Thursday, December 10, 2009
December 10th; today was a very auspicious day.
We started our morning at 5:30 am…loaded 60 marigold plants from the BTMC office and had our morning ritual meal at The Tibet Om Café, as the town was beginning to come to life. The Tibetans at Om have become our family here in Bodhgaya and starting the day without experiencing their beaming faces seems unimaginable! We learned that this was the anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s receiving the Noble Peace Prize and Dasan (Tibetan Tom Cruise~sweet style and son of the family) was happy to share this celebratory day with us.
The family also reminded us that this week is the opening of the United Nations World Climate Change Conference. ~ let today be a great day for peace and hope.
We headed out to Rajgir, for a site visit of one of the eight World Peace Bells that has been placed near the ridge top, very close to the historic Vishwa Shanti Stupa. The hills and caves surrounding Rajgir were home to many spiritual teachers, including the Buddha. Like many others in search of Truth, Prince Siddhartha, after he renounced his royal heritage, came to this city to seek the path of salvation.
We opted for the rather rickety but reliable ‘chair lift’ that took us up to the Bell site vs. the long steep walk; we were on a mission, and the lift was the most expeditious and certainly more fun way to ascend. We took photos and did some design schematics, all the while being wary of the mischievous monkeys that will grab anything from you that is not secured. One particularly aggressive adult even ran up and bounced off of Tim, scaring the daylights out of him!
On our route back towards Bodhgaya, we stopped at the Thai Temple in Rajgir, to deliver the marigold plants as a gift from Wangmo Dixey and the Light of the Buddhadharma Foundation. We also visited a local marble vendor who showed us some beautiful slabs that inspired our design of the meditation loggia for the South Garden.
Arriving back in Bodhgaya, we were able to schedule meetings with contractors and move things along with our plans for the South Garden. We were also given the opportunity to make an offering to the beautiful Mahabodhi meditation garden by planting an existing pond with flowering lotus plants. This water pond gift is the realization of a vision we had with Wangmo and Secretary Dorjee of the BTMC.
We are in Bodhgaya for a relatively short time and we have had good success with helping see small projects to fruition. As this first visit nears its end end, we have great hope for the work that lies ahead and may it bring peace to all living beings.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Well, we have finished the the flower garden project for the prajnaparamita golden plaques garden; interviewed three potential contractors to build the South Garden;
laid out all of the retaining walls and structures in situ, and today, navigated through 6 hours of the mobile phone service being down when we couldn’t keep the connections moving along. We also created an actual plan that reflects all existing trees as well as the dimensions of the existing Vietnamese rock garden. With these final documents, we can now create the new planting plan and accurately add new water features and waterfalls that we have envisioned.
As mentioned earlier, this process moves very slowly here and even to get the basic tools that we take for granted in the usa (like a building level), someone must travel 30 kms to Gaya to get…and then, the hardware store is only open on certain days!
Anything having to do with plumbing or electrical can be very primitive...it’s not unusual for all of the lights on he temple grounds to go out several times during the Dharma talks at night…fortunately, these outages are usually short lived and people here are very accustomed to these inconveniences.
In the South Garden, there are certain trees that we would like to remove, either because they are unhealthy or misplaced, but this is no simple matter. Because Bodhgaya is a World Heritage Site and protected under the auspices of Unesco, a case must be made to do this kind of thing and permission can only be granted after having to jump through many hoops. Still, we would not trade this experience for anything, and to know that we will be returning to this most holy of places time and time again makes us very happy.
Tomorrow morning Tim and I leave at 6am to go with our driver to Rajgir, where one of the World Peace Bells has been sited at one of the holy pilgrimage sites. This will be another garden, and we are going to do digital reconnaissance to begin the process of designing our garden offering for this holy place. We will drive 2 hours and then go up to a mountaintop on a rickety chairlift. What fun!
Thursday, December 3, 2009
We have been in Bodhgaya for 5 days and moving the South Garden project forward has been a series of lessons in patience, trust and flexibility! First there was the buildup to the beginning of the Tip taka Chanting Ceremony and we were privileged to be greeters for several groups of monks as they arrived from Sri Lanka, Lao and Bangladesh. It was a very humbling experience to greet them as they had traveled very far, and for many days to be here for this very special event. Now that the ceremony is happening at the Mahabodhi Temple, under the sacred Bodhi tree, our time will be spent moving the South Garden project forward.
However, building a garden here is nothing like building a garden in California, and we are finding that even simple things, like getting stakes to stake out the terrace, walls, steps and structures can be a challenge in itself! Tim ended up sawing stakes from old tree branches while I worked with Hindu, non-English speaking workers to begin the clean up.
The Light of the Buddhadharma Foundation International has several beautification projects in the works here in Bodhgaya, including a gorgeous long row of Prajnaparamita Sutra cast bronze plaques that have just been installed. LBFI has asked us to create a flowerbed under the plaques, to further beautify the area and we are more than happy to oblige. Finding the plants was a full day journey and it turns out that the dwarf marigolds we envision for this garden must come from nearly 300 kms away. But, it will be beautiful, and our plan is that it will be in full bloom for the visit of the Dalai Lama, which is one month away. It’s this type of ‘tangent’ that makes being flexible very easy, i.e. being able to create a golden flower garden, under golden plaques for His Holiness, The Dalai Lama.
We are simultaneously staking and making minor changes to our bigger project, the South Garden. We have found that a more detailed list of building specifications is required and we are finishing that today in preparation to meet with a contractor in about two days. It has become apparent that a garden like this is developed over time, and that nothing happens quickly or efficiently here in Gaya.
There are so many wonderful elements already present on the site, including a stunning vertical rock garden that was installed by Vietnamese monks several years ago; gorgeous views back to the Mahabodhi Temple sputa; very large existing shade trees; and a varied terrain that enables us to create many levels with areas for quiet meditation and reflection. This is needed here, as there are throngs of pilgrims, tourists and laypersons swarming the grounds around the main temple.
We both feel very blessed to be here, working in one of the most sacred places on Earth.