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Exploring Sacred Paths: Pilgrimage in Buddhist Traditions
Dates: Oct 20, 2020 - Nov 12, 2020
Online Course

Instructor(s): Justin Kelley

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Just prior to entering into parinirvana, it is said that the Buddha encouraged his disciples to go on pilgrimage after his death to the sacred sites associated with his life. For over 2500 years practitioners from every corner of the Buddhist world have gone on pilgrimage. As a result, pilgrimage has both a rich literary history and a diverse array of practices associated with it. 

This course is an inquiry into what pilgrimage means, both in its ideal form as described in Indian and Tibetan Buddhist writings, as well as how the principles of pilgrimage can infuse our lives with greater meaning and purpose. While investigating this topic, we will: 

  • “visit” sacred pilgrimage sites of Buddhist traditions—such as Bodhgāya and Sarnatha in India, and Samye Chimpu and Tsogyal Lhatso in Tibet—through multimedia presentations.
  • explore traditional Buddhist materials. 
  • engage in contemplative and relational practices. 
  • elucidate the meaning of pilgrimage through our collective wisdom. 
  • begin to reimagine our everyday activities in and through the lens of pilgrimage.

Our investigation will include materials related to the historical Buddha, as well as other historical Buddhist figures, such as the Tibetan female master Yeshe Tosgyal and the Chinese pilgrim-explorer Xuanzang.

Grounded in Justin’s six principles of pilgrimage—awareness, movement, education, kindness, inclusivity, and nature—this course is both experiential and interactive. Participants will be invited to engage in weekly exercises that will inform the unfolding of our sessions together and, while gathered, we will engage in dialogue in service of more fully understanding the experience of pilgrimage. 

This course is appropriate for people of all walks of life and stages of practice. The only requirement is an open heart.


Online Course: Our intention is to build sangha and provide meaningful virtual interactions with each other and teachers in our online courses. When registering for an online course, please note that you should plan to commit to attending all scheduled sessions. The schedule of Zoom meetings for this course (shown in US Eastern Time) is as follows:

Meeting Schedule: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7:00 – 8:30 PM, between October 20 and November 12

Meeting Dates: Tuesday October 20, 27, November 3, 10 and Thursday October 22, 29, November 5, 12

Please check the time of the group meetings in your timezone here, and please note that sessions will not be recorded.

  • Raised on a farm in rural Massachusetts, Justin Kelley spent ten years living in and around Tibetan refugee communities in India and Nepal, studying Tibetan language, Buddhist philosophy, and meditative practices. In 2010, he founded Sacred Path, a conscious travel company specializing in pilgrimage to Buddhist sacred sites. He teaches throughout North America and South Asia in dharma centers and university settings. Justin is currently finishing his PhD under the tutelage of Dr. Anne C. Klein at Rice University, where he is writing a dissertation that explores the life and teachings of two fourteenth century Tibetan masters, Longchen Rabjam and Rangjung Dorje.