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The Buddhist Pilgrimage

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Item Code: IDC143
Author: Duncan Forbes
Edition: 2011
ISBN: 9788120816503
Pages: 278 (20 Color Illustrations With B/W Maps)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8" X 5.7"
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Book Description
From the Jacket

Following the story of the historical Buddha's life on earth, to each of the eight places of traditional pilgrimage, which are hallowed by the Buddha's Birth, Enlightenment, Decease and other significant events. Other sites, which are important in the story of Gautama Buddha and have been rediscovered in recent years, are also described, and the author suggests where a search should be made for those that still remain hidden. He also discusses the problems that arose when attempts were made, little more than a hundred years ago, to identify these places in the light of the descriptions by Chinese pilgrims that have come down to us. He reveals the errors of that time, which have been rectified in the light of more recent evidence.

This is a personal journey by a well-known travel-writer, whose lifelong interest in Buddhism leads him to present his own picture of the origin and development of the faith and to propose answers to questions that are still unresolved. Tales told along the way by people who have been attracted to the same goal enrich the narrative. The narrative.

The author has also provided an original plan for each of the sits visited as well as a full description on the place, and the book is illustrated by the author's own photographs.

Duncan Forbes is a linguist, whose acquaintanceship with India and Nepal goes back to the time of his service both in the Indian Army and with the Gurkha Soldiers of the British Army. After a career in several different countries in Asia and Africa he became a Fellow of Trinity College, London.

He is a well-known author of books of travel, amongst which both The Heart of Nepal and The Heart of India have been much acclaimed. It was in the latter book that he first introduced his readers to the land of the Buddha in a chapter entitled 'In the footsteps of the Buddha'.

Duncan Forbes is a lifelong student of Buddhism, a member of the Buddhist Society of London and a student of languages with a good knowledge of Hindi and Nepali. He is thus able to move confidently about the places of Buddhist pilgrimage in Nepal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, which he describes. He presents the reader with a picture of the scene enriched by his own knowledge of its origins and history, with a plan of the site based on his own observations, and with stories told to him by fellow-pilgrims about their interest in the faith.


Forbes has written an excellent travel book, emphasizing the main travel sites of the historical Buddha, from his birth to his decease, mainly in the area of Bihar. Forbes uses fine descriptive power to present his own travel experiences along this same route, while helping the reader with a diagram for each of these centers.

His trip, especially in the mid-1990's starting from North Bihar or South Nepal for the Buddha's traditional birth, is aided by recent archaeological discoveries for establishing certain other centers of the Buddha's pilgrimage. This author also portrays his travels outside this zone established by the Buddha, mainly in Nepal and in Hong Kong.

Forbes was sometimes helped by a guide, and sometimes by other informants, who allowed him to evade certain situations which could have been disastrous. Fortunately he knows scholarly facts of the Buddha's life to combine with the travel accounts. This is certainly a commendable work.


I might never have gone on my Buddhist Pilgrimage if I had not seen the great stupas of Bodhnath and Swayambhunath in Katmandu, and if I had not been to Lumbini when it was still called Rummindei. I felt the peace of that distant and hallowed place, and I planned my travels without knowing that others were organizing groups to do much the same.

Of those who helped me on my way the Venerable U. Nayaka was generous with his time in Kushinagara, as was Swami Ananda Chaitanya Das in Rajgir. I also thank my son, Anthony, for arranging the material in such a way that it will, I hope, be read with pleasure, and even with profit.

To Him the Way, the Law apart,
Whom Maya held beneath her heart,
Ananda's Lord, the Bodhisat.


For a thousand years and more the places where the Buddha of our present age lived and moved were lost to view. The once magnificent monuments commemorating the most significant moments in the Buddha's life had either crumbled away and decayed to such an extent that they were no longer recognized as such, or else had disappeared completely from sight.

In recent years, beginning at the end of last century, many of the sacred sites have been rediscovered. Some are still in dispute. Others still remain hidden. As recently as 1995, as a result of excavations under the Mayadevi Temple at Lumbini, a stone marking the Buddha's birthplace was brought to light on top of the platform on which the temple stands. But the stupas of the Great Renunciation have not yet been found.

In this book I recount my experiences and adventures as a pilgrim bound for the traditional, time-honoured sites of the Buddha story by the modern means of the twentieth century. At some sites, such as Vaishali and Pava, I found little to see. But at others, such as Bodh-Gaya and Shravasti, there was a great deal. Indeed, I saw that Bodh-Gaya, Shravasti and Kushinagara had become the veritable building-sites of a Buddhist renascence.

A lone pilgrim might be considered to be lonely. But that was not my experience. Some fellow-visitors – at Nalanda, for instance, or at Sarnath – were doubtless simply tourists. But the majority were probing the past on a spiritual journey in the present, and those with whom I established contact were not reluctant to tell me how and why they had become involved in the doctrine of the Buddha. Their tales seemed to me to be a living counterpoint to the dead bricks of the stupas, and although I have not revealed their identities. They know who they are.

A pilgrimage should be a joyful experience in spite of the trials and tribulations of travel. The memory of it should remain with the pilgrim for the rest of his life and should not be over-burdened with the weight of scholastic interpretation. I have, therefore, eschewed the diacritical marks that some scholars use in transliterating Indian names into the Roman script, and instead written such names as, for instance, Shravasti and Kushinagara in accordance with the usual usage in India today rather than with the Pali language of the distant past.


Foreword v
Preface vii
Introduction ix
List of Photographs ix
Map and Plans xiii
1 Following the Buddha 1
2 The Birthplace - Lumbini 6
3 The Home - Kapilavastu 31
4 The Great Renunciation - Piprahawa 58
5 Fasting near to Death - Uruvilva 78
6 The Enlightenment – Both-Gaya 96
7 The Wheel of the Law - Sarnath 121
8 The Order of Monks - Rajagriha 139
9 To Heaven and back - Shravasti 159
10 The Superman - Vaishali 179
11 The Great Decease – Pava and Kushinagara 193
12 The Aftermath - Nalanda 211
13 The Living Buddha 226
Further Reading 245
Index 247

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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