rajgir (RAJGIRAHA)

Shortly after shaving off his hair and donning the earth colouredmedicant’s robe for the first time, Siddhartha walked 600 kilometers from Kapilvastu to Rajagaha, in search of a teacher among the numerous ascetics who inhabited the forest and the mountains around the city. In Rajagaha, King Bimbisara saw Siddhartha walking through the town in his characteristic noble and dignified manner. The king approached Siddhartha and found that he came from a royal family, and offered him a high position in his court. To which Siddhartha politely decined saying that he has already severed his ties in search of liberation and he can not return to the world of illusion. The king was disappointed, but understood Siddhartha’s refusal. The king then requested Siddhartha to come back and show the way, once he has experienced it. Siddhartha gave him a promise.

JETHIAN VILLAGE (Latthivana, Yastivana)

Seven years after he attained Buddhahood, Siddhartha fulfilled his promise to KngBimbisara by returning to Rajagaha to teach the Dhamma. When the Buddha arrived in the city, accompanied by the highest accomplished three Kassapa brothers and their 1000 fire-worshippers turned bhikkus, the townsmen were astounded. Hearing about the large group of noble mendicants, King Bimbisara came rushing to the Palm Grove with a group of Brahmins.
The King was unsure – seeing the large congregation of solemn meditators – whether the Buddha was the leader or the famous UruvelaKashyap. Sensing their confusion, UruvelaKassap prostrated at the Buddha’s feet and acknowledged him as leader. Highly impressed at the elder’s act of reverence, King Bimbisara requested the Buddha to give them a teaching. The Buddha was glad to see his old friend and he taught  the King and his ministers the teachings on benefits of charity, ethics as a foundation for liberation, the harm of over indulgence in sensual pleasures, futility of conceit, bliss of renunciation, and the Four Noble Truths.

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VENUVANA Bamboo Grove (Veluvana; YasthiVana; Lathivana)

Highly pleased and elated by the talk, the King invited the entire Sangha to the royal courtyard for the next day’s meal. The king also offered his pleasure park, the 100 acres Bamboo Grove (Veluvana), to the Sangha. The Buddha accepted the donation.This pleasure park, with its lotus pond, pavallions, flower gardens, waling paths, and clusters of bamboo trees, is the site of Sangha’s first monastery.From that point onwards, bhikkus were allowed to dwell in permanent monasteries.

The Chinese pilgrim, XuanZang spent two years staying in the monastery who referred this site as YastivanaVihara. He explained that the name of the site was derived from the time a man, who measured the Buddha’s height with a stick (lathi) made from the palmwood, and threw it on the ground. The stick took root and eventually spread, thus becoming Lathivana or Yasthivana.
In front of the water reservoir or lotus pond in Veluvana, there is a shrine with a black Buddha statue. The location was perfect for the Buddha’s Order, neither too far from the town, nor too near, accessible , yet serene. At the Bamboo Grove, the Buddha spent his second, third, and fourth rainy seasons after his enlightenment. Its congenial grounds became the sceme for many discourses. There are several areas of the parks, mentioned in the Pali canon, such as Squirrel’s Feeding Place, The Peackock Feeding Place, and the lotus pond. The only identifiable place today is the lotus pond.

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SAPTAPARNI CAVE (Sattapanni Cave)

To reach this location on the Vaibhara Hill, one has to take a stone path beyond Lakshmi Narain temple near Rajgir’s famous sulphur hot spring.  The Buddha stayed in this cave a few times, but it is celebrated for bbeing the venue of the First Council (PatthamaDhamma-Sangti) after the Buddha’s death.

The elder Mahakassapa foresaw the necessity of organizing the Buddha’s teaching and community in order to prevent erosion of the Buddha’s work. Three months after Bddha’s passing, Mahakassapa summoned 500 senior awakened bhikkus to compile and authenticate the Buddha’s teaching, which would be handed over for posterity.King Ajatsatru sponsored the seven month long event and during the council, the recently awakened Ananda, gifted with extraordinary memory, recited the Sutta and abhidhammaPitakas. The recitatation included the Buddha’s actual discourses, where they were given and on whose account. Mahakassapa appointed Upali, an authority on monastic discipline (vinaya), to recite the code of conduct, as well as the circumstances that caused these rules to be formulated. When both Ananda and Upali had finished their recitations, the entire assembly repeated them together to show their unanimous acceptance. From that time onwards, the Buddha’s teachings were preserved in this fashion until the Fourth Council held in Sri Lanka in 29 BCE, when they were written on palm leaves.
From the bird’s eye view atop the hill, the paddy fields below are reminiscent of the time when the Buddha suggested to Ananda that the bhikkus’ robes should be cut and sewn in a similar pattern, symbolizing bhikkus as a fertile land in which seeds of merit and virtue are sown to benefit the present and future generations. The symbolic tradition is still kept today.

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The pile of bricks, about one km from Venuvana, is said to be the stupa that Ajatsatru built to house his portion of the Buddha’s relics.

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VULTURE PEAK (Gridhakut or Gijjhakta)

There are two ways to reach to the peak. The first option is to walk for 20 minutes beyond the stalls up the stairway, and then make a right at the fork in the path. According to XuanZang, the first cave on your right is said to be the where Ananda attained enlightenment before the First Council. The second cave on your right is said to be Boar’s Grotto, where Sariputta became an arahant. At the end of the main path you come across a stairway that leads to the top of the mountain containing ancient ruins and a contemporary shrine.

