A layman staff of Namgyal Monastery had died two days ago in Patna Hospital. He had liver cancer, a familiar terminal disease that most Tibetan have. I helped at the office to arrange Tibetan ritual for his funeral. All the monks of Namgyal Temple, few of lay staff –indian and Tibetan, one staff of Nechung and few Tibetans Sweater Wala from BodhGaya took part in this sombre but important ritual. First fire was lit by me as I am unknown to him. This is the difference between Hindu and Buddhist. In Hindu Tradition pyre is lit by his dearest or the nearest sibling.
In India, electric cremation facility is limited to mega cities. In BodhGaya cremation is done with wood. For funeral Pyre there are few requirements such as plenty of woods; a match box, Kerosene as starter the fire; oil to sustain the fire; sugar to prolong the fire; long stick with rags at the one end soaked in kerosene-not oil- to start the fire; image of Buddha or HH the Dalai Lama for alter and incenses; tea and cups for the monks and those are present at the cremation ritual. Tea is served after Puja is done.
Arrangement of woods is also tricky. First, put six or eight wooden post vertically in a shape of rectangle to hold back other woods arranged horizontally. Thicker woods are arranged at the four sides with thinner in the middle. Head and feet must be well within the wood arrangement. If person is 5 feet, pyre arrangement must be 6 feet-length; width is normally four feet. Head and feet should not roll out of the pyre when burning is half way; belly should face down because internal organs contains lots of water and they should empty out early on. Throw oil, kerosene and sugar as necessary to location that require extra burning.
While pyre is burning, monks are busy Chanting Buddhist text. If monks are not available, you can do the Puja yourself with SherabNyingpo or Heart Sutra. It is in Youtube. And repeat it until cremation is done. Head and few bones will take almost 10 hours to burn. After one hour, all flesh part is gone. You can now go home and do Sur Puja. You can come back the next morning at cremation spot and collect the bones.
SipaHo is similar to SipaKhorlo but they are not. SipaHo is carried in front of the corpse and back side of SipaHo has some Tibetans script that must be read if possible before the corpse is laid on the pyre. It can be read earlier as well. SipaHo is kept aside if it is a expensive Thanka or it burnt along with the corpse if it is just a paper printout.
Here is SipaHo for printout.
Here is HeartSutra in youtube.
Will Buddhism survive next millennia?
Few days ago when I went for the inner circumambulation at Maha Vihara, I saw many Tibetan monks with weird hat.
Except for the Tibetan Buddhism, which is followed strictly according to Nalanda tradition, rest of the Buddhism flourishing in Sri Lankan, Thai, Burmese, Korean etc. are less vigorous and they will continue next millennia.
Sadly, it cannot be said about the Tibetan Buddhism. Huien Tsang(Chinese Buddhist: 602-664ad) studied in Nalanda for 10 years and made Buddhism their religion. Chinese people deliberately destroyed it in the past. Currently, Chinese are destroying it in Tibet. Therefore, Nalanda Buddhism for which Huien tsang and Atisha worked so hard is being deliberately destroyed by the Chinese themselves; India has already lost it.
Tibetans too are now diluting it: wearing weird hats, wantonly disregarding celibacy, and sex scandals.
Therefore Chinese leader are destroying Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism but Buddhism in other countries, whatever form it is in, will survive and continue. Chinese leader are hurting themselves as a civilization without richness of culture. If China wants to revive Chinese Buddhism as established by Hiuen Tsang, It is Tibetan Buddhism that is lost from Nalanda.
There is a Hindu shrine under a Bodhi Tree on the north side of the MahaBodhi Temple at BodhGaya. A Hindu Priest always does Puja at this shrine. He also does the same Puja inside the main Temple in front of the Buddha Statue and he makes 180 degree turn and offer the same Puja where there is a spot where Linga was kept. There is a square box with some remainders of the LInga in front of the Buddha Statue.
MahaBodhi temple is where Buddha gained enlightened. This is only spot in whole world. Hindus Linga can be installed anywhere in India but why at MahaBodhi Temple?
A senior Tibetan who is still living in Namgyal Monastery at BodhGaya saw with his own eyes when in 1952, present Buddha Statue, was installed here which was brought from across the river.
Same Statue was described by Hieun Tsang who saw it within the temple. He gave the height, width from one knee to other, and shoulder width. Statue inside the MahaVihara should be 11.5 ft high; 8.8 ft from one Knee to the other, 6.2 ft at shoulders…. Ref: Page 120.
Yesterday, I came to learn that there are 20 Vietnamese who are visiting KukuPada(Kuku: bird; Pada: feet) today, 6th. Since KukuPada is deep inside a forest and is on a high mountain top, it is the most difficult trip for me.
