21st February, 2014: Today, there are celebrations of International Mother Language Day across the world. It was an opportunity to join Sunil to MCCS, to see him address the students of classes IX and XI, and the teachers on the need to develop a Palliative Care Forum for North Bengal. He explained about the way to love people who were suffering from cancer, old age and other terminal diseases. For doctors, any patient is treated for the disease or suffering, but in Palliative Care, it is all about going towards death with friends around you, trying to keep you happy on your last journey. This is what only one can do voluntarily, and today we need more volunteers in this society.
When Prince Siddhartha realized that suffering and death are obvious once you are born, he left his palace in search of the path, which can take you through the journey of life with more happiness and peace. He sat under the Bodhi Tree and as the world says he achieved Nirvana, an enlightenment through which He shows the path of Peace and Happiness in this world even today as Buddha. Recently, as a part of the Green Circuit Team we had gone to explore the Nirvana Trails of Lord Buddha under the leadership of Deepak, an old friend from Nalanda from the UNDP Rural Tourism days. Ajoy, the President of ACT was helping with the audio-visual documentation, supported by Sayantan.
After His Enlightenment, Lord Buddha arrived at the village called Jethian (Jesthivan). The news of the Enlightenment of Buddha as one of the Greatest teachers of all times was already in awareness, and the then King Bimbhisara at Rajgir (Rajgriha) heard about his arrival and reached Jethian with his entire court and army to receive the Teacher. He requested Lord Buddha to give him the Diksha (accept him as his disciple or student) and then took Him to Rajgir, where He accepted to stay at Venuvan. This was the first royal patronage, which was later recognized by Emperor Ashoka, who spread Buddha’s Teachings as the Dhamma, way of life. Even the Great Buddhist Scholar and Chinese Pilgrim, Xuang Xang mentions spending 02 years at this blessed village of Jethian.
The people living in Jethian today, had migrated from Sambhalgarh in Rajasthan and are proud to be called the ‘citizens of the first village of Enlightened Buddha’. Though their basic livelihoods is mainly dependent on cattle rearing and to some extend on agriculture, yet the hospitality of these people living below the poverty line is amazing. The entire area with adjoining villages is a mine for Buddhist Treasures, wherever you dig, there are remains of temples, statues, plaques and more. From the time of Ashoka to the Pala Kings, it seems there was hardly any place in Asia which was not influenced by the Teachings of Buddha, specially blessed was the Magadha Landscape with East and Northeast India.
The Green Circuit team had village meetings and initiated the process of Homestays and Village Tourism at Jethian. The adjoining villages were also visited, and the Heritage Protection Teams in the villages were motivated and the village collections were also documented by Ajoy. Finally, we reached the Cave, where Lord Buddha had meditated, close to a village called Aer. All the villages still live as if in the 18th century, traditional livelihood and happy communities. The road connectivity has improved in the past few years and mobile user numbers have taken over toilet user numbers. Also lot of the forests, which were sources of water have vanished. Scarcity of water, fuel-wood, livelihood opportunities and empowerment have forced the youth to leave the villages.
Lord Buddha, who has showed the path of happiness by living with nature, the places where we have his footsteps calls for the return of nature and this can only happen through volunteers of love. Volunteers who can create compassionate destinations, through their acts to mankind, nature and heritage. Volunteers who are not torn apart by the worries of climate change and degrading social values, but are ready to learn from traditions and help the citizens of this world to be part of the sustainable development in villages are already going ahead. Like the old routes from Nalanda, the volunteers from the sacred landscape of Magadha will be connected to Silk Route and Sea Route Destinations across the Indian Himalaya, India’s Northeast, the Eastern and Western coasts, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. The opportunity lies by connecting The Green Circuit Team at ITB, Berlin during 1st and 2nd week of March, 2014.