The Buddha shuttled between the Bamboo Grove and this crag, whose natural silence made it an ideal place for serious meditation. Many of the Buddha’s students, including Sariptta and Ananda, became arahants in one of the caves in this rocky hill. According to a fable,  disturbed by a wicked vulture’s pecking the shaved head of the monks while they were meditating, the Buddha froze the vulture into a boulder and that’s how its called the Vulture Peak.

Vulture Peak also had witnessed the three separate attempts to murder of the Buddha, caused by his over jealous and ambitious cousin, Devadutta. In venuvana, he challenged the Buddha that with his advancing age and frail health, the task of leading Sangha is a heavy burden for him and suggested that he should retire. The Buddha calmly told Devadutta that there are more capable and senior bhikkus than him in the Sangha and why his name would be ever considered.

Turning red with embarrassment and humiliation, Devadutta plotted to murder the Buddha. First, with the misplaced support of Ajatsatru, he mobilized a team of sixteen assassin to kill the Buddha, but none could succeed, mesmerized that they were of his loving-kindness and compassion. Frustrated Devadutta took the matter in his hand and hurled a large boulder down at the Buddha, but the boulder crashed into anoth boulder and the Buddha only received an injury out of a splinter flying out. Devadutta fled before getting caught to return again after few days and bribe a royal elephant keeper to intoxify his violent elephant, Nalagiri. While the Buddha was on his alms round in the street of Rajgaha, the mad elephant was let lose, who lifted his front legs, let out a mighty cry, and charged him with ful force. The fearless Buddha did not budge but calmly generated metta towards the elephant, which to a sudden halt. Deeply moved, Nalagiri kneeled down on all fours as if to bow down at the Buddha’s feet.

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The other option is to reach the forks mentioned in the earlier section which takes you to Vulture Peak on its right and Shanti Stupa on its left. Then after a climb up for nearly 20 minutes, one can reach the Shanti Stupa, built by the late Japanese monk NichidatsuFuzi of the NipponzanMyohoji sect. This sect believes that the Buddha preached the Lotus Sutra at the Vulture’s Peak and this the primary text followed by Nichiren Buddhist. The Shanti Stupa contains the Buddha’s relics, and there is a small path leading to crumbling Asokanstupa.

If walking up the mountain is diificult for anyone, one may take the famous Rajgirrope-way up to the Shanti stupa and then walk down to the Vulture’s Peak.

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After Bimbisara handed over the kingdom over to his son Ajatsattu, the new heir became paranoid that his father may reclaim it. Overwhelmed by the fear, had had Bimbisara imprisoned without food, hoping the king would die. Bimbisara’s wife, Queen Vedehi was the only permitted visitor who kept her husband alive by smuggling food for him. When the king’s health did not deteriorate still, the Queen was searched and all her smuggled food was confiscated. So she smeared paste of milk, honey, and floor all over her body for the king to lick off, but the plot was detected soon and she was debarred from meeting her husband altogether. Bimbisara still keep himself alive by his meditative powers, and would draw inspiration to see the Buddha walking up to the Vulture Peak to meditate. Getting impatient, Ajatsattu ordered his guards to slit his father veins. Bimbisara died without a hatred.
The same day Ajatasattu’s wife bore him a son, Udayibhadda. Feeling great love for his son, Ajatasattu asked his mother whether his father also loved him so.

“No father could have loved his son more,” she said. “One time when you were a child, your father sucked on a boil that developed on your finger to help ease the pain. When the boil burst, he did not even take your finger out of his mouth to spit out the pus, fearing that its disgusting sight might frighten you. This is how deeply your father loved you.”

Ajatasattu realized his grave mistake and rushed to call off the orders to have his father killed, but it was too late. Ajatasattu was full of remorse, and was long haunted by fears of being murdered for the throne. His fears were realized many years later when he was killed by the hand of his own son.

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Ghora Katora

One night a courtesan abandoned her child near the palace gate. The infant was brought to Prince Abhaya. Taking a look at the beautiful infant, the prince to raise the child as his own and named him JivakaKomarabhacca. Jivaka turn out to be gifted with sharp intelligence and was sent to Taxila in north India to study medicine. Having mastered the art of healing after years, Jivika returned to Rajagaha and became personal physician to both King Bimbisara and the Buddha. Once, when the Buddha was ill, Jivika felt it would be beneficial if the Buddha stayed in his proximity. Having obtained the Buddha’s consent, Jivika built a small monastery and donated it to Sangha.
The ruins of Jivaka’s mango grove is located about a half a kilometer before the base of the Rope-way in Rajgir today.

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Kalasila is just beyond Rajgir’s gateway along the road coming from Bodhagaya. At the foothill of Isigilimountain are the ruins of an old stupa, believed to mark the spot where Moggallana was murdered by some thugs hired by the students of a sectarian teacher whom he had defeated in a debate. The thugs tried several times to kill him, but each time they came near his hut, Moggallana used his supernatural power to make him invisible. After the drama was repeated several times, Moggallana’s power failed him. The thugs found him and beat him to death.

That evening some bhikkus questioned the Buddha as to why Moggallana was not able to vanish. The Buddha explained how Moggallana was at last paying off  a karmic debt from a lifetimes ago, when he had murdered his blind parents.

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AJATSATRU ka Khajana