|Forest SanghaNewsletter||May 1987|
I had left Savatthi on 4th December. I'm glad I had the chance to see it. Iwanted to walk to Lumbini but met with a lot of negativity from people. Theytold me all the terrible things that might happen to me -- I might starve, orget lost, or be robbed or killed, and it was too cold to sleep out at nights.It's easy to travel from place to place by bus with the pilgrims, and they'requite willing to take you if they have room, but I wouldn't have enjoyed thatat all. I originally was not going to use roads but go cross-country fromvillage to village, but this proved impracticable. Fifteen years ago thepaddy fields were empty all winter, but now they're full of crops: winterwheat, rape, tapioca, sugar cane, vegetables, and here in Nepal they're stillharvesting the rice in some places. . . .
Anyway, in spite of other people's negativity, I thought I should at leastgive walking a try. So I thought of all the good things that might happen,the kind, helpful people I might meet etc. as I decided to walk to Lumbini tosee how it would go. . . .
On my first attempt at pindapata in Bulrampur, on my way to Savatthi, 1 didquite well -- not a square meal, but enough to keep me going. One problem wastrying to explain to people that 1 didn't accept money or raw rice. I thinkperhaps also some people thought I was broke -- a hard up hippy. So then Igot a monk to write a note saying something like (in Hindi) 'I am a Buddhistmonk on pilgrimage to the holy places. I do not accept money. I depend onalmsfood and eat only between dawn and midday. I am grateful for your help'.With this note things have been easier. I stand in front of a shop or housefor a while, maybe half a minute, and if they don't say anything, I move onto the next. If they ask what I want then I give them the note to read. Inmost cases the response has been very good. Sometimes someone will walk alongwith me and chivvy his friends into giving me something. I usually look likethe pied piper with a great gaggle of ragged children on my tail. One day Ihad quite a good meal of chapatis and sabjees and sweets. Other times I hadsmall bits and pieces like samosas, etc. . . .
I've slept in a variety of places; by the road in a small copse of trees witha stream running through it (plenty of streams in this area, so no problembathing); one night in a straw sack. The villagers wanted me to sleep in ahouse in the village, but there were too many women and children around, so Islept outside the village in the threshing area on a heap of straw,surrounded by straw, under a large mango tree. That was one of the warmestnights. Sleeping out is very cold and it is usually impossible to sleep lyingdown, but I remembered my experiences in Kanchanaburi, and found thatsleeping sitting up I could make more economical use of my robes, and keepwarnier. One night I found an abandoned grass hut near the road. Daytime ispleasantly warm, but gets a bit hot in the sun around midday, if you'rewalking or exerting yourself. . . .
I regret I can't speak the language. I think it would be even more fruitfulIf I could. I've decided to carry on the rest of the pilgrimage in this way,going next to Kushinara, then Varanasi and Bodh Gaya. Of course, some of thedangers that people have pointed out might happen, but I'm sure they werejust as likely in the Buddha's day, and I could probably more easily bekilled by a taxi in London than by robbers in India.
I'm sure that my greatest protection is keeping the Vinaya. The parami ofkeeping good Vinaya is very powerful; especially important are rules aboutfood and money. If I kept food or money, I could not go pindapat with a clearconscience. Many people have done their best to persuade me to accept moneyor carry food with me, but I know if I did that then pindapat wouldn't work,I would not get any of the help or respect that usually go to a samana. . . .
I'm now in Lumbini. I stopped at Kapilavastu for one day, but there's notmuch to see. It doesn't appear to have been a very big place, nothing likeSavatthi, but it's hard to say as so little has been excavated. You can seethe Himalayas from here. At Savatthi you couldn't see them. On the secondday's walk I looked up in the late afternoon, and there they were; quite tookmy breath away. Green fields and trees stretching into the distance andbeyond, the purple brown foothills, beyond this the snowcapped peaks againsta vivid blue sky. The best time to see them is early morning, before eight;especially at sunrise, when the snow is bright pink. . . .
I could have gone into much more detail about the places I've been, thethings I've seen and the things that have happened to me, but I've writtenmore than enough already. I had a lot of doubts about doing this while I wasin England, and after the possibility of doing it became more real. When Ifirst arrived in India I had doubts too. Sometimes I thought I was completelycrazy, or that it was just waste of time, a distraction, or an ego trip, butnow I'm very glad I'm able to do this trip and consider myself very lucky tohave the opportunity. I hope more monks will do the same. . . .
I hope all goes well with everyone at Chithurst. Excuse my terrible writing,but I'm not used to writing so small.