I suggest one of two itineraries, both circular routes
from Delhi and back again. The first
will allow you to go to the main destinations while the second
is for the more enthusiastic pilgrim who wants to see more or
all of the known places associated with the Buddha and his disciples.
Taking the first itinerary, you will go from Delhi to Sarnath,
Bodh Gaya, Rajgir, Nalanda, Patna, Vesali, Kusinara, Lumbini,
Kapilavatthu, Savatthi and then return to Delhi; ten places
altogether. If you do this allow at least 3 weeks. The full
itinerary includes all 28 places and would require at least
5 weeks. These suggested durations will allow you to stay in
some places for a few days both to see everything at an unhurried
pace and also give you a rest from the usual frustrations of
travelling in India. You can of course leave out some places
according to your interest or your time limit. If during your
stay in India you go to Calcutta
don't miss the Indian Museum which is a veritable treasure house
of Indian Buddhist art.
to take: Apart from the usual and obvious
travel requisites I would like to suggest two other thing worth
taking with you. In most of the places the Buddha delivered
one or more discourses. Nearly all of these can be found in
either Maurice Walshe's Long Discourses of The Buddha
or in Bhikkhu Bodhi's Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha.
As both these books are a bit heavy to be carting around India,
I suggest you make photocopies of the relevant discourses and
bring them with you. To read a discourses at the very place
where the Buddha delivered it can be profound and uplifting
experience. Also my guide book Middle Land, Middle Way -
A Pilgrims' Guide to the Buddha's India is a must for the
modern pilgrim. With detailed information about places associated
with the Buddha, their subsequent histories, the art and architecture
found in each, maps and diagrams, this book will give you an
in-depth understand of the things you'll see and help to bring
them alive. All three books can be got from either Wisdom Publications,
361 Newbury Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA [ www.wisdompubs.org
] or the Buddhist Publication Society, PO Box 61 Kandy, Sri
Lanka. Where relevant I mention other discourses published in
the Wheel Series of booklets and give the number of each. [
Texts at 'Access to Insight' Eebsite ].
These booklets are also available from the Buddhist Publication
Society. If you are getting the books by post make sure you
order them well before your departure.
Time to go:
The best time to go on pilgrimage to India is between
November and February, the Indian winter. It is warm during
the day and quite cold at night and in the early morning. Before
this time travel is difficult because of the monsoon; bridges
are out, trains are delayed and India's ubiquitous dust is transformed
into slush and mud. By the end of March the heat and dust are
already unpleasant. There are Vesak celebrations at both Bodh
Gaya and Sarnath in May but by then, believe me, the heat is
a foretaste of Niriya.
In the future
I hope to explore more Buddhist sacred places. In particular I
am interested in locating Upagupta's mountain somewhere near Mathura
and exploring the hill at Bihar Sharif, the site of Odantapura
and where I believe there is a cave Naropa used to reside in.
From time to time therefore this site will be expanded. If on
returning from India you are able to correct, add to or update
any of the information either here or in Middle Land Middle Way,
or if you just want to tell me about your pilgrimage, I would
be most happy to hear from you. You can
contact me at: email@example.com.
hope the information
given here helps make your pilgrimage more meaningful. One last
thing. While on the road keep in mind these beautiful words from
the Ghandavyayu Sutra; "Think of yourself as a pilgrim
and your teachers as guides, think of their instructions as the
road and the practice as the land of your destination". Good
luck and have a safe journey.