October 23, 2006

"Meeting the Buddha"

On Pilgrimage in Buddhist India
by Molly Emma Aitken

From Booklist
The earliest Buddhists were wanderers or "spiritual goers-forth," as Andrew Schelling writes in his engaging introduction to this unique collection of Buddhist pilgrimage literature. India is inlaid with holy places, from mountains, caves, and rivers to gardens, temples, and monasteries, and has long been a mecca for spiritual seekers of many persuasions. Buddhists and kindred spirits attracted to Buddhist teachings and practice find that traveling, especially walking, is a form of knowing, so journeying to such sacred sites as Lumbini, Buddha's birthplace; Bodh Gaya, where he attained enlightenment; Sarnath, where he first taught; and Sravasti and Sankasya, places of miracles and the commitment to spreading the dharma, are invaluable steps along the path to wisdom. Vivid and revelatory writings of pilgrims both historic and modern are gathered together in this handsomely designed and quite engrossing volume. This blend of the past with the present, the outer with the inner, reflects Buddhism's vitality. Modern writers include the Dalai Lama, Walter del Mare, Allen Ginsberg, Peter Matthiessen, Gary Snyder, Anne Waldman, and Kate Wheeler. Donna Seaman

Meaningful Quotes
For most human beings, for tens of thousands of years, home was quite literally 'on the hoof.' The hunter, the nomad, the rambler and finally the pilgrim. Perhaps it is no more than swift human intellect and our proud, strong legs following a primordial hunger to see what's around the bed, over the hill, or just upriver.

To some, this life of rambling and migration takes such a hold of the imagination that it comes to seem the one life worth leading - if only for some brief period, if only once in a lifetime.

For the pilgrim the road is home: Reaching your destination seems nearly inconsequential.

"If we look at the path, we do not see the sky." Native American saying

The Pilgrim resolves that the one who returns will not be the same person as the one who set out. Pilgrimage is a passage for the reckless and subtle. The pilgrim must be prepared to shed the husk of personality or even the body like a worn out coat.