Saturday, April 1, 2023

Revisiting Sugh with Ven. Khen Rinpoche Sonam Gyatso

In February 2020, on my foot journey following Xuanzang, I visited Ms Valveri Hara who lives near the remains of the ancient city of Shrugna (now Sugh). The house of Ms Hara is built over an ancient mound, most likely the Ashokan Stupa to mark the place where the Buddha gave sermons as mentioned by Xuanzang. One can visit the story on my blog here.  Lost Ashokan Stūpa of Śhrugna (now Sugh)

On 23rd March 2023, Most Venerable Khen Rinpoche Sonam Gyatso along with eminent masters from Shakya College, Dehradun offered prayers at the house of Ms. Valveri Hara. Venerable Monks said that we have no words to express our thankfulness and the feelings in our heart for Ms Hara. She is a wonderful host, and the day was great. 

Most Venerable Khen Rinpoche and venerable monks with him also offered prayers at Chaneti Stupa and Topra Kalan Ashokan pillar site. Siddharth Gauri, the local heritage volunteer, has been actively engaged in facilitating revitalisation of the Buddhist heritage sites in Haryana for the last 15 years.  We are grateful to Siddhartha for facilitating the visit of Most Venerable Khen Rinpoche to Sugh, Chaneti and Topra Kalan. One can visit the works of Siddhartha Gauri on blogpost Revitalisation of Ashokan Pillar site of Topra Kalan.

Most Venerable Khen Rinpoche Sonam Gyatso and Sangha offering prayers at Ms. Valveri Hara place. 

Most Venerable Khen Rinpoche Sonam Gyatso, Sangha with Ms. Valveri Hara. 
Most Venerable Khen Rinpoche Sonam Gyatso with Ms. Valveri Hara . 

Most Venerable Khen Rinpoche Sonam Gyatso and Sangha offering prayers at Chaneti Stupa. 
Most Venerable Khen Rinpoche offering Khadda to Shri Ashok Ji, Pradhan of Chaneti.

Most Venerable Khen Rinpoche Sonam Gyatso and Sangha at Topra Kalan. 

Shri Surendra Saini ji explaining the development activities at Topra Kalan site.

Siddhartha Gauri with Khen Rinpoche (on his left).
Shri Surendra Saini ji sharing his book with the Rinpoche.


I am profoundly grateful to the Most Venerable Khen Rinpoche Sonam Gyatso, Director, Shakya College of Nuns, Dehradun for inviting me to share about the Retracing Bodhisattva Xuanzang project. I also made a PPT presentation regarding the RTB project to Venerable Monks and Nuns of Shakya College in Rajapura, Dehradun. My heart is full, and I am genuinely thrilled to have gotten to talk to many of you venerable monks and nuns about the pilgrimage legacy of Bodhisattva Xuanzang and how the Venerable Sangha can play a significant role in making it a living heritage as it was in the past. 


Making presentation at Shakya College of Nuns. Ven Monks and Nuns in attendence.
His Excellency Asanga Vajra Shakya was also in the audience.
Venerable Megen Rinpoche doing the translation.

With venerable Nuns of Shakya college of Nuns.
His Excellency Asanga Vajra Shakya highly appreciated the Retracing Bodhsattva Xuanzang project.

Being felicitated by Ven Sonam Chogyal, Director, Sakya Centre, Rajapur Road, Dehradun.

With Ven Kalsang Bodh and Ven Khenpo Ngawang.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

The Brahmayoni Stupa is Calling!

The Brahmayoni Stupa is Calling!  Pic: Vikash Kumar.

According to all the ancient Buddhist literature the Buddha delivered the Adittapariyaya Sutta (the Fire Sermon) to the Jatila brothers, Uruvela, Nadi and Gaya Kassapa here at the Gayasisha Hill. Gayasisha Hill is also known as the Brahmayoni Hill and is situated in Gaya, 12 kms north of Bodhgaya. According to 7th CE Buddhist monk-scholar Xuanzang, Emperor Ashoka (3rd BCE) built a Stupa on Gayasisha Hill to commemorate the visit of the Buddha on the Hill.

