Monday, December 17, 2007

one part brick

my friend and neighbor here in sarnath, bhikshuni jampa tsedroen, is also working on her dissertation. unlike me, she has just passed a major milestone in completing her draft. she celebrated with a quick trip to a nearby stupa.

local tradition has it that this stupa marks the spot where the buddha actually give the first discourse on the 'four noble truths' and where his first disciples became monks. it thus is revered as the place where the monastic order first took shape. (a similar honor is accorded a spot near the sri lankan mulagandhakuti temple here.) but this spot boasts a stupa that even in ruins towers high above the surrounding countryside; the photo above was taken only halfway up its side. a mughal king later had a pavilion erected on the top of the buddhist structure to commemorate a visit - in the sort of move to assert dominance over a place while drawing on its established sacrality that has been practiced by imperializing cultures everywhere.

the links connecting place and event in the life of the buddha are often tenuous. like many other such spots, it exists as one part brick, two parts imagination. happily, this spot is particularly rich in bricks.

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