Saturday, September 30, 2006

Dhammakranti Retreat ends at Bodh Gaya, all eyes turn to Nagpur

The Dhammakranti Retreat at Bodh Gaya ended yesterday, with many now making their way 1000 miles south to Nagpur in Maharastra, where Dr. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism on 14th October 1956. Due to Indians following a lunar calendar, the anniversary is to be celebrated principally on 2nd – when a great gathering of Buddhists are expected there for mass conversions. Watch this space for news.

The retreat had a difficult start due to bad weather, however this did nothing to dampen the spirits of those who attended. Almost every participant was Indian and most Indian states were represented on the retreat, despite the distances many had to travel, plus the difficulties of the journey. Santosh, one of the main organisers from the Dhammakranti Team, says “Every morning and evening around 500 people walked to the Bodhitree for Meditation and Pooja, even in heavy rain no one cared - people were so inspired and ready to cross every difficulty to reach the Tree.”

Lokeshvara (from UK, in India for the first time) says “Flying into Patna at night, in low cloud and heavy rain the landing was aborted twice at the last moment. The third time we broke through the cloud a few seconds before landing with the pilot thumping the plane onto to the ground and getting a well deserved round of applause. Bihar is the poorest and wildest state of India. Armed guards travelled on the train to Gaya, though in Bodh Gaya I felt safe. Every day morning and night the retreat processed to the Bodhi Tree, the seat of the Buddha's enlightenment, a 30 minute walk past shops, hawkers, cafes and temples. The first night the electricity was out so we walked in the dark and rain, and sat in the Maha Bodhi temple grounds in front of the Bodhi tree and recited puja together.”

As well as the immediate effects on the retreatants, the event marked significant cooperation among the Buddhist groups in Bodh Gaya, many of whom had had little contact with Ambedkarite Buddhists before – even though many live in Bodh Gaya, in a poor district behind the Chinese Temple known as ‘Siddharth Nagar’. Santosh says “Most of the Monasteries were impressed by our Presentation and the hard work of the team. They appreciated us a lot, and the Secretary to the Mahabodhi Society of India asked us to arrange again every year. He is willing to provide us free accommodation and to arrange sponsorship of the food each day from different Monasteries of Bodhgaya. All these are in discussion but still we are happy to at least float the Idea of Brotherhood among all the Buddhist sects which are settled at Bodh Gaya.”



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