Pilgrimage in Bodhgaya is not simply about having fun on the road while visiting holy sites. Each holy site was once a silent witness to Shakyamuni Buddha’s profound teachings, His personal practice or miracles performed by other enlightened beings.
...How do we make pilgrimage as meaningful, useful and beneficial as possible? The main point of pilgrimage is to subdue our minds. By eliminating mistaken thoughts, not allowing the mind to be under the control of delusion, the mind is better able to actualize the lam-rim realizations, from guru devotion up to enlightenment.
One lama made the comment that when the great, holy beings—buddhas, bodhisattvas and yogis —go on pilgrimage, they bless the place. And when ordinary people go there, they receive blessings from that place. So pilgrimage means to receive blessings from the holy places to inspire our mind to transform into the path.
Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
The Meditative Pilgrimage program gives each student the opportunity to create powerful karmic connections through prayer, meditation and sutra recitation as well as water, light, incense or flower offerings.
Meditative Pilgrimages are practice-orientated. In order to gain the greatest benefit it is recommended that student complete at least one introductory course on Buddhist philosophy.
Extensive offerings of water, light and flowers at the holy birthplace of Buddhism.
Vulture’s Peak is the sacred site where Shakyamuni Buddha gave the profound teaching of the Prajnaparamita Sutra. Lesser known holy sites like King Bimbisara’s jail and Jivaka’s hospital for the Buddha’s Sangha are a short distance away. Pilgrims will recite The Heart Sutra, an abbreviated version of the 160 000 verses of The Prajnaparamita Sutra and be led in a meditation on dependent arising.
Nalanda University was once the foremost buddhist university in the ancient world. It was home to 10 000 monks and 1000 teachers, including Shantideva, Atisha and Nagajuna. Pilgrims will recite a chapter of the precious Guide to Bodhisattva’s Way of Life and make extensive offerings before spending personal time exploring the historical ruins.
Saptaparni Cave is the site of the most important Buddhist Council held after the passing of Shakyamuni Buddha. Led by Mahakassapa, who foresaw the necessity of preserving the Dharma, many of the Buddha’s most senior disciples gathered together to create a written record of the Buddha’s sacred teaching. This written record allowed the Dharma to be preserved and spread throughout the world. Pilgrims will make extensive light offerings and spend time meditating in the blessed cave.
Shakyamuni Buddha’s travels through India brought Him to the sacred home of Mahakala, the wrathful deity of compassion. Shakyamuni spent some time meditating in the cave before moving onto the holy Bodhi Tree.
The ruins of six ancient stupas built by King Ashoka to honour the Buddha’s path can be seen as modern day pilgrims raise prayer flags above the cave.
Shakyamuni Buddha completed six years of ascetic practice at Sujata, a quiet place beside the once flowing Niranjana River. A wonderful place for pilgrims to meditate and reflect on the path to Enlightenment.
Also known as Cocks Foot Mountain, Gurupada is the resting place of Mahakassapa, senior disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha. Mahakassapa is said to be in meditative equipoise inside the great mountain, waiting to offer the robes of Shakyamuni Buddha to the next Buddha of our eon, Maitreya Buddha. Pilgrims will climb over 1000 steps to make offerings at the altar dedicated to Mahakassapa, hang prayer flags around the Stupa pinnacle and meditate on the summit.
Root Institute is a meditation centre with resident nuns and monks and not a guesthouse, so couples, and men and women, must have separate accommodation.
If participating in courses or retreats, friends and family of the same gender will also be asked to stay in separate rooms to help support silence and their focus on the course / retreat.
We ask all our guests and visitors to observe the following rules of discipline in order to maintain an atmosphere conducive to inner reflection and meditation:
Respect all life: do not intentionally kill any living being, even small insects.
Respect others' property: do not steal or take anything not freely given.
Be honest and straightforward: do not lie or intentionally deceive others.
Be celibate: no sexual activity; this also includes no holding hands, hugging, massages and other physical displays of affection.
Be alert and mindful*: avoid intoxicants such as alcohol, drugs and cigarettes; we encourage you to stop smoking while here, but if this is impossible, one can smoke outside the gates.
Be considerate of others' silence: keep silence in the appropriate areas and at all times during residential courses, especially in the Gompa and the dormitories; no singing or playing music and, in general, maintain a quiet demeanour while on the property.
Be considerate of the monks and nuns: dress respectfully; please no shorts above the knee, tank-top shirts or tight and revealing clothing.
Please note that those in service or teaching in FPMT centers and projects do not engage in the practice of Shugden.
* Also, please be aware:
In April 2016 the Bihar state government passed laws totally prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol in the state, with very severe penalties, up to capital punishment for those involved in manufacture! Please ensure you do not carry any alcohol with you in Bihar.
Our spiritual programme now runs from beginning of September through to end of April.
On the appropriate dates in the Tibetan calendar year-round, however, we observe the standard pujas of the Gelug tradition and these are drop-in sessions which anyone can attend. If you are in Bodhgaya and would like to come along, please feel welcome to join us for:
Unless otherwise indicated, registration is required for all spiritual programme events except drop-in sessions, Festival of Lights & Merit, and Mahabodhi Stupa events.