Feb. 17-Not feeling well. We are all drinking bottled water, though one can't be sure of it either as it is bottled in India somewhere. The food, while tasty, is very spicy, so after a time even that becomes suspect. Travelers in India are always at risk to parasites and illness.
Had another long bus ride, through towns celebrating something, and villages that farm the land much as they must have a thousand years ago. They use irrigation, terraced garden patches surrounded by stone walls. These patches look as though they have been here forever. And you might think as you ride through India, that all of this could work. The villages seem self-sufficient, and the government, now part of the BRIC's nations has a new flow of cash; but for the trash everywhere and the population.
Vulture Peak, which is the site of the indirect teaching of Buddha known as the Heart Sutra, meant climbing a mountain with the assist of a chair-lift. Our pedometer counted 10,000 steps. This culminated in a lookout amongst mountains. We spent three hours up there, with Rinpoche elaborating on the Heart Sutra and the King of Aspirations Prayer. I had a very deep meditation looking out at those mountains, and the sky, which was partly cloudy, the sun poking through at times-the true Sky Metaphor.
But it was hot. Coming down was harder than going up, with beggars and kids trying to sell us post cards, and maps. It was a long, hard day, and when we arrived back at Gaya, I was sick with intestinal problems.
Feb.18- Not feeling well at all, and I stayed in rather than go with the others to look at different temples of different faiths around the Gaya area. I slept some, and did an innner journey rather than meditate. This evening some of our group will take refuge vows, which means a commitment to continue to study the path of Buddhism. I am not sure. I have long said that I am not a Buddhist, in fact reject religion, though I make use of many Buddhist teachings. I am told that Buddhism is not a religion, but a practice, and it would not hurt to commit to further studying.
My problem with religion is the truth of history, which I sense we have never been told. Religion has become a very profitable business, and a means of keeping us from knowing our true nature. I have been touched visiting so many holy sites, and yet there are so many questions. If there was not historic Jesus, and all I am saying here is that I don't know 100%. If not, perhaps there was no Buddha, no Bodhi tree, no Vulture Peak, all just icons to big business.
Or another way of looking at this is that both Jesus and Buddha were simple men, like me, who achieved through awakening extraordinary things. Another night beneath the Bodhi tree. The stupa area is the most beautiful place I have been on this trip, one place that genuinely touches me. I will, in the least, continue this study.