Buddha achieved enlightenment in Bodhgaya, gave his first sermon in Sarnath, and died in Kusinara. For me, my Buddha trail has just begun.
Anyone who set foot on the grounds of Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, will instantly feel the aura of a holy place.
Whether knowingly or otherwise, visitors bow as a mark of respect to the sacred site.
Dubbed as one of the holiest places for Buddhist pilgrims, Lumbini, located in the Himalayan foothills in Nepal, is an eye-opener for spiritual seekers.
I made a trip to the tranquil location recently, following a sudden urge to fulfil my lifelong wish to be connected to the bliss emanating from the spot where Buddha was born in May 642 BC.
I felt a chill as I stood at the spot which resonated with the glory of a past era.
Buddha’s mother, Maya Devi, had given birth to him under a tree and on that spot today stands a temple with a commemorative pillar built by Indian emperor Ashoka.
The moment I arrived, I felt the ground reverberating with the chantings of over 5,000 monks who were performing an annual gathering for universal peace. They were doing the great Sakya prayer for eight hours daily for two weeks at the Dharma Swami Maharaja Buddha Vihar.
I joined them to get a feel of the pulse of the place before lighting an oil lamp at a statue of Buddha as an offering and a token of appreciation. My guide invited me for a stroll along the footsteps of Buddha which covered the sacred garden, pond, Ashoka pillar, eternal peace flame and archaeological remains associated with his birth.
The walkway was lined with quotes from Buddha such as “Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely,” “All things appear and disappear because of causes and conditions, nothing exists independent, everything is in relation to everything,” and “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
The Maya Devi temple was immersed in silence as I entered. I stroked the wall with my hands to capture the peaceful energies it echoed. I then joined a few pilgrims in meditation.
Lumbini is dotted with monasteries, each narrating Buddha’s life story. The monasteries are adorned with statues of Buddha and his followers at various stages of his life.
The highlight of my tour was a visit to the palace grounds in Kapilavastu which has been declared a Unesco World Heritage site. Buddha was raised here and, at the age of 29, he renounced worldly life, leaving behind his wife and seven-day-old son. He left through the east gate of the palace, known as the Lucky Gate, and started sharing with people he met, the purpose of leaving all worldly pleasures behind.
Till today, devotees visit the remains of the palace and walk through the east gate in Buddha’s footsteps, to surrender their lives and live with a new purpose.
I went through the same ritual and felt an immense sense of peace and liberation from worldly pressures. Buddha achieved enlightenment in Bodhgaya, gave his first sermon in Sarnath, and died in Kusinara, all in India. My Buddha trail has just begun and I hope to complete my journey to the other three stops before I achieve my enlightenment.
¦ Vasthu sastra talk
T. Selva will present a talk on ancient secrets and Vasthu Sastra for health remedies, on April 12 from 12 noon-1pm at The Star Health Fair at Mid Valley Exhibition Centre, Kuala Lumpur. Admission is free. To register, call 012-3299713. T. Selva, senior consulting editor at The Star, is the author of the Vasthu Sastra Guide and the first disciple of 7th generation Vasthu Sastra master Yuvaraj Sowma from Chennai, India. You can follow him on twitter at @tselvas and write to him at email@example.com. This column appears on the last Sunday of every month.