Last month, as a family, we travelled to India, where we visited my mum at The Root Institute For Wisdom Culture, in Bodh Gaya.
Bodhgaya is a small town in Bihar, one of the poorest states in India. Here we found homeless families, neglected kids and extreme poverty. Cows, goats, dogs and chickens roamed free. Dirt roads were lined with discarded rubbish and plastic drink bottles. We also found beauty, joy and magic, along with thousands of Buddhist monks and nuns from all over the world. It is a place of extremes.
The Mahabodhi Temple
The Mahabodhi Temple, one of the holiest sites of Buddhism, lies at the centre of Bodh Gaya and is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a major site of pilgrimage, hence the many Buddhist monks and nuns. The temple is one of the oldest brick temples in India. Sitting adjacent to the temple is a Bodhi tree. This bodhi tree is said to be a descendant of the original bodhi tree under which Prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment and became Buddha. From November to January some of the most extraordinary spiritual masters come to visit the Bodhi tree. Here they meditate and offer teachings and blessings.
Whilst we were in Bodh Gaya the Nyingma Monlam Chenmo, The Great Prayer Festival, was on. There were hundreds of colourful prayer flags fluttering. Warm fragrant incense permeated the air along with deep chanting, bird song, and bells. I was fortunate to have access to a camera pass, through my mum, to take photos in and around the grounds of the temple. Here I share some rare photos.
"The main purpose of the Great Prayer Festival is to pray for the long life of all the holy Gurus of all traditions, for the survival and spreading of the Dharma in the minds of all sentient beings, and for world peace. The communal prayers, offered with strong faith and devotion, help to overcome obstacles to peace and generate conducive conditions for everyone to live in harmony."
Blessings With His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
I was also most fortunate to attain an appointment for my family to receive blessings from His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama during our visit. On the morning of our blessing, we woke early, wrapped ourselves up in warm jackets and scarves, and ventured to the Tibetan Temple. In an orderly queue, with others from all over the world, we were admitted and thoroughly checked by security (no weapons, cameras, recording equipment or phones allowed). Hot masala chai was offered and helped to warm chilled hands and bellies while we waited.
I first met His Holiness the Dalai Lama when I was 17 years old (see June 2020 Blog), and now over 30 years later, coming into close contact with him again, evoked similar emotions of excitement, joy and overwhelm. He is eighty eight years old and exudes humility, vibrance, wisdom and all-encompassing compassion. It is hard to find the words to describe exactly how I felt during our blessing, so I have attached more photos to help. As the famous quote says - “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
The blessings and gratitude experienced with Maitreya School of Universal Education will be shared in a future blog. If you have any questions or comments please add them below.
1. Staff (2004–2005). "Monlam Chenmo in Kopan (20-24 Feb. 2005)" (PDF). Kopan Monastery. Retrieved 2010-02-04.