Author: Kory Goldberg, Michelle Décary
Publisher: Pariyatti Publishing
Paperback: 444 pages
This unique guidebook provides practical and inspiring information for meditators who plan to visit the sacred sites where the Buddha lived and taught in India and Nepal. The book offers a rich anthology of stories relating to each of the pilgrimage sites connected to the Buddha’s life and teaching, as well as helpful maps, creative artwork, and spiritual narratives from experienced travelers. Each site entry includes insider information and tips with detailed descriptions of transportation, accommodation, and local cuisine; suggested excursions and activities in the vicinity; and highlights of established Vipassana mediation centers best suited to accommodate visiting meditators.
Buddhist pilgrimage sites
The most important places in Buddhism are located in the Gangetic plains of Northern India and Southern Nepal, in the area between New Delhi and Rajgir. This is the area where Gautama Buddha lived and taught, and the main sites connected to his life are now important places of pilgrimage for both Buddhists and Hindus. However, many countries that are or were predominantly Buddhist have shrines and places which can be visited as a pilgrimage.
Four main pilgrimage sites listed by Buddha himself
Gautama Buddha himself had identified the following four sites most worthy of pilgrimage for his followers, observing that these would produce a feeling of spiritual urgency:
Lumbini: birthplace of Prince Siddhartha (in Nepal)
Bodh Gaya: (in the current Mahabodhi Temple, Bihar, India), is the most important religious site and place of pilgrimage, the Mahabodhi Temple houses what is believed to be the Bodhi Tree where Prince Siddhārtha attained enlightenment (Nibbana) and became known as Gautama Buddha.
Sarnath: (formally Isipathana, Uttar Pradesh, India) where Gautama Buddha delivered his first sermon (Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta), and He taught about the Middle Way, the Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path.
Kuśinagara: (now Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, India) where Gautama Buddha died and attained Parinirvana.
The Eight Great Places of pilgrimage
In addition the four sites mentioned earlier (Lumbini, Bodh Gaya, Sarnath and Kushinagar), the Buddhist texts later written by Buddha’s followers also mention four more sacred sites where a certain miraculous event is reported to have occurred, thus completing the list of “Attha-mahathanani” (Pali for “The Eight Great Places”) in India:
Rajgir: Place of the subduing of Nalagiri, the angry elephant, through friendliness. Rajgir was another major city of ancient India.
Vaishali: Place of receiving an offering of honey from a monkey. Vaishali was the capital of the Vajjian Republic of ancient India.
Nalanda: Center of Buddhist learning, the Nalanda Mahavihar; important for its Mahayana Philosophy.
Sravasti: Place of the Twin Miracle, showing his supernatural abilities in performance of miracles. Sravasti is also the place where Buddha spent the largest amount of time, being a major city in ancient India.
Sankassa: Place of the descending to earth from Tavatimsa heaven (after a stay of 3 months teaching his mother the Abhidhamma).