In January 2007, I was speaking to Chad, our Bodh Gaya manager, about the shortage of participants in the Bodh Gaya retreat of US citizens.
If we had 120 on a retreat, we would have very roughly 40% from Europe and Israel, 35% from the USA and the 25% from the rest of the world – Australia, Canada, South America, India, Thailand, New Zealand etc. That would mean around 35 to 40 US citizens.
Last year, Chad checked the registrations of those on the Bodh Gaya retreats and found that only six US citizens on the retreat lived in their homeland. Four other US citizens had not lived in the US for years. In my Dharma e-News, I wrote an article a couple of months later about this gradual drop of US citizens since 9/11visiting Bodh Gaya. Title of the article was “Why are Americans afraid to come to Bodh Gaya.”
At the end of the retreat in Bodh Gaya, February, 2008, I asked US citizens to raise their hands who lived in the United States. Five Americans put their hand up. Moreover, one of the five living in America had a distinctly English accent! Last year there were six. This year there were five. in 2009…..?
We haven’t noticed any significant change in presence on the retreat with regard to citizens of other countries. Are Americans afraid of terrorism? Are Americans afraid of getting sick? Are Americans afraid of aeroplanes?
All credit to the tiny number of US citizens who ignore the advice of the State Department in Washington DC and express their freedom to travel. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq are a long way away from the plains of India. Honestly.