That was my final time in PRPC as a functioning Camp. Soon after that, I left for Singapore, and stayed there longer than I should, thereby missing ~ by just one day ~ the wedding of D.V.’s eldest sister, Maggie, in Malacca. This time, I stayed with D.V. and Joan in their home, and there prepared my second book, Just A Few Leaves. I left the manuscript for his brother to type out on computer for me and get it printed while I was away in India.

I then went to K.L. to get my ticket and Indian visa, which is al-ways a hassle, requiring 3 trips back and forth to the embassy; Indians take a delight in complicating things with their red-tape; it’s a way of exercising power over others, but would they like it if others did that to them? Wong Chap Kin took me wherever necessary, and helped me buy a bike which I took to Madras with me, figuring it would enable me to get to places that other-wise might be out of reach and give me more freedom. This was to be one of my best trips in India. After some days in Madras, waiting for heavy rain to subside, I rode to Kanchipuram (about 50 kms away), and some distance from there before putting it on a bus to Bangalore, where I had an altercation with Buddharak-khita who ~ not surprisingly ~ disapproved both of my dress and bike; I should have known better than to go there. I ended up telling him what I thought of him and went to stay in a hotel.

Next morning, I took a bus to Puttaparthi, some hours away. Sai Baba was in residence, and the ashram crowded with about 4,000 people, half of them Westerners. I stayed in a hotel out-side rather than in the ashram, but I ate there as the food was carefully prepared and pure vegetarian, of course. I attended the darshans morning and evening, but didn’t ask for an interview, figuring that other people had a greater need than me, and that if he wanted to see me, he would call me; he didn’t. Now, I’m not the devotional-type, and don’t go in for guru-worship, and so I sat there while people all around me expressed their bhakti (devotion) in various ways, including placing their hands on the ground that he’d just walked on. Sick people come here from all over the world, hoping to be cured of whatever is ailing them, and there are numerous cases of people getting what they de-sired, but they must be just a small proportion of those who hope. Obviously, Sai Baba does have some kind of power, de-spite what his detractors say; just what the nature of this power is, I’m unable to say, but power like this is well-known in India, and spoken of in most works on yoga. Someone is supposed to have asked him: “Why don’t you use your power to help all these sick people who come here in hope of a cure, instead of only a few?” He replied in a way that makes a lot of sense: “I can help them only if their karma permits,” meaning that if we have the right conditions within ourselves ~ in our minds, hearts, spirits, psyches ~ then we may receive help from outside, but if such conditions are not there, it would be very difficult for others to help us even if they want to.

After three days there, I left and proceeded to Hampi, which was the capital of the ancient Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar; situated in an area scattered with massive granite boulders, it was a re-markable site even in ruins; I could only dimly imagine what it had been like in its prosperous heyday. I’d never been there before, but this is so of many places.

Next stop along my way was Bijapur, capital of another ancient kingdom, this one Muslim rather than Hindu, so there was a plenitude of ruined mosques, tombs and fortifications, on one part of which was a massive bronze cannon, which had required several elephants to pull it along on its carriage; India has a long history of internecine wars, with kingdoms rising and falling, like the waves of the sea.

Onwards, then, to Poona, where I arrived late at night and had some difficulty finding a hotel; more than once I have been turned away because of the color of my skin; racism is not just on the part of whites towards non-whites, but on the part of any-one who considers their race the best ~ and who doesn’t? If it is not inborn ~ and I am not sure it isn’t ~ it is certainly acquired soon afterwards as part of our upbringing and background; we can only be born in one place at a time.

The next morning I went to the ashram of Rajneesh (or Osho, as he was later known) to ask for directions to the Buddhist temple, but didn’t go further than the gate, as I wasn’t interested. Some-one told me and I managed to find the temple and spent a while talking to people, but wasn’t asked to stay and I rode out of the city until I got to a long, steep road. What with my body-weight and my bags behind me, I overtook everything on the way down: cars, buses and trucks. Then I turned off for Bhaja Caves, near which is a newly-built temple run by one of Sangharakshita’s followers, an Englishman who had shed his monk’s robes and married an Indian woman so as to get a long visa. I stayed there three days and visited the caves at Bhaja, Bedsa and Karla.

