Although it is certainly not an exclusively Buddhist concept, following the Noble Path is the dominant metaphor for spiritual cultivation in the Buddha Dharma. It is not surprising, then, that pilgrimage has been an important practice among Buddhists for over two millennia.
While Lumbini, Bodh Gaya, Sarnath, Kushinara, Sravasti, Rajgir, Sankassa, and Vaishali ―the places in which the Buddha lived and preached― are the most ancient pilgrimage destinations for Buddhists, there are many others in Afghanistan, Cambodia, China, Tibet, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.
A pilgrimage site is not intrinsically ‘holy’. It is made sacred by the pure intention of those who undertake the practice. HH the XIV Dalai Lama has said: “The faithful set out in hopes of finding virtue and accumulating merit. […] Along the road, they undertake hardship with no thought of material reward. Their every step, every movement, becomes filled with a sense of spiritual progress.”
With the intention of honoring the millions of brothers and sisters who have walked to Santiago de Compostela, the foremost Christian pilgrimage destination since the eighth century, I will be undertaking a pilgrimage-retreat on the Camino de Santiago during the month of May. Along the Way, I will meditate, recite OM MANI PEME HUM, and offer prayers that all beings, human and non-human, be safe and happy, and that the union of wisdom and compassion manifest in our hearts.
I will dedicate this pilgrimage most specifically to the success of the efforts of hundreds of thousands of Galicians who labor untiringly for the abolition of bullfighting, under the maxim “Galiza, mellor sen touradas. (Galicia, better without bullfighting.). A tortura no é arte nen cultura. (Torture is neither art nor culture.)”
I invite you to join me in this pilgrimage, wherever you may be. Please consider walking every day in May around your neighborhood, or just sit quietly, reciting at least one mala (108 repetitions) of OM MANI PEME HUM, and dedicating the merit to the abolition of the cruel ‘sport’ of bullfighting. If you are so inclined, please consider contributing here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/somos-mas-campana-antitaurina Thank you!
May all be free from suffering and the causes of suffering!