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Unholy goings-on at Buddha Gaya

By Sunil Vijayapala, Lankaweb, April 28, 2008

Bodhgaya, India -- I am in Buddha Gaya, India, for an extended stay. I arrived earlier this month, and I am attempting to meditate in what is possibly the holiest place in the universe.

This morning, April 11, my meditations were disrupted by a commotion on the premises. I was shocked to find a Hindu pooja being conducted near the Muchalinda pond, with tom-toms beating and a huge crowd singing, and half-naked men climbing on to Lord Buddha's statue in the centre of the pond.

For a Buddhist who wants to practise Samatha or Vipassana Bhavana, Buddha Gaya has become probably the most off-putting spot on this planet. Two weeks into meditation (I am here to stay for a couple of months), I was compelled to hand over a protest letter to the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee.

In my letter, I said that this place was simply not conducive to meditation. The committee members are all Hindu, with no concept of the Buddhist disposition of peace and tranquillity. I also suggested that mobile phones be banned, at least within the inner square. Also, a few Buddhist monks use megaphones and loudspeakers, disturbing the peace. I suggested the temple area be declared a "zone of silence".

The temple gardens are immaculately maintained, it must be said, with beautiful flowers and an efficient garbage (dead leaves) clearing system, but discipline here is at a very low level. This Buddhist temple is being run by Hindus in the style of a Hindu kovil.

Anyone who comes here for a long stay would inevitably observe shouting and unruly behaviour on the part of Hindu people, within the temple, and every few hours you hear a mullah in a nearby mosque using a loudspeaker to read verses from the Quran (imagine a Buddham Saranam Gatthami being broadcast in Mecca!).

It is time that all Buddhist countries formed a front and made a protest to the Indian government, demanding that the temple administration be handed over to Buddhists and peace and tranquillity be restored at the Mahabodhi Temple for the benefit and happiness of all.

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