Customs and Rituals

Is pilgrimage important for Buddhists?

Just as meditators pursue an inward path to liberation, pilgrims seek the ultimate goal using external symbolism. Sites associated with the principal events in the life of the Buddha very soon became pilgrim goals. Some texts even suggest that the Buddha directed his followers to visit the places of his birth, enlightenment, first sermon, and entry into nirvana. But Buddhists have beaten paths to hallowed places in China and Japan as well. Chinese devotees have mapped out a sacred landscape for pilgrim itineraries centered on four sacred mountains. Individual temples have also taken on a special aura, perhaps as a result of an apparition or miracle, or by association with some famous holy person. Pilgrims head for those places both on special occasions and whenever the mood strikes them. Hoped-for spiritual benefits range from grace to get through a difficult time to healing serious illnesses. Japanese Buddhists also continue to follow a pilgrim road to numerous holy places. One of the most popular circuits is that of the eighty-eight Temples on the island of Shikoku. There pilgrims retrace the steps of the venerable monk Kukai, founder of the Shingon denomination, from temple to temple, gathering spiritual souvenirs as they travel.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Religion Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App