His Holiness The 17th Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje visits Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh
Starting from November 25, 2011, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa was invited to a three-day celebrative event at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh, held under the joint auspices of the Mahabodhi Society of Sri Lanka, Sanchi Centre and the Madhya Pradesh Government.
The occasion was the 59th anniversary of Sanchi’s Chetiyagiri Vihara as well as the annual exhibition of the holy relics of the Buddha’s great Arhat disciples Shariputra and Mahamogalyana.
His Holiness arrived at Bhopal airport in the early morning of November 25. After a warm reception He and His lamas and monks were taken to Karuna Buddh Vihar, a Buddhist temple at Tulsi Nagar in Bhopal, where numerous devotees from both India and Sri Lanka had gathered to pay their respects to His Holiness, offering Him flowers and garlands and prostrating at His feet.
After a short puja and shared breakfast His Holiness gave an interview to ANI, South Asia’s leading multimedia news agency with over 100 bureaus in India, South Asia and across the globe.
When asked if there was any kind of advice He would like to give to His followers, He replied that He would advise them to cultivate wisdom and compassion, these two qualities being the very essence of the Buddha’s teaching.
“The method of Buddha Shakyamuni is none other than cultivating wisdom, or prajna, and compassion, or karuna, because without cultivating these two, whatever other positive circumstances or opportunities we may have in our lives, it is always very confusing to get on with our lives. So with this method of cultivating these two qualities we find answers to all of our confusions, and therefore live a better life. So that, I think, is the very message of Buddha.”
After the interview and a session of group photos His Holiness and His party were taken to the Sanchi Vandana Niketan, the “Pilgrims’ Rest” in Sanchi where they were accommodated. There He was received by the Venerable Banagala Upatissa Nayaka Thero, President of the Mahabodhi Society of Sri Lanka, Chief Incumbent of the Chetiyagiri Vihara at Sanchi, and Chief Sanghanayaka of Japan.
The two spiritual leaders had a lot to talk about since they are both very interested in and concerned with the topic of education. Venerable Banagala Upatissa told His Holiness about the project of establishing a Buddhist University at Sanchi, devoted to the study of the different Buddhist schools as well as other, non-Buddhist spiritual traditions. His Holiness Karmapa took a lively interest in this project and explained that in His view the “best way of spreading the Buddha’s message was through the path of education”.
Next, His Holiness and His party visited Chetiyagiri Vihara to pay their respect to the relics of Shariputra and Mahamogalyana on display there. A joint puja performed by His Holiness’ monks and the Venerables from Sri Lanka was followed by a guided tour of the Great Stupa of Sanchi, the oldest stone structure in India, originally commissioned by the Emperor Ashoka. Its nucleus was a simple hemispherical brick structure built over the relics of the Buddha. Later on, during the Sunga and Satavahana periods, it was enlarged and faced with stones and decorated with railings, staircase and a harmika on the top. The gateways of Sanchi Stupa contain ornamented depictions of scenes from the life of the Buddha and his previous incarnations as Bodhisattvas, as described in the Jataka tales. In all of these depictions, Lord Buddha is symbolically represented by footprints, wheels, thrones etc., rather than by his own image.
The Great Stupa at Sanchi is one of the most marvelous structures of ancient India and has been included by the UNESCO as one of the heritage sites of the world.
The morning of the next day was devoted to a visit to a number of ancient stupas and temples at approximately 10 kilometers from Sanchi. A small group joined His Holiness on His tour of these remote sites, which radiate a sense of deep tranquility and peace.
In the afternoon of November 26, numerous guests of honour and VIPs joined His Holiness on the stage in the huge tent set up for the occasion, including Venerable Banagala Upatissa Nayaka Thero; Hon. Lakshmikant Sharma, Minister of Cultural & Higher Education of Madhya Pradesh; Hon. S.B. Dissanayaka, Higher Education Minister of Sri Lanka; Mr. Chandrabodhi Patil, chairman of the Buddhist Society of India, and many others.
In His speech that afternoon, His Holiness Karmapa expressed His joy at being able to share this special occasion with everyone else present: “I feel privileged to be here at this blessed place in Sanchi, to receive the darshan (blessing) of the Holy Relics. I have heard so much about the Noble Land of India ever since I was a very small boy, and now for the last seventeen years I have been able to visit most of the sacred Buddhist places, due to the kindness and hospitality of this nation.
These sacred places and the relics of great beings are a tremendous source of inspiration, because even though if we just take a look at their relics, our own mortals remains will look no different from theirs, and we can be present at the very places where they have tread, they have accomplished something that we thought was impossible to achieve, which is to understand the way things are. Therefore, the example they have shown is the greatest gift that they could have offered us.”
Report: Rabjam Rikki Catty