Pilgrimage has long been a part of global Buddhist practice
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    Where the Buddha Woke Up Paid Member

    Most are propelled by their devotion. I was propelled by a vague sense of duty and very little effort—I arrived by plane. The effort came only once I stopped busying myself with the outside world. More »
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    Pilgrim of Love Paid Member

    There are lots of good reasons to go on a meditation retreat in India, but stalking your ex, I discover, isn't one of them.It all begins on Clapham Common, on a bench scratched bare by graffiti. "I'm going traveling," Becca tells me. "To India. On my own." Manfully, maturely, I take it on the chin and book a flight to Delhi.    I catch up with her at the Taj Mahal. Dusk descends, minarets purple, egrets blaze against the sky. Reconciliation beckons.    "What the hell are you doing here?" gasps Becca.   "I thought ... I thought..." I murmur, suddenly unable to think. "Look," she says, ''I'm leaving for Jaipur tomorrow—just leave me alone." Short, unequivocal. I pack my bags and catch the next train to Jaipur. More »
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    The Jesus Lama: Thomas Merton in the Himalayas Paid Member

    In his best-selling biography The Seven Storey Mountain (published in 1948), Thomas Merton tells of his conversion to Catholicism and subsequent entry into Our Lady of Gethsemani, a Cistercian abbey in Kentucky. To a world savaged by war, Merton's embrace of a Christian life was made all the more authentic by his Cambridge-educated intellect, stunning candor, and the New York street humor he acquired while attending Columbia University. Single-handedly, he restored credibility to the very possibility of contemplative virtue which had been long denigrated by liberal intellectuals and traditional Christians alike. His was a voice of sanity, filled with sacred wonder, and replete with inquiry and contradiction. More »
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    The Nuns' Island Paid Member

    Here in the nunnery the afternoon is for sleep, study, contemplation. The night before, Ayya Khema suggested that we imagine we are going to die shortly and then see what we cling to. I find I am sad to lose my possibilities—for achievement, and, yes, for liberation. Why am I here, after all, if I do not believe in my capacity to be enlightened?—though we are made so uneasy by this idea that we make jokes. Sydney, a 26-year-old Fulbright scholar from Florida, says that should sudden illumination awaken her, she will telegraph her family: "Bingo!" More »
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    Pointy Rhinestone Glasses Paid Member

    Tan Chawut's Chanting echoed out across the temple grounds—as startling as the cry of the tree-dwelling gekko, as reassuring as the whirring of cicadas. I had journeyed to his monastery—Wat Rumpoeng (Lum-pung) in Northern Thailand—in search of tranquility and insight, the fabled twin blessings of Buddhist meditation. The regimen was rigorous: 20 hours daily of sitting and walking meditation in strict seclusion. During the last three days of a two week retreat, in an exercise known as "determination," retreatants were expected to meditate round the clock without lying down. A meal of rice gruel and greens was served at six a.m., the main meal at ten. For the rest of the day we fasted. Visiting and idle chit-chat were discouraged. More »
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    Ten Thousand Cups of Tea Paid Member

    When I traveled through Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, and Nepal, I spent many hours in tea shops. To order in any of these countries, I needed to know only one word: chai. Few other words are shared in languages as diverse as Turkish, Urdu, Parsi, Punjabi, Kashmiri, Tamil, Hindi, Newari, and Nepali. On a typical day I easily drank six cups of tea. Once I made some calculations: If I drank six cups a day, in a month I would consume 180 cups of tea. After a year the total would be 2,190 cups. Then, if I considered the five years I lived with Tibetan refugees in India, I had drunk a grand total of 10,950 cups of tea. More »