By 7:00pm I headed back to the shrine to experience the shrine in silence. Candle lit stupas and walkways illuminated the way for walking pilgrims and monks doing prostrations. I listened to more chanting under the Bodhi Tree, entered the main shrine again, prostrating myself before Buddha.
I didn't want to leave the site so I walked down narrow pathways through the stupas. Finally, the late evening hour reminded me to return to the hotel....
After packing for the journey to Bangalore, I went to bed. Unfamiliar sounds frightened me and I knew Mara was back. No
sleep, only rest. I decided to eat fruit as I had skipped dinner. By 1:00am I got up and took a shower, fearing my driver wouldn't arrive, I went down
to the lobby by 2:30am. Some of the night crew woke up and shared the vigil wait for the driver. A gecko above the doorway had taken refuge behind the Buddha painting and came out to sit with us.
Promptly, at 3:00am the driver arrived and drove me to the train station. My anxiety increased as we walked to the platform. No women in site, and the train was running 30 minutes late. My driver wasn't too confident about catching the right train.
Soon over the speaker the announcement came that the train was about to arrive, but on a different platform than we expected. When the train arrived we quickly ran to the appropriate car but could not enter. The doors were locked! Then we tried a second door at the other end, and it too was locked. Where was that dharma door? The train
conductor signaled me to head down to a different car. Once on the train, the conductor viewed my ticket and said I was on the wrong train! Yikes! I
quickly got off the train and encouraged my driver to speak with the platform porters, which he did. This gave me some relief that I may get on
the right train which showed up in 10 minutes.
With my driver's help I boarded the train and got situated in my berth. Blankets were delivered but no sleep came. By
5:30am lights were turned on and breakfast was served. Later, I received a visit from the conductor who talked about overpopulation as a root cause of
India's problems. He invited me to visit his home on another visit to experience the beautiful sites in his state.
On the way to Harrah station, uneaten food was dropped off on the platform when the train stopped. It was obvious
families depended on the generosity of the train personnel and their acute awareness of the value of the remaining food. This system seemed to work. I
was grateful since my own appetite was light, recalling the meal chant phase, "emptiness of the 3 wheels: giver, receiver and gift".
Once in the Calcutta train station, I easily got assistance with my luggage and found my driver in no time at all.
It was Sunday morning and the streets of Calcutta still were filled with people, some bathing in the public water facilities on the sidewalk, others
bustling to and fro in the congested traffic. Though, the driver indicated the traffic was less than weekdays. A short visit to a Jain Temple before
arriving at the airport reminded me of the incredible number of temples in India. This one was white with all cut glass in mosaic patterns. I caught a
portion of a food blessing ceremony before continuing with my journey to the airport.
Tension seemed to drain from my body as I waited for the flight to Bangalore. I was in familiar territory and knew the rules.
Several weeks after I returned home I reflected on my journey and read in The Last Days of the Buddha, The Maha Parinbbana
"There are four places, Ananda, that a pious person should visit and look upon with feelings of reverence. What are the four?
Here the Tathagata was born! This, Ananda is a place that a pious person should visit and look upon with feelings of reverence.
Here the Tathagata became full enlightened in supreme Enlightenment! This, Ananda, is a place that a pious person should visit and look upon with feelings of reverence.
Here the Tathagata set rolling the unexcelled Wheel of the Dhamma! This, Ananda, is a place that a pious person should visit and look upon with feelings of reverence.
Here the Tathagata passed away into the state of Nibbana in which no element of clinging remains. Ananda, is a place that a pious person should visit and look upon with feelings of reverence.
These, Ananda, are the four places that a pious person should visit and look upon with feelings of reverence. And truly there will come to these places, Ananda, pious bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, laymen and laywomen, reflecting: 'Here the Tathagata was born! Here the Tathagata became fully enlightened in unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment!
Here the Tathagata set rolling the unexcelled Wheel of the Dhamma! Here the Tathagata passed away into the state of Nibbana in which no element of clinging remains!
And whoever, Ananda, should die on such a pilgrimage with his heart established in faith, at the breaking up of the body, after death, he will be reborn in a realm of heavenly happiness."
The Buddha's Words.
¹ Trip taken March 1-3, 2003
² Last Days of the Buddha published by The Buddhist Publication Society, Sri Lanka