Friday, November 9, 2012

Reaching Nirvana: are we there yet?

Six hundred years before Jesus or the prophet Mohammed, a baby boy was born.

Siddhartha was a prince born into a royal household. His mother gave birth to him after bathing in a pond.

When the astrologer came to read Siddhartha's horoscope, he predicted that Siddhartha would be one of two things: a great and powerful king, or a saint.

Siddhartha's father, the king, wasn't super keen on the idea of losing his heir to a sainthood, so he kept Siddhartha cosseted inside the palace. The king wanted to make sure Siddhartha had everything his heart desired, so that he would never want to leave.

But Siddhartha wasn't content. When he was 29 he left the palace for the first time, and he was shocked to see the suffering that had previously been hidden from him.

To cut a long story short, he meditated on this, trying to understand why people suffered, and after many years he reached enlightenment under a banyan tree. He became the Lord Buddha.

His realisations were that to live is to suffer. That desire is the root of all suffering.That rising above attachment is the only way to relieve suffering. That to be enlightened, to reach nirvana, is the ultimate state of being and the purest form of detachment.

Lumbini is the place where Buddha was born. It is a world heritage site and a place of pilgrimmage. Baby monks come here.

 You literally leave your shoes at the door, and walk barefoot inside the grounds.

A golden stupa marks the site of Buddha's birth. It's called the Maya Devi temple.

People light candles and incense.

There are many colourful prayer flags, from all over the world.

 And people pray under the big banyan tree. Sometimes for hours, in positions that look terribly uncomfortable.

And monks receive alms, and pose for photos. 

 Sadhus - holy men - come from all over India to pay homage to Buddha.

For Buddhists, it's one of the holiest sites in the world.

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