Outside the entrance to Karla’s main cave is a brightly-painted Hindu shrine, where animal-sacrifice is performed. It was a long-established tradition, and there was nothing I could do about it. I went inside the chaitya (chapel-cave), and sat before the stupa there to meditate. After some time, I was startled by a woman running around in a disheveled state, and thought it might be something in my mind, an illusion, but I continued to sit there and not long after, another woman came and repeated the per-formance, so I knew it was outside rather than inside, and though I didn’t discover why they were doing this, I supposed it was a ritual designed to help in becoming pregnant, the stupa being regarded as a lingam (phallic-symbol; India abounds in such; no wonder it has a population problem when worship of it is such an integral part of Hinduism!)

On then, by train to Bombay. I hadn’t been there since 1970, and it used to be my favorite of the four mega-cities of India, but I didn’t enjoy it this time, finding it seedy and grimy.

I soon left, by bus, to Jalgaon, to the north-east, arriving at night and staying in a hotel near the bus-station. Early next morning, before dawn, I set out to ride to Ajanta; 6 hours away. I got a room in the rest-house by the caves and spent ten days there, getting to know some of the vendors of stalls selling crystals and geodes (‘thunder-eggs’, as they are known in Australia) which are found in this area, and someone named Humne, working for the Archaeological Department in the caves. Wanting to medi-tate in the Caves at night (they are locked at the end of the day), I went to Aurangabad to ask permission from the Superinten-dent, but he wouldn’t give it; my request was unusual and no provision for it had been made in the regulations, and Indians are so afraid of using their own initiative and going a tiny bit be-yond the rules ~ unless some ‘oil’ is applied to the wheels. Back at Ajanta, I circumvented the restrictions and at night went to sit just upstream from the caves, beside a large, calm pool fed by a waterfall; it’s really an amazing place, especially when no-one is there. This basin is in a canyon with towering walls, and the whole has been carved from the rock by the action of the water-fall over ages. The caves and surroundings ~ like most ancient places in India ~ are inhabited by large grey langurs with long tails and huge canines; they are known as Hanuman monkeys, after the Hindu monkey-god of that name; unlike the smaller brown rhesus monkeys, they are generally not aggressive. There are also tigers in this region, but I never saw any, but I was careful when outside at night.

One afternoon, while sitting quietly at the top end of the caves, not bothering anyone, some people came and began to berate me. I sat and endured their insults, and when they’d gone, a man standing by told me not to worry, as his brother, who was also a monk, often had to put up with this sort of thing. I noticed this about Indians many times; they are arrogant and rude, but when they want something, they will kiss your butt! Edgar Cayce once said that the national sin of India was pride, and he’d never been there! I’ve often wondered why this should be; has it some-thing to do with the caste-system, perhaps?

Humne told me of another group of caves some distance from Ajanta, and offered to take me, although he had not been there himself. We went by bus as far as we could, then had to walk for two hours uphill through jungle. Because they were so off the beaten-track, the caves were practically concealed by vegeta-tion, and full of bats, with their ammoniac smell. There are many caves in this part of India (Maharashtra), and every now and then, new ones are discovered after being lost and forgotten for centuries. He also took me to visit his superior in Aurangabad, who’d just bought a second-hand TV, and although it was not working, his family and some neighbors were all sitting around it gazing at the blank screen, waiting for images to appear.

Humne accompanied me to Ellora for a leisurely look around, and then we went back to Aurangabad, he to return to Ajanta, and I to get a bus to Bhopal where I went to Sanchi for a couple of days, and had a pleasant time there, maybe expecting some-thing to happen like during my first visit, but nothing did. The weather was perfect, and I took some good photos there.

Continuing north from there, I went to Gwalior and Agra, spend-ing a few days there to revisit places, my bike was really a boon, enabling me to zip through the traffic and get to places that oth-erwise it would have taken me a long time to reach, if at all.

From Agra to Jaipur, and on from there to Ajmer, Jodhpur and Jaisalmer; all these places are in Rajasthan (Land of Kings). This is a particularly attractive part of India.

