Exploring Buddhist Pilgrimage
“Ananda, there are four places the sight of which will arouse strong emotion in those with faith . . .
(Mahaparinirvana Sutta (DN 16, PTS: D ii 137)
Pilgrimage is a universal experience for many religious peoples. Studying pilgrimage allows us to understand how religion is practiced and how it can be a transformative and central experience in a person’s life. For the Buddhist, pilgrimage allows an individual to accumulate merit and is an important step in the process of attaining nirvana (enlightenment).
Although human beings have always revered sites that they consider spiritually important, the history of pilgrimage in Buddhist culture is often traced back to the Emperor Ashoka, (3rd c. BCE) who became a Buddhist late in his life and established the practice of visiting the places of the four pivotal events in the Buddha’s life and the four places where miracles took place.Pilgrimage to these holy sites continues to be a central part of Buddhist practice today.
This resource explores four pilgrimage sites of the life of the Buddha through visual images, video, text and primary source activities geared toward high school students.