Varanasi is the most popular pilgrimage point in the universe for Hindus. And they come here by the thousands to pray, to worship, to wade in the water of the sacred Ganges River, and to die. I found myself walking around Varanasi wondering how in the world would I ever describe my experience in this most bizarre place. I kept saying over and over, as if in a trance, “this can’t be for real”. Then it came to me walking by the ghats on the banks of the Ganges and through the alleys and streets of this very old Indian city, I felt like I was having a psychedelic experience. (Yes, I was around in the 60’s and 70’s!) Being in Varanasi is a physical, metaphysical, and supernatural trip.
Bodh Gaya is the center of the Buddhist world . Every year, thousands of Buddhists from all over the world make a pilgrimage to this small Indian village to pray, meditate, and pay homage to the place where the Buddha found enlightenment under the bodhi tree over 2600 years ago. There are many Buddhist temples here – the Thai temple, the Japanese temple, the Bhutanese temple, the Bangladesh temple, and the Vietnamese temple – just to name a few. Each are glorious pieces of architecture and art in their own right. However, the centerpiece of the most holy place on earth for Buddhists is the Mahabodhi Temple – a huge complex that has a large pyramid temple in the center that houses a most revered golden statue of the Buddha, several smaller temples, meditation gardens, but most importantly, this is where one finds the bodhi tree. And it’s not just Buddhists who make pilgrimage here. In Bodh Gaya, at the Mahabodhi Temple, one also finds Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Jews, agnostics and atheists. This is truly a spiritual place – no matter what spiritual path one walks in life. (more…)