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?