Buddha, the king of the kings while preaching his followers once said, ‘You cannot travel the path until you have become the path itself.’ This quote has depth to it, inspiring the followers to follow the desired path with the great dedication and involvement. It’s the commitment to embrace the path to the existence that motivates us to achieve the spiritual awakening.
This also sums up the importance of journey in the life of every individual. A journey is an enriched way to learn more about life and evolve as a better individual. Every day we live on this earth is a journey in its own way waiting to realize the purpose of life. We spend each day here in a hope to reunite with the divine power that guides us and gain the ultimate knowledge.
Pilgrimages act as a mediator in realizing the goals of spiritual life and guiding pilgrims and travellers to understand the basic meaning and motives of existence. Often referred to as a long journey, a pilgrimage is carried out in search of great spiritual and moral significance. In most of the world’s faiths and religions, such a journey is seen with great regard and is considered as an act of spiritual devotion and surrender.
More than travel, this journey becomes an ultimate mission in the life of every religious follower to emerge out of it with a fresh inspiration and spiritual renewal. To realize this crucial purpose of life, every Christian or Jewish devotee turns towards Jerusalem, Muslims make Hajj to Mecca, Hindus visit the pious city of Varanasi and Buddhists take refuge to the Buddhist pilgrimage.
Suggested by the Buddha himself, this sacred journey brings his life on a path or journey. Just like his quote, he travelled his journey from a prince to a saint who renounced his materialistic life in search of the ultimate truth. He practically searched the knowledge from various sages for six years, but dissatisfied of all, he started searching the truth on his own.
And once a human mind is set on an ardent mission, nothing can turn it back. Same happened with the meditating prince who pierced the shell of ignorance with his continuous meditation for 50 days and attained the blissful enlightenment under the shade of Bodhi Tree in Gaya. This is now known as one of the four Buddhist pilgrimage sites called Bodhgaya.
From here, Buddha travelled to Mulgandhakuti Vihara or Deer Park in Kashi / Varanasi where he gave his first sermon of Middle Path and four truths of life. This event set off his life as the spiritual master, inspiring and illuminating the world with his practical knowledge and insights. Since then, he travelled extensively throughout the different sites in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, preaching sermons and enlightening ignorant souls with his knowledge.
But all great things come to an end. Same happened with the lord who after eating the last meal at Vaishali announced his Mahaparinirvana. His followers wept in gloom and the lord donated his begging bowl to them. He asked Ananda to continue the journey to Kushinagara where Tathagata gave his last teaching, Mahaparinirvana Sutta.
In this teaching, he asked the followers to continue the Buddhist-pilgrimage to the four sites of faith and seek the inspiration from his journey. These sites were closely related to the important events of lord Buddha’s life. They are:
1. The Buddha's birth place (Lumbini)
2. The site of Buddha’s enlightenment (Bodh Gaya)
3. The site of Buddha first sermon and initiation of Buddhism by turning the Wheel of the Dharma or Truth (Sarnath)
4. The place where the Buddha attained parinibbana, or final liberation (Kusinagara).
The abovementioned sites comprise the revered Buddhist Pilgrimage. Even in modern times, every year millions of devotees begin the pious Buddhist pilgrimage to seek inspiration from the lord. And, they become successful too, by learning more about the Buddha and understanding the sentient way to self realization.
This blog is an attempt to sum up the teachings of the Buddha and bring the awareness in the Buddhist world.