Wednesday 19 September 2012

History of pilgrimage

“Anada, there are four places the sight of which will arouse strong emotion in those with faith – which four places? Here the Tathagata was born this is the first. Here the Tathagata attained enlightenment- this is the second. Here the Tathagata set in motion the wheel of the Dhamma – this is the third. Here the Tathagata attained final Nirvana without remainder – This is the fourth.”

The modern pilgrim need to have some idea about the religious, historical and archaeological background of each of the sacred places.

The first historical record going to pilgrimage is King Asoka, third emperor of the Mauryan Dynasty, He was crowned in 270 BCE. In 260 BCE , he went on a pilgrimage to Bodhagaya and ten years later to Lumbani. He erected huge pillars used to record the mark various sacred sites, Patna to Lumbani.

“I given up the usual kingly habit going on pleasure trip and started going on pilgrimage, Dhamma tour”
King Asok

Later the pilgrims coming from China was the monk Fa Hein in 399 BCE. He was one of the truly great travel adventure in History. He is not speak indian language, nothing to guide or sustain them but their faith. He arrived back in China 414 CE.

“All things are possible to the sincere of heart, and all things can be accomplished if a man has determination.”
Fa Hien

Another pilgrim was the famous monk Huien Tsaing. He arrived at Nalanda and settled down to five years of study and Teaching (635- 640 CE) during which he visited BodhGaya and other parts of India. Huien Tsiang wrote pilgrimages experience a book of details, remain to this day one of the most important sources of information about India during the seventh century.

The last pilgrim to see the sacred places in India before their destruction in the thirteenth century was the Tibetan monk, Dharmasvamin. In 1234 CE, Dhamasvamin start the pilgrimage. In 1263 CE, Dharmasvamin returned safely to Tibet. Dharmasvamin’s biography gives us Buddhism’s tragic end in India.

“Then he arose, made strong by the pure meal,
And bent his foot steps where a great tree grew,
The Bodhi tree, thenceforward in all years
Never to fade, and ever to be kept
In homage of the world, beneath whose leaves
It was ordained the Truth should come to Buddha,
Which Now the master knew; wherefore he went
With measured pace, steadfast, majestical,
Unto the Tree of wisdom. Oh, ye worlds Rejoice!
Our lords wended unto the Tree!”
Sir Edwin Arnold
Light of Asia.


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