Well, we’re about halfway through our six-week world religions study tour, and I still haven’t posted anything about our travels.
From Coimbatore we visited Madurai. The Sree Meenakshi Temple there is the largest Hindu pilgrimage destination in South India. The cavernous, dimly-lit corridors inside are like (says Kristi) something out of an Indiana Jones movie. The city itself is quite a large shopping center in the state of Tamil Nadu. The streets are lined with brightly lit shops selling all kinds of things: clothing and shoes, fresh juice, electronics, etc. The activity in the street doesn’t really start to settle down there until after midnight.
Sravanabelagola was our next major stop. It is quite a small town, but an important site to the followers of Jainism. Sarah got us talking with some of the local holy men—some of them clothed, some not. I really enjoyed how quiet this community is in comparison with most of our other destinations, and the Jains were more than hospitable to us.
On our way to northern India we passed through the cities of Bangalore and Kolkata, with a 36-hour train ride between them. In Bangalore we were able to go to church and catch a showing of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (OSC review)—I did love it. In Kolkata I was able to see the Nakhoda Mosque with Kristi and Christine, and eat my first saag of the summer—I did love it.
And now we’re in Bodhgaya, the site of Siddharta Gautama’s enlightenment. Though a small community on the scale of Sravanabelagola, Bodhgaya has become, in some ways, something of a tourist trap. It’s been a challenge to get past that and access genuine Buddhism practice and belief.
So, that’s the skinny on the last few weeks of my life. To be honest, it has been a little difficult for me to be doing this world religions study tour for the third time. There’s only so deep that you can get in a place when spending four to five days there, and exploring the surface over and over again gets less and less satisfying each time.
I will say that this is an incredible world that we live in. It blows my mind how many people there are out there, how unique their personalities and experiences are, how diverse their beliefs and paradigms are. I really didn’t understand the extent of human choice until I began to see how many different ways there are for people to interpret the world and to live their lives. It’s a blessing to know that I am capable of so many different possibilities myself.