Today we went to Sarnath to explore Buddha’s history. Sarnath is the city where Buddha held his first discourse. There is so much Buddhist architecture and history in Sarnath, it’s unbelievable. Sarnath is actually the neighboring city to Varanasi, so Varanasi in turn becomes a big hub for Buddhism too. It is a pilgrimage city for many, many religions. But Sarnath is the main attraction for Buddhists, because it has all the historical literature and architecture. We first stopped at the very place where Buddha gave his first lecture. It was an interesting experience… I imagined that a few thousand years ago there was a man who came from northeast Bhaarat (which is what this nation was known as at the time)… He was born in Lumbini, which is at the border of modern-day Nepal and India, moved around eastern India with lots of other saints seeking the Truth, and discovered it in a city named Gaya. He then came back to the holy city of Varanasi. Of course for him, being a Hindu, this was the most sacred of all places to live, especially as an Enlightened One. Then he went next door, to the neighboring city of Sarnath, and delivered his first lecture about the nature of the Truth to his 5 initial disciples. How cool is that?
The interesting thing is that all these messiahs/prophets or whatever they are called were members of one religion, and then when they started teaching, their followers started a group based on the messiah/prophet’s teachings, to follow the model set by the messiah/prophet himself. But the hilarious thing is, they could not even follow the religion that the messiah/prophet himself followed!! They had to start a new one. Why? Was the religion that the Enlightened One followed not good enough? Even though the Enlightened One (and I’m not just referring to Buddha… there have been plenty of Enlightened Ones) followed that religion him/herself? I think it’s really funny that people think they are following the model of their leader so well, even though they’re not even following the religion he followed! Obviously the religion that the Enlightened One follows is the umbrella under which his/her teachings will be… but people don’t seem to understand that. It’s just a really good excuse to separate the people of the world. When people look at each other, what do they see? They don’t see the basic human nature in everyone, they see the different religions that they follow, the different ideals everyone lives by, the different colors of their skin, and too many other things… that make up maybe only 1% of a man! 99% of who we are is HUMAN!! No matter what you follow, you are only human in the end, right? When you are born, you are born first as a human. Then as you grow up you are conditioned by your environment to believe that you are first the member of one religion, the member of one social class, the member of one race, etc. and you forget who you really are… and who everyone else is. If we can just put that thought at the forefront of our minds when dealing with people, who are only people, not religions, castes, creeds, races, etc., then we can be free of this turmoil that is constantly plaguing our minds. Enough for today? I think so.