8 Holy Buddhist Pilgrimage Sites – Part 2
5. KUSHINAGAR, INDIA
Kushinagar (or Kusinara) was previously known by the name of Kushawati. This place holds its significance as the site where Buddha Shakyamuni entered Clear Light or Mahaparinirvana.
In 544 BCE, the Buddha was on a journey to the village of Kushinagar when he realised that his end was near. He told Ananda, who had served him for 20 years, to prepare a bed for him with its head pointing towards the north, between two sal trees. Before he passed away the Buddha said his final words to his disciples, “Listen, Bhikkus, I say this: all conditioned things are subject to decay, strive with diligence for your liberation.” He then passed into Mahaparinirvana. The body of this great master was cremated on the seventh day. His relics were later enshrined in stupas across Asia.
Today, thousands of pilgrims from all over the world visit Kushinagar each year. Visitors can see 6.10 meter-long statue of the Buddha inside the Parinirvana Stupa. Made of monolith red-sand stone, it represents the ‘Dying Buddha.’ Just behind the Parinirvana Temple, we can find the Nirvana Chaitya, the main stupa which was excavated in 1876. In the front of the temple, the great Nirvana Statue of Buddha was installed. Other important sites include the Ramabhar Stupa, the cremation place of Buddha Shakyamuni, and a colossal statue of Lord Buddha at the Matha Kuar Shrine.
How to get there?
The nearest airport is Gorakhpur Airport, approximately 44 kilometres from the pilgrimage site. There is no train station in Kushinagar. Baitalpur Station is the nearest station where you can continue your journey with other modes of transportation. From Baitalpur or other major cities of the contry, visitors can easily find regular buses to Kushinagar. The national highway number 28 connects Kushinagar with other important destinations in India.
India visa requirements
To enter India, foreign nationals are required to possess a valid international travel document (i.e. passport) with a valid visa obtained from an Indian Embassy or Consulate before travelling to India. Currently, the Indian government offers two types of visas for tourists, a traditional tourist visa or an electronically issued e-tourist visa.
6. WU TAI SHAN, CHINA
Located in the northeastern side of Shanxi province, People’s Republic of China, Wu Tai Shan is a popular pilgrimage destination for Buddhists. Wu Tai Shan, which means Five-Peaked Mountain, is often referred to as the ‘first among the four great mountains’ in China. The basis of a passage in the Avatamsaka Sutra describes Wu Tai Shan as the abodes of many bodhisattvas, particularly the domain of Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, or known in Chinese as Wen Shu. It is said that the Bodhisattva of Wisdom frequently appears on the mountain, taking the form of ordinary pilgrims, monks or most often unusual five-coloured clouds.
If you are a temple lover, you will easily fall in love with Wu Tai Shan as this place is home to dozens of ancient temples and monasteries. These sacred temples were built on this site from the 1st Century CE to the early 20th Century CE. The largest temple in the area is Nanshan Temple which was built during the time of the Yuan Dynasty. Other major temples in the area include Xiantong Temple, Tayuan Temple and Pusading Temple.
These temples are in harmony with the mountain landscape. They are situated amongst the thick forests of vertical pines, poplar and willow trees. For the most part of the year, snow covers the roofs of the temples. In this place, visitors can witness perfect fusion between Buddhist culture and natural landscape. Wu Tai Shan was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.
How to get there?
The nearest airport to Wu Tai Shan is in Taiyuan, the largest city in Shanxi Province. There are flights to/from Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai to this airport. Visitors can take a 4-5 hour bus ride to Wu Tai Shan from Taiyuan East Bus Station. If you want to reach Wu Tai Shan by train, there is a small train station called Wu Tai Shan. However, this train station is not located in Wu Tai Shan but in the city of Shahe, about 50 kilometers from Wu Tai Shan itself. Obtaining a train ticket from this station may be difficult. There are buses and taxis that serve the route from Wu Tai Shan to Taiyuan or Datong, another city in Shanxi Province.
China visa requirements
Foreign nationals who want to visit China must obtain a visa from one of the Chinese Embassies or Consulates abroad before entering the country. Citizens of countries listed in the agreements on mutual visa exemptions between China and their respective countries, may enter China without a tourist visa.
7. SERA CHODING HERMITAGE, TIBET
This hermitage is the main retreat centre of Lama Tsongkhapa (1357 – 1419), the founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. Lama Tsongkhapa revived Buddhist teachings and propagated the Middle Way View of Nagarjuna. He was a famous teacher as well as a notable Tibetan religious philosopher. Thousands of Tibetans were inspired by Lama Tsongkhapa’s pure monastic discipline, known as Vinaya, and his compassionate way of life and liberating wisdom.
