Whispers from Eternity – Paramahansa Yogananda
Section II: Invocations to the Manifestations of God in the Temples of Great Lives ~ My Guru, Sri Yukteswar, Jesus Christ, Bhagavan Krishna, Swami Shankara, Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi
“Come to me as Buddha”
Lord Buddha, like a vein of shining ore in rocks of a gloomy gorge, thy message of mercy illumines a cruel world. O Heart of Pity, one day, to save a lamb from sacrifice, thou didst offer thine own body.
Loftiest Soarer in Renunciation’s Skies! beneath thy God-lifted eyes the inner kingdom of ego faded away into invisibility. Thou didst forever forsake meadows of sense comforts, rivers of greed, prickly cacti of selfish worries, tall trees of temporal ambition, and gaunt deserts of desires.
Thine entire being was irrevocably set on attaining Transcendence-Nirvana. Under a banyan tree+ thou didst make an unbreakable tryst with Spirit:
Beneath the banyan bough
On sacred seat I take this vow:
“Until life’s mystery I solve
Until I gain the Priceless Lore,
Though bones and fleeting flesh dissolve,
I’ll leave this posture nevermore.”
Thy solemn thoughts still roam in the ether, searching for ecstasy-tuned minds.
Thou Symbol of Sympathy, Incarnation of Compassion! give us thy determination, that with urgency we, too, pursue Truth. Teach us to seek the Sovereign Remedy, as Thou didst, for the ills of mankind.
May thy blessings, O Buddha, help all mortals to attain the Great Awakening!
+The pipal or bo tree, a variety of banyan, in Buddh Gaya, Bihat, India, under which the Lord Buddha attained the Great Illumination.
Paramahansa Yogananda, Whispers from Eternity
The Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya
from Daya Mata’s Travel Diaries, May-June 1959 Self-Realization magazine
We arise early on January 21st in order to start for Bodh Gaya, about 130 miles north of Ranchi. We arrange to drive one car, taking along our ever-present sleeping bags and our food. We leave the ashram in the morning. Our trip will take us through much jungle land and all of us are eager for a glimpse of jungle beasts. Imagine our thrill when we see two large elephants ahead of us on the road, carrying their drivers and packs! We stop and take pictures and learn that these animals are returning with their owners to Banaras, which is ten days journey from Ranchi—not “as the crow flies” but as the elephant lumbers! We feed these animals some oranges, which they accept eagerly. Then I place a section of sour orange in the trunk of the smaller pachyderm. No sooner has he put it in his mouth than he takes it out and, dropping it under his great, upraised hoof, steps on it. That is what he thinks of my sour orange! I feed him another sour piece, and he repeats his gesture of rejection.
Along the road we see jackals racing through the jungle’s edge, and we see, too, monkeys— the large, long-tailed kind. But alas, no tigers, although we hear stories about them in some of the villages.
We arrive at Bodh Gaya toward dusk and Swami Brahmananda arranges for overnight accommodations in one of the government rest-houses. There is also a modern Inspection Bungalow of the Public Works Department of Bihar. Revati, Mataji (Ananda Mata), and I are given wooden beds on which we throw our sleeping bags.
It is still early enough to go to the Mahabodhi Temple and meditate before having our evening meal. Great joy surges through my heart as I see, before the temple, the blessed Bodhi Tree under which Lord Buddha sat.
The Mahabodhi Temple is also sacred to YSS-SRF devotees because it was here that our revered paramaguru, Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, was formally initiated into the ancient Swami Order. Babaji first called Sri Yukteswar by the holy title of Swami, in 1894; but later our paramaguru formally received the Swami title from the Mahant (monastery head) of Bodh Gaya.
It is said that Gautama the Buddha, after renouncing his home and wife and child, undertook severe spiritual disciplines, such as extremely long fasts. He was about to collapse when he realized that fasting and extremes could not secure salvation. He became more temperate in his self-discipline and later, after going to several places to meditate, he met a grass-cutter who gave him some bundles of grass. With these he crossed the Lilajan, arrived at this Bodhi Tree, scattered the grass on the ground beneath the Tree, and then sat down in unshakable determination to find Self-realization.
It is said that the Buddha sat here under this Tree, engaged in an interior death-struggle with maya (delusion), until the light of final knowledge burst upon his mind and he became Summa Sam-buddha, the Fully Enlightened.
You can well imagine how full were our hearts as we sat under this Tree that has sprung from the original Bodhi Tree, on the same spot where centuries ago the Enlightened One found illumination. My body, the temple, everything else receded from my mind as I visualized the Blessed Buddha here. What a great peace and awareness descended upon us, no words can describe! Oh, how deeply we drink at the fount of inspiration during such holy pilgrimages! Forgotten are those around us, gone are the cares of life, the weariness of body; the mind dives again and again into the vast sea of peace, of love divine, of awareness, of longing to become submerged forever in the Sweetness it experiences.
Later we enter the temple itself and sit again in meditation before the large golden image of Buddha. We understand that this image has been gilded over and is set up facing the east in the exact position in which Lord Buddha sat in meditation with his back to the Bodhi Tree.
Leaving the temple grounds we walk over to the Government Inspection House where we are to have our supper — omelets, tomatoes, fruits, rice, sweets, and tea.
The next day at 5:30 am. we hear the soft chanting of Buddhist monks, flowing peacefully from the small prayer hall in the adjoining resthouse, which is used mostly by Tibetans. We arise and prepare to go to the temple…We take our asans and sit under the Tree. The sun is just coming up over the distant eastern horizon, throwing a golden glow over the temple, and yellow-robed monks and pilgrims from all parts of the Orient.
However, the sunshine is short-lived and rain begins to fall again, making it advisable to retire to the temple where we can forget the changeable weather and lose ourselves in deep meditation. The kindly priest, seeing us preparing to sit on the bare marble floor, quietly brought a large blanket and spread it that we might sit on it. What a thoughtful and loving gesture! It is wonderful to be here early in the morning, for the pilgrims have not yet begun to appear in large numbers. Soon I find I am all alone in the temple and I can pour out my heart in prayer to the blessed Buddha— and I do! These are the occasions when I feel I am really living, throbbing with divine expectancy and awareness. The heart is too full to say more.
When I leave the temple the rain has stopped and I find the others of our party finishing their meditations also. We seem to scatter when we go to these places of worship—each of us looking for the seclusion dear to our hearts…
We see many interesting sights here on the temple grounds. Monks and devotees do penance by lying prostrate on smooth wooden planks. They rise, then lie prostrate again, facing the temple. They go on doing this again and again and we marvel at their agility and devoutness. In the temple we see devotees lying prostrate before the altar, chanting Buddhist prayers.
Before we depart from Bodh Gaya we again sit under the Tree in meditation. A devotee whom I had met the night before told me he was there to burn some candles for his departed father. He offered me candles and some stick incense. Gladly I accepted these and lit them, placing them on the altar in front of the Tree. These, my dears, were lit for each one of you, with a prayer to Buddha for your own Self-enlightenment. I must tell you also, that the night before Mr. Dubey [Swami Shyamananda] kindly ordered a hundred candles or oil cups with wicks to be brought. These were placed on the stone altar in front of the Tree and all of us had the joy of lighting the wicks for you.