A group of 108 Buddhist monastics from the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, South Korea’s largest Buddhist order, have embarked on a pilgrimage in India and Nepal, during which they plan to walk 1,167 kilometers over 43 days as they trace the life and footsteps of Shakyamuni Buddha.
The walking pilgrimage, which begin in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, on 11 February, and will culminate at Shravasti on 23 March, also marks 50 years of diplomatic relations between India and South Korea. It is hoped that the spiritual undertaking will help to strengthen ties between the two nations.
“India and Korea have a special connection through Buddhism,” South Korea’s ambassador to India, Chang Jae-bok, said in an interview. “Buddhism first arrived in Korea from India in the first century, and it eventually became the official religion of the Korean kingdom. This year, we are celebrating the entry of India and South Korea into diplomatic ties, and with the Indian presidency of the G20 we have a lot to work on to ensure its success.” (WION)
“Through this year, through these pilgrims, and through various cultural events, we aim to strengthen the ties between our two peoples,” Chang noted, adding that the pilgrimage was seen as symbolic of the deep spiritual roots that connect the people of India and Korea, and their commitment to enhancing cultural exchange and understanding. (WION)
The 108 monastics set off from Dhamek Stupa in Sarnath, where the Buddha gave his first discourse on the Dharmacakrapravartana Sutra (Setting in Motion the Wheel of the Dharma Sutra).
The pilgrimage, organized by the Sangwol Society of South Korea, is set to take in: Bodh Gaya, the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment; Nalanda, home to the historic monastic university and one of the greatest centers of learning in the ancient world; Vaishali, home to one of the oldest known Buddhist stupas, which is said to contain relics of the historical Buddha; Rajgir, where the Buddha spent several months in meditation, and taught at Griddhakuta Mountain (Vulture peak); Mahaparinirvana Temple and Ramabhar Stupa in Kushinagar, which commemorate the sites of the Buddha’s death and the cremation of his physical remains; and the Buddha’s birthplace Lumbini, Nepal.
“This [pilgrimage] is being organized by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, the biggest and most-representative Korean Buddhist organization, and more specifically, by the Sangwol Society, a non-profit organiztion in Korea,” Chang observed. The ambassador added that the Jogye Order wanted to revitalize Buddhism in Korea and beyond, including India. (ThePrint)
From Lumbini, the monastics will re-enter India via Kushinagar and complete their pilgrimage in Shravasti, where the Buddha gave most of his teachings during his lifetime, after visiting Kapilvastu, where Siddhartha Gautama is believed to have spent the first 29 years of his life.
“We know Buddhism spread from India to the world, we are welcoming the world to India, to experience the life of Buddha firsthand, through his teachings and through our rare monuments, which have been refurbished by the Ministry of Culture,” the secretary to India’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Apurva Chandra, explained. “The sites to be covered during the pilgrimage span the life of Buddha from his birth to his parinirvana.” (ThePrint, ET TravelWorld.com)
The Jogye Order is a school of Seon (Zen) Buddhism that traces its roots back 1,200 years to the Unified Silla (also known as the Later Silla) kingdom (668–935). The Jogye school as a distinct entity emerged in the late 11th century when the monk Bojo Jinul, credited as the school’s founder, sought to combine Seon practices with the theological underpinnings of sutra-based Buddhist schools, including Korean Pure Land Buddhism. The order now represents the largest segment of South Korea’s Buddhist population, administering about 1,900 active temples, more than 13,000 monastics, and seven million lay followers nationwide.
Buddhist Monks Set Off on Pilgrimage to India and Nepal (The Korea Bizwire)
Buddhist ties strengthen India-South Korea diplomacy (WION)
‘1st of its kind pilgrimage’ — 108 Korean Buddhists to go on 1-month walk across UP, Bihar & Nepal (ThePrint)
108 S Korean monks begin Dhamma Yatra from Sarnath (The Times of India)
1,100 km in 43 days: A walking pilgrimage through Buddhist circuit to mark 50 years of India-South Korea diplomatic ties (The Indian Express)
108 Korea monks on 43-day pilgrimage from February 9 (ET TravelWorld.com)
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International Buddhist Confederation Celebrates 10th Anniversary, Begins Construction of Center in Lumbini
New Head of Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism Takes Office
New Korean Buddhist Temple to Open in Bodh Gaya, India