And next to Delhi, where I searched for Ven. Dhammika and his tiny temple, going backwards and forwards by taxi, bike, and on foot. I had in mind an ancient monument near the temple, and although Delhi had changed a lot since 1970, that building would still have been there. I could find neither it nor the temple, in spite of my keen sense of direction. I came upon another tem-ple, and asked the monk there about Dhammika, and he said he’d died years before, but I doubted this as he did not seem sure, so resumed my search, until finally, I gave up. Of course, I took the opportunity to see much more of Delhi than I’d seen during my several previous visits, and really enjoyed it there.

Then, feeling like a taste of a British hill-station, I went up to Mussoorie, and found many of the old English-style bungalows and cottages crumbling into ruin, but there was a distinct atmos-phere there, as if the ghosts of the long-gone Brits had lingered. Many sahibs and memsahibs had loved India and were so reluc-tant to leave and drag their feet away from a land that had be-come more home to them than home that some of them stayed after Independence; the thought of returning to Britain was just too much for them! I’ve felt like this about India myself at times.

Back in Delhi, I was approached by someone wanting to buy my bike, and as my path would soon lead me to the main Buddhist places, where I didn’t want a repeat of my Buddharakkhita ex-perience over it, I agreed to sell, and then set off for Lucknow, where I visited the old Residency that had withstood many hor-rific months of siege during the mutiny of 1857. I explored it from top to bottom, even going up the flag-tower, and was amazed at the thickness of the walls! It seems to have been built with the expectation of siege! I wandered around the cemetery there, reading the pathetic inscriptions on the grave-stones.

Lucknow had been famous for its culture and arts, but after the Brits had regained control, they exacted a terrible revenge for what they’d undergone and destroyed much of it, leaving it a shell of what it had been.

On from Lucknow, I went to Shravasti, where the remains of the famous Jetavana Monastery are found. The Buddha spent many Rains here and gave some of his most-memorable teachings. Here, He is said to have subdued the blood-thirsty murderer, Angulimala, and his evil cousin, Devadatta, met his end. I stayed in the Sri Lankan temple, with the friendly monk and his dog, which chewed up my sandals.

Next stop was Kusinara, the place of the Buddha’s demise. It was here that He lay on his death-bed in the forest, surrounded by a multitude who had come from far and wide to see their be-loved teacher for the last time; word had spread that, at the age of 80, he was about to pass away. Many ~ including monks and nuns ~ were grief-stricken, but those who had understood his teachings and attained realization, were calm and composed. The Buddha continued to teach until the very end, even though He was in great bodily pain. Then, looking around, he noticed that Ananda, his favorite disciple and personal attendant of many years, was absent, and asked, “Where is Ananda?”

“Over yonder, Lord, with his head against a tree, weeping and saying, ‘Too soon is the Light of the World going out. Too soon is my beloved master leaving me, he who was so kind to me, and I am still a learner, yet to find my own deliverance.’ ”

The Buddha sent someone to call him, and when he came, con-soled and comforted him: “Do not weep, Ananda; do not be sad. Have I not told you so many times and in so many ways that all that is near and dear to us will perish? How could it be that this body of mine, having been born, should not die? For many years, Ananda, you have served me faithfully in thought, word and deed. Great good have you gathered, Ananda. Now you must put forth effort, and soon, you too will be free!”

The Buddha passed away, and within three months, Ananda did attain Enlightenment.

And so, to Vaishali, from where the Buddha had set out on his final journey, predicting his demise three months later. It is not far from here to Nalanda, where the ruins of the once-great Bud-dhist University stand. There were 10,000 monks studying here under 2000 teachers when it was over-run by marauding Muslim invaders in 1199. Hating Buddhism because it acknowledges no God, the barbarians proceeded to slaughter everyone they could and turned the whole campus into a smoldering ruin. Here and in other places, Buddhism was virtually destroyed and driven from the land of its birth, not to return until the 19th century, when efforts were made to revive it, but with meager results.

Rajgir was my next stop, where I climbed the steps up to Vul-tures’ Peak, a place beloved by the Buddha, and where he often stayed, preaching to large crowds of disciples. Alone at night, he would pace up and down in meditation along the flat rock or sit in contemplation beneath the stars. Down below, nearer the town, there are hot springs, and people come to bathe there, oblivious of how dirty the water becomes.

