Sarnath Journals

Sarnath, a spiritual Buddhist city

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A July 1991 trip to Sarnath by Quan

Quote: Should you find yourself in Varanasi, know that a wonderful city, the very antithesis of Varanasi, awaits just a few miles away. Though Sarnath is a very small city, it is a city that is larger than life, being as it is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhism.

Sarnath, a spiritual Buddhist city

Overview

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Though I loved traveling in India, at one point its colorfulness, its sensuality, coupled with the dirt and the poverty, and added onto these its long history and the complexity of its society, and India just became overwhelming, maybe just a bit too much for the ordinary tourist to process. After Varanasi, I felt as if I just needed a spot to sit and meditate. To me, Sarnath was that one perfect city. Located in Northern India, easily within reach of many attractions, it is the one easily accessible place where the traveler can seek spiritual calm and get reenergized. I don't remember much of the city of Sarnath itself--I think it is intimately associated with the "deer park," as the place where ...Read More

Dhamekh Stupa

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Attraction

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Emperor Ashoka ruled a land area the size of modern India around 3rd century A.D., and was the most famous Buddhist emperor. He reportedly built 84,000 stupas (dome-shaped monuments to the Buddha) all over the countries. Some stupas are more elaborate than others. The one in Sarnath is important because of its significance to Buddhism. This site competes with the Dharmarajika Stupa, where the Ashokan pillar stands, as the site where delivered his first sermon and set in motion the doctrine that later became Buddhist law. During the rainy season, Buddha and his followers would also retire to Sarnath to seek refuge from their teachings. The stupa is really a cylindrical tower rising ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 24, 2001

Dhamekh Stupa
Center of Sarnath, in the deer park
Sarnath, India

Sarnath Archaeological Museum

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Attraction

Quote:
While the single most famous exhibit of this museum might be the lion capital (see below), this museum has a small but awe-inspiring collection of Buddhist artifacts. Among the highlights is a beautiful sculpture of the Buddha from the fifth century. The Buddha sits cross-legged, with eyes downcast in deep meditation, and a halo around his head that, I swear, emitted a holy glow. Also worth seeking out--a figure of speech only, as these figures seemd to have a magnetic force of their own--are several beautiful figures of the bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas are humans who consciously refused to become the Buddha so that they can continue to interfere in human affairs and be a force of good. As opposed...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 24, 2001

Sarnath Archaeological Museum
District Varanasi
Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh

Sarnath Archaeological Museum

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Attraction | "The lion capital"

Quote:
At one time, the lion capital sat atop an Ashokan pillar, another structure that the very architecturally-inclined Emperor Ashaoka built with abandon during his reign. The finest and most famous was actually erected in this tiny city of Sarnath, in about 250 B.C. The Ashokan pillar now stands outside the museum, in the same spot where it was erected to commemorate the site of Buddha's first sermon. But it is not really the pillar that draws visitors from afar. The significant piece of art is the seven-foot sculpture of four lions, back to back, facing outward, the official emblem of the Indian republic. I have never seen anything that magnificient--carved from one single piece of sandstone,...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 24, 2001

Sarnath Archaeological Museum
District Varanasi
Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh

The Bodhi Tree

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Attraction

Quote:
You can't pass by Sarnath without visiting the Bodhi tree. Located to the easst of the Dhamekh Stupa, in a small enclosure, the Bodhi tree is an offshoot of the tree in Bodh Gaya, in Bihar, under which Buddha attained enlightenment. Emperor Ashoka's daughter took a branch of the tree in the 3rd century B.C. and planted it in Sri Lanka, from whence this offshoot came. I had imagined a towering tree, reaching into the sky and casting an all-enveloping shade under which the worshippers can take refuge and find the Buddha. It's but just a fantasy. Contrary to my expectation, the tree itself is very small, not much over 10 feet, I don't think. Even then, the idea that this tree can trace its roots ba...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on January 24, 2001

The Bodhi Tree
In the deer park
Sarnath, India

Quote:
Not only can one gain spiritual calm in Sarnath by independent meditation, but there are classes and temples galore where a novice can learn about Buddhist law through the teachings of the different sects. The Thai temple offers classes in Theravada ("the Lesser Wheel") teachings and practices, as well as yoga and mediation classes. I believe these classes are open to everyone. Recently, the Tibetan temple also offers classes, but I believe they are targeted to actual practitioners of the faith, i.e., monks. I believed there was also a Japanese temple that can give you more information on teachings of the Greater Wheel. I can't remember all the temples, there were so many that it was hard to keep...Read More

About the Writer

Quan

Quan
Seattle, Washington