Have you ever wondered what all you must be doing during your Buddhist Pilgrimage Tours, or how should you get the most out of your once in a lifetime kind of pilgrimage tour to the holiest of the Buddhist sites?
We have compiled a list of the 10 most important things that you must be doing during your Buddhist Pilgrimage Tours.
Introduction to Buddhist Pilgrimage:
The idea and guidance on why and where a faithful must go for pilgrimage come from Buddha himself, especially from his final discourse to Ven. Ananda on his query about his concern that the monks would no longer be able to see him and pay their respect after his Parinibbana. Buddha advised Ven. Ananda that his disciples should visit four places, the sight of which will inspire faith and spiritual urgency after he will be gone. According to Mahaparinibbana Sutta, these four places are:
1. Lumbini: The place where the Buddha was born
2. Bodhgaya: The place where Buddha attained supreme enlightenment
3. Sarnath: The place where Buddha set the Dhamma rolling
4. Kushinagar: The place where Buddha attained Parinibbana
Additionally, there are four sites where Buddha performed supreme miracles, i.e. Rajgir, Vaishali, Sravasti, and Sankasiya. Gradually these places of major miracles of Buddha got included in the list of Buddhist Pilgrimage sites. Together these make the eight great places of Buddhist Pilgrimage.
During the course of time, several important centers of Buddhist Wisdom and Buddhist traditions gained significance as the destinations of Buddhist Pilgrimage. These centers include Sanchi, Ladakh, Sikkim, Nagarjunkonda, Amrawati, Dharmsala, Leh, Rumtek, Dhauli, Anuradhapura, Boudhanath, and several other sites across the world.
You can do several things during your Buddhist Pilgrimage Tours, depending upon the goal, nature and objectives of your pilgrimage.
However, there are certain things that will provide you bliss and peace during your pilgrimage. As Buddha said that you don’t need to believe the scriptures, practice it and check yourself if “The List of 10 Things You must do During your Buddhist Pilgrimage”, worked during your next Buddhist Pilgrimage tours or not?
The list of 10 Things You Must do During Your Buddhist Pilgrimage
1. Meditation on the virtues of Buddha: You must meditate on the virtues of Buddha with all devotion, faith, and reverence. Some of the important sites where you must meditate (for whatever short duration it may be) are, the Mahabodhi Tree (Bodhgaya Temple Complex), Mahabodhi Temple (Bodhgaya), Bodhi tree at Lumbini, Bodhi Tree at Sravasti, Stupa H (Jetavana Vihara), Ashoka Stupa (Vaishali), Relic Stupa (Vaishali) and Mahaparinibbana temple and Stupa (Kushinagar).
Meditation at these holy places is full of bliss and provides a very different kind of environment where you can feel the omnipresence of Buddha.
2. Accumulation and the Perfections or Paramita: You must cultivate the noble qualities during the course of your Buddhist Pilgrimage. Some of the important Paramitas that you should cultivate during your pilgrimage to different major Buddhist pilgrimage destinations are generosity, morality, wisdom, Loving kindness, determination, and Renunciation.
You don’t need to always lookout for some big opportunity for developing Paramitas but keep on accumulating them through small things and small offerings.
3. Interact with fellow pilgrims: Buddha always encouraged supporting each other towards the achievement of higher goals through regular meetings and religious discourses and interactions.
The concept of annual rainy retreats was especially helpful in this regard. You should also regularly meet fellow pilgrims and encourage each other for mutual support and strengthening of the faith.
4. Accumulate merit during your pilgrimage: You can accumulate merits through different small and great offerings and activities. You can support the temples or the monks for different activities or you may make small water offerings. Becoming a ‘responsible’ pilgrim and taking care of the environment and your carbon footprints during your pilgrimage will also lead to a significant accumulation of merit.
Continuously be in the lookout for any opportunity where you can contribute to the conservation or support of the holiest of the sites. You are guaranteed to get plenty of opportunities during your Buddhist Pilgrimage of holy Buddhist sites.
5. Make Offerings: Make offerings to the eligible people or institutions. You might make financial offerings to the beggars or the monks but remain mindful of fake beggars and monks. Instead, you may like to make offerings in kind, including offering food or clothing to the people in need.
You may even like to directly make the offering to some monastery or temple for meeting their operational expenses or expenses against the rituals and festivals. It need not be a large offering, even offering of a few candles has its own merit.
6. Recite Suttas: Keep on reciting Suttas during the pilgrimage to holy sites. You may recite the Buddhabhivadana, The Three Refuges, the Five Precepts, Dhamma Vandana, Sangha Vandana, Metta Sutta, or any other Sutta that generates religious fervor towards Buddha, Sangha, and Dhamma.
7. Remember and reflect upon the Triple Gem: Always remember and reflect upon the three gems. Cultivate the qualities of devotion, love, and renunciation during your Pilgrimage. Reflect upon the merits and bliss of Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha and pray and recite with fervor to the Buddha.
8. Prostrations and Circumambulation: You must offer the three prostrations at the pilgrimage destinations. The three prostrations not only show your reverence to the Triple Gem, but this will also help you in the accumulation of merit.
After the prostrations you may like to meditate for some time alone, feeling the omnipresence of Buddha. You may also like to circumambulate the temple, Stupa, or the Bodhi tree at the Buddhist Pilgrimage Sites. Keep reciting Sutta during your prostrations and circumambulations at the holy Buddhist Pilgrimage sites.
9. Confessions: The Pilgrimage is a good opportunity to confess your sins and wrongdoings. The Vinaya Cannon requires that monks must confess their individual sins before the fortnightly convening for the recitation of the Patimokkha. The Suttas of the Pali Canon mentions that Bhikkus even confessed their sins in front of Buddha. You can do the same during your pilgrimage.
10. Take Refuse in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha: Take refuge in the Buddha, The Dhamma, and the Sangha. Keep on reciting a Sutta during the refuge. Offer prayers for all living beings and for everyone for whom you care. Reflect on all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
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