practical pilgrim

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    Spinning the Wheel at Sarnath Paid Member

    View the print version of this article in PDF format SOON AFTER FINDING ENLIGHTENMENT in Bodh Gaya, Siddhartha walked about two hundred miles northeast to the big city of Banaras in search of his old friends. It was with these five yogis back in Bodh Gaya that Siddhartha had been striving to crack the code of suffering in search of ultimate awareness. After having wasted away from fasting and other ascetic practices, Siddhartha shocked his colleagues by taking food and declining further self-mortification. Determined, yet disheartened, and finally alone, he sat under a bodhi tree, and the rest is Buddhist history. More »
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    Borscht Belt Buddhism Paid Member

    Soon after Shakyamuni began ordaining disciples, he instituted the practice of an annual rainy-season retreat (called varshika, or “belonging to the rains”), during which the community ceased its wandering and settled down to meditate and study doctrine. Ever since, Buddhist orders have devoted certain periods of the calendar to the strict observance of quiet contemplation. Originally these monastic retreats took place in a forest glade or a bamboo grove, somewhere away from the hustle and bustle of city life. But north of New York City, in the Catskill Mountains, pine, maple, and elm have replaced bamboo, and groves have given away to modern centers, some replete with central air. Known in the mid-twentieth century as the “Borscht Belt” for its many mainly Jewish resorts at which borscht was a hearty staple, the verdant Catskills region has become a thriving home of the Buddha-dharma. More »
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    Where It All Began Paid Member

    In what was greater India more than twenty-five hundred years ago, a young, pregnant noblewoman named Maya Devi was traveling home beneath a full moon, when she came upon a fragrant grove of sal trees. As she strolled through the grove, smelling the flowers and listening to the birds, labor pains unexpectedly came upon her, and in the garden of Lumbini that evening she gave birth to a boy, Siddhartha Gautama, heir to the Shakya clan. Not long after childbirth, Maya Devi and the newborn aristocrat continued on their homeward journey to Kapilavastu. Because it is considered the birthplace of the Buddha, and certainly not because it ranks high on anyone’s list of vacation spots, Lumbini, located within the borders of present-day Nepal, is an essential stop on any Buddhist pilgrimage in Asia. More »
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    The Roots of Enlightenment Paid Member

    A traveller's guide to Bodh Gaya, the site of the Buddha's AwakeningBODH GAYA IS Buddhism's Mecca, Vatican, and Wailing Wall. Among the eight great Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India, Bodh Gaya is the most visited. But unlike the holy places of those other faiths, the great center of the Buddhist world revolves around not a building or a shrine but a single living tree. For six years the seeker Gautama, hoping to find a way out of suffering, had practiced and painful austerities along the nearby Niranjana River. But finally realizing this was not the path to ultimate happiness, he wrapped himself in a yellow shroud taken off a corpse marked for cremation and accepted a bowl of rice milk from a young village girl named Sujata. This strengthened him. Taking fresh green grass for a mat, he then sat facing east under a local pipal tree and vowed not to rise until he had attained enlightenment. More »
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    Rajgir: A Peak Experience Paid Member

    Early Buddhist scripture is heavily punctuated with references to places that still exist in Rajgir, a small city in the state of Bihar, in northeastern India. It was the early capital of the ancient kingdom of Magadha and one of the eight great places identified with the life of the historical Buddha. The Squirrel Sanctuary in the Bamboo Grove (Veluvana), a place the Buddha described to his disciple Ananda as “pleasant,” and the site of…Early Buddhist scripture is heavily punctuated with references to places that still exist in Rajgir, a small city in the state of Bihar, in northeastern India. It was the early capital of the ancient kingdom of Magadha and one of the eight great places identified with the life of the historical Buddha. The Squirrel Sanctuary in the Bamboo Grove (Veluvana), a place the Buddha described to his disciple Ananda as “pleasant,” and the site of many of his teachings, is pleasant still: a picnic-perfect park with a large pond and bursts of bamboo trees. More »
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    Kapilavastu: A Tale of Two (Competing) Cities Paid Member

    We know where the Buddha was born, where he became enlightened, and where he died. We can even say where he gave his first sermon. But no one can say for sure where he spent his childhood, or where he married and fathered a child, for the precise location of Kapilavastu—the city-state his father governed as leader of the Shakya clan—remains a mystery. More »