“Thanks to the generosity of donors, a group of 19 students from Aryaloka Computer Education Centre, in Nagpur, central India, (www.aryalokaeducation.org) were able to attend the November 2010 convention of Triratna's National Network of Buddhist Youth, held at Bodh Gaya, historic site of the Buddha;s Enlightenment. This was held from 16th-21st November, and was chaired by Kumarjeev with Subhuti as guest speaker. The students, from a number of different marginalised communities in India, are doing courses in Computer Animation skills and Hardware and Networking, supported by the online Young Indian Futures fundraising campaign.
“These young people are especially interested in social development work in their communities, and the courses are intended to give them financial security and independence. They are followers of the great leader of 'Scheduled Castes' Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, who was himself a Buddhist, seeing his conversion to Buddhism as a means of giving dignity and self-reliance to his people, and freeing them from 'the hell of caste'. So we thought it would be great to give them the opportunity to visit Bodh Gaya, the heart centre of Buddhism, the place of the Buddha's Enlightenment, to hear inspiring talks and make connections with young people from all over India, of similar ideals and background.
“As you can see from the photos, they threw themselves into the trip with their usual enthusiasm. The rail journey there, was pretty gruelling, with a fast change of trains in the middle of the night at Allahabad, a rather scary place at the best of times....but it all went smoothly. They were accompanied by Aryaketu, director of the institute, and Helen Sullivan, a friend and supporter who had a special part to play.....
“The students just look delighted with everything - the Maha Bodhi Temple, the meditation, the talks and workshops, the fishpond, the shrines, the gardens, the company of Buddhists from all over the world, each other's company....one day they visited the family home of Ramesh, in a village near Bodh Gaya - his father is a potter, and the family made them wonderfully welcome. Ramesh was smiling all over his face, the whole trip!
“On their final day there, they organised themselves to take a trip to the famous site of the ancient Buddhist University of Nalanda, and Vulture's Peak, a very beautiful spot which dominates the Bihari countryside for miles around. Tradition has it that the Buddha taught the White Lotus Sutra from there, and the villages and the countryside have hardly changed since the Buddha's day. They loved the chairlift, and stood there very exhilarated, on top of the world...
“The high point of the whole week, though, was Saturday evening, when six people, four from Aryaloka including Helen, and two others, committed themselves to their Buddhist ideals by becoming Dhammamitras, ' friends of truth'. Subhuti presided over the event, he is a very senior member of the Triratna Buddhist Order, and his presence made it very special for everyone. For Helen, Praveen, Sheetal, and Ramesh, it was an unforgettable event... In Helen's own words -
"The mitra ceremony was the perfect end to an inspiring and moving week. The day started with meditation at the Maha Bodhi temple and ended with the ceremony under the bodhi tree. The Burmese monks had kindly allowed us use of their shrine at the Maha Bodhi temple which sits directly under the bodhi tree; so with the full moon and starlit sky as the backdrop, Subhuti led the ceremony. After lots of flowers and Sadhus we finished with a candlelit walk around the temple then back to the monastery to continue the celebrations".
There's more photos of the pilgrimage available on Triratna Photos or via the FlickRiver feed below.