I believe that when studying a particular religion, it is important to visit the place of worship to get a better insight on the religion and its worshipers.
One of the greatest benefits of studying abroad in India is the ability to experience Buddhism and Hinduism first-hand. When you take the Buddhism and Hinduism in Contemporary Society course, you have the opportunity to learn about Jainism and Buddhism through visiting and observing their temples and centers of meditation.
This one-day field trip is inspiring, powerful, and provides a perspective you cannot learn inside the classroom.
The first place we had visited was a Jain temple in Bangalore. As professor explained the temple belonged to the sect called Digambara and was quite extravagant. I had gotten a Hindu temple feeling walking in, footwear was taken off in the front. My professor had told the class about men wearing a white cloth on their face, I was able to see that in person. There were the main temple and many little buildings with idols nearby. At the very first building, I was, surprised to see Hindu idols as situated. I was also able to see women creating designs with rice as a form of meditation and prayer. There were many Jain monuments as well. Many of the other practices resembled that of what happens in Hindu temples.
We didn’t cover Jainism extensively in our class, but it was interesting being able to go visit one of their temples. They are beautiful. White marble covers the entirety of it, including the floors, and it is laced with golden accents as well. The people inside the temple seemed to be well groomed with their beards and hair cut cleanly, and the women looked like they wore expensive sarees. We spent about twenty-five minutes in the temple.
To my understanding, Jains derive from Hinduism but reject the Vedas to a certain extent. I was later informed that their community is very wealthy through businesses and investments. Another peculiar observation was that many Jains had a piece of cloth hanging from their neck which they used to cover their mouth.
Stretched out into a lot of area, the center was filled with greenery and water. It was much quieter, with sounds of the birds, water flowing, and a flute playing in the distance. We saw a big statue of Buddha and enjoyed the scenic beauty there. Then we had entered the pyramid, which was the spot for meditation. It was complete silence inside with chairs surrounding, there was only natural lighting that entered through the small windows. In the center was a staircase which spiraled up to the King’s chamber, this was the highest point on which you can meditate in the pyramid.
Being at the pyramid valley made me further realize that Buddhism is a much simpler religion than I thought, and I think that is the point of it. Buddhism is supposed to be easy to understand and follow, and it is up to the individual to find which beliefs they find most appealing.
After learning about meditation we were allowed to visit the bookstore that sold books regarding Buddhism, yoga, and meditation. Following the store visit, we ate a free supper provided by the Pyramid Valley. We ate vegetarian food using strictly our hands. After we were done eating, each person washed their stainless steel plate and racked it up for others to use. The meditation center was a beautiful, calm and green location that made for great picture taking. Altogether, the field trip was successful and a great learning experience.