The Power of Pilgrimage


You don’t need to walk where the Buddha walked or sit where the Buddha sat. You don’t need to go on a pilgrimage, because you can awaken anywhere. And yet, for so many people, it’s transformative to leave home, travel for miles and miles, and go to the places — be in the places — associated with the Buddha’s life. I know it was for me.

Last summer, I attended the International Buddhist Conclave in India and had the opportunity to sit under the Bodhi tree, where it’s believed Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, was sitting when he reached enlightenment. Generation after generation of Buddhists have gathered to practice in this spot, and when I joined them and listened to the chorus of birds in the branches above me, I discovered a new appreciation for lineage and the precious relationship between teacher and student. My practice was enriched.

As the dharma teacher and pilgrimage guide Shantum Seth put it, “That tree has a characteristic chime sound when the wind blows through, and it calms your mind. There are experiential things that you can only do while you’re there.”

Of course, you can gain realization under any tree in your very own yard or local park. “But sometimes,” Seth continued, “you have to go to the Bodhi tree once or twice to realize that the maple tree at home is your tree of awakening.”

In addition to the Bodhi tree, I journeyed to several other Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India. I wrote the three stories in this Weekend Reader about that trip. In “The Buddha Was Here”, I go to places associated with the life of Siddhartha Gautama and explore what it means that he was actually a living, breathing human being. In “The Dharma Was Built on These Bricks” and “Only Nirvana Is More Beautiful” I visit magnificent ancient ruins that offer a window into how Buddhism took root and began to flourish. Perhaps these stories will inspire you to take a trip of your own.

Transporters’ strike hits coal supply in Dhanbad’s power plant


Transporters’ strike hit coal supply at Maithon Power Limited (MPL) in Dhanbad, leading to the crisis of electricity production in the thermal power unit, Ramesh Jha, MPL chief executive officer.

Jha said situation in power plant worsened as supply of coal and transporting of ash from the MPL plant completely interrupted due to strike by workers. The tool down strike entered 6th day today.

“Regular maintenance activities of critical equipments have been stopped due to the workers’ strike leading to the closure of the plant”, said Jha. Coal transporters have stopped supplying coal since Saturday demanding revision in fare.

The district administration on Wednesday held meeting at Maithon for resolving the strike but failed to address the grievances of the protesters. Rural superintendent of police Aman Kumar, who chaired the meeting, said the meeting would be held again tomorrow. “Negotiation is continued. I have called management and land losers leaders in Dhanbad tomorrow for talk and I hope crisis would be resolved”, he said.

Already 170 land losers have been “laying a siege” to the power plant, demanding compensation promised by the power company. The protestors under the banner of MPL Vishthapit Sthaniya Samiti along with the Kamgar Union – the recognised union of the power plant – have been holding the stir in support of 18 points demand. The workers too started tool down strike inside the plant for enhancement of salary payment from June 10. However Nirsa MLA Arup Chatterjee, who represented the land losers and workers, held the management of the MPL responsible for failure of talk. “Agitating people have 18 points demand. At the meeting, we proposed that for time being implement only three points – job to land losers, increase salary of workers and ensure gratuity of employees but MPL officers were not agreed on any of these demands”, he said.

Nirsa MLA, however, denied charges that agitators stopped entry and exit of officials in the plant and workers were hampering coal feeding in hopper inside plant.

“No one stops officials. Rather, agitating land losers are also helping them so that power generation runs smoothly”, he said.

MPL is joint venture of Tata Power and DVC which generates 1050 MW power per day and caters requirement of four states Bengal, Delhi Punjab and Kerala. MPL official said plant needs 15000 ton coal per day for generation 1050 MW power.

Coal town hope for power relief soon


The coal capital’s power woes, centred around a shortfall of 60MW, could be resolve within the next three months as efforts are on to fix a 250MW power grid sub-station that could not be commissioned due to pending forest clearances.

According to highly placed sources in Jharkhand Urja Sancharan Limited, the distribution arm of the state power conglomerate, an NOC has been received for laying cables from the sub-station at Kandra in Govindpur, and hook it up with the Dumka power grid.

Work on laying cables and erecting towers, the sources said, would begin on June 17 and be completed by July 17. Similarly, work to lay cables and erect towers to connect the Kandra sub-station with the Lalpania power grid of Tenughat Vidyut Nigam (TVNL) in Bokaro is likely to the completed within tree months.

A senior official at Jharkhand Urja Sancharan said once the work was over, the Kandra sub-station would be able to draw around 50MW from the Dumka grid. The remaining 10 MW could be sourced from TVNL’s Lalpania grid.

Currently, Dhanbad gets around 212MW from Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) instead of the required 272MW, leading to a shortfall of around 60MW.

“In fact, we can draw any amount of power from the Lalpania power grid of TVNL, ranging from the required 10MW to a maximum of 200 MW, during complete disruption of power supply from DVC,” said Jharkhand Bijli Vitran Nigam (JBVNL) superintending engineer Vinay Kumar.

Dhanbad in-charge GM of JBVNL Amarnath Jha said they would be able to provide 24-hour power supply to Dhanbad once the Kandra power grid sub-station was operational, thereby reducing dependence on DVC.

“A shortfall of around 50MW will be met. Other issues affecting power supply due to dependence on DVC, like frequent load-shedding and delayed fault repair, would also be taken care of once the power grid sub-station is ready,” he told the media on Monday after a meeting with Congress leaders led by district president Brajendra Prasad Singh, who lodged a complaint with him about the dismal power situation.

Then energy minister Rajendra Singh had laid the foundation of the sub-station at Kandra Industrial Area in Govindpur in December 2013 in the presence of then animal husbandry minister Mannan Mallick and former Tundi MLA Mathura Prasad Mahto.

But mandatory forest clearances, required for felling trees to pave the way for laying cables and erecting towers to connect the Kandra sub-station with Dumka and Lalapnia power grids did not come, thereby delaying the project.

Currently, JBVNL draws around 212 MW from six feeders of DVC: Putki for Dhanbad and Katras, Patherdih for Jharia and its surrounding areas, Bhetia for suburban areas of Dhanbad town, Kumardubi for Kumbardhubi and its surrounding areas like Chirkunda, and Maithon for Nirsa, Mugma and its surrounding areas.

But recurring faults in the feeder sub-stations have led to a perennial power crisis for which JBVNL has been receiving flak from residents of the region.

“While the connection with the Dumka power grid will help to immediately draw around 50 MW, the connection with the Lalpania power grid of TVNL, which is also connected to the national power grid in Bihar, will help to draw more power to meet the requirement,” explained the official.