When Buddha attained PariNirvana, Maha Kasyapa went to this mountain top. When he reached the top there was a huge rock which he split into two and he went through it; this path is very narrow and complete dark; you need flash light. He went over and come around to a cave where he passed away.
Asanga(ཐོགས་མེད) too did meditation at Kuku Pada for 12 years and successfully envisioned Maitreya Buddha(རྗེ་བཙུན་བྱམས་པ).
It is located at Gurpa railway station which can be reached from Gaya in a rail. Taxi reserve fare is about Rs. 2500. From Gurpa, there is no proper road and must walk about 1.5 km through a forest at base of a cliff; fast walker can cover this distance in 20 minutes. From here onward it is a ascend with about 1800 steps or more. This climb is not for people with heart conditions, elders and pregnant women. KukuPada is also not for lone or group of people less than 15; if women are there, group must be more than 20 people.
There are horde of local people, old, young and children who will keep on pestering you for money. They will follow you from railway station all the way to the top. Such behavior will drive you nuts and scary too. Taxi is parked near the railway station.
Visit this place only in groups of 10 or more; do not take risk with life.
From BodhGaya, taxi takes about one and half hour to reach Gurpa. I left BodhGaya at about 7am- too early is also not good in a scary forest. It is very important to bring along plenty of water to drink, food and Flash light. Passage at the very top is very narrow and pitch dark. Chubby people may not be able to pass through this narrow passage. At the top, it is huge boulders and more boulders. It is windy too. My iphone gave me reading of 440m altitude ie 330m climb: BodhGaya is at 110m altitude.
It is a must visit spot for both physical and good karma.
Of all the pilgrimage sites i have visited, this is the most rewarding as well as most difficult trip to arrange due to danger caused by people, nature and 1800 vertical steps to climb. Descending such many steps is still more difficult.
Today, my legs muscles are sore due to vertical climb at KukuPada yesterday.
I am suppose to guide another group of Tibetan women to Vulture Peak Buddhist circuit, tomorrow.
I took three Tibetans-one from Swiss, one from Toronto and other from Delhi- to Sipatsel (Dungaswara), vulture peak, Nalanda. Ven. Tenzin of Namgyal Monastery had arranged their Red seven-seater car to take us direct upto the monastery which means we don’t have to face the Biker gang. It was a huge relief.
We went at 6am and we were back by 6pm.
This trip took one hour extra because one of the members had to change her breakfast order again and again. If such trivial matter takes precedence, there is less and less time left to spend for important Puja.
For me, safety of the food we eat is important, don’t want to get sick, rather than taste taste while one is in a unfamiliar territory.
It is a sad day, again for me. Ven. Wangyal (aka Kushok Wangyal la) of Nechung Monastery has passed away around 10am in his sleep. He was ill for few weeks. He was the last giant of Nechung Monastery.
Since monks of Namgyal Monastery do daily Puja from the tower of MahaBodhi main temple at 6pm, I took this opportunity and asked the monks to recite special Puja for the Kushog Wangyal la.
Today is Full moon. Butter lamps go out of stock- Tibetans use refined oil instead of Butter. For 100 lamps, it cost Rs. 250. For 1000 butter lamps, it is Rs. 2500.
Money making Ground: BodhGaya
There is a Blind school in BodhGaya which is a front to make money for an Indian who wears monks robe. When Tibetans are initiated into monk, it is carried out in a public fashion with strict Vinaya code which can be verified easily. However, such verification is not possible with Indian monks.
This Indian, in monks robe, received huge donation from a foreigner few days earlier before he committed suicide. It is in the news media.
Thai monastery also runs a school of monks for children who are paraded in front of the bodhGaya every morning and afternoon.
There was a small group of young children- about 20- in lay cloth, sitting in meditation posture which is lead by an elder woman in lay cloth. I wonder what these young children are meditating on and what is their motive.
According to rule, no beggars are allowed inside the temple but you will find two or more elderly lady begging inside the temple; who is letting them in?
BTMC staffs working inside the temple are more interested in spots where money is being distributed. Since they do not wear any visible Number on their T-shirt, it is very difficult to make out who is working and who is loitering inside the temple- busy body. Every BTMC staff should wear a visible number beside logo.
Peace, tranquility and deafness
If you are looking for peace and tranquility inside the Temple, you are in the wrong place. There is Jagnnath Hindu Temple, Mosque, make-shift temples and Hotels who blasts their loud speaker at its loudest volume. Surprisingly, Buddhist who visit this solemn spot also use loud speaker to broadcast their Puja for the crowd back home(China or Sri Lanka: I don’t think they can hear you from here however loud you blast).
