Arts and Culture
Walking Far—Pilgrimage in Buddhist and Christian Traditions
Hongwei Lu, Professor, University of Redlands
Pilgrimage is a term used allegorically to express the similarity between a journey as a means of relating to the sacred, and a journey of human life itself. The apparent action of “hiking” or walking far and up is a physical effort required to reach the pilgrim’s goal. It is also a metaphor for the human spiritual journey full of challenges.Depending on the particular belief systems one adheres to, the objective of pilgrimage is to reach the highest level of knowledge and spiritual renewal. Buddhists throughout centuries have been engaging in life-list visits to Buddhist temples on mountain summits in order to reach “nirvana”. Buddhists have been seeking ways to what is known as “Bodhi” or “waking up” for more than 2000 years, and hiking has been considered to be a shortcut to enlightenment. In Roman times, the word pilgrim means those who walk across foreign land. The act of pilgrimage in Christianity is interpreted as a way of pious devotion to the grace of God. It is “a way of atonement”, a “way of purification,” or a way of knowledge. Many people nowadays joined the pilgrimage journey for cultural, ecological, sporting, and therapeutic reasons. In this paper I would like to compare the many different levels of pilgrimage experience in Buddhism and Christianity. I have personally hiked the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, and have done short Buddhist pilgrimage hikes to mountain-top Buddhist temples in China.