Unfortunately, at the turn of the 2nd millennia the new political climate led to decline of the teachings of the Buddha. All the sacred Buddhist shrines including the Gayasisha Hill got abandoned and then were vandalized in the long course of time.

In 2018, Ven. Tsering-tenzin Ananda, Asian Buddhist Cultural Centre (ABCC, Bodhgaya) initiated the project to erect a Stupa and hence revitalize the Gayasisha Hill.  Late Subhash Pandey, who was the local caretaker of the site welcomed the idea and extended all possible support. Unfortunately, we lost Subhash Ji in 2021 because of COVID19 infection. 

The newly developed Gayasisha Stupa was consecrated by H.H. The 12th Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche on February the 5th, 2023. Hundreds of venerable monks and nuns from all the traditions participated in the consecration event. 

Our  sincere gratitude to patrons for their support. Ven. Nui-Chu & devotees (Taiwan), Ven. Bodhichitta & devotees (Vietnam), Ven. Saddha Yongjun & devotees (Malaysia), Mr. Tan See, Ping Long Li Li,  Jasmine Lee family & friends (Malaysia), Kitty Luk  & friends (Hong Kong).

Project could not have been possible without the contributions of the foot soldiers who braved difficult situations, working day and night for four years (2018-2022) to make the project possible. Our gratitude, appreciation and love to Shri Niranjan Kumar, Mahabali Manjhi and many other foot soldiers for their contributions.  

Last but not the least, our sincere appreciation to the family of Late Shri Subhash Pandey for their cooperation in the execution of the stupa project.

My first visit to Brahmayoni Hill in 2013.  With Matthieu and Gautam Pandey.

Foundation work in 2019. Late Subhash ji, Ven. Bodhichitta, Ven Ananda, Ven Kassapa, Mahabali and myself. 

Biggest challenge was  to pump gallons of water to the top of the Hill.

THEN (in 2013)
Aerial image of Stupa site, Brahmayoni. Pic Yves Guichard

                                        NOW (in 2023)
The newly developed stupa adorns the Brahmayoni Hill. Pic: Vikash Kumar.

Some images from the Consecration Ceremony of the Brahmayoni Stupa. 5th February, 2023. All Pictures: Vikash Kumar and his team.

Ven Monks and Nuns from ABCC worked for three days to decorate the site for the ocassion.

Locals very happily participated in preparation works for the consecration event.

Venerable monks playing traditional flute, leading the welcome procession of HH 12th Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche.

HH 12th Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche being escorted to the stupa site by his assistant teachers.

Ven Tenzin Ananda giving the welcome speech. 

HH 12th Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche initiating the consecration of new Stupa.
More than 200 Ven Monks, Nuns and lay followers participated in the consecration event.

Bhikkhuni Sangha being lead by Ven Bodhichitta and Ven Ming Yu Shi. 

Ven Theravada monks recited the Adittapariyaya Sutta. 

HH 12th Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche unveiling the dedicatory plaque.

Participants eating Prasada (blessed  food) Saffron Rice.

Myself giving the Vote of Thanks speech.

Shri Niranjan receiving appreciation and blessings from H.H. 

Deepanshu, son of Late Subhash Pandey receiving appreciation and blessings from His Holiness. 

Ven Ananda with His Holiness.

Ven Ming Yu Shi receiving appreciation and blessings from His Holiness. 

Sister Jasmine Lee and Kitty Luk receiving appreciation and blessings from His Holiness.

Mahabali ji receiving appreciation and blessings from His Holiness.

With Venerable Saddha Yongjun. 

Buddhist pilgrims visiting Bodhgaya, please add the Gayasisha Hill (Brahmayoni, Gaya) into your itinerary and help us facilitate it becoming a Living Heritage site as it was in the past.

                                YOU ARE WELCOME!!