Peace is what we seek and we go back with deaf ear. Of course, if you are deaf, this is the best place on the earth.
A Hindu Priest appears annoyingly, from nowhere, with loud bell and fire for Puja to Shive Linga which is in front of the principle Buddha Statue. Why this Hindu priest have to annoy Buddhist is beyond me and all the Buddhist in the world. What is their purpose? Another Ram temple at BodhGaya?
Dogs are territorial animal. Since there are more than 15 dogs within the main temple, everyday, they growl, fight, bark, poop and sleep at spot that is prime for devotees. BTMC staff are busy looking at faces and hands that distribute money rather than keeping the temple clean and free of dogs.
Most of the Tibetan devotees are here for 100,000 prostrations which is very, very difficult ritual and they deserve all the help. Many local people are employed due to this ritual which needs, wooden board, narrow mattress for belly and hand cushions. These devotees are offered tea, bread and more tea for FREE. However, there is a hidden problem. Some devotee after filling their own belly with free food, want to show kindness by offering the free food to the dogs: such practice is not kindness but greed. That is why dogs are within the temple premise.
I have been coming to BodhGaya since 1974, when the first Kalachakra was held here. Beggars are forever present. Why? Tibetans have a bad habit of offering coins and morsel.
I asked an Indian who owns a Travel Agent shop why is Gurpa, a treacherous mountain top, is made more difficult by local tribes? He replied without even looking at me,” you”. I ask him, “How”. He replied, “you give them money for free. Why not they throng you when they are given free money?” Children don’t go to school instead they beg. Such practice drives children into begging practices which is a real threat to Indian children.
Gate of the BodhGaya main temple is surrounded by hundreds of beggars. They pee, eat and sleep and throw garbage on the street. Namgyal Monastery gate is the dirtiest.
No one can drive them away. It is sin for them. Everyone wish they just disappear somehow without their initiative.
Guess what? Some of these beggars own land and house too. Some of them are richer than me. I don’t own any house in the whole world.
Elders, disables and children are forced to beg in the street by their relatives who are working somewhere else as an additional income.
There is a law in Bihar that prohibits giving alms to beggars (they are not poor but they are beggar); both receiver and giver are guilty according this by law.
I met a Tibetan (Lobsang Dorjee) who is living in Sikkim who had lived in BodhGaya for many years in the past. He had seen BodhGaya up-close. He pointed out a spot, which is behind the protected area near the inner gate where there are plenty of Buddhist structures with thousand-Buddha-statues. They lay in ruins. Many of these structures have LInga inside the inner most sanctum.
We went to another spot which is within the market of BodhGaya next to Post office. There is a huge Gate which is closed almost all the time. For people who can walk can enter through a smaller door which is not more than 3ft by 3ft. This building is prehistoric protected area fit for kings. Without company do not enter this area alone. It is a huge house complex that circumscribed a courtyard. Within the courtyard is a huge cow shed. House complex is of three storey high. In one room of the ground house there are few Buddha’s image. Some of the Buddhist relics are employed as flower stand. Most interesting part of this house complex is facing the river Narangana. The steps climbing down into the river bed are made of stone stolen from Buddhist shrines; many of these stone still have Buddhas image on them.
Ananda Bande(Shering Tenzin) discovered the last resting place of the MahaKasyapa in 1991. Ananda Bande lives next to 80 feet Buddha.
MahaKasyapa went to this hill with the robe that was given to him by Sakyamuni Budda, his walking stick and alm bowl. As he reached at the top, there was a huge boulder which he cracked open with his walking stick and went inside and never came back down. This spot looks like a bird’s feet hence KukuPada.
It has some 1800 steps to climb and Ananda Built each of them. When he first found it, they found many small stupas and other relics. All 1800 steps were completed in 2009 Nov. It took almost four years to finish it.
Karmapa(Orgen tinley Dorjee) went there and inanagurated it. If you have heart issues or pregnant or elder do not attempt this trip. Always take this trip in a group of four or more.
Acharya Dorjee(aka Guruji)
He was a Pali translator and worked in Patna library for many years. He was a drunkard monk. He died in 2018. He lived next to Ananda Bande until his death. He may have written a manuscript in Tibetan which is with Mr. Dorjee: I believe.
Today, at about 10am, I had a cup of tea and a yugard with Mr. Dorjee. Soon after that I had the dreaded “delhi belly” caused by e-coli bacteria. There was pain and chill. I took Pepto Bismol and anti Diarrhea and lot of Gatorade drinks. My travel kit has Gatorade power, anti-Diarrhea tablet, Pepto Bismol liquid, Tylenol, Gravol, Ibuprofen 400mg, Rubbing Alcohol 70 percent spray for cuts and Band-aids.