Situated in Lhasa prefecture of the Tibetan Autonomous Region, China, Sera Choding Hermitage has been the venue for many historic events associated with Lama Tsongkhapa. There is a yellow house in this hermitage complex, which was originally built by Lama Tsongkhapa himself. This ‘yellow retreat hut’ was Lama Tsongkhapa’s favourite meditating place. In this place, he wrote ‘Great Commentary on the Prajnamula’. Sera Choding Hermitage is also the place where Lama Tsongkhapa entrusted his tantric teachings to Je Sherap Senge, the founder of the Tantric Colleges.
How to get there?
Sera Choding Hermitage is located about 5 kilometers from the famous Jokhang Temple in the northern suburb of Lhasa City. Visitors can take either buses or taxis from Jokhang Temple to Sera Choding Hermitage.
Tibet visa requirements
Officially, Tibet is one of the provinces in China, and therefore a valid visa to enter China is required to enter Tibet (except if you travel to this region from Nepal).
In addition to this visa, additional travel documents are required to enter Tibet. There are four main permits required for foreigners to travel to Tibet: Tibet Group Visa, Tibet Travel Permit (TTP), Alien’s Travel Permit (ATP) and military permit. A visa to enter China, as well as either the Tibet Group Visa, or Tibet Travel Permit are compulsory for all types of tours, whereas the other two are only required if you travel to restricted areas like the Everest Base Camp, Mt Kailash, Ranwu and so forth.
8. ANURADHAPURA, SRI LANKA
The ancient city of Anuradhapura was first established in 5th Century BCE. Anuradhapura, the heart of Sri Lankan civilisation, was one of the greatest monastic cities of the ancient world. At that time, this city was home to tens of thousands of monks and dozens of monasteries. Today, this place is still visited by numerous pilgrims from all over the world.
Until the 13th Century CE, the history of Buddhism in Sri Lanka was affiliated with the existence of important Anuradhapura monasteries. The Mahavihara (Great Monastery), the biggest monastery in Anuradhapura, was built by Mahinda and his followers. Mahinda was a Theravadan missionary who brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Anuradhapura is also connected by the eight-mile pilgrim’s path to Mihintale, a place where Mahinda first preached and where visitors can visit a stupa that was previously excavated. In Anuradhapura visitors can also see the Sri Maha Bodhi (Sacred Bodhi Tree) that was grown from a sapling of the original Bodhi tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, India.
In Anuradhapura, visitors can experience a beautiful convergence of the modern and the archaic. The best time to visit this place is in May and June, when the locals celebrate the festivals of Wesak and Poson. On the Poson Festival day, the Sri Lankan Buddhists commemorate the arrival of Indian monk Mahinda in Sri Lanka. At such festivals, Anuradhapura is visited by hundreds and thousands of devotees.
How to get there?
From Colombo, you can reach Anuradhapura by taxis, tuktuk, buses or trains. The drive from Colombo to Anuradhapura is approximately 5 hours by bus or 4 hours by taxi or private vehicle. It is possible to get to Anuradhapura using the A9 highway to Kandy. There are buses that travel along this highway too. You can also reach Anuradhapura using a train from Colombo Fort Station.
Sri Lanka visa requirements
Visitors must obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (“ETA”) prior to arrival or on arrival to Sri Lanka. Holders of ETA from all countries, except the three exempted countries (i.e., Singapore, Maldives and the Seychelles) will need a valid permit to stay for 30 days from the date of their arrival.
For more interesting information:
- The benefits of offering light
- What you must know about China
- Why Visit Holy Pilgrimages?
- All About Manjushri / 关于文殊菩萨
- The Mind and Lama Tsongkhapa
- Nagarjuna of the Middle Way Philosophy
- TRANSCRIPT: TSONGKHAPA explained
- I visited the holy Jokhang Temple, Lhasa 2008
- Vajravarahi Caves in China
- 6 Incredibly Stunning Big Buddha Statues in Malaysia!
- The Miraculous Vajrayogini of Ditsa Monastery
- Heruka’s eye (胜乐金刚之眼)
- Ganden Sumtseling Monastery the beautiful
- 74 Grand Statues of the World
- I VISITED GADEN for the first time WITH AN OXYGEN TANK
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