The Pilgrimage, a Way to Help, and a Decision

The Pilgrimage...

From Dec. 4-10th, I had the incredible privilege to travel with my mentor from Tōdaiji and a group of Buddhist monks and devotees on a 仏跡 “Busseki” – a visit to the holy Buddhist sites.

Back in 2019 at my Art Show, my mentor Rev. Kitakawara invited me to join in this pilgrimage to India. He had just been appointed as the Lord Abbot of Indosan Nipponji, an interdenominational Japanese Buddhist temple in Bodhgaya, India, serving the local community there.

Here is the group in Rajgir. Photo courtesy of Mr. Masayoshi KAWAGUCHI.

Rajgir was a stop on our way to Bodhgaya. Bodhgaya is where Siddhartha Gautama meditated under the Bodhi tree and achieved enlightenment. The current tree, pictured below, is believed to be the third generation of that original tree. Our group sat beneath the bodhi tree at Mahabodhi Temple, and chanted sutras from the Kegon Sutras (Avatamsaka Sutras or “Flowering Ornament” Sutras). The experience was every bit as magical and enchanting as you could imagine.

The Bodhi Tree at Mahabodhi Temple in Bodgaya. Photo courtesy of Mr. Masayoshi KAWAGUCHI.

Teresa Between Mahabodhi Temple and Indosan Nipponji. Photo courtesy of Mr. Masayoshi KAWAGUCHI.

Next, we attended the special ceremonies for the 50th Anniversary celebration at the Indosan Nipponji. These also included sutras from the Kegon Sutras. Afterward there was an enormous banquet in a giant tent for all of us visiting from Japan. In the evening we had another opportunity to visit the Mahabodhi temple. At night there were fewer people, and we could go inside and see the Buddha image in the main temple.

Photo courtesy of Mr. Masayoshi KAWAGUCHI.

Photo courtesy of Mr. Masayoshi KAWAGUCHI.

A Way to Help...

The following day we were treated to performances – singing, dancing, and a play – by students of the Bodaiju Gakuen Elementary School, started by the Indosan Nipponji 45 years ago. Even without understanding any Hindi, it was obvious the students were expressing their joy and gratitude at being able to receive an education.

Children of Bodaiju Gakuen Performing Song and Dance

Only the students without financial means to attend school are eligible to attend, and the students are provided with lunch as part of the program. When I was in 6th grade of elementary school, I too was the recipient of food from a school food program for underprivileged children, and I remember what a difference it made for me.

Mr. HOUJOU passing out gifts to student representatives.

A Decision...

I’ve been looking for a worthy cause to donate a percentage of the profits from my artwork to as my art career grows, and I’m thrilled to have found such a perfect match.

There are multiple ways to help. If you’d like to join me in supporting the education of the children in Bodhgaya, or other work that the Indosan Nipponji is doing, please click here for more information.

Going into the Ganges River at Sunrise

We next went to Varanasi, and were able to chant sutras on the Ganges River, and then on to Sarnath where we were told we were literally following in the footsteps of Shakyamuni Buddha, and we were invited to imagine that wisdom flowing up through our feet. The next day on our return, we visited 3 additional World Heritage Sites.

The Bank of the Ganges River as We Pulled Away from the Shore

Our Other Boat

Our Group at Sarnath. Photo courtesy of Mr. Masayoshi KAWAGUCHI.

I feel incredibly blessed to have been invited and included on this journey, following in the footsteps of Shakyamuni Buddha, and especially to be able to share it with such lovely people as were in the Tōdaiji group. I’m looking forward to seeing how this experience shapes my art, and I’m excited about being able to bring part of my art into the service of the young children in Bodhgaya.

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