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Buddhagaya:

Venue of Buddha's Enlightenment


Buddhagaya, about 12 km South to the City of Gaya in Bihar, is one of the most sacred places for the six billion of Buddhists all over the world. It was here that Prince Siddhartha attained Enlightenment, the highest state of Samadhi in which the mind is awakened and illuminated. The wisdom of the Buddha's Enlightenment was acquired by ridding the two hindrances passion and illusory conceptions.

In Theravada Buddhism, Enlightenment means liberation from Samsara, the cycle of birth and rebirth. According to Mahayanism, Enlightenment means, achieving Buddhahood. Buddhagaya was what Mecca and Medina are to Muslims or Bethlehem is to Christians, perhaps even more.

Birth place

According to Digha Nikaya - Maha Parinibbana Sutta, the Buddha uttered about the four places of pilgrimage every Buddhist should visit and venerate.

They are Lumbini - the birth place of the Buddha, where the Great Master Thatagata became fully Enlightened in the unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment, Buddhagaya, the place where Gautama Buddha set rolling the Wheel of the Dhamma - Dhammachakkapavattana Sutta, Saranath Isipatana Migadaya and finally where the Blessed One, passed away into the state of Nibbana, in which no element of clinging remains, Kusinara.

The Buddha told Ananda Thera, his attendant that whoever should die on such a pilgrimage with his heart established in confidence, at the breaking up of the body, after death, will be reborn in the realm of heavenly happiness.

Pilgrimage

Buddhagaya is about 105 kms from Patna in the state of Bihar, India. This is one of the most visited Buddhist pilgrimage centres of the Indian sub-continent.

This most sacred Buddhist temple of Buddhagaya has a tower of 55 m or 180 feet. The present temple was restored around 1880. The Buddha attained Supreme Buddhahood under the Bodhi tree in 588 BCE, on the Vesak Full Moon Poya Day.

In the Ariyapariyasena Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya, the Buddha explained this serene picturesque, wonderful place, where He attained Buddhahood - the Buddhagaya in the 6th century in the following manner.

“I wandered by stages in the Maghadhan country. Eventually I arrived at Senani Gama near Uruvela. Here, I saw a very peaceful environment, a delightful grove, with crystal clear water flowing Neranjana river with pleasant smooth banks and a nearby a village for alms. I decided this will serve for my striving.”

It was on this place - Gaya, later titled as Buddagaya, Light of the World - the Compassionate One attained the imperturbability Nibbana or Nirvana - total extinction of desire and suffering, state of liberation.

After Prince Siddhartha, the ascetic, become the Omniscient One (knowing everything) after achieving the Bliss of Nibbana - deathless state, Gautama Buddha uttered this joyful stanza.

“Anekajatisansarang Sandhavissang Anivvsang, Gahakarakang Gavesanto Dukka Jati Punappunang. Gahakara! Dithosi Puna Gehana Na Kahasi. Savva Te Phangsuka Magga - Gahakutang Visangkhi Tang, Vinasakha Rangana Cittang Tanhanana Khayamajjhaga.”

Desires

(I travelled through many births in this world and tried to find the builder of this house. It is sorrowful to be born again and again. Oh builder of the house! I have seen you, you will not build a house ever again. All your rafters are broken roof-top is shattered. My mind has transcended mental states. The desires have been destroyed.)

The most significant sacred object at Buddhagaya, at the back of the Maha Bodhi Temple Tower in a stone enclosure, is the Bodhi Tree - Jayasrimaha Bodhiya, under whose benign shade, Prince Siddhartha attained the Bliss of Supreme Enlightenment.

His power of concentration was so much that Prince Siddhartha, who was destined to be the Greatest Emperor of India, changed the course of his life and the course of history of India to search the truth and liberation, under a firm resolution.

“Let my skin veins; bones remain; let the flesh and blood of this body dry up; never will I abandon this seat without reaching the state of Sammasambodhi.”

Like the Blessed One - the Buddha, the Bodhi - is majestic, serene and cool. When we sit in its shade we feel the calmness and coolness. You feel that you are in a “World of emancipation,” which words cannot describe.

This most venerated tree in the world, descendant of the original tree, (It was said that a vicious queen destroyed the original tree) a branch of which was taken to Sri Lanka by Arahat Sanghamitta, the sister of Arahat Mahinda, son of the Great Emperor Ashoka (273 - 232 BCE). Millions of Sri Lankans still venerate the sapling of the Bodhi - Anuradhapura Jaya Shrimaha Bodhi, one of the greatest assets of the nation.

Indian archaeologist Cunnigham, took a seed from the original tree before it withered in 1871, and planted it in its place in 1880. However, it is believed that the tree at Gaya is an off-shoot from the original one.

Magnificent

The Maha Bodhi temple, contains a magnificent Buddha statue. The original one was supposed to have been erected by Emperor Ashoka. Buddhists believe that Vajrasana, (The Diamond Throne) has unusual geometrical patterns. On either side of the temple, there are niches containing two beautiful statues.

When you circumambulate towards the north, keeping the sacred object on your right, you can witness the Ratanalankamana Cheitiya. The other important places found here are Mahanama Shrine, built by a Sri Lankan bhikkhu and Mucalinda Lake.

After Enlightenment the Buddha's first lesson was the value of paying gratitude. He thanked and venerated the Bodhi Tree which helped him to attain Buddhahood. Anagarika Dharmapala (1864-1933), the Buddhist propagandist joined the Theosophical Society inspired by H.P. Blavatsky. He became a homeless wanderer, proceeded to India, started the Mahabodhi Society, fought a legal battle with Hindu Mahanta, care-taker of Buddhagaya and won. Today Buddhists all over the world are fortunate that Dharmapala opened the door for Buddhists to worship the sacred Buddhist places in India.

 

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