Day 18: Wednesday, March 21st, 2018. Bodhgaya, where Buddha became enlightened
We left Varanasi at 7:30am and drove 5.5 hrs to Holiest Buddhist site in the world, Bodhgaya. It is a world heritage site and where Prince Siddhartha Gautama was said to have reached enlightenment in 623 B.C and became the Buddha ( the Enlightened one) under the fig (pipal/ bodhi tree). Some say he sat for 3 days and other say he sat for 45 days until he was enlightened. When his mind was purified from concentration, he was said to have gained 3 knowledges: knowledge of his past lives and that of other human beings, the laws of karma, and that he was freed from all obstacles and attachments.
The Bodhi tree is said to have been the 4th generation of the original tree with a sapling from the original tree that was brought to Sri Lanka brought back and planted in the same spot. We sat by and meditated for a bit, joining the many visitors from other countries including Vietnamese, Sri Lankan, and Korean chanting and meditative towards to the Bodhi tree and the Mahabodhi temple built by King Ashoka holding a black buddha covered in gold ( brought in later). We also saw a monk doing prostration ( similar to a sun salutation).
In the area, we saw where the Buddha was 7 weeks after enlightenment.
Week one: Remained under the Bodhi tree in complete freedom, happiness, and peace.
Week 2: He sat under a Animisa Lokana and stared at the Bodhi tree in thanks and gratitude without blinking. The pilar now stands where the banyan tree was.
Week 3: Buddha walked back and forth and 19 lotuses were said to have grown (now represented by concreted lotuses on the floor only 17 too far apart and the done again on a raised platform with 19 lotuses and with proper spacing).
Others say that he created a golden bridge and walked across it for a week to prove to the gods that he attained enlightenment.
In the fourth week, he created a jewelled chamber and meditated in it and came up with the "Detailed Teaching" (Abhidhamma). His mind and body were so purified that six coloured rays came out of his body: blue, yellow, red, white, orange and a mixture of these five which now make up the Buddhist flag. Each colour represented a noble quality of the Buddha: yellow for holiness, white for purity, blue for confidence, red for wisdom and orange for desirelessness. The colors combined represented all these noble qualities.
Week 5: The stairs coming down to Mahabodhi temple once stood the Ajapala Banyan Tree ( now a stone pillar). It is also here that Buddha responded to a Brahmin (priest and in the highest caste system) that it is good karma(action) alone and not birth which makes one a Brahmin.
The Buddha spent his 6th week meditating under a mucalinda tree. It began to rain heavily and a gigantic king cobra came out and coiled his body seven times around the Buddha to keep him warm and placed his hood over the Buddha’s head to protect him. The rain stopped after 7 days and the snake changed into a young man who paid his respects to the Buddha. The Buddha spoke to him and said:
"Happy are they who are contented. Happiness is for those who hear and know the truth. Happy are they who have good will in this world towards all sentient beings. Happy are they who have no attachments and have passed beyond sense-desires. The disappearance of the word "I AM " is indeed the highest happiness."
Week 7: The Buddha the meditated under the rajayatama tree. He had been fasting for 7 weeks and two merchants names Tapussa and Bhallika offered offered him rice cakes and honey. They became his first two lay followers. The follows asked for something sacred to take with them and Buddha used his right hand to pul out some hair to give to them. The hair relics, called Kesa Datu are enshrined in Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon, the home of the two merchants.
Afterwards, we visited other buddhist temples near by including Japanese and Thai temples as well as an 80 foot Buddha where we signed our names on wooden planks to be displaced in November indication those that want world peace.