The best way to pass time in Kathmandu.
Common sense will prevail.
For a week I went to vacation in Sarnath and Varanasi. “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” -Buddha
Only 20 minutes rickshaw drive from Varanasi, Sarnath is the place where the Buddha gave his first teaching. Buddha was a teacher of Buddhism, a philosophy.
I was here back in 2011 for a teaching by the Dalai Lama. There were many tourists that came to see the Dalai Lama in person, but there were people from India and China as well. Most of the messages were in the Dalai Lama’s native Tibetan, so I waited for the special sessions in English. When the Dalai Lama walked onto the stage for the foreigner’s speech in English, he walked across the front row of the audience and greeted everyone he could set his eyes upon. He interested in the people who were interested in him. He stood about three feet from me, as I sat in the second row. My friends and I were some of the lucky ones, because later some tourists came and rudely asked people sitting cross-legged on the ground and cramped to move forward more. The security guard shut them up saying something along the lines of, “It seems a bit contradictory that you came to listen to someone talk about peace and compassion when you are causing such a disturbance.” Several people around nodded in agreement, irritated.
Only a twenty minute walk from the Buddhist teaching center in Sarnath is Deer Park (it looks like some piles of bricks) whereBuddha meditated and gave his first teaching, not sermon. Monks, pilgrims, and tourists come and put sticky golden pieces of paper on the brick building where Buddha is said to have given his sermons. The golden paper is used all over the world at Buddhist shrines and monuments. In the park there is also the obligatory Ashokan pillar that the Emperor Ashoka set down in every major place where an important Buddhist event took place. Ashoka made his own pilgrimage to show his respect to Buddhism, his new philosophy.
The four most important events in Buddha’s life were his birth (Lumbini, Nepal,) enlightenment or when he achieved Nirvana (Bodhgaya, India,) his first teaching at Deer Park (Sarnath, India,) and finally his death (Kusinara, India.) The emperor became a devout Buddhist after his armies killed a hundred thousand people at Kalinga and felt remorse.
For a long time, I have wondered what causes our need to believe in something and how is it that that is either in religious or philosophical form? People believe or follow religions, political organizations, and scientific studies.
Many say we must believe in ourselves because that is the only thing that stays constant.
“It’s in the heart of man to worship something,” said a Christian friend of mine in Sydney. There are thousands of things to believe in. There must be a benefit to choosing more or less. We can’t be a Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist all at once, that would be too confusing!
Lucius Annaeus Seneca who was born more than two thousand years ago said, “Every man prefers belief to the exercise of judgment.”
Is it better not to believe and acquire as many experiences as possible to use as our system of judgment.
Seneca also said, “A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.”
The monuments of Sarnath preserve the fact that human beings are both scientific and religious. People made a decision to devote their life path to the Buddha’s teachings. The Archaeological Survey of India preserves this place as proof that the Buddha existed.
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, said that, “If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change…” Buddhism adapts to scientific advancements, so it is a philosophy, not a religion. However, it depends on the way it is practiced in a traditional or modern sense. As humans evolve, I hope religion does as well.