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Pilgrimages to Sacred Mountains, Lakes and Caves Essay (Critical Writing)


Introduction

Katia Buffetrille’s article titled “Reflections on Pilgrimages to Sacred Mountains, Lakes and Caves” describes how various geographical locations act as holy sites for the members of the Buddhist religions. While many religions have a variation of holy pilgrimages to sacred places, the Buddhist tradition appears to have origins in rituals from before the organization of the religion itself. The presented article describes the practice and presents a number of examples of places that are currently experiencing a transitioning period of becoming fully Buddhicisationed. This paper will provide a summary of the article, its analysis, and a response.

Summary

The article begins with a description of how Buddhists perceive sacred places. One of the main concepts behind such places is that they contain a mountain and a lake. The two are anthropomorphized to show a relationship between them. The mountain often represents a fatherly figure while the lake is portrayed as motherly. The mountain is considered to be the main place of pilgrimage, however, and the author explains that as a whole, the mountain can be referred to as a “holy Buddhist place.” Then the author brings attention to the origins of this ritual. Before the Buddhist religion was organized, these places often had a connection to a territorial god that governed the area. Each god had a cult, and the cults had their own pilgrimages to praise the gods, appease them, or ask for favors. The relationships represented by the holy places could have multiple types including kinship ties, marriage, adultery, and antagonism. Eventually, the Buddhist religion was formed as a whole. This led to these sites beginning to be transferred into the Buddhist religion. The author refers to this process as “Buddhicisation” due to the specific elements that it involves. Through this process, the mountain becomes appropriated through the installation of the mandala of a deity, temples, and other religious buildings and the performance of certain rituals. It is not a linear process and can occur differently in different locations (McKay 18-24).

Then the author presents three examples of places in different states of Buddhicisation. Two are mountains, and one is a series of caves. The mountains are located in different regions of Tibet, while the caves are in Indonesia. The first mountain is described as being in a relatively early stage of the process only with an unfinished temple, monastery, and a stupa located on it, with people not taking it as seriously as the traditions would prescribe. The second mountain is completely subjugated, however, with four temples, four prostration sites, and all the other elements of the holy site being put in place. The attitude of the people is different, with very strict attention to the rules and rituals. The caves are relatively unique as they represent a new movement to find holy sites outside of Tibet due to the Chinese authority often preventing proper religious activity, as well as the exile of prominent religious leaders. The article concludes with a call for further studies on this topic (McKay 24-32). A closer examination of the article is required to show the quality of work produced by the author.

Analysis

The author presents extensive evidence on the topic which includes both original religious texts, and professional research of the Buddhist pilgrimages. It allows the article to appear credible and informative. It also uses a lot of Buddhist terms which shows the attention of the author to the cultural differences between western and eastern regions of the world. For the length of the article, the breadth of information is wide and presents a large sample of facts and examples. These include ancient origins of the practice, the meaning of the pilgrimages, the process of holy site creation, and three prominent examples described in detail. The information appears to be accurate and relevant to the topic. The structure of the article is adequate for its purpose of educating the reader on the process of Buddhicisation and pilgrimages. Overall it is a well-researched article dedicated to a fascinating topic.

Response

This article was very informative on the topic of Buddhist pilgrimages. Initially, the amount of religious terminology was slightly overwhelming as the author often uses it interspersed with plain English. This decision usually stops the flow of the sentence, and when dealing with religious and spiritual topics, it may become very difficult to read. However, after the initial reaction, this was not a major issue. I previously knew about the practice of Buddhist pilgrimages but had little knowledge about the details presented in the article. The extrapolation of human relationships onto geographic locations was a fascinating concept to learn about. The origins and the Buddhicisation process described by the author were also new to me. The process seemed to be extremely rational to me despite its spiritual nature, and it is tragic that people, who would be the most interested in participating in it, will never be able to visit the country due to its political regime. The idea of finding holy sites outside Tibet also seemed interesting. It would allow exiled people to perform their rituals outside of the country.

Conclusion

Religious pilgrimages are not unique to the Buddhist faith. However, the process described in the article is. The way that the stage of the process affects people visiting the site is truly fascinating. Hopefully, a law that allows the exiled people to come back to Tibet would be passed in the future.

Work Cited

McKay, Alex. Pilgrimage in Tibet. Routledge, 2015.

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IvyPanda. (2020, September 4). Pilgrimages to Sacred Mountains, Lakes and Caves. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/pilgrimages-to-sacred-mountains-lakes-and-caves/

Work Cited

"Pilgrimages to Sacred Mountains, Lakes and Caves." IvyPanda, 4 Sept. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/pilgrimages-to-sacred-mountains-lakes-and-caves/.

1. IvyPanda. "Pilgrimages to Sacred Mountains, Lakes and Caves." September 4, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/pilgrimages-to-sacred-mountains-lakes-and-caves/.


Bibliography


IvyPanda. "Pilgrimages to Sacred Mountains, Lakes and Caves." September 4, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/pilgrimages-to-sacred-mountains-lakes-and-caves/.

References

IvyPanda. 2020. "Pilgrimages to Sacred Mountains, Lakes and Caves." September 4, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/pilgrimages-to-sacred-mountains-lakes-and-caves/.

References

IvyPanda. (2020) 'Pilgrimages to Sacred Mountains, Lakes and Caves'. 4 September.

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