Blessing is, most of the time, considered to be something mysterious and so divine and far away that it's something quite difficult to receive. I believe that when we are able to achieve some understanding of life, whether it is a big understanding or small understanding, it is a blessing.
One of the skillful methods to help us reconnect with the blessing or the understanding is to visit all the pilgrimage places where the enlightened ones of the past have spent their lives practising, helping beings, attaining realisation and also the places where they passed away. These places had become sacred or blessed because of their presence, that is something we call external blessing. Their understanding or their spiritual accomplishment had blessed these places, I think this is one of the ways to say it.
A couple of weeks ago, on the anniversary of Buddha's first teaching, I took my nuns on a one day pilgrimage to the three holy stupas, as a reminder of our very own spiritual path. We started very early in the morning with a pilgrimage to Boudhanath Stupa, and then visited Namo Buddha where Buddha offered his body to the tiger in one of his previous lives, followed by paying homage to Swayambhunath Stupa. It is said in the sacred text that if you can make a pilgrimage to these three places in one day, it would be a great accumulation of both merit and wisdom. So we did exactly this with grand offerings in each of the holy places, started at 8am and finished at 11pm.
Morning prayers at Boudhanath Stupa
Prayers at Swayambhunath Stupa
For us, it was an important day because our Buddha started teaching the Dharma on this very day more than 2500 years ago. Surprisingly, not many people came to join and pray together in these holy places. Many people seemed to be quite suprirsed to see so many of us circumambulating and offering lamps.
I was a little disappointed for many Buddhists not knowing the important date of Buddha's first teaching, because this means that the Four Noble Truth has been neglected for quite a long time. It actually means that we Buddhist practitioners are not practising the Buddha's teaching very well. We need to gear up and accelerate our practices.
I asked my driver why weren't there many Buddhists remembering the anniversary of Buddha's first teaching. He gave me a surprising answer: It's a day that Hinayana Buddhists celebrate, because Four Noble Truth is Hinayana teaching, and it's very much linked with Hinayana Buddhism, not much to do with Mahayana and Vajrayana. I hope this is just a misunderstanding. Without Four Noble Truth, there would not be any Buddhist teaching, not even Mahayana nor Vajrayana.
I believe that the recent bombing in Bodhgaya was caused by our weakness in following the Four Noble Truth. Once you start to become weak in external practices, you are bound to be receiving negative responses, karmically speaking. This is what I believe, but of course, everyone else has the right to believe in other reasons.
When you are weak externally, it reflects on your inner weakness. When you are weak in your practice of love and compassion, then you would be losing your battles to counteract with your afflictive emotions, like anger, jealousy, pride, etc. When you have no strength to fight the inner battles, then the external negativities would overcome you and suffering is just right here.
External conflicts are always the reflections of inner conflicts which are the emotions running out of control. As a result, there won't be any end to the bombings, no end to killings and no end to disasters. The best way is to manage the inner conflicts and that would eventually reduce the external conflicts.
As a result of the recent bombings at Bodhgaya, I have decided to take as many of my monks and nuns as possible for a pilgrimage to the Buddha's holy places. The main purpose is really to remind ourselves the importance of the spiritual path of enlightenment as taught by Buddha. I am sure the programs will be available soon for anyone interested to join us. From the depth of my heart, I urge that whoever wishing to join, please fulfill the recitation of at least 10,000 Vajra Guru Mantra, in benefit of all beings including yourself.