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Bodh Gaya: Where Prince Siddhartha attained Enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree

This small town, known at the Buddha's time as Uruvela, is the place where all Buddhas, past and future, did and will become enlightened, it is the centre of the Buddhist universe, the Navel of the Earth. In the middle of the town is the Mahabodhi Temple with the Bodhi Tree behind it and the surrounding shrines marking the Buddha's seven weeks in Bodh Gaya. Sit in the gardens or walk through the town and you will see pilgrims from Thailand and Tibet, Bhutan and Burma, Singapore, Sri Lanka and a dozen other nations. Go to the great tank just south of the Temple and admire the hundreds of pink water lilies in bloom. Stroll through the museum and look at the sculptures and other antiquities or rise before dawn and watch the lamas in the Tibetan temple doing their puja.

If you feel the need to get away from the town and its temple for a while then go for a stroll along the wide and sandy Naranjara River. If you are there during the full moon spend the night meditating under the Bodhi Tree. There is the 80 foot high Japanese Buddha at the far end of town but I prefer the ancient Buddhas around the temple with their more human dimensions and their sublime smiles. Just outside the town a new 152 meter high statue of Maitriya is being constructed as if to prove that bigger is not always better. Many Buddhists countries or organisations have built temples around Bodh Gaya, most in traditional styles. The Tibetan, Bhutanese and Thai temples are particularly attractive.

There are plenty of hotels to choose from but you may prefer to stay in a place run by Buddhists. The Root Institute a little out of town is clean, quite and set in a lovely garden. The Mahabodhi Society Rest House is very convenient being close to the Temple and like the Burmese Temple is good for a long term stay. The Mahabodhi Society, the Root Institute and the Korean temple have excellent projects to help local people. Check out what they are doing, you might like to make a donation. Christopher Titmuss conducts meditation courses each year at the Thai temple. For information concerning dates and other details contact Gaia House, West Ogwell, Newton Abbot, Devon, TQ12 6EN, UK.

If you want read more about Bodh Gaya you will find my Navel of the Earth, The History and Significance of Bodh Gaya full of information about this most sacred place. It is available from the BDMS, 567A Balestier Rd Singapore, 1232.Apart from Gaya you can make three other day trips from Bodh Gaya; to Pragbodhi, to Gurpa and to the little visited Barabar Hills.

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