Pilgrimage

Some modern and contemporary Buddhists play down the importance of pilgrimage, and it is certainly not of central importance. However, visiting place associated with the historical Buddha or other important events or people is at least as old as the Emperor Ashoka, and recommended even in the Pali Canon. Pilgrimage is meritorious, and can be a spiritually important experience, whether the self-discipline of enduring hardship, the mind-expanding opportunity of seeing new people and places, or feeling a deeper connection to the Buddhist path. Places of pilgrimage include the four sites associated with the historical Buddha in India/Nepal: Lumbini (in Nepal) – the place of the Buddha’s birth; Bodh Gaya – the place of the Buddha’s Enlightenment; Sarnath – where he delivered his first teaching; Kusinara – where he died. Other countries have their own. In Sri Lanka these include Sri Pada – a mountain trek to a footprint said to be that of the Buddha (alternatively Adam or the Hindu deity Shiva), and ancient sites associated with the arrival of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. In China and Japan there are many special temples and holy mountains, usually associated with important Buddhist teachers, such as Mounts Hiei and Koya in Japan. On Shikoku Island there is popular pilgrimage route associated with the teacher Kobo Daishi and Shingon Buddhism. In Tibet, pilgrims would travel to the home of the Dalai Lama in Lhasa.

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