Buddha Gaya – Place of Buddha’s Enlightenment
1. How to Reach there
Buddha Gaya is situated in Bihar state, about 105 km by road south of Patna or about 250 km by road east of Varanasi
2. Religious significance
After the great renunciation Bodhisatta approached two ascetics name Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta who taught him to attain the Formless Jhana. Not satisfied with even these highest attainments known by then, Bodhisatta left them since he was not satisfied with these achievements and resorted to painful and profitless practice of self-mortification. During the six years of this practice his body became skeleton like and he nearly died. Realizing the futility of self-mortification he adopted the Middle Path and started to take food again to gain strength. His five companions thinking that he had given up the struggle and reverted to luxury left him.
One day on the eve of Vesak, while waiting for to go alms-round under a Banyan Tree, the Bodhisatta was offered milk rice in a golden dish by the lady Sujatha.
Great Banyan Tree
After the meal Bodhisatta taking the dish went to Neranjana river and threw it to the river saying
“If I am to succeed in Becoming a Buddha today, let this dish go upstream, but if not let it go down stream”. There it floated up to the middle of the river and raced upstream before it sank in a Whirlpool. In the evening on the way to the Bodhi tree the Buddha was offered eight handfuls of grass by the grass cutter-Sotthia, which he place on his seat under the Bodhi tree.
Seated cross legged facing the east, the Buddha made a resolution saying:
“Let my skin sinews and bones become dry. Let my flesh and blood dry up. Never from this seat will I stir until I have attained Buddhahood”.
This was the Culmination of his Perfections developed over countless aeons that no being not even Mara and his dreaded army could unseat the Bodhisatta from the Uparajitha Throne. Whwn challenged by Mara, the Bodhisatta called upon the earth to bear witness to his Ten Perfections(Dasa Paramee) by touching the ground with his right hand. Instantly the earth responded with a great quake that shook and scattered Mara and his forces until they fled in defeat.
Thus with the tranquilize and purified mind, Bodhisatta attained Supreme Enlightenment by developing:
- Knowledge of past lives (Pubbeniwasanussathi Gnana) in the first watch of the night
- Knowledge of Destruction of Taints () in the last watch
Thus a Supreme Buddha (Samma Sambuddha) had arisen on the full moon day of Vesak in 588 B.C.
The Divine Eye () in the middle watch
Buddha Gaya is the most hllowed place on earth to Buddhist world over. Situated by the bank of river Neranjana the place was then known as Uruwela. King Ashoka was the first to build a temple here. Beginning with ashoka’s first visit in 259 B.C., countless pilgrims have gravitated to this cradle of Buddhism without ntermission for more than 2500 years. The divestation of Buddhist Viharas and shrines by Muslim Hordes in the 13th century abruptly halted the flow of pilgrims to Buddhagaya.
A Tibetan pilgrim who visited Buddagaya in 1234 A.D. has written,
“Only four monks were found staying (in the Vihara). One said ‘It is not good – All have fled in fear of the Turushka Soldiery’ they blocked up the doo in front of the Mahabodhi image with bricks and plastered it. Near that they placed another image as a substitute.
When Buddhism declined in India Burmese came to the recue of the decaying Mahabodhi temple by undertaking repairs during 14th and 15th centuries. There after Buddha Gaya was forgotten by the Buddhists and the Great Temple fell into Ruins. A wondering Hindu asceite taking advantage of the situation establish his Math at Buddha Gaya and took control of the temple and environment in 1590 A.D. There after the holly shrine passed in to the hands of Mahanthas who use the place for sacrilegious practices. In 1061 Cunningham found the Mahanath and his followers indulging all sorts of non-Buddhist ceremonies in the main shrines.
Anagarika Daramapala and the Mahabodhi society
Battle to regain the Mahabodhi Temple began on January 22nd 1891 when Anagarika Dharmapala Visited Buddha Gaya. Moved by the neglect and sacrilege of this most sacred shrine he took vow, “I will work on to make this sacred spot to be cared for by our own Bhikkus”
As a first step he founded the Mahabodhi society society of Buddhagaya to Garner support for this nobal objective. Next he invited four Bhikkus from Sri Lanka to come and stay at Buddha Gaya, Namely;
Ven . Chandadoti
Ven. Premananda and
They arrived and took residence at the Bermese rest house. As the Mahanth had property rights to the land in Buddha Gaya, he objected to rheir presence in February 1893 two of the monks were severly beaten up by his men. Two years later when anagarika darmapala attented to install a Buddha Image presented to him by the people of Japan, he was assaulted and prevented from doing so by the Mahantha’s men. Hence the image was kept in Burmes rest house. Still the Mahanth and some hindu organizations were not satisfied and tried to get the image removed from the rest house but the Govt. did not yeiele.
In 1906 the Mahanth filed a suit seeking to eject Buddhist monk from the rest house. A long leagal battle between the two parties continued till 1949. When the state of Bihar elected the Buddha Gaya temple Management act which effectively transferred the control of the temple land and other proplerty to a management commtee.
Two things in the Bill were objectionable
i. The nine member comeetee had a Hindu Majority
ii. The Buddhist members were to be of Indian Nationality
Inspite of protest by the mahabodhi society, the Bill was pass with an amendment for provotion of an Advisor Commetee in which the majory siuld be Buddhist and not cnecessailiry of Iall Indian artionalities. Tjis means that Buddhist can only advise on the mamagement of the Temple but the control and final say belong to the Hindus.