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Bodh Gaya (Buddha Gaya)
Written by Dr U Than Sein   
Wednesday, 21 November 2007

 

Welcome to Bodh Gaya (Buddha Gaya) Historical Background

 gaya1.png

Bodh Gaya (Buddha Gaya) is located at 115 km south of Patna, Bihar in India. It is one of the most sacred places for Buddhists, since it is the only place where Sakyamuni or Shakyamuni (“sage of the Shakyas”) could have become a Buddha.  Many inscriptions found at Bodh Gaya refer to the pilgrimages from Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and China in the historical past and patronized repairing and installing images of the Buddha. “Then being a quester for the good, searching for the incomparable, matchless path of peace, while wandering through Magadha, the Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) arrived at Uruvelā.  There he saw a beautiful spot of ground, a charming forest grove, a pleasant clear flowing river with sandy fords, and a village where food could be obtained. He claimed it was a suitable place for spiritual exertion for those noble scions who desire to strive. {Mijjihima Nikāya, Ariya-Pariyesana Sutta, No26, Vol 1, 166}”

Here, more than 2550 years ago (528 BCE), after six years of learning from different teachers, a young ascetic, Prince Siddhartha Gotama, having renounced royal heritage, moved to a place in the mountain called Pragbodhi (prior to Enlightment) or Dukkara-cariya (practicing strenuous and austere meditation) for first three months alone.

 During the fourth month, Siddhartha was joined by his old friend Kondanna and his four colleagues, and all of them further practiced with self-mortification.  Ascetic Gotama realized that the enlightenment could not be gained with such utterly exhausted body, and physical fitness was essential for spiritual progress.

He left this place at the end of six months, and decided to nourish the body sparingly and took some coarse food both hard and soft.  He stayed and meditated under a tree-shrine on the outskirts of a small village of Uruvelā in Magadha.gaya2.png The five disciples, who were attending on Gotama with great hopes thinking whatever truth he would comprehend which would he impart to them, felt disappointed at this unexpected change of method, and leaving to the place - Isipatana, in search of good teacher.

Siddhartha Gotama regained his physical strength with some food, and easily developed the Jhaānas.  His mind was purified, tranquillized, disciplined, cleansed, free from lust and impurity, pliable, alert, steady and unshakable. He continued meditating and exerted himself one final time to overcome the last traces of doubt, ignorance and desire, under the Bodhi tree (Pipal tree, botanical name, ficus religiosia).  On the memorable forenoon, immediately preceding the morn of His Enlightenment, the ascetic Gotama was seated under the Ajapāla banyan tree, in close proximity to the Bodhi tree, a generous lady, the daughter of the village chief of Senani, Sujāta, expectedly offered the starved Gotama a bowl of keer (sweet thickened milk with rice), specially prepared by her with great care. This was the place where Gotama put the bowl to the river, Neranjara, which moved upstream. The substantial meal offered by Sujāta lasted for seven weeks. Ascetic Gotama got eight handful of grass from a local farmer and spread them beneath the Bodhi tree. From that day evening, Gotama sat cross-legged facing the east with vow to get up only if he attained supreme knowledge. For the next 49 days, the ascetic Gotama was assaulted by the Mara, the tempter, with all sorts of weapons of flood, thunder and lightening. Mara's three beautiful daughters also tried to allure him, but in vain. Ascetic Gotama entered deep states of contemplation and finally attained Samma Sambodhi (the perfectly enlightened) at dawn on Vaisakha Poornima, the full moon day of the spring (April/May) in 528 BCE.  Gotama became the Buddha, "the Awakened One"; and later also known as Tathagata (the Perfect One), Sugata (the Accomplished One), Bhagava (the Blessed One) and Shakyamuni. 
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 02 January 2008 )
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Seven Sacred Places
Written by Dr U Than Sein   
Friday, 02 November 2007

 

Bodhi Tree and other sacred places Around the Mahabodhi temple, the seven sacred places where Gotama Buddha spent a week each for meditating after enlightment can be found.

