The jungle trail became an aural, visual and olfactory treat for Hamza. He had never seen so many birds of different varieties, size and shapes, flitting from one branch to another; so many flowers, in hundreds of different shades and hues; butterflies of breathtaking beauty; droves of animals, known and unknown that came to the trail, stopped for some time, looking quizzically up at the humans and then vanishing into the lush dense growth. Never before in his life, had he encountered such diverse and exotic smells that were emanating from the combined array of flora and fauna, present in this tropical forest. And he had never heard such a symphony of jungle sounds that included multitude of bird calls, animal calls and the chirping of the ever present crickets, having a rhythm of their own. Hamza had a musical ear. He reacted to musical compositions much more intensely than his colleagues. Sometimes, even the prosaic mundane background sounds of a rural or urban day, blended into pleasing compositions for him. But, this aural experience was something different. It was much more richer than anything he had heard before. He wanted to stop and savor each and every note, every movement and color that was dancing before his eyes, and every exotic smell he was experiencing. But the monks were moving inexorably towards their destination. And Hamza did not want to be left behind.
The jungle had kept him so engrossed that he lost track of the time. Suddenly, he heard the voice of the boatman calling the monks. He was not visible from here, the trail had curved ahead into the forest. One by one, all of them joined the old man.
The forest had thinned from this point onwards. Through the branches, a large clearing was visible, where hundreds of men were sitting cross-legged on the ground, listening to a discourse being given by a man, not clearly visible from this distance. Hamza saw scores of people coming to the clearing and joining the congregation from all sides of the encircling forest. Many of them were in monks' apparel but common people too were sitting among them.
The boatman and the party of monks with him joined the congregation. They sat reverently in the last row, which soon got filled up by the new comers.
The rows were neat, and the large gathering extremely attentive and silent. Barring the clear and melodious voice of the preacher, Hamza did not hear a single murmur, whisper or even somebody coughing. Sometimes one of the monks from the front row spoke something, but that seemed to be in reply to a poser by the preacher himself. The discipline was absolute.
Who was this man? How come so many monks and common people were getting attracted to his sermons? Did he belong to some Buddhist order? Buddhism was very popular in the eastern lands but it had practically vanished from India, long long ago. Hamza did not know about any preacher in India, Buddhist or otherwise, with such a mass appeal. Then who was he? He had seen the photographs of Dalai lama. But he was sure that this man was somebody else.
Hamza decided to take a closer look at the enigmatic preacher. Together with the young boy, who had not joined the congregation, and walking on the periphery of the clearing without disturbing the congregation, he reached behind a tree, from where the man was clearly visible.
Sitting still on a raised mound in the lotus position, he seemed to have absolute control over his perfect body. The hair neatly tied up in a bun on the head, showed his clear broad forehead, the sharp long nose, the glowing complexion and the large eyes that were closed in meditation. All these factors had combined to give him an extremely handsome and stately appearance. But, the thing which struck him most about this preacher, was the peace and serenity on his face. Such calm, such peace, he had never seen in a human face before.