My Buddhist Trail
My Buddhist tour has finally ended in Nepal as I depart for the Middle East. For four months I’ve travelled to countries that are predominately Buddhist or have a significance influence on the religion. I end my trip in Asia with a visit to Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha.
Here are some of the key highlights since the beginning of the year:
- I started 2016 in the ancient city of Kyoto which has an abundance of both Shinto and Buddhism temples.
- I spent the 3 weeks in Taiwan, where Buddhism isn’t a religion you practice but a philosophy of life that is woven into daily life. This is the place to see how a society progresses when compassion, gratitude and selflessness is a way of life for all citizens. I learned about how Buddhism was brought from India to China and the obstacles along the way.
- Next was Kuala Lumpur, which wasn’t just about Buddhism but how three distinctly different religions live in harmony and respect each other. Buddhism, Muslim and Hinduism can coexist peacefully and also be friends!
- I continued my exploration of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and for 3 weeks I noticed a similar trend as Taiwan, compassion is woven into daily life. I visited many holy sites such as Sigiriyga, Mihintale, Anuradhapura, Dambulla, Kandy and Polonnaruwa. I heard stories of how a sapling from the original Bodhi tree that Buddha sat under was brought to Sri Lanka, the tree has thrived in Anuradhapura. I learned about Emperor Ashoka bringing Buddhism to the Sri Lankan king and visited the location where the actual teachings took place.
- In India I was able to visit many significant Buddhist locations which included:
- Sarnath - Buddha gave his first sermon after obtaining enlightenment
- Bodhgaya - Buddha obtained enlightenment under a Bodhi tree
- Sujata Temple – After leaving the cave starving Sujata gave Buddha a bowl of rice pudding at this location
- Dungeshwari Cave – Buddha meditated in this cave without food and water but determined anything taken to the extreme will not fulfill his wish to be enlightened.
- At Bodhgaya I was also invited to a private talk with the 17th Karmapa, who is just as influential as the Dalai Lama for Tibetan Buddhism.
- In Bhutan I learned about Guru Rinpoche, The Divine Madman of Tibet, the Iron Builder. Interestingly an ordinary man name Siddhartha who obtained enlightenment and became known as Buddha know has an entire an entire mythological story around him with demons, devils, angels, etc.
- I finished my Buddhist trip in Nepal where the majority of the population is Hindu but Buddhism is weaved into daily life.
- I did my 9th Vipassana silent meditation course outside of Kathmandu.
- In Lumbini (the birthplace of Buddha) I was grateful to have seen the footprints of baby Buddha, the pond where he took his first bath and the original column Emperor Ashoka built when he visited this site.
- I spent the day a with a nun in Swayambhu, where I learned about the different sects of Buddhism but the core belief is the same.
- In Pokhara I visited a couple Tibetan Refugee Camps where I learned the importance of Tibet and the Dalai Lama. Not only does Tibet play an important spiritual role but also an environmental indicator of climate change.
As much as I learned about Buddha, his life, and his teachings my biggest take-away from the last 5 months is Buddhism isn’t a religion you blindly follow. It’s important to follow the Buddhist philosophy. The Buddhist I met have a character of honesty, integrity, and compassion – I can’t think of one person I met during this time that did not have these characteristics.
I’m humbled by the generosity and kindness of strangers. My prior posts talk about my experience in Taiwan and Sri Lanka. Nepal is the most poverty stricken country I have been to but that doesn’t stop the Nepalese from following Buddhist principles.
I have felt nothing but selfless love and compassion from the people of Japan, Taiwan, Sri Lanka and Nepal. I’ve learned that doing things for others is important but not expecting anything in return is more important. I’m hoping I can carry what I’ve learned forward in my life