by Jeff Newman
In April of 2015 I took a three-month trip to India by myself, partly as a spiritual pilgrimage and also to see the world and have new experiences. These photos represent the four sacred sites of Buddha's life and I will provide a brief description for each.
Picture 1 is Lumbini, Nepal. The building covers the archaeological site determined to be Buddha's birthplace. Buddha's mother Queen Mayadevi gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama in the town of Lumbinivana in 567 BCE. Mayadevi died about a week after Siddhartha's birth and he was raised by his maternal aunt Mahapajapati and his father King Suddhodana. This is a large archeological site and park with the ruins of Buddhist temples verified to date back to the second century AD.
Picture 2 is the giant Japanese Buddha statue in Bodh Gaya. This statue is 82 feet tall and was built by the Daijokyo Buddhist Temple in 1975, taking seven years to complete. Cameras were not allowed at the sacred Bodhi tree site due to a terrorist attack there in 2013. The Mahabodhi temple complex at the Bodhi tree site is a beautiful monument with numerous temples and gardens. Buddha attained enlightenment there after 49 days of meditation at the age of 35.The sense of peace and spirituality at this place was amazing. I was too excited to have deep concentration while I meditated there, but the realization that Buddha had sat there was incredible.
Picture 3 is Dhamek stupa in the deer park at Sarnath just outside of modern day Varanasi. This site is where Buddha gave the first discourse on the Four Noble Truths after walking 246 km from Bodh Gaya. This monument was built in 249 BCE by King Ashoka, a devout Buddhist, he built another stupa at the same time which was totally destroyed in the 18th century. There are many temples at this site and many archeological discoveries are in the Sarnath museum.There were numerous ancient monasteries at Sarnath, historical records show that 12000 monks lived there in the second century.
Picture 4 is a statue commemorating Buddha's death at the age of 80. The statue was made in the 5th century and was restored in 1956 and the temple was built around it. This temple is located in Kusinigar and is shown in picture 5. Buddha died from food poisoning which was part of an alms offering. In his final teachings in the Maha Paranirvana Sutta, Buddha told his followers to make pilgrimage to these four sites if they wanted to increase their spiritual practices, he also told his followers to remember all things are impermanent and to practice his teachings with diligence.
If you want more information on these sites or on the life of Buddha there's excellent information easily found online.