Raj and Santosh met me at 5:30 AM at my ashram door in Bodh Gaya, India. With all three of us riding on a single motorbike, we traveled in the pre-dawn light towards the sacred site known as the Pragbodhi cave. Nestled within the side of the mountain of an impoverished area named Dungeswari Hills, it is the cave where the Buddha fervently prayed, meditated and sought answers to life. At the advice
of other ascetics, he abandoned all joys and nearly all food in order to obtain the enlightenment he so desperately longed for.
After six depleting years of this, weak and ill, he finally left the cave and slowly wandered the countryside, accepting nourishment and mentally surrendering the opinions and instructions of others. He realized enlightenment would meet him if he chose a middle way. Eventually resting at the base of the famous papal tree now known as the Bodhi tree, it was there the impassioned gift of illumination filled his consciousness.
It was humbling to sit in the small cave, staring at the candlelit statue of Buddha depicted with a sallow face and protruding rib cage. It was a stark representation of the vast points in our lives where we’ve each struggled with identity and lost ourselves in self-imposed caves of sacrifice and limitation. Who knows what became the breaking point for Buddha to finally crawl out. Who knows what becomes our own moment of transition and change. The important thing is that we follow the Buddha’s example – we leave behind our paths of extreme. We walk out of our caves of sacrifice and allow the already inward state of conscious awareness to be revealed.