Wednesday, July 11, 2012


What is the Buddhaland? We hear this often in our Buddhist practice and I have been conscious of it, in concept, from a young age, having been introduced to Louise Hay and her affirmations in my early 20s! In Buddhist terms, it is the land where a Buddha dwells after having vowed to save living beings, completed his own practice, and attained enlightenment. In more practical terms, in the modern times, it is the land where we live and work, creating peace and harmony in our environment through good thoughts, words and deeds. What has however been more puzzling to me is where to find it? In Buddhism, it is simple... the land exists in our hearts and in the physical space where we live and work. Thus, it is rather not about finding Buddhaland but about creating it. 

What is Buddhaland?
After a 3 city holiday, here is an introspection on the 3 cities and in the place where we live... a comparative analysis into what are the factors that go into making a Buddhaland.

A city in Haryana, in which vast tracts of arable land are being swallowed up by urbanisation, the corruption it entails, and the population and related crises it invites. It is called the Millenium City and yet is far from it! A mall city of self centred consumerists and infamously of rapists and murderers! A city where crime doesn't need an excuse, but just happens. Be it an instance of road rage that leads to death, violent anger that leads to the murder of innocent people, or even kidnapping and gang rapes in open daylight from the so called respectable malls! It is also the city of suicides, indicative of the emtpiness in people's hearts. What is most contradictory, is its history. Gurgaon, rather Guru ka Gaon was the forested area where Guru Dronacharya had his school and where the Pandavas had their training. Rich in its natural resources, thickly forested with a large variety of birds and animals, it was a land celebrating the sanctity of the mentor disciple relationship... a stark contrast to what it is today! The forests have been chopped off, the animals have taken refuge in the legally protected Aravali forests (inside which is our campus residence) and the values that are deep rooted in the Haryanvi culture, long lost. Respect for land today has a different connotation...not for its agricultural yield but for the pots full of money it can bring in today if sold to a greedy promoter! Electricity and water are scarce commodities, and public utilities like roads, street lighting and safety do not reflect the high taxes paid by the common man here. So what is amiss? It is the basic sanctity of life... the inner respect that village elders still have in their genes but the common younger public lack. Respect for the environment, public place and above life and people. And respect is that quality what could turn Gurgaon into Guru ka Gaon... alias the Buddhaland!

A sea of people
The economic heart throb of our country is a strange mix of contradictions. Busy streets, busy people, all hustling and bustling to work... be it the common man who is struggling to make ends meet by juggling more than one job a day, or the rich who are striving to mint more money for themselves in a city, where prices go up irrespective of the inflation! And in this survival driven, purposeful humdrum, every individual is engrossed in themselves, their lives, their worries and their pain, so much so that they do not care about what is happening around them. At the same time, the people are all wired together, subliminally, because of their shared struggle. The rich can be seen enjoying their Pav Bhaji at Juhu Chowpatty as comfortably as the not so rich! The public transport too is used by one and all, depending on the need. 

A burst of life force
Everything is shared, including a seat on a train during rush hour. It is like all the citizens in the depths of their hearts care about the other, in spite of any difference there might exist, be it in religion, caste or social and economic status. Everybody is accepted the way they are, be it the youngsters in their funky attire, or the senior citizens walking in sarees and sports shoes in the innumerous well maintained public gardens. Somewhere deep down there is a knowing of everybody being the same and hence, a subliminal respect that breathes in the city life. When needed the same people on the streets who wouldn't look at you twice, will come in hordes to help you if you need so. This quality of balance is what keeps the city ticking with an never before experienced zest for life... striving for better and working with determination towards it.   
Making Buddhaland?

Buddhaland is not a dream, but must be actualised, and one can sense the Bodhisattvas working very hard in the city of Mumbai!

Pune is the cultural capital of Maharashtra and often called the Oxford of the East! Filled with a burgeoning student population due to its well organised and well proven educational systems, it is filled with a rich vibrancy of character. 
The Orchid School
Though the hometown to the native Marathis, who have long escaped the more cosmopolitan capital of Mumbai for their own reclusive and cocooned life style at Pune, yet, it has a strangely youthful nature that adds a freshness to the city and its appeal. Long stretches of military presence, adds a sense of security and visual treat to the big city traveller. The weahter too is gentle and the environment green and well preserved. A laid-back attitude to life is what characterises a typical Puneite. 
Outside Natural
Roadside Kacchi Dabeli
At the same time the natives clutch on to their culture, through their shopping on Lakshmi Road, their local cuisine spilling into street food carts, their original Ice Cream Parlour chain made from fresh fruits, Marathi theatre throbbing alive in the city scape and the myriad educational institutions that gives it a cultural finesse! The youth too add immense character balancing this rich canvas of people, with their born to be free attitude with most students stepping out of their hometowns into independent college living for the first time at Pune and a desire to achieve more in their coming years. A land that is laden with peace... don't bother, don't get bothered aura... naturally complemented by the greenery and the cool weather. One can see in the Pune of today, urbanisation and consumerism raising its ugly head, but the overall ethos of the city is still strong enough to balance the character of a peace loving city and community. This strong desire for peace and a youthfulness to achieve it is another typical quality that makes a Buddhaland!

Highway to heaven!
Coconut and jackfruit in every house!
Green and gorgeous... a city gifted by nature... with its rich foliage of coconut and cashew-nut among other flora! Its pristine beaches with its clean sand and wide horizons, metaphorically seem to open the minds of its people. 

Hearts that are expansive are typified by the locals, who would gladly invite you to a Konkani meal! A zeal to enjoy life and nature is not only a character of the large number of tourists who throng Goa through the year, but also an integral element of a native Goan. The influence of the erstwhile Portuguese adds a westernized element to the life style, be it in attire, food or entertainment. At the same time, the sun, sand and surf, seem to create an ethereal feeling of bliss, of living in paradise! 
Pristine beaches of Goa

An inner respect for one another and complete acceptance of each individual as unique, is what makes the tattoo parlour coexist in complete harmony right next to a handicrafts shop, not just physically but also in ethos. A perfect blend of western and eastern ideologies, a love for life and people in its myriad diversities and its unique entirety, a natural respect for splendid nature as manifested in the city as well as its endless beaches, gives being in Goa, an out of the world feel. Could this be Buddhaland? Maybe!

In the end, no place is perfect. I have lived for a year at Mumbai, three in Pune and eight in Gurgaon. Every city has its own character and atmosphere, but some cities do naturally lend itself to the establishment of Buddhaland. 
Buddha sun
In the end, it is each individual’s contribution and hence, responsibility to turn any environment into an abode of the Buddha. We have been chanting for the same to be established at our campus from Day 1 and that is our contribution from this corner of the jungle. Here is praying for each of us to be able to be pivotal in transforming their home, work place, building society, neighbourhood and city into a land of pure tranquil light!
Buddhaland is just a blind away...

1 comment:

Subhorup Dasgupta said...

thanks for this lovely tour of the cities from the perspective of buddhism. buddhaland is where you are, and it is a reflection of the buddhaland within each one of us. as we awaken to our buddhahood, it manifests in our surroundings. it was wonderfully uplifting to read this post. wish you all the best in all your endeavors.