Michael Imperioli Reflects on a Moving Buddhist Pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya, India

Sara Singh

“My wife, Victoria, and I went on a Buddhist pilgrimage this past winter. We wanted to go to Bodh Gaya, in Northeast India, to see the Mahabodhi Temple, where Buddha originally sat under the Bodhi tree and attained enlightenment. It was New Year's Day, and we got to the temple right when it opened at 5 a.m. A lot of people spend time making circumambulations, where you walk clockwise around the temple. We did that and meditated within the temple complex. I only practice Tibetan Buddhism, so it was interesting and moving to be around Buddhists from other traditions and countries—from places like Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, and China. You hear everyone doing different chants and prayers all day long. It's humbling being there. I felt grateful to be connected to this tradition that has been passed down since the time of the Buddha more than 2,500 years ago, from teacher to student, in this unbroken line. We sat near the Bodhi tree, a descendant of the original tree that the Buddha sat under. A lot of people like the idea of having a leaf from it, but the leaves are quite high up, so you have to wait for them to fall. That wasn't something we were pursuing, but once in a while you'll see a leaf drop, and someone will run over and grab it. Some people sell them. At one point, a Thai monk walked up to us and handed Victoria a leaf. It was so random, out of nowhere—and I was wearing a face mask, so I doubt it was because he was a fan of The Sopranos. I offered him money, but he just smiled and walked away. It was so moving, his generosity.” —as told to Megan Spurrell

Michael Imperioli stars as Peter Stockmann in An Enemy of the People at the Circle in the Square Theatre, with performances through June 2024. He and Victoria recently opened Scarlet, a cocktail bar on Manhattan's Upper West Side.

This article appeared in the April 2024 issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Subscribe to the magazine here.

Originally Appeared on Condé Nast Traveler