Tuesday, December 18, 2012

4000 British Troops to Visit Bodh Gaya and Sarnath

by Giridhar Jha, MAIL TODAY, December 10, 2012

Patna, India -- The British Army will send about 4,000 of its troops, who are followers of Buddhism, in a group of 100-150 people to spend a week at Bodh Gaya and Sarnath to seek peace after their prolonged involvement in the war zones in different countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq. They will all meditate under the famous tree at Bodh Gaya, where Lord Buddha had attained enlightenment in 6th century B.C.

Mahabodhi tree has been declared a world heritage site by the Unesco in 2002.

"The British soldiers will start arriving in Bodh Gaya from early next year," Bihar's minister for tourism Sunil Kumar Pintu told Mail Today on Monday. "They will arrive in separate groups of about 100-150 people and meditate under the holy tree. They will continue to arrive here throughout the next year."

Pintu said that the troops will spend six days in Bodh Gaya and one day at Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh.
The minister said that the tourism department of the Bihar government had entered into an agreement with an international travel agency, to facilitate the trips during the World Tourism Mart held in London last month.
"Bihar had taken part in the World Tourism Mart for the first time which was held in London between November 5-8 this year," he said. "It was during that tourism fair that the officials of the British army got in touch with us through the travel agency. We had three rounds of talks in this regard."

Pintu said that the exact dates of the British troops had not yet been finalised yet. He stated that the state government would take care of the security of the British soldiers and facilitate their smooth stay in holy south Bihar town. "We will provide our wholehearted support to the British soldiers troops who want to meditate under the Mahabodhi tree," he said.
The tourism minister said that the British Army had about 4,000 troops who were followers of Buddhism. "Since Bodh Gaya happens to be the holiest of the holy places for the Buddhists, the British army has decided to arrange the trips for its soldiers," he added.

Stating that he had discussed the details of the trip with the British army officials, Pintu said that most of the British troops coming to Bihar had been deployed in the different countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq in recent times. "The visit to Bodh Gaya and Sarnath is aimed at providing them peace and helping them distress them after their experiences in those countries."

He said that it was for the first time that such a visit has been organised.

Sushil Kumar Singh, managing director of the travel agency, said that his agency had signed an agreement in this regard with the British Army in London month. He said that Dr Sunil Karyakara, a Buddhist chaplain with the British army, had been made the coordinator for the trips. "We have entered into agreement with the British army to bring the stressed soldiers to various places on the Buddhist circuit," he said. "But they would spend most of the time at Bodh Gaya."
Singh said that the exact dates of the first round of the soldiers' visit had not been finalised but they would start arriving from early next year. "We will hold a meeting with the British army officials in January to chalk out the final itinerary in which Bihar tourism department officials will also be involved," he said. "The trips would continue in future as well."
Bihar has witnessed remarkable rise in the number of tourists from the foreign countries in recent years. Last year, the number of international tourists visiting Bihar was 8.70 lakh which was ten times more than what it used to be a decade ago. This year, 8.40 lakh had already visited the state till August and their number was expected to cross 10 lakh by the end of the year.

From the Buddhist Channel Web Site: http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=3,11226,0,0,1,0


Alessandro S. said...

How I wish I will some day be able to visit those places! Not that I fell stressed, I am actually a little worried I will feel stressed finding those holy places managed in a too touristic fashion, but my recent reading the Mahaparinirvana Sutra renewed my desire to do go visit the four principal sites of the Buddha's life.

Unknown said...

For Lt. Shin - thank you, very much for this informative blog, and for your service in Chaplaincy. Looking forward to additional posts!

For Anyone - Can you pretty please recommend a version of the Pali Canon (English translation) which would be accepted as a religious text for a recruit during basic training? If possible, since I can only afford one book right now, I'm hoping this one text could serve as a good foundation for studies in the Theravada tradition. I hope to begin service in the Navy, this year.

Thank you all, very much for your time and for your service.

Alessandro S. said...

Hello Jammes Luckett.
If you want to delve into the Canon, I think you can go with any translation of one of the collection of the main Nikayas, you could buy the first that come available or the cheapest one you come across. I think that the Samyutta Nikaya and the Majjhima Nikaya are both rich and easy enough to deserve a seriuos consideration. Even the classical, older translations by the Pali Text Society, in reprint, would be fine, if one is not a scholar and can pass on some passages that do show the European mindset of the translators. The Itivuttaka is a little harder to come by, at least in my native language (Italian), but is smaller and is composed of shorter renditions of the Buddha's teachings and life. One famous translation of the Majjhima Nikaya is Isaline Blew Horner's "The Collection of The Middle Length Sayings", reprinted in three volumes in 2004 by Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Delhi, India.
If one is more interested in the Buddha's life and the history of early Buddhism, I would recommend Hans W. Schumann's "The Historical Buddha", or Donald S. Lopez, Jr.'s "The Story of Buddhism - a concise guide to its history & teachings", Harper San Francisco, USA, 2001.
You should be able to find some second-hand copies of these and other books on the Internet (I bought several books from www.biblio.com), as well as free downloads of digital copies, useful if you want to have an idea of what a book looks like before you buy a hard copy.
Metta to you and to Jeanette Yuinen Shin!

Unknown said...

Alessandro S., I I really appreciate your thoughtful response and your recommendations. I will certainly explore those works, and keep in mind your considerations regarding each.

I ended up talking to a monk from a nearby monastery who recommended "In The Buddha's Words" by Bhikkhu Bodhi. I ordered that as well as "The Dhammapada" as translated by Balangoda Ananda Maitreya, which looks to be portable enough for me to fit into a pocket when I go to basic training.

On a related note, I also wanted to let you know that The Corporate Body of The Buddha Educational Foundation (in Taiwan) has a number of additional books in various languages, and for all schools of Buddhism. They can mail them to you for free, but we are able to make donations to help them with the cost of postage and printing.

Metta to you!

Unknown said...
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