The International Buddhist Confederation (IBC), under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture, organized a conference on August 1 to discuss the “Meaning of Buddhist Pilgrimage”. The conference aimed to bring together young scholars and researchers to learn more about the different dimensions of pilgrimage as perceived by young people today. The conference, held in New Delhi, brought together more than 70 young scholars from around the world.
The conference was organized to provide a welcoming and collegial environment for young scholars to share their work, engage with each other, and contribute to the field of Buddhist scholarship.
Indian academic institutions and the Indian government have been working in recent years to promote Buddhist pilgrimage, especially to the eight major Buddhist pilgrimage sites. The first four are: Lumbini, the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, who would become the Buddha; Bodh Gaya, the place of his awakening; Sarnath, where he gave his first teachings; and Kushinagar, where the Buddha died. A second set of four major sites includes: Rajgir, site of the Buddha's taming of a wild elephant and later home to Nalanda University and the important Mahayana site of Vulture Peak; Vaishali, a frequent stop in the Buddha's teaching career; Shravasti, the home of the Buddha's famous "twin miracle"; and Sankassa, where the Buddha is reputed to have returned, having taught the Abhidhamma Pitaka in Trayastrimsa. All of these sites are in modern India, with the exception of Lumbini, Nepal.
A scholar present at the conference told reporters, “Pilgrimage to the holy places has two aspects. One is physical and the other is mental. According to the Buddha, the mental aspect is an act of devotion and faith. By visiting these holy places and looking at them with feelings of awe and reverence, one is able to purify one's thought, word and deed. (The footprint)
Delhi University researcher Jigmet Olden spoke of the "Historic Buddhist pilgrimage sites of Guru Padmasambhava in Ladakh". In his speech, he said, “Pilgrimage is an essential part of Buddhism because it offers Buddhists the opportunity to deepen their spiritual practice, connect with their faith, and cultivate mindfulness and compassion. It is also seen as a way to purify negative karma and gain merit or positive spiritual energy towards their path to eventual enlightenment. (The footprint)
“Since time immemorial, Buddhists have traditionally made an annual pilgrimage to the most important Buddhist sacred sites,” Olden added. “These holy places are revered as places of power and the physical manifestation of the Buddha's teachings. By visiting these places, they believe they can absorb this spiritual energy and connect more deeply with the Buddha's teachings. Of the many Buddhist pilgrimage sites, those associated with Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) hold unique significance. (The footprint)
The main guest of the conference was the President of the Indian Trust for Rural Heritage and Development, SK Mishra. In addition to research presentations from young scholars, a keynote address was delivered by Prof. Kuldeep Chand Agnihotri, Vice President of Sahitya and Sanskriti Akademi, Haryana. Professor Agnihotri offered his perspective on the importance of Buddhist pilgrimage and its impact on cultural heritage.
The Minister Counselor of the Sri Lankan High Commission, GKG Sarath Godakanda spoke about the importance of the conference and its relevance to the global Buddhist community. Other dignitaries present at the event included Minister Counselor of the Embassy of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, Tin Tin Htwe Win, and Deputy Chief of Mission of the Lao Embassy, Keo Sengdavong.
IBC Chief Executive Abhijit Halder said, “Seeing the motivation and enthusiasm, IBC will continue these conferences on many similar topics, engaging with young scholars, in the coming months.” . (The footprint)
Ajmal Shah, senior assistant professor of archeology at the University of Kashmir, spoke of the many excavations he had been involved in, including those at Farmana, Rakhigarhi in Haryana and Junnar in Maharashtra.