practical pilgrim

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    The Last Blissful Breath Paid Member

    I thought about death all the way to Kushinagar. Not just because the northwestern Indian state of Bihar, through which I had to travel, is so primitive and forbidding, and not just because the tortuous road from Gorakhpur, the closest city, gives the word “pothole” new meaning. What turned my mind to death was that I was headed toward the site where, almost twenty-five hundred years ago, Shakyamuni Buddha took his last breath. Upon reaching Kushinagar, on the banks of the Hiranyavati River in what is now northeast Uttar Pradesh, the Buddha announced to his disciple Ananda that his life was coming to an end. “The nature of things dictates that we must leave those dear to us,” he said. “Everything born contains its own cessation. I, too, am grown old, and full of years, and my journey is drawing to its close.” More »
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    Vaisali: First Stop To Enlightenment Paid Member

    “Pleasant is Vaisali,” the Buddha reportedly remarked to his attendant Ananda. “Pleasant are its shrines and gardens.” The first thing you notice about Vaisali, Siddhartha’s first stop on his quest for enlightenment, are the trees, tall and with immense parasol foliage. They bestow a sense of peace and majesty upon this lovely village north of the Ganges. Indeed, during the time of the Buddha, Vaisali was renowned as one of the most beautiful cities in India, counting among its many charms hundreds of lotus ponds and ten square miles of broad lanes lined with mango and banana trees. The trees of Vaisali are memorialized in an image carved almost two thousand years ago on the great stupa at Sanchi, three hundred miles to the south. In the carving, a monkey offers honey to Shakyamuni Buddha under these very same mango trees, rooted in soil that nourished the foundations of democracy as well as Buddhism. More »
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    Sravasti: Diamond in the Rough Paid Member

    Sravasti is a sleepy outpost likely unknown by many Buddhists east or west. Yet it is Sravasti, or ancient Savatthi, that was the center of the Buddha’s world, its largest city, and the closest any place comes to being his home. As the capital of the kingdom of Kosala, Sravasti hosted the Buddha for 25 rainy seasons and was the setting for the majority of his important teachings. More »