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Last updated: Friday, June 13, 2003

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May 2003 Stories

President to sit on ground and talk
Gaya, 27 May (Dainik Jagran). The President Dr. A.P.J. Kalam during his tour of Bodhgaya will meet with the monks. This meeting will be to find out certain things. In this he will desire to know the meaning of 'me and mine.' Preparations are being made for this in the head office of the the All India Monks Association.
The President is coming to the office of the All India Monks Association at the invitation of the General Secretary of the Association, and former state legislature member, Ven. Dhammaviryo Mahathero. Ven Mahathero said to the 'Jagran' that Kalam is coming to the office as a friend and not a president. A friend who wants to know about the enlightenment gained by the Buddha after six years of austerity. Along with this why has the message of peace from this land of the Buddha became so dim? Why are Buddhist monks silent? To answer all these questions a seminar has been organised. The title of which is 'How to remove the ego of I and my.'
The President is to come to the monks head office after visiting the temple. No special arrangements are being made at the office. When entering the verandah of the office this is a picture in which there are the former President K. R. Narayanan and Ven. Dhammaviryo and other VIPs. A stone is to be laid under this picture. Which will mark the inauguration of this office and by which His Excellency's name would be inscribed on the building. In connection with this Ven. Dhammaviryo said that as he was coming to Bodhgaya therefore his friends name would remain here, this was the reason that it was being done. [The Hindi is as unclear as my translation:-PGF]
There is a small hall on the verandahs southern side and it is there that the President will take part in the seminar with the monks. The Venerable said that the President is coming as a pilgrim to Bodhgaya. The administration should be worried about this. A white cloth would be spread on the ground in the hall and there their friend would be greeted. The theme of the seminar would be on the path to 'The good of the masses, the benefit of the masses.' (bahujan hitay-bahujan sukhay). How can the individuals sense of I (aham) be dispelled. How can Bodhgaya play a role in world peace. On all these matters discussions would take place. He said that on these matters experts from Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christian religions would also join the monks. It would not be very crowded. There was space for fifty or sixty people to sit in that room. He said that no time had been fixed. When somebody wanted to learn that they had to be told.

Note: The reports of what Ven. Dhammaviryo said seem a little garbled in the Hindi, and I have reproduced that in the English.
It is notable that the reporter speaks of a question posed by Ven. Dhammaviryo as 'how can an individual's aham be dispelled' (vyakti se aham kaise dur ho) which makes the Buddhist teaching of there being no self (anatta) sounds like the Advaita teaching of ahamkara as the root of dukha:- PGF.

Bodhgaya Busy In Preparation for Welcoming His Excellency the President
Gaya, 26 May (Dainik Jagran). Preparations for the welcome for his Excellency the President Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam are in full swing in Bodhgaya. Preparations are being made by the local administration, the Temple Management Committee and the All India Monks Association each working in its own way. The final program in the President's tour of Bihar will be a visit to Bodhgaya on the 31st of May.
The Presidents helicopter will land on the largest open ground in Bodhgaya, the Kalacakra field. For the landing of the President's helicopter three helipads are being constructed on the field. The district administration has employed around a hundred labourers in this work. The road is being barricaded on both sides. The samvedak [seems to be a word being used for "contractor":-PGF] working here on Monday morning seemed so busy he did not even have time to stop and say anything. The samvedak said whilst working only that the helipad had to be finished today and handed over to the administration.
The Kalacakra field takes up a major area of land in Bodhgaya and is used for public functions.[1] All the major events held in Bodhgaya take place on this field. Due to Religious Teacher the Dalai Lama holding the Kalacakra puja on this site it has got its name. It was on this site that in the first year of the Buddhist Festival that the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee addressed the public. Political and non-political events are celebrated on this site.The helicopter of the nation's first citizen and "missile man" the famous President Dr. Kalam will land on this site.
The temporary shops and stalls which are put out on the roads everyday have been completely cleared away. A neat and clean street is visible. The work of barricading has begun. The paving of sandstone from Chunar on the way to the temple has been polished. This work has been done after many years. In order to do this work finely experts have been employed. But up to now nobody knows how the president will get from the helipad to the temple. It is believed that as was the case with the Prime Minister the district administration will arrange for a car to take him to the temple.[2] The President will spend about 45 minutes in the temple. After that the President will go to the office of the All India Monks Association. This office lies in the path of the road to the biggest statute. There painting and repairing work is in progress. All this work is being done by the monks themselves. After a long time a visit of the President to Bodhgaya is being greeted with enthusiasm and busy preparations. After seeing the whole of Bodhgaya it seems as if preparations are being made for a very special guest indeed.

1. It was created in 1956 for the celebrations of the 2500th anniversary of the birth of the Buddha, at which Pandit Nehru was present, by demolishing a large area of houses that existed on the site at that time.
2. It is less than a kilometre from the Kalacakra Maidan to the temple.

