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Pilgrimage as Path: Finding Inspiration in a Buddhist Tradition
Dates: Nov 01, 2021 - Nov 22, 2021
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. Claiming that it would uplift the hearts of the faithful, for over 2500 years practitioners from every corner of the Buddhist world have gone on pilgrimage. This has resulted in a profound tradition of pilgrimage. Often misunderstood, pilgrimage is not some esoteric, difficult to understand set of practices. Instead, it is a highly applicable lens that can directly inform how we live our lives. 

During our time together, we will approach the topic of pilgrimage from two angles. First, we will learn about pilgrimage in its traditional context, exploring how pilgrimage evolved over time, and drawing inspiration from this profound tradition. This inquiry will include:  

  • taking virtual “visits” to sacred pilgrimage sites of Buddhist traditions in India, including Bodhgaya (the place of the Buddha’s awakening), Sarnath (the place of the Buddha’s first teaching); Shravasti (the place where the Buddha spent many retreats); and Kushinagar (the place of the Buddha’s parinibbana)
  • exploring Buddhist writings on the topic of pilgrimage 
  • listening to contemporary voices on the topic of pilgrimage 

The second element of the course will focus on applying the principles of pilgrimage to our everyday lives. Taking a deeply experiential approach, we will engage in both contemplative and relational practices, helping each other explore pilgrimage further and begin to reimagine our everyday activities in and through the lens of pilgrimage.

Grounded in Justin’s six principles of pilgrimage—awareness, movement, education, kindness, inclusivity, and nature—this course is both experiential and relational. 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: This course will be hosted on the Zoom video conferencing platform and closed captions are available. 


Our intention is to build sangha and provide meaningful virtual interactions with each other and with teachers in our online programs. When registering for this course, please plan to attend as many sessions as possible. 


Meeting Time: Mondays, 7:00 – 9:00 pm EST between November 1 and November 22

Meeting Dates: November 1, 8, 15, 22


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


Registration fees for online courses are nonrefundable after the course start date. Cancellations prior to the start date of the course will incur a $25 admin fee. Thank you for your understanding.

As we work to become a more inclusive, equitable, and diverse community, we invite feedback/suggestions you may have regarding ways that we can make participation in the program more accessible and welcoming; please email us at contact@buddhistinquiry.org.

  • 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.


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