A couple of years back I reviewed a new set of books by Ken and Visakha Kawasaki in which they had retold the Jataka Tales of the Buddha, making those neglected moral stories available to a new generation with unerring felicity.
They have now come up with the brilliant idea of having a book of readings to take on pilgrimage to the Sacred Sites in India. As with the previous book it has grown organically, this time as a result of going on pilgrimage themselves and wanting texts to inspire their friends and students along the way.
The book is divided into two sections, one organised according to the various sites which may be visited on pilgrimage; and the second having more general and reflective readings for up to 35 days.
In the first section most, if not all, of the works chosen for inclusion were given at, or told about, the site which is being highlighted, and there are entries for the following places:
- BuddhaGaya (sic.)
- Lauriya Nandangar
Some of the most famous works, like Setting in Motion the Wheel of the Dhamma (Sarnath), The Struggle with Mara (BuddhaGaya) and the Mahaparinibbana (Kusinara) are included, and are retold with the clarity that comes from introducing students to these works for the past few decades.
The book draws on material both in the Theravada Tipitaka and the commentarial works, but includes the occasional Mahayana text also, like the Heart Sutra.
The book is not a guide to the sacred sites, but provides supplementary readings to be utilised at the various sites to hopefully make them come alive, and provide a lasting impression to take away with you.
The book, although designed for this specific purpose, is also a fine collection of texts, that are well-told and provide a good introduction to Buddhism, and can therefore be profitably read even if you never get out of your armchair.
And in a similar way, it can also be given as a good present for someone who is interested in Buddhism, but may find some of the tomes, with their scholarly apparatus, too intimidating.
The best guidebook for the pilgrimage, I think, is still Ven. Dhammika’s Middle Land, Middle Way, and being equipped with both would be a great advantage, and would help make the trip so much more meaningful.
The book has been published by the Kawasaki’s themselves, and comes both as a paperback and as an ebook, and can be ordered online from their Buddhist Relief website.