February 22, 2012
The following account of the ongoing Tricycle Pilgrimage to India comes to us from tour leader Justin Kelley. Here's a brief description of the tour:
This classical pilgrimage will take us to the places in north India where Siddhattha Gotama, the historical Buddha, lived and taught in the 5th century BCE. We will begin the journey in Sarnath, near Benares, where the Buddha delivered his first sermon, then proceed to Bodhgaya, the site of his awakening, Nalanda, Rajgir, Vaishali, Kushinagar, the site of his death, Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha, Kapilavastu, where he was raised as a young man, and Sravasti, where he spent 24 rain retreats. As we navigate across northern India, through modern day Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and southern Nepal, we will deeply investigate both the historical world that the Buddha existed in as well as our inner terrain, through periods of intensive practice, discourse and engagement.
The group has just arrived in Varanasi. Further updates are expected from Sarnath, Bodhgaya, and Rajgir. The next Tricycle Pilgrimage will be to the Himalyas: Nepal and Bhutan. Justin writes from Sarnath:
After gathering in Delhi on the 15th, we spent the afternoon at the Vikram Hotel getting to know each other. John set a wonderful tone for the focus of the program. In the late afternoon we were joined by School of International Training professor Mary Storm, who guided us around the quintessential 16th-century tomb of the Mughal ruler Humayun. She eloquently introduced the current socio-political situation in India and highlighted the influence of the Mughal empire and various other groups throughout modern Indian history. We ended the evening with a delicious vegetarian feast at the International Society of Krishna Consciousness in Delhi.
Today, as John said, our pilgrimage officially began. Shortly after arriving in Varanasi, we headed off for Sarnath, where he delivered the inaugural Dharma talk about the first discourse of the Buddha. It was described by participants as "enlightening, accessible and wonderfully eloquent." John obviously has put in great thought in preparation for this pilgrimage. We then visited the Mahabodhi Temple, where dozens of Sri Lankan monastics and lay practitioners were engaged in evening chanting. It was a breathtaking environment, as the sun-set, our minds opened and the pilgrimage began.