The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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What Are the Four Holy Places in Buddhism?
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- Members of the Buddhist faith recognize four supremely sacred places on earth and hold them dear to their hearts. Buddha's life journey took him to these four locales, each marking a crucial moment in his existence. According to his teachings, Buddha chose four spots for his followers to visit in future pilgrimages -- the locations of his birth, enlightenment, first sermon and his death.
Lumbini is in the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal. It is the birthplace of Gautam Buddha, born the son of the chieftain of the Sakya clan. Buddha's name at the time of his birth in 642 B.C. was Siddhartha Gautama. The emperor Ashoka built a stone pillar upon the site in 249 B.C. to honor Buddha. In 1895, a German archaeologist named Feuhrer rediscovered the pillar, which is now known as the Ashokan Pillar. Surrounding the pillar was a temple with depictions inside of Buddha's birth. It is now known as the Maya Devi Temple.
Bodh Gaya, in Bihar, India, is the spot where Buddha attained ultimate enlightenment. Siddhartha, seeking true spiritual awareness, took a seat beneath a pipal tree and vowed not to move until enlightenment had been attained. While in deep meditation he did spiritual battle with Mara, the Lord of Illusion. Siddhartha prevailed, and the Buddha was born. Emperor Ashoka built a temple here known as the Maha Bodi temple. Inside he built a diamond throne shrine. Also at Bodh Gaya is the Bodhi tree, depicting the tree under which Buddha sat as well as several Buddhist monasteries.
The holy site of Sarnath is in Uttar Pradesh, India. It was here Buddha delivered his first sermon. He preached about striving to find "the middle way" and avoiding extremes when seeking spiritual peace. Emperor Ashoka visited this site as well and constructed a column in Buddha's honor. In 1194, Muslim rulers leveled the city of Sarnath where Buddhist monasteries sat. Beneath the debris were buried ruins of the sacred site. They were later uncovered and the Dhamekha Stupa stands now with a sacred tablet inside it marking the spot of Buddha's first sermon.
Kushinara is also in Uttar Pradesh, India. It was here that Buddha passed away. Following his first sermon, he traveled and preached for 45 more years. His death is referred to in the Buddhist faith as Mahaparinirvana, or "the great passing away." Here the Emperor Ashoka built thousands of stupas -- mound-like structures containing Buddhist relics. Today it is the site of the Mahaparinirvana Temple, built by the Indian government in 1956 to commemorate 2,500 years since the Buddha's passing. Inside the temple is the Reclining Buddha, a statue more than 6 feet long of the Buddha lying on his side on a stone couch.