Hot springs at Rajgir

Onwards from there to Budh-Gaya, where I got a room in one of the Japanese temples. Now, while I was in Australia, I’d heard that there was a Vietnamese temple under construction in Budh-Gaya, so I asked the Japanese monk if he could tell me where it was. He directed me down the road away from the Mahabodhi Shrine, and I saw what looked like a hotel across the fields, so went there to ask a monk I met, “Is this the Vietnamese temple?”

“Yes,” he answered. (He was Burmese, not Vietnamese).

“Is there a Vietnamese monk here?”

“Yes, he’s over there.”

Thus, I met Lam Trung Quoc (otherwise known as Thay Huynh Dieu), who wasn’t at all surprised to see me, and in fact said, “I’ve been expecting you. I know of you, you see, and a few nights ago, during my meditation, I heard a voice saying you were coming.” Huh? He then asked where I was staying, and when I told him, invited me to come and stay there, which I did. Then he said that he would soon be going to Delhi to meet a group of Vietnamese from the US and guide them around the Buddhist holy places. “I think some of them know you,” he said; “there is a nun from San Jose, and a monk from Hawaii with them.” As soon as he said ‘Hawaii,’ I knew he meant Thich Thong Hai, and the nun’s name was Dam Luu, who I’d met in ’85, and I immediately said, “Okay, I’ll go with you”, even though I was about to return to the south and fly out from Madras. I joined him for the train-journey to Delhi and accompanied him to the airport to receive the visitors. I was pleased to see Thong Hai again after so many years, and he was very surprised to see me there. I accompanied them around in the coach that Huynh Dieu had organized for them; it was quite different for me to travel this way with other people, as my travels until then had been carried out alone. We hadn’t gone far before people needed to go, and asked, “Where’s the toilet?”

“That is not the question to ask in India,” I said, “On the con-trary, the question is, Where is not the toilet? They soon under-stood, and were able to adapt to conditions there, going in the fields and beside the road when the bus stopped for them.

It was fun going with this group, but also quite tiring, as their time was limited and so we sometimes had to travel through the night, sleeping in the bus; the roads of India are such that you can average no more than 40 km per hour, and the distances are very great. We made the round-trip in less than two weeks, which was really pushing it. After I’d seen them off at the airport, I parted with Huynh Dieu and caught a train to Jalgaon, in order to visit Ajanta again and stock up on ‘thunder-eggs,’ which I’d come to see as good teaching-aids, illustrating the difference between appearance and reality. Since then, I’ve given them to many people in different parts of the world, saying: “What we are looking for is not outside of ourselves.” Some people got it and were thrilled, while others were not touched at all.

Boarding another train in Jalgaon, I returned to Madras and caught a plane back to Malaysia, another trip in India over.

Since his resettlement in the US, Thong Hai had been to many countries around the world, but never went to any of the Camps, as he could have done had he wished. Later, after meeting him in India, he sent word requesting me to resume my work in the Refugee Camps, and offered to support me financially, with the help of Su Ba Dam Luu and Huynh Dieu. “Why me?” I thought. I did not accept his offer, because after spending a total of five years in the Camps, I'd had enough.

Just A Few Leaves had been printed in Malacca during my ab-sence, but I was disappointed, as it wasn’t well-done; it was like a baby born deformed; but what could we do but learn some-thing from it and send it off anyway? Unfortunately, it was not to be the last of its kind.

Among the many talks I gave in various places in Malaysia, was one at the Buddhist Society in Muar, a small town near Malacca. There, I met a lady by the name of Mrs. Tan, who requested me to visit her terminally-ill husband. When I got to her home and went up the stairs, her husband greeted me with a very warm smile. The cancer carried him off several weeks later.

In Singapore, I went to stay with Dhammika ~ Aussie Dhammika, not the Indian D. ~ in his flat above the Buddhist Library, instead of at Phor Kark See. There was a Malaysian named Yew staying with him at that time, and he was shortly to return to Melbourne, where he was resident.

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