Letter from Bodhgaya: Travels with my father
It’s been a year of almost incessant travel; and the start and the end of the Asian journey on which I was the curious pilgrim was the beloved, beguiling, sometimes bewildering, and always un-shake-off-able holy Bodhgaya, place of awakening and soothing panacea for the sickness of non-contentment.
My travels began with a fellow monk and I tasting the inspiration that bubbles up like the fresh yeast in wholesome bread when we savored the jewels of the holy sites of north India in a somewhat unhurried fashion as described earlier in these esteemed pages. The journey neared its close in mid-November, when I was joined by my kind father, an uncle, and an aunt – all brave enough to visit the jewel hidden in the treacherous mud of modern Bihar with all its lawlessness, moral corruption, and raw sorrow that hits you like a fist when you alight from your air-conditioned cocoon-like compartment at Gaya railway station.
What, if anything, have I learned from this journey? What have I seen and registered that could be of any conceivable interest to you, kind readers, inundated as you are with so much material of both indisputable and questionable quality through so many devices, all at arm’s length?
Perhaps at least I can invite you briefly into my little world: a world that, at present, contains elements of monk, father, and family, the dualities of home and karmabhumi, (the place where one works out one’s salvation with diligence through the medium of work, so to speak), of being still and in movement, the painful tussle between restraint and the desire to indulge, an often uneasy connection between the phantoms of the past and the dim outlines of an uncertain future – all existing under the overarching and increasing awareness of how we are all like guests on this earth, soon to separate from those we feel almost a part of. How I wish for my dear ones, father especially, to imbibe to the full the blessing of the holy Mahabodhi Stupa, to feel in his old aching bones and marrow the love and wisdom-chemistry of Lord Buddha under the Bodhi Tree, to feel to some degree what might be the reason his eldest son now dons the robes of a monk. None of this is easy, for distractions and delusions are many, Mara is wise, too, and the light brings its own shadows …