In Sarnath, since I could speak some Japanese, I found lodging at a Buddhist temple of the Nichiren sect attended by a young couple of Japanese people and their dog (helped by another couple of young Indians). Every morning and evening we gathered in the main temple for a simple ceremony, consisting of beating a portable drum with a stick while reciting a mantra over and over: “Nam myoho renge kyo” (a praise of the Lotus Sutra). Since everyone sings the mantra at its own rhythm and volume, the ceremony becomes a sort of pandemonium, very characteristic of this Japanese sect.

A few days after, I decided to resume my pilgrimage. I wanted to travel to Bodhigaya, the location where Prince Gautama became the Buddha, in the state of Bihar, the poorest of India. My hosts advised me to take a rickshaw to the train station and I did so, however the driver didn’t understand my directions because he took me somewhere else. Once I realized the mistake, I paid and jumped in another rickshaw backtracking all the way to the station, but arrived just when my train had already departed.

I had no choice but to return to the Japanese temple. Before reaching there I started feeling bad, very weak and feverish. The young couple was surprised to see me again, and in such condition. I went to rest, and took some medicine that they kindly provided me with. I spent the entire next day in bed, very weak, but reflecting that I’d have fallen ill on the train if not for “the mistake” of the rickshaw driver. In pilgrimages (and life is a pilgrimage) even the seemingly negative has its reason for being.

I regained my health while listening incessantly in the background: Nam myoho renge kyo… Nam myoho renge kyo…