India

As I leave India, I realize that I have so many incredible experiences in such a short time, that it would be impossible to share them or even to understand them. But I have just a few more photos that I would like to share, mostly because I had none of the really "normal" stuff here-cows! Cows wander all over town and are completely free to do what they want. On the streets they often cause traffic jams.

The Buddha first began teaching at Sarnath, near Varanasi. This image was in the temple there, one of the best Buddha images I have ever seen. His face. His joy. His knowing.

I wrote this in my journal:

What is religion about for me? Truth? Finding it-my truth-a way of making sense/meaning out of the world, or peace with it. No, better: a way of discerning the golden thread in life's fabric:

This and that
happening,
almost random.
Almost, but not.
Patterns, meaning,
purpose.
Joy that arises,
Love that permeates

On the banks of the sacred Ganges River before dawn, pilgrims quietly shuffle about. Small circles of women drip oil and flower petals over images of gods they have just made out of the clay. Shoulder to shoulder they alternately laugh and pray, chat and sit in silence. So free and yet so choreographed, they must repeat this ritual often. Do they live near here? Is this how they start every day?

Today we went to Vulture Peak, the place where the Buddha first taught about emptiness: All things come to be in dependence upon other things. This is sometimes called "mutual interdependence."

Pilgrims passing
so many open hearts.
Open minds,
searching.
Smiles,
bows to the place
where the Buddha attained enlightenment.
Will any so attain today?
Praying,
looking up
through the branches,
squirrels, leaves, birds, statues,
life and icons woven together,
and a glimpse of something more;
something clearer,
brighter.
Then David comes
and I have to go.

Arriving in Bodh Gaya we come to the place where the Sidhartha Gautama became the Buddha (the enlightened one). I have many, many thoughts, and no thoughts as well. Just experiences.

Like me, many pause at these footprints of the Buddha, carved in stone, to bless themselves with the water collected in them. I am a Christian, this girl is Hindhu. Neither of us is a Buddhist, but we are both pilgrims in this place, searching.

On a train, on the way to Bodh Gaya, the place where the Buddha was enlightened.

In the coach, there is a great, free-ranging discussion about life, the dharma (Buddhist teachings) and practical matters such as how not to get food poisoning. But thoughts drift away from the present moment as well, to the place where we are going-for Buddhists, the holiest site in the world-and its significance. For what are we searching? This brings to mind our pasts, the things that need healing, the struggles to get to this point.