The eight main Buddhist sacred places of India

By Matthieu Ricard on January 22, 2011

From December 9th to 26th, a group of pilgrims, led by Yangsi Khyentse Rinpoche and Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche, visited the 8 major Buddhist sacred places of Nepal and India, to consecrate 8 Stupas that were built, one in each place, in fulfillment of the wishes of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991). About 60 monks and another 50 disciples from a dozen countries joined the journey.

The Buddha himself spoke about four main places worthy of pilgrimage for his followers.

• Lumbini, his birth place, in Nepal
• Bodh-Gaya, the place in India where he achieved enlightenment
• Sarnath (near Varanasi), where he delivered his first teaching.
• Kusinagar, where he passed into Parinirvana.

Four other sites also became considered to be important places of pilgrimage, thus defining ‟Eight Buddhist Sacred Places”. The four latter ones are:

• Shravasti, where the Buddha spent the largest amount of time and conducted 22 rainy season summer retreats. This is also the place where began performing a series of miracles to convince skeptics.
• Rajgir, where the Buddha taught the Perfection of Wisdom and subdued an angry elephant through his compassion.
• Sankasia, where the Buddha is said to have descended from Tushita Pure Land after having taught there his deceased mother during the three month period of a summer retreat
• Vaishali, where the Buddha ordained the first female nuns and where he received an offering of honey from a monkey.

Over the next weeks, we will offer short presentations of these sacred places and of our journey.

The Great Stupa of Bodhgaya