Temple painting at Bodh Gaya

Bodh Gaya is the place where Prince Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. It is situated 100 kms south of Patna, India.

Six years passed between Siddhartha's departure from Kapilavastu and his arrival in Bodh Gaya. After leaving his home and family, the young prince cut his hair, traded his fine clothes for the plain garb of a hunter whom he had met in the woods, and entered upon the "homeless life."

As he passed into the forests outside Kapilavastu, Siddhartha became one of the many wanderers and ascetics in India who had, like him, left home and family to seek and teach sacred Hindu beliefs and practices. Still a novice, Siddhartha hoped to find amongst his fellow wanderers older and wiser teachers who could show him how to escape or transcend the endless cycle of death and rebirth, otherwise known as reincarnation. He consulted two of the more famous teachers in the region, Alara and Kalampa, but when they failed to further answer all his questions, he turned to a life of ascetism.

For six years the young prince lived with five other ascetics, eating in a full day no more than a grain of rice or a berry. His flesh fell away and his body became emaciated and mortally weak. Yet still he did not attain the enlightenment he was earnestly seeking. He was too frail, he reluctantly realized, to continue on the path to perfect wisdom.

Giving up the ascetic's austere life, Siddhartha accepted a bowl of milk from a young girl named Sujata. Strengthened, he sought out the shade of a fig tree, sat down, and resolved to remain in that reclined position until he had achieved total enlightenment.

When he first sat down under the fig tree, he was still what Buddhists call a bodhisattva. With his subsequent enlightenment, the compassionate prince became for his followers the Buddha.

The spot under the fig or " Bodhi" tree where the Buddha attained enlightenment is a kind of geographical omphalus or axis mundi for Buddhists. Buddhism was conceived under the Bodhi tree, the only spot on the earth, some texts suggest, that was perfectly stable.

Despite Bodh Gaya's importance to Buddhists, the area later fell into decay for hundreds of years. During that time, the Mahabodhi Temple became the residence of a Saivite priest, and the Bodhi tree an object of Hindu worship.

The sacred area once again came to Buddhist attention in the early 1900s when the author of The Light of Asia, Sir Edwin Arnold, made a plea for its restoration. Bodh Gaya has since been transformed into an important Buddhist center of meditation and devotion. Sadly speaking however, Bodh Gaya is also situated in one of the poorest and most violent regions of India, Bihar state.

Pictured above is the magnificent Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya. The temple is an architectural amalgamation of the many centuries of different Buddhist cultures that came to pay homage there, and definitely embodies the architecture of the Gupta and later periods. It has inscriptions describing visits of pilgrims from Sri Lanka, Burma and China between the 7th and 10th centuries AD. It is architecturally the same temple Hiuen Tsang visited in the 7th century.

Summer: max 47; min 28 (deg c)
Winter: max 28; min 4 (deg c)
Rainfall: 186 cms ( mid June to mid September )
Best Season : October to March

Most notes compliments of padmasambhava.org
appended and edited @buddhavision

Sarnath - first sermon in the deer park