After Sarnath, I headed to Kushinagar, the place the buddha attained parinirvana after his death.
The town is small with a gate at the entrance.
The parinirvana temple grounds were lovely and spacious.
Being inside the temple itself was powerful. I could feel a shift in energy immediately upon entering. It was like breaking out into a cold sweat while remaining dry. I felt an intensity in my cells, like they were near a cool flame. It was like the energy of being in a grandmother’s home, full of tender love, but also somewhat heavy and claustrophobic.
I felt like I got a better understanding of sad joy. Its hard to describe, but it is as though both are existing at the same time, and its potent.
After Kushinagar, I took a 16 hour train ride to Dehli. This was the most hellish travel experience on my trip yet. The journey begins as usual at the end of a long crowded queue that bears the resemblance to the shape of a line. After getting my ticket and being told by the counter lady to go to platform 5, I was told by a few people on the platform that the train would be on platform 1 or 2 and it would come at 4pm or 5pm. On platform 1, another person, a train station employee, told me the train would be arrive at 12:30pm.
This confusion prior to boarding trains in India is a typical pre-boarding procedure. When you buy a ticket in person, you are buying a standing space ticket in the “sleeping car”, the lowest class of ticket, and the only one available if you didn’t make a reservation. A man told me on the train that reservations should be made 2-4 months prior. I never boarded a train in India that wasn’t fully booked.
I boarded and put my things between train cars. The first several hours, were spent hanging out in this area shared with other people, but with room to walk between the cars and being ignored by the ticket inspector. Later in the evening, ticket inspectors changed. He approached, ask for my ticket, and with irritation told me I couldn’t stand there and pointed to go to the sleeper car.
At this point I wasn’t sure what all the different cars were, they all have sleeping compartments, so I stayed put as he walked off without letting me ask for clarification. He came back around sometime later, more irritated than before. I asked for clarification. He said to go down 2 cars and that there were no seats available. After he started tapping/hitting my back/butt with his clipboard to move now. I got my backpacks on, but I couldn’t get through the first doorway. He said to change cars the next time the train stopped.
When the train stopped. I went down as instructed. The entrance to the car was filled with people as was the next one down and the next. There was no room to squeeze in and the people would not make room or let me in. I hurried back to where I was before.
At that point, there were a group of policemen that were witnessing my interactions with ticket inspector. They were friendly. One advised me to offer him a bribe of 100-200 rupees for a seat.
The inspector came around again, and I explained the situation. He said to get off at the next stop and get the next train. He rejected my bribes.
There was no way I was taking the risk of not getting to Dehli on that train. The next stop was a prolonged one with many people getting out for food/water.
I used the opportunity to squeeze into a car some cars down. I managed to set my things down. The people around staring, with somewhat of an irritation, for making the quarters more crammed I imagine. I was by the toilets. The urine stench was thick but faded into the background after some time. There was lady next to me on the floor with her 3 sleeping kids, 2 being half naked. For the initial few hours, I had room only to stand and had to periodically shift positions for people to make their way to the toilet, most in bare feet.
There were times I seriously considered getting off and waiting for the next train. There were no guarantees the next train wouldn’t hold the same situation. I held my spot. The intensity was glorious. My only option was to occupy my mind by practicing tonglen on those around. Eventually there was space for me to kind of squat on my bag then squat on the floor. I was thankful to not have eaten after breakfast that day.
I eventually got to Dehli at 4am the next day, sleep-deprived, dirty, and disoriented. I was happy to get checked into my hotel.