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The Heart of Pilgrimage: Sacred Sites and Practices In Buddhist Traditions
Dates: Mar 25, 2022 - Mar 28, 2022
Days: Fri - Mon (3 Nights)

Instructor(s): Justin Kelley

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When the Buddha finally laid down underneath the Sal trees of modern-day Kushinagar, just before he took his last breath, he encouraged his disciples to visit the sacred sites associated with his life. He said that by doing so, the hearts of the faithful would be inspired and uplifted. In the 2,500 years since this occurred, a profound tradition of pilgrimage has emerged throughout Buddhist traditions. This course is an exploration of what Buddhist pilgrimage means both in its historical context, as well as our lived experience today.

Pilgrimage is perhaps best understood through the lens of confluence. It is a confluence of meditation and activity of stillness and movement, of people from different cultures, of different interpretations of the Buddhist faith, of the ancient and modern world. During our time together, we will look at these different modes of confluence all with an eye toward how we can infuse our lives with greater meaning and purpose. In this course, we will:

• virtually “visit” the four primary sacred sites associated with the Buddha: Lumbini (birth), Bodhgaya (enlightenment), Sarnath (first teaching), and Kushinagar (death);

• explore a range of interrelated topics such as refuge, devotion, the three jewels, contemplation, place, ecology, and embodiment;

• engage in a variety of contemplative and experiential activities, both within formal meditation and daily life practice; and

• undertake a pilgrimage to the Leverett Peace Pagoda (weather dependent), exploring the various elements of pilgrimage in application.

Grounded in Justin’s six principles of pilgrimage—awareness, movement, education, kindness, inclusivity, and nature—this course will be contemplative, experiential, and interactive. In service of this approach, during the weekend we will engage in periods of silent meditation practice, experimental activities, and contemplative dialogue.

Noble Silence: 

Noble silence will be observed following the evening session through breakfast the following morning.

Experience Level:

This course is suitable for both beginning and experienced practitioners.

Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion:

Three spaces will be held for self-identified BIPOC participants until eight weeks before this course begins when they will be released generally. Therefore, we encourage you to join the waitlist even if the course appears full as additional spaces may become available. Please see our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) policies for more information.

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.