Friday, June 6, 2014

Jeṭhian–Rājgir Heritage Walk, 13th December, 2014

Date: 13th December, 2014
Time: 12.30 pm
Starting point: Supatiṭṭha Cetiya, Jeṭhian 
Ending point: Veḷuvana (Bamboo groove), Rājgir
  •  An important highlight of the Event is plantation of 700 Bamboo saplings of different varieties by Mahāsaṇgha of ITCC at Veḷuvana (Bamboo groove), Rājgir, the ending point of the Walk.
The landscape of Bihar is traversed with pilgrimage routes connecting important places associated with the life and events of the Buddha and his disciples. The path through the valley connecting Rājgir with Jeṭhian was once an important pilgrimage path connecting Indraśailaguhā (also Indasālaguhā, present day Pārwati), Rājgriha, Yaṣṭhivana (present day Jeṭhian), Tapovana and Saṃbodhi (Bodhgayā). 
The Buddha Path through the valley connecting Rājgir to Jeṭhian

This ‘Buddha Path’ from Rājgriha (Rājgir) to Yaṣṭhivana (Jeṭhian) is now ready for the devouts of the teachings of the Buddha who would like to take this spiritual journey and earn immense merits by travelling on the “Buddha Path”.

Significance of  the Place
Before leaving Rājagriha in search of the truth, Siddhārtha promised King Bimbisāra to share his experience once he attained enlightenment. Keeping his promise the Buddha, along with the Saṅgha, left Gayāsisa for Rājagriha. Walking 25 miles north-east along the hills they reached a beautiful bamboo forest, Laṭṭhivana (also Laṭṭhivanuyyāna), surrounded by hills on three sides. Venerable Xuanzang mentioned an interesting legend where a man made a failed attempt to measure the height of the Buddha with a bamboo stick (laṭṭhi) and he threw the bamboo on ground. His bamboo took root and the place became Laṭṭhivana (Yaṣṭhivana, Bamboo Forest). In the heart of Bamboo Forest was Supatiṭṭha Cetiya, and this is where the Buddha stayed during his maiden journey to Rājagriha after his enlightenment.
The Buddha’s pious steps in Supatiṭṭha Cetiya (Supratishṭha Chatiya) caused a rush of people anxious to hear him speak and receive his blessings. The Kassapa brothers were prominent teachers with huge followings in the Magadha and Anga kingdoms. Such a thing, of a prominent teacher with many followers taking refuge under a new and relatively unknown teacher, and one that happened so quickly, was never heard of before.
King Bimbisāra gathered news of the Buddha’s presence; at this point in time, King Bimbisāra most likely was unaware of the connection between the recluse prince Siddhārtha whom he had met at Rājagriha six years ago and the Buddha who transformed the Jaṭila-s. King Bimbisāra along with his retinue of ministers and a myriad of followers from the town of Rājagriha came to greet this enlightened one at Supatiṭṭha Cetiya, about 7 miles west, along the Rājagriha hills.
King Bimbisāra was very happy to see Siddhārtha again, who now was the Buddha. He approached the Buddha and paid his respects, but others accompanying the king were not sure whom they should pay their respects to at first: the Buddha or Venerable Kassapa; they wondered whether the Buddha was leading a holy life under Venerable Kassapa or the reverse, as both were highly respected religious teachers. The Buddha read their thoughts and asked Venerable Kassapa why he had given up his Fire Sacrifice. Being given this opportunity to explain his transformation, Venerable Kassapa said that he preferred pursuing the peaceful state of nirvāṇa to the continuance of a physical cycle of life and death. After that, he fell at the feet of the Buddha and said, "My teacher, Lord, is the Exalted One: I am the disciple."
The Buddha found the assembly eager to absorb his words of wisdom and offered insights, such as, saying that ego or self is nothing but a deception. The life that exists is nothing but transitory and dwelling in desires of the senses is the cause for all suffering. He explained that once a human being let go of the self and realized the transitoriness of all that exists, that person would be on the path that ensures happiness.  After realizing the Dhamma, King Bimbisāra addressed the Buddha.
"Formerly, O Reverend Sir, when I was a prince, I had five wishes. They are now fulfilled. My first wish was to become king. My second wish was that a Fully Enlightened One should visit my country. My third wish was that I should associate with such an Enlightened One. My fourth wish was that he should preach to me the doctrine. My fifth wish was that I should understand that doctrine. Now all these five wishes are fulfilled.”
Among many Sanskrit manuscripts recovered from Central Asia by the Turfan Expedition in the early 20th century were portions of the Bimbasāra-Rāja-Pratyudgamana-Sūtra (Welcome by King Bimbisāra Sūtra) that mentioned what was said by the Buddha to the audience at Supatiṭṭha Cetiya,
"Ordinary people do not hear Dharma [Dhamma (P)] and ordinary people are attached to a self."
The dialogue, the meeting and the place where the Buddha was received by Bimbisāra became an integral part of the tradition that lasted for many generations; pilgrims and devotees visiting Rājagriha from Vajarāsana (now Bodhgayā) made sure to stop by at this junction to pay their respects to the king.

The Buddha and the Saṇgha, escorted by King Bimbisāra and myriads of people from Rājagriha then took this route through Jeṭhian-Rājgir Valley to reach Rājagriha, where the King Bimbisāra offered the Buddha and the Saṇgha his favorite pleasure garden, the Veḷuvana (Bamboo Grove).

 The "Buddha-Path"
Ancient Buddhist literatures and travelogues of Faxian (5th CE) and Xuanzang (7th CE) provides us enough clues about traditional routes connecting sacred places associated with Buddha and sometimes have even led us to retrace the actual paths taken by Buddha. One such straight path along the Rājgir-Jeṭhian hills connecting places associated with the Buddhacarika like Indasālaguhā (Pārwati), Rājgriha (Rājgir), Yasṭhivana (Jeṭhian), Tapovana, Prāgbōdhi (Dungeswari Hill) and Vajrāsana (Bodhgayā) has section of stretches that were actually walked by Buddha.

The "Buddha-Path" conceptualised on the basis of travelogues of the  7th CE, Chinese Monk-scholar Xuanzang

The path connecting Rājgir and Jeṭhian through the valley is one such Path walked by the Buddha and Saṇgha and later by devouts following the footsteps of the Buddha pilgrimage.   

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