By Shyamal Sinha
His Holiness the Dalai Lama arrived in Bodh Gaya, he opted to travel to the Buddhist holy site from Varanasi by road instead of air as a result of poor visibility. One of His Holiness’s first acts yesterday morning was to visit the ancient Mahabodhi Temple complex that marks the location where the historical Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment some 2,500 years ago.
“The Dalai Lama offered prayers for world peace under the Bodhi Vriksha [the Bodhi Tree] and also visited the sanctum sanctorum of the 1,500-year-old Mahabodhi Temple,” said a Bodh Gaya administration official. (Business Standard)
At the temple’s main entrance, Ratna Vajra Rinpoche, the 42nd Sakya Trizin, and Avikrita Vajra Rinpoche, received His Holiness, who gave a blessing for the ongoing 26th Sakya Monlam being held in Bodh Gaya. His Holiness then approached the western side of the temple where the Bodhi Tree stands, lighting a lamp among the numerous offerings arranged as part of the Sakya Monlam. He then circumambulated the temple’s inner circuit, smiling and waving to the well-wishers outside. The Dalai Lama made three prostrations at the door to the temple before entering and inspecting the statue of the Buddha inside. Accompanied by several monks, His Holiness recited prayers, texts, and verses of dedication.
The administration official noted that the octogenarian monk, who marked his 82nd birthday in July, spent almost an hour near the Bodhi Tree and a further half an hour meditating in the Mahabodhi Temple’s inner sanctum.
Thousands of devotees thronged the streets bearing flowers and khata, the traditional Tibetan ceremonial scarf, to greet the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, including local Indian officials, members of the Tibetans diaspora and other Himalayan communities, as well as foreign visitors from around the world. Bodh Gaya is expecting a major influx of visitors as a result of the Dalai Lama’s stay.
The Tibetan spiritual leader, who was previously scheduled to arrive at the UNESCO World Heritage Site on 26 December, is expected to remain in Bodh Gaya for about a month—his longest stay at the holy site since his asylum in India in the 1950s. A source from the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), the Tibetan government-in-exile, is reported to have said that His Holiness is scheduled to leave on 1 February, although his travel plans could change: “Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is likely to meet him in the last week of January during his Vikas Sameeksha Yatra and request the spiritual leader to grace the Bodh Mahotsav. The Dalai Lama has been a great admirer of Kumar for his initiative to enforce total ban on liquor and his campaign against dowry.” (Hindustan Times)
Tens of thousands of followers are expected to attend scheduled teachings at the nearby at the Kalchakra Maidan. From 5–7 January, the Dalai Lama will give a three-day teaching on theDharmachakrapravartana Sutra and the Pratityasamutpada Sutra. From 14–16 January, His Holiness will give teachings on Nagarjuna’s Commentary on Bodhicitta and Gyalsey Thokme Sangpos’s Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva. He will also confer the Avalokiteshvara Initiation on 15–16 January. The initiation ceremony on 16 January will be followed by a long life offering ceremony to His Holiness.
A temporary police station has been setup near the Kalachakra puja ground to provide round-the-clock surveillance throughout His Holiness’ visit. Security arrangements reportedly also include the deployment of some 2,500 police personnel to Bodh Gaya, and increasing the height of the boundry wall around Mahabodhi Temple.