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A Pilgrim's Companion - Readings Buddhist Texts to Enhance a Pilgrimage to the Sacred Sites

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Item Code: NAY005
Author: Ken and Visakha Kawasaki
Publisher: Maha Bodhi Book Agency
Language: English
Edition: 2020
ISBN: 9789384721596
Pages: 330
Other Details 8.50 X 5.50 inch
Weight 430 gm
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Book Description
Literature to assist and enrich pilgrimage is as old as the endeavor of pilgrimage itself. The encouragement to visit places connected with the Buddha's life goes back to the Buddha himself, and the first person we know to have gone to the sacred places was King Ashoka, who went to Buddha Gaya in 256 BCE and to Lumbini a few years later. According to the Asokavadana, this pious king was guided to and around the sacred places by his preceptor Upagupta, and, if this story is true, he would not have needed a guide book.

However, we know that later pilgrims to the holy places did take such books with them and, sometimes, other literature, too.

The recently rediscovered The Flower Ornament Guide to the Diamond Throne (Vajrasanavidesa Amalakapuspanama) by Buddha-Indian Rig-Veda (1250-1311) is a practical and detailed guide book to Buddha Gaya. It tells the reader what to see and the significance of each place. In 1202, the Japanese monk Myer Shonin (1173-1232) decided to make a pilgrimage to India, and, as part of his preparations for this heroic undertaking, he actually tried to compile a route map by calculating the distances involved and the time it would take if he set out from Chang-an, the Chinese capital. His calculations are to be found in the Dominion shiryo. He wrote; "I am unable to contain my affection and longing for India, the land where the Buddha was born, so I have drawn up plans for the journey thither. Oh, how I wish I were there! If! walked seven long rig a day, I could reach India in 1130 days, arriving on the twentieth day of the second month of the fourth year of my travels. If I walked five rigs a day, I could at long last arrive on the tenth day of the sixth month of the fifth year, a total of 1600 days." Myer was not making a complete stab in the dark; he had carefully studied Faxian's and Xuanzang's accounts of their pilgrimages to India and had, at least, some idea of what was involved. Unfortunately, he was never able to embark on his pilgrimage, but, in trying to draw a map, he was following the example of earlier devout Buddhists. During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), hundreds of monks made the long and perilous journey from China to India, taking route guides with them. The m well-known of these is The W ~ to India (Titian Tiding), which gives distance and direction of all the towns and landmarks from Wu. Shan in China to nalanda in India. Sources tell us that, in 966, Chinese monk, Xingjian, and his companions were guided during the pilgrimage to India by a map. Unfortunately, this map has survived to the present.

Ken and Visakha Kawasaki's A Pilgrim's Companion is only most recent of an ancient literary genus meant for Buddhist pilgrim It is not a guide book, there are already several of these. Rather resembles the muttipotthaka that Sri Lankan pilgrims used to Carl) ancient times. These little books listed the virtues of the Buddha that pilgrims could read and contemplate them while on the road at the sacred places. A pilgrimage should be more than j sightseeing, photo ops, and buying souvenirs for friends back hour It should also be seen as a unique opportunity to contempt Buddha's Dharma in the actual places where the Buddha deliver it. The Kawasaki’s' useful and inspiring book has been written w this understanding in mind.

As we were planning our pilgrimage in 2001, we relied on Venerable S. Dhammika's excellent Middle Lane; Middle W'9' to learn about the sites we would be visiting, but we thought, 'Wouldn't it be good to read some suttas the Buddha taught in the places we visit?" We soon realized that no one had compiled such a collection, and finding suitable readings for each site was not easy. We satisfied ourselves with several obvious selections and made photocopies from various anthologies to carry with us. On that pilgrimage, we had the great privilege of traveling with Venerable Annalisa from Maharashtra and Venerable Nandobatha from Burma, so, at some sites, they recited the suttas in Pali, and we read the English aloud, which greatly enhanced our pilgrimage. We will never forget the joy of sitting in front of the Dhammarajika Stupa in Sarnath reading "Setting in Motion the Wheel of the Dharma." By the end of the pilgrimage, however, our loose pages were dog-eared and disorganized.

We repeated the exercise for our pilgrimage in 2007, including more suttas, and our friends appreciated them. Again, however, the stapled pages were once more filed and forgotten. A few years later, we started developing a Buddhist ESL textbook, Merit, based on a pilgrimage to the sacred sites, and, in one of the early lessons, the pilgrims received a book of readings titled A Pilgrim's Companion, but it was still not much more than an idea and a cover.

For our pilgrimage in 2012, we collected more readings, edited them, arranged them according to the places we would visit, and printed a copy for each pilgrim in our small group. This became the prototype of A Pilgrim's Companion, which, to our knowledge, is unique, with readings arranged for a pilgrimage. Our group meditated together at each site, including the Mahabodhi Vihara, Fluvanna, Hidaka’s Mango Grove, the ruins of Nalanda University,Jetavana, and the Mahaparinibbana Stupa.

For the present volume, we have added many more readings, deleted a few, and refined the writing. Some are teachings which the Buddha gave at the site, while others tell stories related to that place. The one exception is Lauriya Nandangar, where there is an Ashokan pillar but no incidents whatsoever connected to the life of the Buddha. For that site, we chose a Jataka which occurs in an unidentified forest. For the city of Baranasi, we have included a Jataka which begins, as many do, "Long, long ago, when Brahmadatta, was reigning in Varanasi ... " and relates a tale about the king of a previous eon.

The daily meditations are based on a format we have used since the founding of "Students of the Lotus" in Japan in 1983. Each session begins with taking refuge and the five precepts and reciting homage to the Triple Gem. In a group sitting, a leader might read the longer reading aloud, and the group recites the reflection. After silent meditation, either sitting or walking, the session closes with the dedication of merit.

The selections in this collection are almost all excerpts, which have been edited for ease of reading. The Buddha' teachings, preserved in the Pali, were originally transmitted orally, and contain a great deal of repetition to serve as an aid to memorization. Also, the Buddha often used a number of terms differing only slightly so that all nuances were included. The style of some translations can be dauntingly dry and ponderous, which is not in keeping with the inspiration and joy of a pilgrimage. We recall a comment we overheard in a traditionally Buddhist country. When a local devotee was asked whether she had enjoyed the Dharma lesson, she sternly replied, 'We just listen to the Dharma. We don't enjoy it!" We, however, feel that, especially when visiting these sacred places, the Dharma is to be savored, Pilgrims should not be troubled by technical footnotes and labored expressions.

Book's Contents and Sample Pages

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