using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Buddhadharma : Summer 2007
buddhadharma| 57 |summer 2007 Afew days into my first pilgrimage, I was traveling on an old Mazda bus, rolling on six bald tires along some of the worst roads in India, if not the world, in the unfortunate region of Bihar. The Indians have a saying, “The good, the bad, and the Bihar.” It is the poorest, most corrupt state in all of India. The potholes are the size of craters, and the highway is two con- verging lines of Tonka trucks, tourist buses, white ambassador taxis, and motorbikes, all honking their horns ferociously while spewing foul-smell- ing exhaust into the air. From our bus window, my fellow pilgrims and I observed scenes not much altered from the Buddha’s time: villages of clay huts with straw roofs, women in colorful saris working the earth with hoes, men in white dhotis. We were traveling from Sarnath to Bodhgaya, along a corridor often walked by the Buddha him- self. During the Buddha’s life, this region in the central part of the Ganges (Ganga) Valley was one of the great cradles of human civilization, known as the Majjhimadesa, the Middle Land. It’s the region where Siddhartha, or Shakyamuni Buddha, was born and spent his life. The Middle Land nur- tured Buddhism through its first crucial centuries, and today, even though Buddhism is no longer the religion of the land, it remains its spiritual home. Buddhist pilgrims throughout the centuries have been inspired to overcome enormous obstacles and even risk their lives to visit the sacred sites here and receive their blessings. While Hindus have always been avid pilgrims, for Buddhists it has been a different story. Today Buddhist sacred sites in India seem vibrant, filled with eager pilgrims from traditionally Buddhist countries and increasingly from Western countries. They display glorious temples and monuments and have spawned a vast market for Buddhist para- phernalia. But it hasn’t always been like this. For many centuries, Buddhists in search of the sources of Buddhism had nowhere to go. The places of the Buddha, like Buddhism itself, had been wiped from the face of India. How the sites went from oblivion to this robust resurgence is a remarkable story, one that is still unfolding. For behind some apparent successes, many important issues remain unresolved. The Four Great Wonders It was the Buddha himself who enshrined pilgrim- age as an important act in the life of a practitioner. Speaking shortly before his death to his chief attendant, Ananda, and referring to himself as the Tathagata, the Enlightened One, the Buddha said: Ananda, there are four places the sight of which should arouse a sense of urgency in the faithful. Which are they? “Here the Tathagata was born” is the first. “Here the Tathagata attained supreme enlight- enment” is the second. “Here the Tathagata set in motion the wheel of the dharma” is the third. “Here the Tathagata attained parinirvana without remain- der” is the fourth. And, Ananda, the faithful, ... while making the pilgrimage to these shrines with a devout heart, will, at the breaking up of the body after death, be reborn in a heavenly world. — Mahaparinirvana Sutra, Chapter V The four places that are linked to key events in the Buddha’s life are Lumbini, where he was born in the fifth or sixth century BCE; Bodh- gaya, where he attained enlightenment at the age of thirty-one; Sarnath, where he first turned the wheel of dharma; and Kushinagar, where at the (Opposite) Pilgrims circumambulating the Mahabodhi Temple. (Left) The pilgrimage group with Thrangu Rinpoche in Deer Park.