"Dharma Yatra (Pilgrimage) is very important for Buddhists. When we visit these sacred sites, we are reminded of the Master, Lord Buddha. It develops in us a strong sense of compassion. Ideally, one should be a better person when one returns, otherwise it is not useful, a waste of money and time." - The Dalai Lama (In an exclusive interview given for the book 'Walking with the Buddha', co-authored by Shantum Seth)
This 18-days pilgrimage includes attending the 14-days Kalachakra Teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Bodhgaya.
Our Journey begins in the historic and ethnically diverse capital of Delhi, which has long been the seat of many faiths and cultures. We will fly from Delhi to Gorakhpur and then travel by coach to Kushinagar.
We travel on an air-conditioned motor coach from Kushinagar to Varanasi. Varanasi also known as the 'City of Light', is on the banks of the sacred Ganges River. Varanasi is one of the holiest places in India and is considered by Hindus to be a most auspicious place to die. The old city of Varanasi, where spirituality and commerce mingle, is a maze of narrow streets shared with pilgrims, locals, sacred cows and Hindu sadhus (holy men). Ghats along the river are teeming with people, sounds and enormous activity.
Our pilgrimage takes us to Sarnath, where the Buddha gave his first teachings to his first 5 disciples on the Middle Way, the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path and Non-self thereby 'turning the wheel of the law'. We will also visit the fine archaeological museum, which houses the Ashoka pillar and the Lion capital from the 3rd century BC and the famous teaching Buddha from the 5th century AD.
This journey takes us to Bodhgaya to attend and listen to the Dalai Lama's Kalachakara teachings. His Holiness the Dalai Lama will offer Kalachakra teachings at Bodhgaya, the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment. It is here where Siddhartha Gautama sat under a Bodhi tree (Ficus Religiosa) and meditated, determined not to get up until he gained enlightenment. Still standing is the Bodhi tree said to be a descendent from the original tree. We spend the day in sitting and walking meditation, in and around the Mahabodhi Temple, listening to stories and teachings. We shall visit some of the best of the outlying temples erected by Buddhist practitioners from around the world, especially from Japan, Thailand, Tibet and Bhutan. We shall also visit the village of Uruvela, across the Neeranjara River, where the young girl Sujata gave the monk Guatama rice pudding to end his period of austerities before he became the Buddha. We shall visit the dwelling hut of a local villager who met Shantum as a 12 year old boy 23 years ago.
We will also travel to the lovely hillside city of Rajgir, the capital of the Magadha Empire at the time of the Buddha and the site of the first Buddhist council. We shall visit the Bamboo Grove which was the site of the Buddha’s first monastery and watch the sun set from Vulture Peak (Gridhakuta mountain) that the Buddha was especially fond of. We also have an opportunity to visit Jivaka's mango grove (Jivaka was the Buddha's physician) and Satadhara (seven hot springs) where it is said the Buddha came to relieve his bodily pains. En route we shall visit Nalanda, one of the world’s greatest universities founded in the 5th century, the Great stupa built on the relics of Shariputra (Buddha’s foremost disciple), extensive monastic ruins and the archaeological museum that houses many of the finds of Rajgir and Nalanda. During its peak in the 7th century, Nalanda was home to 10,000 monks and scholars.
After the teachings we will fly back to Delhi to close the Bodhi pilgrimage.