Polluted Water Supply in Bodhgaya Block
Bodhgaya, 23 May, (Dainik Jagran).
Complaints about the water supplied in the Bodhgaya area by the water supply company being polluted with insects are common place these days. It is said that during recent days the quality of the water supplied in the mornings and evenings is such that it is full of filth and insects. In rural areas of Bodhgaya there is an uproar over water supply. Whilst in the urban area there is misuse being made of a number of standpipes which have been installed. Due to the lack of installation of taps on the stand pipes the water is ruined. From this various types of problems and worries are created.
It is notable that due to taps not being fitted to the stand pipes before the water supply begins air from outside goes in the pipes, due to this it is natural that there is dirt and insects getting into the water. The two water towers in Bodhgaya have not been cleaned for years.

Change in Presidents Program in Bodhgaya
Bodhgaya, 22 May, (Dainik Jagran).
The time for the visit of the President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam's visit to Bodhgaya has been changed. According to reliable sources his special helicopter will arrive at the Kalacakra maidan at noon. After that he will go straight to the temple. There he will spend half an hour after which he will inaugurate a seminar. Reliable sources say that the program for meeting with school children is still not fixed. But the president will meet with teachers in Bodhgaya. He will return from Bodhgaya at about half past one. According to the previous program he was to have stayed until evening.

Japanese Tourist Cheated out of 1.27 Lakh
Bodhgaya, 22 May, (Dainik Jagran).
A Japanese Tourist has filed a case against a private travel agent over being cheated out of lakhs of rupees whilst touring India. Bodhgaya police station in charge Bedanand Mishra said that Nemoto Michio has filed a case for fraud against Mohammad Sahabuddin of Bodhgaya and Mohammad Shahid Abgila and family. According to the tourist's statment Mohammad Shahid offered to put up the Japanese tourist at no cost in his family home. After that he organised tours to Patna, Rajgir and other places. In this matter he brought the Japanese Tourist to Bodhgaya on the third of May to exchange Japanese currency for Indian money but said that the bank was closed and that the money could be changed though a tourist company "Middle Way Tour and Travels."
Mohammad Shahid asked for 75 thousand rupees to give to the tourist, 25 thousand to give for feeding the poor, eight thousand to for the Gaya-Bodhgaya car fare and ten thousand for supplies of hashish. Which the tourist gave. After which on the 7th of May the money was exchanged. On the ninth of May the said tourist went to Kathmandu. On arriving there he found that on the third of May 118910 rupees had been withdrawn and on the seventh of May 8195 rupees had been withdrawn.
On returning from Kathmandu the Japanese Tourist filed a case for having been cheated out of 1.27 Lakh rupees. According to Bodhgaya police station in charge Bedanand Mishra the police were searching for the accused to arrest him.

Pilgrims from West Bengal Robbed
Gaya, 21 May, (Dainik Jagran).
Anti-social element robbed pilgrims from West Bengal who had come to perform religious observances at the Devghat altar in Gaya. The victim Devidas Mukherjee gave this information to the civil lines police station. The First Information Report was registered late on Wednesday eveing.
The locals complain that due to police inactivity crimminals are active in the area. Generally pilgrims are an easy target for the crimminals. Several of the crimminals are being protected by the local police. There is no fear of the police in the crimminals.

PM to help retain Mahabodhi temple's heritage status Indo-Asian News Service Patna, May 19 (Hindustan Times)
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has come to the rescue of the Mahabodhi temple in Bihar by promising to intervene with the UN which threatened to remove it from the World Heritage list.
The 1,500-year-old Mahabodhi temple was declared a world heritage site in June last year, becoming the 23rd site in India to be so honoured by UNESCO.
However, UNESCO said authorities in Bihar were flouting guidelines for the maintenance of a heritage monument and this would result in it being de-listed, said Bhadant Nagarjun Surai Sesai, a Buddhist member of the Minority Commission. full story on HT website

School Holiday Delayed for Presidential Visit
Bodhgaya, 19 May, (Dainik Jagran). Due to the program for the President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam meeting with local school children in Bodhgaya during his visit the Summer School Holiday has been delayed. Instead of the holiday starting on the 24th it will start on the 31st in primary schools.
District Education Inspector Kaushal Kishor Prasad has issued a memo to this effect to teachers. In this regard it is notable that on the afternoon of the 31st between four and five pm there is a program for the president to meet school students in Bodhgaya, which would not be possible if the schools were already closed for the summer. Due to this the summer holidays will begin on the 1st of June.

Mahabodhi Temple Resounds to the Sound of "Buddham Sharanam Gacchami"
Bodhgaya, 17 May, (Dainik Jagran). On Saturday on the 2547th triple anniversary of the Buddha, [i.e. the day of his birth, enlightenment and death] the Mahabodhi Temple resounded to the Sound of "Buddham Sharanam Gacchami." Thousands of Buddhist devotees took out a morning procession around the temple. On this occasion alms were given to five hundred monks and the committee's magazine "Prajna" was launched.
The assembled crowds of devotees on Saturday morning performed puja and adoration under the Bodhi tree and chanted sutras etc. Under the joint auspices of the Mahabodhi Temple Management Committee and the National Buddhist Council a dawn procession was arranged. From various Buddhist monasteries monks came playing their traditional instruments and arrived at the Vajrasana and the inner sanctum of the temple. On this occasion around ten thousand national and international Buddhist followers were present.
On this accession the VC of Magadh University Dr. Abhimanyu Singh launched the the committee's magazine "Prajna." After the launching prasad [blessed food] was distributed.

