Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Shivaya

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Jul 19, 2010

WANDERLUST: Kushinagar - The final resting place of Buddha

I have been going over to the Kushinagar since my childhood, which is the final resting place for Lord Buddha. My ancestral village is located just around 23 KM from Kushinagar. But the last time in 2009, Nov, it was a trip to relive the special places that have taken roots in my psyche since childhood. So please join with me for a day of meditation and internalizing the most benign presence of Lord Buddha at this Parinirvana Temple of Buddha at Kushinagar. Before we start the journey let me give you a small back ground on the place and its historical importance.

In ancient times, Kushinagar was known as Kushavati. It finds mention in epic Ramayana as the city of Kusha the son of Rama, the famous king of Ayodhya. Kushinagar was a celebrated center of the Malla kingdom of ancient India. Later, it would be known as Kushinara, one of the most important four holy sites for Buddhists. At this location, near the Hiranyavati River, Gautama Buddha attained Parinirvana (or 'Final Nirvana') after falling ill from eating a meal of a species of mushroom. Many of the ruined stupas and viharas here date back to 3rd century BCE - 5th century CE when prosperity was at its peak. The Mauryan emperor Ashoka is known to have contributed to significant construction at this site. Prior to its rediscovery in the 19th century, there was a silence of more than half a millennium at Kushinagar. Due to violent invasions, Kushinagar lost its vitality and eventually was neglected.

Every year, in my school college days, we used to spend our summer vacations in our ancestral village and one of the highlights of those summer vacation used to be, a visit to this temple of Lord Buddha. My grandfather had an Ayurvedic Medicine practice in a town known as Padrauna near by, and atleast once during our summer vacations, he used to take us to the Kushinagar which was known to us as plain Kasia. One of our cousin sisters used to stay in Kushinagar and on our way to the temple we used to have breakfast at her house and then later, on return trip, lunch. But this last visit to Kushinagar was about my spiritual journey hence I had decided to spend one full day among those tall sal trees, taking in all the energy I could get from the place.

As a day earlier there was a ritual Puja performed at our ancestral Durga Temple in my village and then later in the night, we have had the local singers performing Kirtan, hence me and my relative Vicky (who had graciously agreed to join me for the trip) had trouble waking up early next day.. but anyhow we were on our way to Kushinagar at around 7AM in the chilly winter morning on Vicky’s bike. In the plains of north, the winter can be quite biting especially if you are travelling on a two wheeler. Though we were all bundled up in layers of clothes still I could find Vicky shivering once in while as the chilly wind kept on hitting him in full force from the unprotected front, as he was driving. Slowly we got accustomed to the cold wind hitting the face and I could open my eyes despite cold salty liquid (Well I could not call them tears) running down from my eyes, vertically towards my ears. Once I was out of these distractions, I realise that travelling on the country side is much more interesting if you are on a bike. The country side gives a very different perspective when not enclosed in the relative comfort of a car as well as watching the fields unfolding through the limitation of the car’s windows. The fields around us were more alive, more green, which brought the beauty of the fields in the sharp contrast of the chilly winds that tore through our warm clothes.
As it was bound to happen, crossing various ditches, travelling on the margins of the fields and jumping in and out of pot holes, our bike broke down by the time we crossed our first stop around 6 KMs from our village. From there it was one KM of bike pushing, walking to reach some place which has some kind of tools to mend the bike. When finally we reached a make shift garage, sun was smiling in its place and I went around finding some tea and breakfast for us while Vicky attended to the bike.

By the time, we reached Kushinagar, the town was coming to life, people were on the roads, going from their homes to school, colleges or to work. Many of the pilgrims were on their way to Lord Buddha’s place too. Since this is a major pilgrim center of Buddhism, it has found patrons from many south East Asian countries like Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, china etc. Most of the pilgrims come from the far off places and to take care of this growing population of tourist, the city boasts of many good places to stay. There was a proposal to connect this city with Air Corridor but still nothing much has happened on that, though Govt has made this as a District Headquarters instead of much more populated town nearby – Padrauna.