mahabodhi-tree.png

(1)  Maha Bodhi Tree: Behind the Mahabodhi Temple, there is a Bodhi tree planted since early 19th century. Several Bodhi trees might have been replanted using the saplings from earlier Bodhi tree. During Mauryan Emperor King Ashoka's period, his daughter, Sanghamitta, took a branch from the Bodhi tree from Bodh Gaya to Sri Lanka, and planted in a place near the city of Anuradhapura. That Bodhi tree still grows at the same place, and is the oldest continually documented tree in the world.  The existing Mahabodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya is believed to be grown from the sapling brought from the original Bodhi tree from Sri Lanka.  There is a platform built in between the Maha Bodhi Tree and the Temple. It is a large rectangular red-sand stone slab, thought to be put at the exact place where Gotama Buddha sat for deep meditation and attained the enlightment.  This platform is called 'vajirasila’ (the rock of diamond) or 'vijirasana' (the diamond seat) and some Buddhists believe that an enormous diamond lay buried beneath the earth fuelling the site's spiritual power.

animisa_ceti.png(2) Animisa-lokana (Animisa Cetiya): About 50 meters at the north-east side of the Maha Bodhi Temple in a small hill, and to the right of the main entrance to the main Temple, there is a small stupa type temple with a Buddha image.  This small temple is known as "Animisa Ceti" (Unblinking Shrine), to mark the place where Gotama Buddha spent the second week after enlightment, remained standing and gazing uninterruptedly to the Bodhi tree.

cankamana.png(3) Cankamana (Ratanacankama Cetiya): At the side of the Maha Bodhi Temple, if one turns around, there is a spot where Gotama Buddha spent third week in meditation, walking back and forth, from the Bodhi tree to unblinking spot.  Presently a raised structure with symbols of lotus flowers, known as Jewel promenade Shrine (Ratanacankama Cetiya) showed where the Buddha's feet rested and lotus flowers sprang up. Pilgrims will notice that the Mahabodhi temple is surrounded by the stone railings, dated back to 100 BCE, erected by pilgrims to the temple. (4) Ratanaghara Cetiya: At the north-west of the Bodhi tree, there is a small shrine (Ratanaghara Cetiya or the Jewel House ratanaghara.pngShrine) with small images of Buddha of recent era.  It is a place where Gotama Buddha sat for deeper meditation during the fourth week after enlightment, and the blue, yellow, red, white and orange rays emanated from his body. These colors are used in the present day Buddhist flag.

 

ajapala.png(5) Ajapala Nigrodha: When entering the main gate and descending the stairs towards Maha Bodhi Temple, there is a stone pillar marking Ajapala-Banyan tree, where Gotama Buddha spent his fifth week of meditation after enlightment. It is also here where Lord Buddha made a response to a question raised by a Brahman that good kamma (action) but not birth made a Brahman.  Near the pillar, there is a brass bell donated in early 19th century by the pilgrims from Myanmar.  There is a beautifully curved gateway, probably built around the eighth century and at its base on each side, there exists two kneeling figures of ladies/deities, supposed to be left by the Myanmar Missions around mid-1800s.

mucalinda.png(6) Mucalinda Lake: Just beyond the south-east corner of the Maha Bodhi Temple is a 6m high section of a huge stone pillar, moved to its present place in 1956, and believed to be originally erected by King Ashoka to mark Bodh Gaya with an elephant statue on the top of the pillar which stood outside the temple railing to the right of its east gateway.  Walking through the pavilion built just south of the present day pillar, there is a large pond, called Mucalinda, supposed to be a lake where Lord Buddha spent his sixth week of meditation after enlightment. It is a place where the king of the serpent (Naga) rose up from the water to protect Gotama Buddha from a severe storm created by Mara (the god of chaos) who wanted to disturb the Buddha’s meditation. Right in the middle of the pond, there is a Buddha image (of Myanmar style) covered by the serpent king, which was donated by Myanmar pilgrims in early 1990s.

rajaratana.png(7) Rajayatana: Just a few meters on the south side of the Mahabodhi Temple, a small forest tree which is another type of Banyan tree (called Linlun in Myanmar), replanted by the Myanmar Mission, marks a place at which Gotama Buddha spent the last seventh week after enlightment. It is here where Gotama Buddha preached to the passersby, including two merchants, Tapussa (Tapassu) and Ballika (Bliallika) of Ukkala (Utkala) (believed to be modern day Yangon of Myanmar).  Gotama Buddha gave them eight strands of hairs and sermons with two gems "Buddham saranam gacchami and Dhammam saranam gacchami".  These eight strands of hairs are believed to be placed as relics inside the Shwedagon Pagoda at Yangon, along with the relics of other Buddhas.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 02 January 2008 )
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Buddha Gaya Myanmar Vihara
Written by Dr U Than Sein   
Saturday, 22 December 2007

