buddha walked more than 2500 years ago. I saw hundreds of people diligently doing full length prostrations all around the Stupa. They have special planks and hand cushions, so it does appear like they were just sliding down the plank. But I believe their hearts were sincere. I circumambulated the outer ring before going inside. Had to take off my shoes. Went in the main shrine and saw the monk changing the Buddha's robes. Devotees would go to him and offer robes for the Buddhas and he would take out the old one and put in the new one. Then there was the "black thing" on the floor - a monk explained to me that it belonged to a Hindu god. If I am not mistaken, it is Siva's footprint. Devotees would bow their head to the footprint or offer money/flowers. I followed others and bowed. Outside the shrine, there were two standing Buddhas and I bowed down to the one on the right. Immediately I felt a gush of tears flowing to my eyes, as if Buddha was really there. There I laid my claim to full enlightenment just as Sakyamuni Buddha did, by aspiring to full enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. Later I did the same thing to the footprints of the Buddha under the Bodhi Tree. I felt the same emotion there. It happened many times on different visits to the Stupa.

On several days of the retreat, we were requested to go to the Stupa to do our practice. So, I did several sessions of Maitreya sadhana there. And we were also taught what to recite before circumambulation and while circumambulating. Several mantras were orally transmitted to us. We were also taught to visualise numberless bodies of ourselves while prostrating and reciting. The experience was tremendous and so was the merits and blessings from this practice. The practice would not be complete without dedication of merits. So, Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche taught us how to dedicate the merits the proper way.

O-yes, and on a Friday (29th Dec I think), HH karmapa was teaching at the Mahabodhi Stupa compound. He was just right near the Bodhi Tree. I caught many glimpses of him. Ming, Sharon and Priscilla from LDC all were trying to catch him in their phone cameras. I think Sharon got a really close-up shot at him. I got one too but not that close-up. Later they had a brief meet-up session with HH Karmapa and he gave them mani pills. I was so frustrated that noone told me about it even though I was with them. But it's okay - it was not much of a problem Just to catch a glimpse of the Karmapa is considered very blessed indeed!

On another occasion, I went to his temple nearer to Root to listen briefly to his teachings. I saw him from very far. Actually this was the first glimpse. The Stupa was the second. The third glimpse was when on the way to the Stupa on the Saturday (30st), his jeep and entourage sped by. The rickshaw I was on had to stop upon hearing the police siren. His face was calm yet attractive just like the Buddha's. I am considered blessed already. By the way, I learned that Root Institute has hosted him to give a teaching there once before. I think in early 2006. Root also hosted other teachers like HH Dudjom Rinpoche and HH Ling Rinpoche.

I think I definitely will return back to this holy place again and again. Hopefully my wife will come too next time. She'll fall in love with it. Hahaha!

No money could buy that experience I had at the Stupa. No money...!

No comments: