Sitting under neem tree at Bamboo Grove, next to Shantum Seth and other fellow pilgrims, I got my first real inkling of what it must have been like leading the Buddha's life.
A life led amidst nature, walking through mustard fields, crossing streams, sitting under trees, climbing up peaks, sitting in caves, watching bright sunsets, fighting mosquitoes, receiving alms from the villagers, sleeping inside makeshift shelters. With stray dogs, and squirrels, and deers, and tigers, and elephants . . . Not much has changed, with the exception of disappearing tigers.
From 'In the Buddha's Words', edited by Bhikkhu Bodhi:
At Rahagaha, in the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrel Sanctuary, a certain brahmin approached the Blessed One and exchanged greetings with him. When they had concluded their greetings and cordial talk, he sat down to one side and asked him . . .
Thus I have heard . On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Aavatthi in Jeta's Grove, Anathapindika's Park. There he addressed the monks, thus . . .
On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Savatthi in the Eastern Park, in the Mansion of Migara's mother, together with a great sangha of monks. Now on that occasion-the upostha day of the fifteenth, a full-moon night-the Blessed One was sitting out in the open surrounded by the Sangha of monks . . .
On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Ayojjha on the bank of the river Ganges. There the Blessed One addressed the monks thus . . .
On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Kosambi in a simsapa grove. Then the Blessed One took up a few simsapa leaves in his hand and addressed the monks thus . . .
The Blessed One took up a little bit of soil in his fingernail and addressed the monks thus . .
Then, monks wandering by stages, I eventually came to Baranasi, to the Deer Park at Isipatana, and I approached the monks of the group of five . . .
On one occasion the Blessed One was traveling along the highway between Madhura and Veranja, and a number of householders and their wives were traveling along the same road. Then the Blessed One left the road and sat down at the foot of a tree. The householders and their wives saw the Blessed One sitting there and approached him. Having paid homage to him, they sat down to one side, and the Blessed One then said to them . . .
Thus I have heard. Once the Blessed One was staying at Rajagaha on Mount Vulture Peak . . .
At Kosambi in Ghosita's Park the Blessed One addressed the monks thus . . .
I wonder, how different the Buddha's life would have been, had he lived in our Western world, estranged from nature and the support from rural communities? Would he have become enlightened? How does one environment shape one's destiny? What are the physical conditions most propitious to one's awakening?