Buddhist Holy Places

The Nilajan River

Prince Siddhartha sought enlightenment through many years of ascetic life. Despite undergoing such hardships as limiting his diet to one grain of barley a day, he was unable to find enlightenment. At the age of thirty-one, he decided to renounce his futile asceticism and went to the Nile Jan River to wash away the dirt on his body. There he accepted food offered to him by a shepherdess named Sujata. After meditating for forty-nine days at Gaya Hill under the Bodhi tree, he finally became enlightened.

The cave of ascetic practice – Snow Mountain

Prior to the Buddha’s full enlightenment, he diligently practiced an ascetic life in a cave on Snow Mountain. Gradually reducing his food intake until his body became so weak and emaciated that his sinews and bones showed. As he was unable to find full enlightenment by practicing austerity in this way, he began to take food to regain his strength.

The Enlightenment Stupa (The Great Stupa of Bodhagaya)

The Enlightenment Stupa was built with bricks and stones and has undergone various rebuilds over many years. The four small stupas on the four corners at the top, date back to the 14th century approximately and were erected by Burmese builders. The oldest Buddha stupa can be traced back to the early Gupta period.

The Vairasana (The Diamond Seat)

To commemorate the place in Boddhagaya where the Buddha attained full enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, a Vajrasana (Diamond seat) was erected. According to what is said, two hundred and fifty years after the Buddha’s passing, King Asoka went to pay homage to the holy remains and erected a temple beside the tree. He erected a diamond to illustrate the diamond-like firmness and sharpness of the Buddha’s meditative contemplation and wisdom practiced under the Bodhi tree; a practice which could cut off all defilements and produce full illumination. Now all that remains are the remnants of a rebuilt version of the Diamond Seat dating back to a later period of time.

Bodhgaya

Bodhgaya is six miles south of the town of Gaya. The Buddha attained full enlightenment there under a Bodhi tree. This place is the most important center for Buddhists going on a pilgrimage. The tree has been replaced three times, the present one, being the fourth generation, is located near a stone railing and a temple.

SARNATH (ISIPATANA)

The site where the Buddha gave his first sermon to his first five disciples was at Sarnath (Deer Park). The location is marked with a stone Buddha sculpture from the Gupta period (5th century) and represents the refinement and elegance of all the Indian Buddha images. The Buddha is sitting in full lotus posture on the Dharma seat and is holding his two hands in front of his breast, one hand opposite the other. Between the fingers, there is the characteristic mark of the Buddha, namely the formation of a Web (all the Buddhas possess thirty-two specific marks, and this is one of them). In the center of the lower part of the precious seat is a carving of the Dharma wheel which symbolizes the Buddha expounding the Dharma. On both sides, there are the five Bhikshus and two followers, a mother and a son. In front of the Dharma wheel is a pair of crouching deer indicating that the place where this happened was Deer Park.

RAJAGAHA

The Buddha stayed in this place for many years and preached some of the most important sermons there. The LOTUS SUTRA being one of them.

Jetavana Vihara

The Jetavana Vihara was in ancient Sravasti. It was built by the elder Anathapindika and offered by him to the Buddha. Now it has become a public park where the Bodhi tree, the foundations of the monastery, the stupa of the Buddha, and other structures still remain. In recent times, the site of the Jetavana Vihara has undergone excavation. Buildings dating from the time of the Gupta kings of the first century up to the tenth century have been unearthed.

VELUVANARAMA

”Bamboo Grove”. A Monastery and park constructed by King Bimbisara for Bhikkus are situated at Rajagaha.

NALANDA

This is the place where the famous Buddhist University came into existence. The Buddha visited this place in the course of His last journey.

Kushinagar– The place where the Buddha entered into Parinirvana

Kushinagar is approximately fifty-five miles east of Gorakhpur in present day India. It was the place where the Buddha entered into Parinirvana at the age of eighty. His mortal remains were burned outside of Kushinagar. After the Buddha’s passing into Nirvana, a stupa was built there to worship the relics of the Buddha. This Nirvana stupa was rebuilt by Burmese Buddhists in 1927. An image of the Buddha entering into Parinirvana was created during the Gupta period in the fifth century. It was later buried until it was excavated in 1876 and refurbished. The image is 18 feet long and is now worshiped in the Nirvana Hall later built at Kushinagar. The head of the image is facing west, its body is clad in a yellow robe and is resting on a great marble stone. Each year, many Buddhists visit Kushinagar on their pilgrimage.

Pippala Cave—The collection and fixing of the Buddhist Canon

Four months after the Buddha’s passing into Paranirvana, the first assembly gathered to recite and collect the scriptures for the fixing of the Buddhist Canon. Six assemblies for the creation or revision of the canon were recorded; the first was at the Pippala Cave near Rajagrha under Ajatasatru. The notable three disciples to whom the reciting was attributed were Kasyapa for the Abhidharma, Ananda for the Sutra, and Upali for the Vinaya.