Buddha's bones to go on public display
Thursday, 15 May , 2003, 17:33 Patna: (Sify News)
The bones of Buddha will go on public display in Patna from Friday, the anniversary of his birth 2,600 years ago, officials said. Visitors to the Patna Museum will pay Rs. 100 rupees for the privilege of being able to view the priceless Buddhist relic in a specially designed room, museum director Madhuri Aggrawal told reporters Thursday. "The Bihar government has cleared the proposal to charge Rs 100 from each visitor to see the casket containing the bones of Lord Buddha," she said. In the past, tourists could view the bones only after obtaining special permission, which involved a long and complicated procedure. Because the bones are priceless, the museum authorities had been reluctant to display them fearing theft or destruction. "The room accommodating the bones has been specially lighted and high security has been provided," Aggrawal said. The Buddha bones were briefly opened for public view on January 12 this year on the occasion of the Tibetan Kalchakra Puja, which attracted hordes of visitors. The bones were found during the 1958-1962 excavation by noted archaeologist A.S. Altekar of a Buddhist monastery at Vaishaligarh, 35 kilometers from Patna. "The bones of Lord Buddha were found in a casket made of a stone along with a gold plate, zinc coin and glass beads," Aggrawal said. The bones have been authenticated by archaeologists and are considered priceless. Various Buddhist organizations have objected to the keeping of the heritage in the museum and have instead proposed the creation of a special memorial in the Mahaboddhi Temple, at Bodhgaya -- also in Bihar -- where the Buddha gained enlightenment. The Bihar government has however ruled that the museum is the safest place to store the relic. "The state government has taken a decision to keep the (bones) in the museum considering its historical and religious importance," said state Tourism minister Ashok Kumar Singh.

Newly Wed Murdered and Body Burnt
Bodhgaya, 7 May (Dainik Jagran).
In the village of Pareva in the Bodhgaya police precinct a newly wed bride was sacrificed on the altar of dowry and her body burnt. According to information received from Bodhgaya police station sources Basant Sav an inhabitant of Nadaraganj in Gaya married his daughter Rinki to Rajesh Kumar inhabitant of Pareva in May 2002.
Due to not giving some of the prior agreed sum of the dowry the bride began to be harassed and finally on Tuesday Rinki was murdered and her body burnt. In this respect a first information report was made by Basant Sav at Bodhgaya police station against Rajesh Kumar and his family. According to the Police Station In-Charge Devanand Mishra after the filing of case number 70/03 against the accused raids were being carried out to arrest the accused.

Bihar cities fight over Buddha’s ashes
By: Amlan Home Chowdhury May 7, 2003
Bodhgaya (Mid Day): The ashes of Gautam Buddha nearly led to a war soon after his death and cremation in the fifth century between seven kings who wanted possession of them. Over two thousand years later, his ashes has led to another battle between the three Bihar cities of Patna, Vaishali and Bodhgaya. The three cities are fighting to house the casket of Lord Buddha, made of soap stone, which contains some of his ashes, a small copper coin, a tiny piece of gold and a piece of a broken conch shell. The casket was discovered in 1958, and has been opened only thrice since then, in 1998, 1999 and 2001. In 1998 when the lid was first opened, a small portion of the holy ash blew away in the wind. full story on Mid Day

Budget of 1.27 Crores passed for Bodhgaya
Bodhgaya, 5 May (Dainik Jagran).
After a long discussion at a special meeting of the Bodhgaya Town Council a budget for the financial year 2003-04 was passed by an oral vote of the acting officials of around one crore and 27 lakh rupees [at 40 rupees to a US dollar that's about a quarter of a million dollars:-PGF].
On this occasion representatives of all the wards took part. In the budget which was passed special attention was paid to the provision of electricity and water supplies in all wards. Dinesh Singh, the councilor for ward number six, and Vijay Yadav, councilor for ward number nine, proposed that the town council should also apply new taxes. It was decided unanimously to use ten percent of the budget of the Mahabodhi temple Management Committee and ten percent of the budget of the Archaeological Museum on the development of Bodhgaya. Along with this it was decided to apply business tax and trade tax on private hotels and schools.
It is reported that there were several types of mistake in the budget which had to be corrected before it was presented again. In the amended budget one crore and 24 lakh rupees are to be spent on development works. The remaining three and half lakhs of profit were also passed in the budget.

Bodhgaya sacred bodhi tree recovering from virus attack by ANJANA GAMAGE, 4 May, (Sunday Observer). News of the sacred bodhi tree in Bodhgaya, being slowly destroyed by a virus has been cause for serious concern here. And Buddhist authorities have instructed the Secretary General of the Sri Lanka National Commission for UNESCO, to take whatever possible action to remedy the situation, through the Indian government and the UNESCO office in New Delhi. link to full story


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Texts and Translations © Peter G. Friedlander unless otherwise indicated.