It was quite by chance that we found the Mahabodhi Lok Shanti Buddha Vihara in Gandhinagar, a couple of days ago. We had never heard of this place before, nor passed by it ever. Curious, we decided to walk into the Vihara and find out what it exactly was. We were a bit hesitant since we knew absolutely nothing about the place, and the gates, below a beautiful grey stone arch, were closed. There was something about the Vihara, though, that pulled us in. We decided to open the gates and find out if we could get inside – take permission, if required. Little did we know, then, that we were about to walk into one of the most beautiful and serene places we have ever been to in Bangalore city.
Inside, we found a few monks sitting on the steps leading to a large hall. We asked them if we could go in, and they said we could; there was no problem with that at all. So we did. Atop the steps, we found a spotlessly clean marble hall, with a statue of the Buddha in meditation. There were candles lit up before the altar, casting their reflection on the marble floor. A couple of people, here and there, were deep in meditation, unconscious to our presence and the world around them. No wonder the hall radiated such an aura of peace and happiness. A sense of calm enveloped us as soon as we stepped into the hall.
The meditation hall is surrounded by a little garden, with lush foliage. There are small pathways built in the garden. All of it together, it presents a very pretty sight.
There is a temple dedicated to the Buddha on the fringes of the garden, again very peaceful and beautiful. You could stay there for hours, just soaking in all that tranquility.
The walls of the Vihara depict various scenes from the life of the Buddha. Very prettily represented.
Scenes like this…
… met our eye as we walked around the complex. Enchantingly beautiful, like something out of a picture book.
There is a school for monks-in-training and residences for them at one end of the complex, where we spotted some of them enjoying the pretty evening. Some little ones in monk’s garb were playing with their friends, some were sitting in groups and chatting, while some others were by themselves, doing nothing, just relaxing.
Prayer flags, of a hundred different colours and sizes and types, were on the trees all around us. Some of them were made of lace, some of bright-coloured chequered cloth, some had muted colours. One of them had a house on it – I wonder what it was supposed to signify.
We learnt that there was a huge Bodhi (peepal) tree in the centre of the complex, a tree that was held sacred by the monks. We could visit, if we wanted to, and sit under the tree – seeking enlightenment, like the Buddha? A notice near the area told us that there were some rules to visiting the places – the crux of all of them being that we needed to maintain utmost respect for the Buddha and the place and not desecrate it in any way. We did just that.
The Bodhi tree was spectacular – a huge peepal tree strung with prayer flags in brilliant colours. There was an extremely colourful statue of the Buddha, in prayer, under the tree. This bit of the Vihara is so, so, so serene, it makes you want to live there, if only for all the peace that it fills you with. My most favourite part of the entire complex, I would say!
I HAD to come home and immediately read up more about the place. The Vihara was established by the Venerable Acharya Buddharakkhita, in the year 1994. It is a venue for meditation, chanting, discussions, lectures and studies of Buddhism. A statue of the Acharya finds pride of place in the Vihara as well. Apparently, the Vihara in Bangalore is a replica of the Mahabodhi temple in Buddhagaya.
Do visit this place if you are looking for an oasis of green and calm, in the hustle and bustle of a city like Bangalore. It is definitely a place worth experiencing. I am sure we will be visiting the Vihara a lot more in the times to come.
Check out the Mahabodhi Society, Bangalore’s website, if you wish to know more about the place and its founder.
Note: We ensured that we maintained utter decorum and respect when we visited the Vihara. The photos have been taken with permission, with a great deal of consideration and no interference to the day-to-day activities of the monks there.
It is my humble request to all visitors to the Vihara to visit the same way, keeping in mind the spirit of the place. Thank you!