You realise that you are entering Buddha’s place with a serene but not very well kept Buddha Statue, as you leave the high road and take a right turn under a large “Welcome” Arch. But within few 100 feets, the environment changes and you can feel that there is little bit more calmness in the air and peace hanging around you as you search for the gate to the Nirvana Sthal. The moment you enter the garden that surrounds the Buddha’s final resting place, you are welcomed by a magnificent site of old brick ruins and in the middle of it, the Parinirvana temple and Parinirvana Stupa. In the morning sun, it looks so beautiful that as the sun rays gets reflected on the dome, leaving a golden hue mixed with the beautiful cream color of the paint. The sight simply refreshed me and I sat down to take in the view before entering the temple. The sound of birds, the gentle breeze weaving in and out of the tree leaves, the sunrays filtering through the trees and some children, playing around created a very interesting mix of peace and beauty. How beautiful it would have been 2500 years ago, here when Buddha used to stay with his Bhikshu’s among the dense forest of Sal Trees… and the river Hiranyavati nearby, that has now almost become a trickle, adding its own flow to the life around this place. Prior to his death, Buddha has visited many times to Kushinagar. The Mallas of Kusinárá were always great admirers of the Buddha, even though not all of them were his followers, and on the occasion of one visit they decided that any inhabitant of Kusinárá who failed to go and meet the Buddha and escort him to the city, would be fined five hundred. During some of these visits the Buddha stayed in a wood called Baliharana, and there he preached two of the Kusinárá Suttas and the "Kinti" Sutta. A third Kusinárá Sutta he preached while staying at Upavattana. All this happenings of the ages back played on in my mind, like a flash back, while sitting there and catching my breath and my thoughts.

Slowly I got up to enter the temple. The bricks that lined the place has its own aura or charm I should say. It’s a special feeling, when you tread the same path that you know that many of great souls have tread before you and if your heart is open, you can feel the energy that surrounds you while you walk among the ruins of the Bhikshu settlements as you reach the temple. One can actually hear the soothing hum of the chanting, the clank of the brass cymbals and some times the echoes of the bell.

The inside of the temple takes your breath away as you are welcomed by the serene face of sleeping Buddha, who look at you with his close eyes, trying to reach out to you. That large sleeping statue is all that you see first, draped in yellow silk and then slowly your eyes get accustomed to the surrounding which is very simple. There were few pilgrims in the temple, by the time I reached there and one of the Japanese monks was carrying video camera to record his well deserved visit. The next thing that hits you is the exposed feets of Buddha and invariably I have sat near his feets in almost all my visits. It’s more soothing there I think and I get out my chanting beads to chant the Mantra. After some time in the temple, I did my round around the sleeping Buddha at His final rest and then slowly walk out with a little bit of heavy heart, as it has never been easy for me to be at the place, where a break has been made. I could feel what those Bhikshu’s would have been going through at the time of Buddha’s Parinirvana, whatever one has conditioned him /her self to accept the loss.

Out side on the garden, there are many other places to visit but I restrict myself to going over to a large bell donated by Sri Lanka and on that platform I sat down in meditation. As I had planned to spend the whole day there, I made myself comfortable and asked Vicky to go and find for himself lunch as it was getting to be afternoon… later on, I wandered around the place and settled myself under a large tree and lost myself in my meditation, chanting and thoughts.

Now, here’s a Mary Oliver’s poem: which is so lovely that I wanted to share it here with all of you. This was posted on a poetry group at Face Book. Thanks Anne Smile for allowing me to post this here.


This morning
two birds
fell down the side of the maple tree

like a tuft of fire
a wheel of fire
a love knot

out of control as they plunged through the air
pressed against each other
and I thought

how I meant to live a quite life
how I meant to live a life of mildness and meditation
tapping the careful words against each other

and I thought
—as though I were suddenly spinning like a bar of silver
as though I had shaken my arms and lo! they were wings—

of the Buddha
when he rose from the green garden
when he rose in his powerful ivory body

when it turned to the long dusty road without end
when he covered his hairs with ribbons and the petals of flowers
when he opened his hands to the world

Mary Oliver

Shared by Anne Smile from the Poetry group "Whispers" in the Face Book.

Om Padme Namah
Now I leave you with some images from a beautiful temple of Buddha, made by Myanmar next to the Parinirvana Temple.

The lions guarding the entrance to the Myanmar Temple

The Monday Buddha on the periphery of the Myanmar temple wall

The Myanmar Temple near Parinirvana Temple at Kushinagar
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