Friday, December 10, 2010

India – A Personal Experience, A Journey of Faith

Last month I went to India and Nepal with my meditation friends and Buddhist Fellowship Indonesia group. It was a Buddhist pilgrimage so our itinerary was centered on Buddhist holy places in India like Bodhgaya, Sarnath, Kusinara, Sankassya, Rajgir, Nalanda, Vesali, Kapilavatthu and Lumbini in Nepal.

I’ve never been to those places except Lumbini. I went to Lumbini in the year 2000 on a 46-day China-Tibet-Nepal backpacking trip with Beijing school friends. At that time we planned to continue our trip to India, but there was a big flood so we cancelled our trip to India. My journey to India continued a decade later. After 10 years, I finally set foot in India.

Although I was interested in Buddhism, I was not a Buddhist when I went on this pilgrimage. My motivation was to visit India with my meditation friends and hopefully had time to meditate and feel the vibration of those holy places. Therefore, unlike my Buddhist friends who felt inspired, touched and even grieved when we visited Sankassya, Sarnath, Bodhgaya, I did not have any special feelings towards these places.  Please do not get me wrong, I did enjoy the journey and I felt happy with the experience, but I just did not feel the connection and I thought that I would feel this way during the entire trip.

Then…something happened.

Kusinara – India

On November 14th, 2010, we visited Kusinara where Buddha attained Parinibbana and he laid to rest between two sala trees. Our group quietly entered the temple and knelt down to pay respect. I also knelt down and put my palms together in front of my chest in anjali position like everybody else. After a while, our tour guide, Ki Ananda started to chant “Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammā sambuddhassa” (Honour to Him, the Blessed One, the Worthy One, the fully Enlightened One) I followed his cue and started to chant as well. When I chanted “Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammā sambuddhassa” for the third time, suddenly my tears started to flow; I was so overwhelmed by a flood of emotion that I just could not describe. Then when we continued with Tisarana, Buddham saranam gacchāmi, Dhammam saranam gacchāmi, Sangham saranam gacchāmi and so on, I just could not hold myself together, I was sobbing, tears flowed down my face, my breath became very shallow and my body was shaking. At that moment, I remembered something, I remembered a certain feeling, but I really could not describe what it was. I could not remember a specific memory from the past but I knew in my heart it was true and real. I felt that I have found something very precious to me and somehow a faith arisen.

This trip to India has a significant and precious meaning for me and hopefully my BFI friends also have theirs.
May All Beings Be Happy
Inge Santoso, B. Com