Footsteps Of The Buddha



"There are four places, the sight of which will arouse strong emotions in those with faith ... Here the Tathagata was born... Here the Tathagata attained enlightenment... Here the Tathagata set in motion the Wheel of the Dharma ... Here the Tathagata attained final Nirvana.

And the monk, the nun, the layman or the laywoman who has faith should visit these places.

These photographs and insight poems were created during a pilgrimage with Shantum Seth - In The Footsteps Of The Buddha - through North India and Nepal in February 2003. They provide merely a glimpse of experiences that are too immense to otherwise communicate. My wish is to record Living Dharma - people, life and experience in both their vibrance and mundanity. I am not so interested in monuments and old bricks, being more in tune with H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama:

"This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple. The philosophy is loving kindness.""

The Ascetics Cave

1. The Ascetic's Cave

Water walking pilgrims
trace Gautama's searching footsteps.
Thread strands of Mother India,
through sand, mud and fields
of quiet walking.

Footsteps shared happily.
Deeply silent journey
to emaciated Gautama's cave,
yet to receive succour
from Sujata's grace.

Then with awakening stirring
-asceticism abandoned
for the Middle Way.

This the Buddha's gift to all pilgrims,
seekers of the same Truth.

The Buddha Temple

2. The Buddha Temple, Deer Park at Sarnath

Om mani padme hum.

The ancien from Tibet,
purple robed,
respectfully seated to one side
of the Buddha's seat of wisdom.
Whence dharma poured
as rain on eager disciples.

Ringing through the ages,
I close my eyes
deeply listening to voices from before.

Opening to the delighted
deep brown eyes of the monk
as I photograph his devotion.

In that timeless moment,
The camera, me, ancien and the Buddha
have no boundaries.

Om mani padme hum.

Morning Meditation

3. Morning Meditation with Pilgrimage Sangha

Morning meditation, bamboo grove calling.
Heart wide open,
bodhicitta dancing with
graceful sweepers of fallen leaves.
Shadows creep across
The fresh scraped earth,
as the city awakes
to crows calling loudly.

Cremation Pyres on the Ganges

4. Cremation Pyres on the Ganges - Varanasi

Black specks of ash,
caught by wind,
deposit mortality of unknown others
upon my shirt.

Each smudge a stark reminder
of my own physical death.

The smudge marks
from my powdered ashes,
when caught by wind,
upon whose shirt and heart
will they leave their mark?

Ode to the Hungry Ghost

5. Ode to the Hungry Ghost in All of Us

There you are again,
old friend,
I see you clearly now.
A hungry ghost
filtering out the awesome presence of
Dharma, Sangha and the Buddha.

Too foolish, frightened and resistant
to drink from the deepening
well of bodhicitta
created by sangha pilgrims throughout time.

Our collective compassion
makes the Buddha nectar available
to you - hungry ghost.

This the pilgrim's gift and prayer,
To bring succour and life to you -

the hungry ghost within all of us.

India Alive

6. India Alive - Miracles and Wonder

Miracles and wonders of Mother India alive.
Stunning, overwhelming
'midst dusty feet, facial grime, filth and death,
marching alongside sublime peace, happiness and joy
unraveling us all?...

Footsteps shared between extremes.
Yet such strange questions.
Is this excrement on my shoe from a cow,
buffalo or human?
Does heaven descend upon the Ganges
through cremation, devotion and ceremony?

Who cares?

Just step out into the excrement of life.
finding miracles and wonders
there all the time,

India is alive with rich excrement,
Compost for wonders and miracles to flower.
Waiting patiently within;
to wake up
each one of us.