The Role of Pilgrimage in World
Religions:
Medieval Buddhism,Christianity, & Islam
What is pilgrimage?
• A journey out of one’s
everyday life to a sacred
site and return home, during
which time a transformation
has taken place.
• “one of the great common
experiences of mankind”
• “a natural activity”
• The impulse to travel to holy
sites appears to be a nearly
universal component of
human spirituality
A Journey. . .
A physical journey through
space and time. . .
across significant frontiers or
localized routes
where exertion and sacrifice
bring merit/grace
Tibetan Buddhist pilgrim prostrates at Mt.
Kailas
To a sacred space/site
associated with
nature or
presence of living
or departed
spiritual leaders
Ka’ba, center of Islamic hajj
Lumbini, birthplace of Buddha
associated with the
founding of a
religion
Jerusalem
To make direct contact with the
divine. . .at the Sacred Site
• sensual experience
• emotive
environment
A communion of pilgrims
Christian
pilgrims in
Jerusalm,
Good Friday
Buddhist pilgrims at Labrang Monastery, Lhasa, Tibet
Muslim
encampment
outside
Mecca
Chinese pilgrims and monks in Baima Shi
Encounters with relics, holy
objects, and sacred architecture
Rosaries and Virgin Mary statues
Talismans, Amulets,
Images, Texts
That . . .
a) Represent or invoke Tibetan prayer flags
b) Transfer
c) Remind
d) Provide individual and
/or social recognition
Holy water
from
Lourdes
Buddhism – pravrajya
Ashoka (r. 264-223 BCE): Buddhism as
state religion
Uruvela –
Buddha’s
enlightenment
Lumbini, birthplace of Buddha Gautama
Kusinara, Buddha
attained nirvana
stupas
Deer Park – Buddha’s first sermon
Chinese Buddhist Pilgrimages
• Buddhist monks to India
to seek pure Buddhism
– Fa-hsien, 400 CE
– Xuanzang, 629-645 CE
• Mahayana Buddhism &
Local shrines
Buddhist Pilgrimage: Tibet
Mt. Kailas
mandala
Mt. Wu-Ta’i: China
Ennin, 838-847 CE
Bodhisattva of Wisdom,
Manjushri
mandala
Tibetan Buddhist
Hindu
Christian Pilgrimage
Search for the “New
Jerusalem”
mass pilgrimage to
Holy Land -->
interior pilgrimage
--> local pilgrimage
Labrynth - path of interior pilgrimage
Alternative Christian sites
•
•
•
•
•
Rome
Chartres
Canterbury
Lourdes
Fatima
Fatima
Lourdes
Santiago de Compostela
• “Tomb” of St. James
• Supsidiary
Pilgrimage sites
– Former pagan sites
– Saint veneration
– Marien centers
Muslim Pilgrimage: Hajj
The hajj in Islam:
• “effort of proper worship”
• Ka’ba
Five Pillars of Islam:
• daily profession of faith
• daily prayer
• Ramadan fasting
• almsgiving
• hajj
Pilgrimage and Collective
identity: Hajj
The hajj in Islam:
•
•
•
•
•
“effort of proper worship”
haram
Ka’ba
circumambulation
Day of Standing
Together Before God
Hajj
Day of Standing Together Before God
Najaf
“This would be an anthropologist’s
paradise . . . Every specimen of
humanity is brought together at Mecca
during this pilgrimage. It’s probably
the only incident and the only time
and the only place on earth where you
can find every specimen of humanity - all cultures, all races . . . All of
everything!”
–Malcolm X
Why study religious pilgrimage?
• What do pilgrimages among world religions have in common?
• Is pilgrimage a terrestrial or inner journey?
• Are there formal rites: do they pilgrims dance, process, walk
on their knees, prostrate? Is their journey linear, circular,
spiral? Compare.
• Are pilgrimages controlled by the state? By the institutional
religion? Or are they a-institutional? Subversive?
• Are they normative, obligatory, devotional? (Where) do they
reinforce the existing order; (where) do they challenge it or
blur boundaries?
• Who are the pilgrims? Priestly class? Elites? Commoners?
Sinners or those needing spiritual or social rehabilitation?
• What motives do pilgrims give in their pilgrimage accounts?
What transformations do they describe?
• What does the study of religious pilgrimage teach us about
cultural differences/similarities? What does it teach us about
economic, political, social, and cultural processes in world
history?
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The Role of Pilgrimage in World’s Major Religions: …