[Day 13] In the morning we rose very early and went back to the Trirasmi caves to see if we could complete the photography that day. As it happened there were only a very few caves left over from the day before, and we might even have been able to finish that day if we had known.
Returning however did have certain advantages as I managed to remake the 360 degree photographs as well as get the rest of the photos. The site was left open overnight, and although the main buildings were locked, it was possible to get the photos I needed without waiting for opening time.
One thing this pointed out, of course, is how lax protection is at the site, and the amount of graffiti found not only on the walls, but even on the Buddha statues shows this also.
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In the afternoon we made the long journey to Aurangabad by state bus, which took around 6 hours end-to-end, and were greeted at the Bodhisattva Buddha Vihar by our host, who turned out to be a very self confident and capable 17-year old novice, Ven Sangha Ratna.
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[Day 14] Today we saw the Temple properly for the first time, it is still in construction, and consists of one large but incomplete hall where teachings and ceremonies are performed, and just two rooms, one of which was given to us, and a bathroom. All facilities are very basic, but the monastics seem very happy and are helpful.
In the morning we went to the first group of the nearby Auranagabad caves, which are less well-known than the Ajanta and Ellora caves, but are more accessible and really worth seeing if anyone is in the area. Thankfully the caves were not so high as some of the others we have visited, and the walk in was less tiring than I feared.
Unlike the Nashik caves, which were left open and afforded entrance to those hiking up the hill for exercise, these were closed off. We did not have to pay, for once, but that may be because we were in a group of local monks, who seemed to speak to the guards on our behalf.
In this group there are five caves, at least one of which appears to be unfinished, although it is not clear why, whether the stone was not workable, or the funding or political favour run out. In any case the Chaitya cave was very simple, of the Hīnayāna type, and must have been amongst the first of the caves to be excavated.
Another cave we visited had a central Buddha image in its own shrine hall, and then a circumambulation chamber around it which was carved on both sides of the pathway with various Buddha images. There was also a Buddha image hall, with the main image deeply recessed, as in Hindu temples, and which must have been late in construction, as is also witnessed by the elaborate carving on the pillars in the hall (see the accompanying photograph). It seems the hall would only have been used for chanting and other ceremonies.
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At the bottom of the hill we met one of the senior local monks who explained how difficult it was to develop the Dhamma in India owing to lack of funding, a situation which is readily visible in the temple we are staying in at present, which is very engaged in educational activities of many kinds, but is vastly under funded.
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At lunchtime we visited the home of some of the faithful supporters of the temple, a family of four generations living in one block on several floors, all of whom were practising Buddhists.
We had a very good chapatti, vegetable and salad meal, followed by rice and curry, and fruits; one of the best meals we have had since arriving here, and even more so as it was a dana by local Buddhists.
We did some blessing chanting and I also gave a short Dhamma teaching on the blessing of dana and how it can help spread the teachings. We visited another part of the family upstairs and there I gave the refuges and precepts.
This is the first time on our trip that we have had the chance to engage with local Buddhists and put the trip in a new light. Aurangabad it seems is a centre for Dr. Ambedkar’s work, and around 20-25% of the population are Buddhist.
We also drove through a large 50+ acre educational facility that was donated by Dr. Ambedkar, and provides many different educational opportunities to the local population, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist.