Having just completed the circuit of four sacred places that correspond to the Buddha’s birth-enlightenment-teaching-death, I’ve been thinking about pilgrimage and what it means. I’m not sure I would consider what I did much of a pilgrimage–it felt more like a Buddhist speed tour, but I only had a limited amount of time since I’m presenting a paper at a conference in a few days (on the rise of Buddhism in the West of all things), but, I know I would have regretted coming to India and not seeing at least Lumbini, Bodh Gaya, Saranath and Kushnigar.

Also, having never gone on an organized tour before, I really enjoyed meeting people from all over the world who had come for a similar purpose.


So in the spirit of the brevity of the trip, I decided to distill my thoughts into a kind of modified haiku.



Orange clad monk

pours water into cupped hands

prayer flags flutter in Nepal

Bodh Gaya/Enlightenment

On temple grounds

Stray dogs scavenge for food

Bodhi leaf falls


Is this Deer Park?

Where are the trees?


Where Buddha sleeps

monkeys dance

through ruins


6 thoughts on “Pilgrimage

  1. well said! Religion is not less than a truly contrast, a perfect rhythm of rise and fall, beautiful and ugly, yin and yang, goodness and evil. a never ending endeavour of rise and fall with in oneself of extremes, which looks two but becomes one , , at times………

    • Pankaj–That’s nicely said–a perfect rhythm. I think that’s what I like about Buddhism is that it’s all about balance–the Middle Way. Thanks for commenting! Hope you and Yin Fun are well. It was nice getting to know you on the train!

  2. I imagine that pilgrimage has different meanings in different cultures… perhaps it is different for different people too. For myself, time is not so important a function, as the meeting of a human being with place… I could see it too, as the meeting of faith and place. Enjoyed your poetry… this post made me acutely aware of cultural differences.

    • Shimon–Thanks! One of the things that struck me on this pilgrimage was how different each place felt. Lumbini had a quiet, almost reverential air to it, while Bodh Gaya was more of a celebratory feel. I also have strong visceral reactions to landscapes and places.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s