As a child, my knowledge of Buddha was limited to the Amar Chitra Katha, I was gifted on my birthday. I first visited Bodhgaya when I was barely 8 years old and quietly admired the master’s sweet face and soulful eyes. I loved walking around in the garden wondering why most people appeared to shed a tear while sitting under the giant tree. Three decades and many history and spiritual lessons later, I was in Bodhgaya with a pilgrim group. After visiting the main temple and walking around in the complex I sat down near the Bodhi Tree.
I noticed a young nun, with a prayer bead in hand greeting everyone with a warm smile. I sat a little away from the tree attempting to be mindful not realizing when I slipped into meditation. My eyes were sealed shut but the occasional murmur and the soft footsteps of visitors reached my ear. The occasional whiff of cool wind caressing my face and the warm sunshine on my shoulder urged me to continue my meditation. After a while, when I opened my eyes, my glance rested on the calm and smiling face of the nun I had noticed before.
We greeted each other and soon got engaged in deep conversation about her life and mine. Though in her late teens, Simi was mature beyond her years. She had left home in the hills of Nepal when she was barely 9 to join a monastery to be a nun. Over the years, she had little contact with her family who visited her occasionally. At first, I thought that she was sent away by her economically deprived family but as I conversed with her I realized that she was well aware of the path at a tender age and would have eventually come this way . I had to control my tears when she explained how she handled the news of her father’s death and her inability to see him one last time. She explained to me about her annual visit to Bodhgaya to perform penance and seek forgiveness for any deviation from the chosen path. Here she was, a mature loving soul on the path of Dhamma, maintaining peace and calm through odds and me several years older was struggling with my inner demons trying to make peace.
Our lives are different and so is our surrounding but our paths crossed as two seekers and what she gained or experienced with me I don’t know, but I definitely came out richer than before. I looked up at the Bodhi Tree and while I may not have got enlightened like the Master, I definitely met a slice of him in Simi. I gave her a good bye hug sharing my contact number with her. Its been a while, I have not heard from her, maybe I never will or maybe I will hear her voice at the other end. I wait in anticipation !!!