Buddhist literatures indicate that in ancient times, the sites associated with the life of Buddha were linked through well developed routes which were used by devotees to reach these sacred sites and offer prayers, perform specific rituals and recite sūtras. In other words, devotees undertook pilgrimages to sacred sites to walk in the footsteps of the Buddha and have a spiritual experience. IBC is working to revive the tradition of pilgrimage (Cetiya Cārikā) by organising Dhamma walks and chantings at these sacred sites. In this regard, in partnership with the Light of Buddha Dhamma Foundation International (LBDFI), International Buddhist Confederation (IBC) organised the 4th Dhamma Walk on 13th December, 2017 from Jeṭhian to Rājgir. The path from Jeṭhian to Rājgir described for the annual Dhamma Walk was the same route taken by the Buddha on his first visit to Rājgir following his enlightenment.
Participants gathering for the 4th Dhamma Walk and 3rd Saṅghadāna at Jeṭhian.
Participants seated for the Inaugural Session.
The Jeṭhian to Rājgir Dhamma Walk was held for the first time in December 2013. The walk drew widespread participation and appreciation of monks and local villagers which motivated the organisers to facilitate the walk every year thereafter. In the second year of the walk, the ancient tradition of Saṅghadāna was observed. According to Buddhist literature, when the Buddha and the Saṅgha stayed in the Jeṭhian valley, they used to go out every morning to the neighbouring villages with their alms bowl to collect their food for the day. By offering food to the Saṅgha , the villagers gained merits and the blessings of the Saṅgha . For the 2nd Dhamma Walk which was held in 2015, the villagers of Jeṭhian decided to revive this ancient tradition of Saṅghadāna. In the first Saṅghadāna, about 100 monks and nuns from different countries and Buddhist traditions went to the homes of villagers in Jeṭhian to accept food. The monks and nuns appreciated highly the kindness of the villagers while the villagers felt privileged to able to make offerings to the devotees and thereby earn merits. The success of the first Saṅghadāna drew greater participation for the second Saṅghadāna which was held in 2015 during the 3rd Dhamma Walk. The third Saṅghadāna held at this year Dhamma Walk was partly sponsored by two Buddhist practitioners from Canada, Jacques Achsen and Bob Jeffs. Based on the advice given by Jacques and Bob, the villagers very thoughtfully prepared dishes with ingredients available during Buddha’s time such as barley, rice and Bengal gram. This year’s Saṅghadāna was a beautiful ceremony like ancient times. Villagers stood at their doorsteps with food prepared in advance and served them onto the plates and bowls held out by the monks and nuns walking in a silent queue. Just as the monks and nuns were touched by the compassion and generosity of the villagers, the villagers too were moved by the grace and discipline of the monks.
Laypersons seated on their knees making offerings to monks and nuns lined up for the Saṅghadāna.
|A man and a woman serving food to monks from traditional copper utensils|
A monk thankfully accepting food from two village girls.
|The Saṅghadāna was no less than a festival for the villagers |
who cleaned up the village and decorated it with rangolis and flags especially for the occasion
Village children making rangolis in the morning of the day of the Saṅghadāna to welcome devotees and laypersons.
|Nuns looking for a place to sit down to have their meals|
Chinese group of monks seated in the porch of a traditional house
offering prayers before starting their meal. Leading the prayers is their Venerable Master.
Venerable Lama Lobzang (President of IBC) sitting alongside village while the monks and nuns had their meals.
Monks and nuns seated in the courtyard of a house for having their meal
while villagers supply them with water, sweets, fruits, extra plates, and tissue papers.
Chinese group chqanting before starting their meal.
Ms. Wangmo Dixey (Head of LBDFI) addressing the gathering of monks, nuns and laypersons at the inaugural session.
Soon after the inaugural session commenced the pilgrimage walk. This year witnessed the participation of more than 1000 monks, nuns, eminent masters, laypersons, and locals from different countries, namely China, Vietnam, Korea, Sri Lanka, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, Bhutan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Laos, Cambodia. The oldest participants were monks and nuns over eighty years of age while the youngest ones were devotees and locals under the age of twenty-five. The wide age group of participation was a clear reflection of the eagerness of devotees to have the spiritual experience of walking in the footsteps of Buddha and Master Xuanzang. The high-spiritedness of the devotees was also evident from the constant chanting as well as silent praying that went on as long as the walk lasted. The local villagers happily assisted the participants in completing the 15 km walk by supplying water throughout the walking trail and looking after those who fell behind others. The day ended for the participants at Veḷuvana (Bamboo Grove) in Rājgir where they thanked by organisers for their enthusiasm and energy. The Dhamma Walk was an extraordinary display of the synthesis of the energy of local villagers and devotion of monks and nuns.
|Monks, nuns, local villagers, and Dhamma enthusiasts walking together |
at the 4th Dhamma Walk from Jeṭhian to Rājgir, 13 December, 2017.
|Hundreds of monks, nuns and laypersons walking from Jeṭhian to Rājgir |
along the path taken by the Buddha on his first visit to Rājgir following his enlightenment
Two monks walking past a stupa. Such stupas are erected all along the pilgrimage trail to mark every one kilometer.
|Two Chinese nuns walking side-by-side while protecting themselves from the sun and dust.|
|Foreign tourists walked with equal spirit and enthusiasm alongside monks and nuns|
An ambulance and four cars filled with water bottles rolled behind participants throughout the length of the walk
to supply water and pick up those who were falling ill.
|A very young monk taking a break during the walk.|
Although the dust along the pilgrimage trail was significant,
it did not break the resolve of participants, both old and young, from finishing the walk.
A monk offering refreshments to a lay participant on the walking trail.
Local village boys volunteering to walk with the devotees and look after those of them who needed help.
A monk equipped with a camera to capture the beautiful moments of the walk.
Participants jubilating at the finish of the walk.
December 2017 marked the fourth time of the holding of the Dhamma Walk. The successful organising of the walk for four consecutive years is a commendable feat given the extent of arrangements that have to be made at the village of Jeṭhian and along the Jeṭhian- Rājgir walking trail and the level of communication and coordination required between organisers, government officials, local villagers and participating monks and nuns.
On behalf of the organisers of the Dhamma Walk, I thank Shri G C Bhuyan, Director, India Tourism, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India for sponsoring 1000 caps for the participants of the Dhamma Walk. I specially want to mention that Ms. M. Manimekalai, Principal, Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Jeṭhian was constantly in touch, enquiring if we needed any help. The mobile medical unit from Civil Hospital, Rājgir did a wonderful job by following the Walk. Last but not the least; I would like to thank the men, women and children of Jeṭhian, who volunteered their time to help make this event enjoyable.