Dr. Marianne Benetatou*
Most places where the Buddha lived and taught are found at Bihar of North India. The most sacred place of Buddhism is Bodhgaya, the place of enlightenment. Situated amidst innumerable rice fields, at the bank of the river Nirañjanā, it is the destination of thousands of pilgrims.
Eminent personalities from the international Buddhist community, pilgrims and spiritual tourists from all walks of life crowd the monasteries and the small streets of Bodhgaya.A new library with high tech equipment, a University of Buddhist studies and a meditation park contribute to the pursue of spiritual discipline along with that of modern scholarship.
The center of the present day village of Bodhgaya is occupied by the Monastery of the Great Enlightenment. On its side, a thick balustrade protects the Bodhi Tree (Tree of Enlightenment), of the species ficus indica. At its shade is worshiped the Diamond Throne, as it is at the exact spot where the Buddha sat in meditation and found enlightenment.
Imposing monastic complexes, belonging to different Buddhist countries, thrive with life all around the sacred area. Each one holds its own ritual and the monastic discipline of its home country. Some of them offer rooms and serve meals for a modest amount of money.
The region evokes real or symbolic events from the life of the Buddha. They represent symbolically the perfect, total and unreserved compassion emanating from enlightenment, as well as the dedication of the Buddha to the liberation of all living beings from the circle of re-existence.
Bodhgaya is a good example of the present day tendency of traditional Buddhist communities to put in practice the spirit of tolerance, of peaceful coexistence and of compassion towards all living beings which the Buddha taught mankind.
* Marianne Benetatou, Ph.D., Comparative Philosophy, author of The Lotus Road – The places where the Buddha lived, Athens: Konidaris editions, 2006.