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Buddhadharma : Summer 2010
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 20 1 0 40 the spirit of a tree like a shaman, but rather a recognition of the extraordinary event that took place beneath its branches. Bodhgaya is not only special because it’s where all the bud- dhas will achieve enlightenment. According to Tantric Bud- dhism, everywhere in this world and all the phenomena that exist outside ourselves have a corresponding existence within our bodies. Good practitioners and yogis are able, in their practice, to visit the holy places that reside within the chakras and channels of their own bodies, and in this way make prog- ress on their path to enlightenment. Those of us whose practice isn’t quite so advanced can at least visit the outer reflection of these inner holy sites, the heart of which is usually considered to be in Bodhgaya. Make the most of your time at this holy site. Meditate under the bodhi tree; however short your practice, it will help create in your mind the habit of purifying defilements and accumu- lating wisdom and merit. Again and again, try to remember the Buddha, dharma, and sangha, and intensify their presence in your mind by reciting prayers, praises, and sutras, and by offering whatever you can afford. While aspiration is of the utmost importance for beginners, rather than making mundane wishes for good health and prosperity, make your main focus the wish that eventually you will sit on exactly the same spot under the bodhi tree as Siddhartha, and achieve exactly what he achieved. It’s also important to remember that no matter how many or how wild our thoughts and emotions, all such defilements are removable. Vulture’s Peak and the site of Nalanda University are not far from Bodhgaya, and you should try to visit them if you can. For Mahayana practitioners, Vulture’s Peak is particu- larly significant because it was where the revolutionary science we now know as the Prajñaparamita was taught, which has soothed the anxieties of countless beings and liberated a great many too. Sadly, only the ruins of Nalanda University still exist. It was one of the first centers of education in the Common Era, as well as one of the greatest, and is an extremely significant place of pilgrimage for students of the Mahayana. The major- ity of Buddhist teachings still being studied and practiced in Korea, Japan, China, and Tibet were originally notes scribbled on rough slips of paper by teachers and students from this university. In the same way that England’s Cambridge Univer- sity and America’s Columbia University can boast legions of famous alumni, Nalanda produced a prodigious number of extraordinary spiritual geniuses like Naropa, Nagarjuna, and Shantideva, the great Indian master, scholar, and bodhisattva who is most famous for writing the Bodhicharyavatara (The Way of the Bodhisattva), the classic guide to the Mahayana path. Their contributions to the happiness of millions of people throughout the world are unparalleled. stePhenr.lasKy(Bottom)BoJayatilaKa,(top)stePhenr.lasKy Pilgrim at the entrance to the Mahabodhi Stupa, Bodhgaya The aim of all Buddhist practice is to catch a glimpse of the awakened state. Going on pilgrimage, soaking up the atmosphere of holy places, and mingling with other pilgrims are ways of trying to achieve that glimpse.