His Holiness the Dalai Lama arrived in Bodh Gaya, India, on Thursday, after a two-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Dalai Lama’s previous visit to Bodh Gaya was in January 2020. His Holiness is expected to remain at the Buddhist pilgrimage destination until 20 January, and is scheduled to conduct a series of teachings and ceremonies.
The Tibetan spiritual leader received a warm welcome at Gaya International Airport from district officials and appreciative crowds of supporters. According to the Bodh Gaya Temple Management Trust, followers and well-wishers lined the 10-kilometer road from the airport to Bodh Gaya, hoping to catch a glimpse of His Holiness as he was driven to the Tibetan monastery.
Strict security measures have been put in place for the Dalai Lama’s visit, and the local authorities have tightened COVID-related protocols in the town, which is expecting an influx of visitors. Health personnel have been deployed to administer COVID-19 testing, and people are being advised to wear masks in public.
According to local media reports, more than 60,000 devotees are expected to arrive from some 50 countries to attend His Holiness’s teachings.
“We have made all arrangements to ensure that the devotees attending the sermons of the Dalai Lama will not face any difficulty during their Bodh Gaya stay,” Gaya’s district magistrate was quoted as saying. “Accommodation, drinking water, electricity, and various other things have been taken care of. They will not even face any difficulty in walking down to the Kalachakra [Teaching] Grounds.” (The Telegraph Online)
Early on Friday morning, His Holiness made a pilgrimage to the Mahabodhi Temple, where he made a prayer offering before briefly addressing the media and bestowing blessings for those who are unable to attend his teachings—particularly Tibetans in Tibet.
“Physically, we are separated from our Tibetan brothers and sisters inside Tibet. However, spiritually, we are very much connected,” His Holiness stated. “Similarly, all those from the Himalayan region have tremendous devotion and dedication. All of them are in my prayers. I believe that, eventually, the truth will prevail.” (Central Tibetan Administration)
The Mahabodhi Temple, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002, is perhaps the most sacred of all pilgrimage sites for Buddhist practitioners, marking the place where the historical Buddha is said to have attained awakening. There are seven other sacred sites in Bodh Gaya where the Buddha contemplated enlightenment, including the descendent of the original Bodhi tree beneath which Shakyamuni Buddha sat.
Before returning to his residence in Bodh Gaya on Friday, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate noted that much more still needed to be done in order to create a more compassionate and more equitable global society for all people: “In today’s fast-paced world, we have seen enormous development in material things while there is a setback in the progress of basic human nature, which must be paid more attention,” he said. (Central Tibetan Administration)
The Dalai Lama is scheduled to give a three-day teaching on Nagarjuna’s Commentary on Bodhicitta at the Kalachakra Teaching Ground on the mornings of 29–31 December.
On the last day of 2022, His Holiness is s confer the Blessing of 21 Taras.
On New Year’s Day, the Dalai Lama will offer prayers at the Mahabodhi Temple. This is to be followed by a Long-Life Offering Ceremony for His Holiness at the Kalachakra Teaching Ground, which has been arranged by monks of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism.
His Holiness’s Pilgrimage to the Mahabodhi Stupa (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet)
His Holiness the Dalai Lama Arrives in Bodh Gaya, Bestows Blessings upon Tibetans inside Tibet (Central Tibetan Administration)
Tibetan Spiritual Leader Dalai Lama Arrives In Bodh Gaya (Outlook)
Dalai Lama In Bodh Gaya After Two-Year Hiatus (Outlook)
Dalai Lama arrives in Bodh Gaya (The Telegraph Online)
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