Thursday 1st January 2009
His Holiness made a surprise visit to the Mahabodhi Stupa as guest-of-honour at an inter-faith prayer meeting, under the bodhi tree, where a small crowd was gathered, mainly Indian sangha, local schoolchildren, and representatives of the faith communities in Bodh Gaya. A few Tibetans and Westerners were also evident.
His Holiness first visited the main shrine hall and paid respect to Buddha image, later attended the meeting.
The meeting, organized by the International Buddhist Council of India, Bodh Gaya and Gaya branch, the Mahabodhi Management Committee and the local interfaith organisation, was held partly in memory of those who had died in the November Mumbai bombings, partly as an opportunity to pray for world peace and harmony on New Year’s Day.
There were chants and prayers for world peace, led by representatives of the Tibetan Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Jain, Sikh and Muslim communities
The meeting concluded with a reading from Shantideva’s “Way of the Bodhisattva”, beginning with the verse:
May I be a guard for those who are protectorless,
A guide for those who journey on the road,
For those who wish to go across the water
May I be a boat, a raft, a bridge.