My diarrhea has stopped by morning. Still I am bit fuzy and limp. Today is the day when Sakyamuni Buddha returned to earth after giving his respect to his mother who was in Heaven since Sakyamuni was 7 days old.
Namgyal Monastery, BodhGaya, was doing special Puja at the Temple and I joined them. There were about 100 monks gathered from various monasteries. Congregation could have much bigger but for the inauguration of newly built Sakya Sangharama. I was told that almost all high prist of Sakya were present. I could not attend the inauguration as I was busy here at the Maha Vihara. I cannot be at the two different spot at the same time; I am not Buddha, yet!
Today, I am suppose to give hand to clean up grime and muck accumulated for decade on old brocade adorned the statues of Namgyal Monastery of BodhGaya. These tiny brocades are old and fragile. Since they are fragile, I suggested soaking them in Petrol for few minutes without much agitation and hanging them dry. Petrol was used as Dry Cleaning solvent in the past. Today, industry use different solvent though.
I had finished cleaning four or so of these old brocade and some have gold thread running thorugh them. These fabrics cannot take any sort of rubbing. In old Tibet, they use dough or raw meat to pick up dirt and leave behind bacteria but due to dry and cold climate of Tibet bacteria does not harm them. It is doubtful whether such practice is advisable in hot climate like India.
I had soaked about 4 items and Petrol worked very well. Petrol also dries fast. It is done in a open space for fresh air. All of a sudden there was the big boss (monk) who looked at me disdainfully. He said, “Why, why, this way; I specifically told him to rub the fabric with Petrol; not to soak.” I had nothing to say. I was very sorry for the monk who had asked me to help him; he was a junior monk. Yes, monks have ranks too.
That was the end of my “helping hand”.
Namgyal Monastery was eying for a latest TV and I suggested OLED, SMART, 4K and all angel view. We went to Gaya. There is a “big” mall-Reliance- in Gaya where electronic and fridges are sold. It has movie theater too. SMART means TV is internet content ready.
However, the most talked about in Gaya town is not TV or movie or iphone, it is eatery -Pramod. No wonder all the monks are chubby.
It rained in BodhGaya today, yesterday and the day before. When it rains circumambulation in outer most and inner most walk of the stupa becomes life threatening because floor is slippery. For three days I could hardly do three or four rounds.
Kagyue (Shamar group) had Monlam today at the main Stupa. Hundreds of Bhutanese have arrived. Sakya Monlam is in its 20th day.
Bihar and Poverty
Bihar has no poverty issue but they do have social issues. In Bihar, begging is the choice of career. It is very sad. When Tibetans dole out 500 rupee notes for beggar for free, it is free money that everyone including shop owners jump to. Some “poor” come on motor bikes. They arrive here from far flung villages where they have everything: house, kids and cattle stocks.
Last night a Vietnamese group distributed blankets to “Poor” who are sleeping on pavements at about 10pm. It was a chaos and one cunning beggar snatched a bag of the tourist; money and credit cards in it. It was sheer luck that she left her passport behind in her room.
My friend runs a Tibetan Children Home, Clement town, Dehradun. There are about 60 kids; ages from 6 to 17. Male and Female, both studies and lives here. Kids are from poor families with single parent. He managed to collect about 21 used laptops from Toronto. I managed to setup all the laptops and many are broken- hardware. Finally, after spending about 10,000 Indian rupees, 16 of the laptops are in working order. Since Windows XP has no access to YouTube, I had to update them to Windows 7 which is also losing steam; To upgrade them to Windows 10 may render legacy devices such as sound card and Wifi useless. Therefore, I could not take risk. Young kids love to watch YouTube kids show. When I see the smile on their face whenever I let them play computers, it gives me great pleasure.
It is very difficult to set up 16 computers. Sound card may not work the first time when you upgrade the system from Windows XP to Windows 7; you reinstall the drivers again and again. Some Laptops are so old that Wifi does not work; drivers are installed via internet. What you can do is setup one laptop to a working Wifi and tether the other laptop without wifi to it with RJ45. Now both laptop have internet.
Pstools, a free software, was much hyped for managing multiple computers. For example, if you want to install a new software in 20 computers, it is very painful to go to each computer and install the software. Instead tools such as Pstools are suppose to handle such task from one Master computer or laptop called server. However, it did not work in my case. Pstools is a joke. In my case, there is no server but a router instead. It failed me.
Even to shut down 16 computer is tedious task without such Tools.
If you or your friends have a old laptop, please donate it to TCH. It will bring a smile to yet another child.
Rest of the story is COVID-19.