Work went from 0 to 100 quickly this week, and when the mind is distracted by other urgencies, the wandergrief from my recent 3-week trip to Kyoto fades fast. But since I started on this exploration on wandergrief, I want to finish it. There's just a few more memories to plough through, to learn, re-learn and see with fresh eyes what I can do with this gift of wandergrief.
This time, I want to mull over my time in India. I was on a pilgrimage to various holy sites of Buddhism (though I'm not a professed Buddhist). After Varanasi, we arrived at the place of Buddha's enlightenment, Bodhgaya.
And what a place. Probably every Buddhist tradition has a temple here - Bhutan, China, Japan, Myanmar, Nepal, Sikkim, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tibet and Vietnam. These temples all reflect the architectural style, exterior and interior decoration of their respective countries. And of course, there's the main one, the Mahabodhi Temple. Everyday, pilgrims from around the world gather on the lawns within the temple grounds. There are monks doing 🔊108 million prostrations. Some chanting. Others just sitting there. It was like a Buddhist conference in a Buddhist Disneyland, but of the good and wholesome kind.
But there was also unwholesomeness in the town. Homeless children were everywhere. We were advised by our guides to not give them any money, as these kids are forced into street begging by mafia syndicates, and the more money we give, the longer they will be kept on the streets. Despite so, it was difficult to witness such poverty and suffering, especially in such young children.
As I was sitting in our huge air-conditioned coach bus, I caught the sight of a young girl. No older than 10, but carrying a young baby, like his older sister. She was frantically begging, gesturing for food to her mouth, while the baby cried and cried. It was heart-breaking to the core.
Little beggar girl
and rich tourist me
She is so, because I am so.
She is here, because I am here.
This is, because that is.
A pilgrim's journey, as a source of suffering.
As a source of learning.
In that moment, I saw how hypocritical my position here as a tourist had been. That she was there begging is because of people like me, who are sources of income. If it's not lucrative, she will not be (forced to be) there. In a instant of clear lucidity, I saw how her suffering was connected to me, by just being here. My heart broke. I cried. What a painful epiphany.
For many years after, I swore to never again travel in a way that would bring about such suffering. I decided that if I were to travel, it would have to be for good, or for wholesome reasons.
But it was not all painful epiphanies. There was one experience that was magical: dawn meditation at the bodhi tree.
To be continued...