Tran Khanh Tuong
In September 2010, I decided to go on a pilgrimage in India with a group of devotees from the Van-Hanh Pagoda in Nantes. It took me two months to get everything I needed: airplane tickets, passport and visas. International law requires that your passport must be valid at least 3 months after leaving the country you are visiting. I was very happy waiting for the day of departure.
But … (Why is there always “BUT”?) two weeks before the departure I suddenly developed health problems, and serious ones to top it off ! Should I cancel the trip? “No, I cannot” I thought. I had promised a friend to undertake this trip with her. A promise is a promise. I also made a commitment to the Abbott of Van-Hanh pagoda. I decided to go on the trip after consulting my doctors. They allowed me to take the voyage, giving me all sorts of advice - really orders.
December 15th, 2010:
The day of departure arrived – a little too soon for me. My friend’s cousin drove us to Bordeaux airport at 3 a.m. From there we took the plane for New Delhi with a stopover in Amsterdam. At Amsterdam airport we joined the other pilgrims. The biggest group was from Nantes, another group came from Denmark, and a lone woman from Germany. Together we flew to New Delhi and arrived at 1 a.m. on the 16th of December, 2010. Here two other groups were waiting for us, one from Australia and the other from Viet-Nam. A Vietnamese nun, Sister Tuê-Dam-Huong who had studied Buddhism in India welcomed us and took us to a hotel in New Delhi to rest. There were four French women from Nantes. One Vietnamese lady among the faithful of Nantes, who knew Buddhist terms, acted as translator for the French ladies.
Sister Tuê-Dam-Huong organized our pilgrimage from A to Z: hotels, restaurants, bus etc. We were 35 in total including Venerable Thich-Thiên-Huê from Viêt-Nam, Venerable Thich-Nguyên-Lôc, Abbot of Van-Hanh Pagoda, Venerable Thich-Nguyên-Hung and Sister Tâm-Nghia from Van-Hanh Pagoda, Sister Tuê-Dam-Huong and the rest of us, mere mortals from all over the world. As the oldest I was given priority, a place in the front rows of the bus to be less shaken, because the roads were “infernally” bumpy according to the young people at the back of the bus.