 

Buddha Gaya Myanmar Buddhist Vihara (Estd. 1934)   gaya_kyaung.pngPresent day- Myanmar Buddhist Vihara at Buddha Gaya (Bodh Gaya) is situated on the old road to Gaya, north of the Mahabodhi temple, near the Gaya police station and just beyond the Mahant's palace. In Myanmar Era 1296 (CE 1934), Ashin Nandamalar and Ashin Dhammissara, both from Myanmar, were able to buy a piece of land near Bodh Gaya village, and built Myanmar Temple, since they are not able to get access to the Myanmar Temple, built by emissary of King Mindon, which was taken over by Mahants. Before a small temple of single story was completed, Sayadaw Nandamalar died. His successor Venerable U Uttama tried to continue build and maintain the Temple.

The third Sayadaw U Tilawka, sent by Myanmar Government as part of international Buddhist Missionary, took over as Chief Abbot in 1966. U Thein Maung and Family, who were natives from Taung-ngu of Myanmar and who did business of forest products in Andaman island, also donated the Sangha ordination Hall around same period. Sayadaw U Tilawka had went through difficult times of not much support from local people as well as Myanmar pilgrims, and planned to go back to Myanmar.

Sayadaw U Nyaneinda joined Taungtan-sasana Mission School at Kaba-aye, Yangon in 1963. After completing the course in same year, Sayadaw was assigned by the Myanmar Government to stay in Pansan village, Ladu, Dibagu District, Assam, India to work as Chief Abbot and to spread Buddhism. Sayadaw stayed there for next 13 years. Sayadaw U Tilawka called U Nyaneinda from Assam in 1975, to come and help him since he was not healthy and planning to go back to Yangon. The Temple was later handed over to Sayadaw U Nyaneinda who became fourth Chief Abbot in 1976. During the next 10-15 years, Sayadaw had tried to maintain and expand the Myanmar Temple, making it 2-storied with enlarged kitchen, with some success. There were a few meditation cells built around the temple to accommodate the foreign visitors who were visiting to Bodh Gaya for getting training on Mahayana Buddhist studies and meditation. In those days, there is no electricity or even a taxi car in the Bodh Gaya village. Pilgrims had to use rickshaws (tri-cycles) or scooters to come from Gaya Station and guest houses were not yet readily available. Around mid-1980s, Nayakas of Myanmar Buddhist Temple in India had decided to use the funds collected from the sale of one of the Myanmar Monasteries in Varanasi, for building a three-storied Guest House, within the compound of Bodh Gaya Myanmar Temple. It took 3 years to build it. The building had been used mainly for international visitors, especially a few who wanted to stayed longer period in Bodh Gaya. A nominal fees had been charged as donation for use for maintenance. Myanmar Government started, in early 1990s, opening up for Myanmar people to visit Buddhist Places, in batches, and also helped in donating expansion of buildings in many Myanmar Buddhist Temples around Mijjhimadesa. Since then, a series of new buildings have been added in Bodh Gaya Myanmar Vihara.  In place of a single storied ordination building originally donated by U Thein Maung and Family of Andaman Island, a new 2-storied consecrated Sima (ordination hall) where the monks (sangas) can be ordained as per Theravada tradition was replaced. It was built in Myanmar Architectural style and thus, it could be seen from far place as a totally different and distinct structure. One 4-storied Guest House was built near the main road and another at the corner of the compound behind the Ordination building. Original Temple with 2-stories was also renovated and kitchen and dinning places were expanded to cater for large number of pilgrims. One small hall was also built to be used as dinning and lecture purpose. Water and electricity supply to the temple were also improved. In order to accommodate more number of pilgrims from Myanmar and visitors from within India (Assam/Manipur/Tripura and Arunchal Pradesh) and also from other countries, Sayadaw is trying to get extra land space (about 2 acres) adjacent to the Temple. One of the old treasure housed in the Ordination Hall was a series of oil mural paintings, depicting important events in the Buddha’s life by famous Myanmar Artist, U Ba Kyi who had drawn them in early 1960s.   *****   Address of Myanmar Buddhist Vihara Venerable U Nyaneinda Chief Abbot Myanmar Buddhist Vihara Old Gaya Road Bodh Gaya, Bihar (Phone: 2400 721)

 

 

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 02 January 2008 )
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