My dad and I had two days in Rome prior to departing on a Mediterranean cruise a few years ago. My dad wanted to visit the Vatican while we were there and I, the agnostic, recovering-catholic balked at “wasting” an entire day at the Vatican. What ignorance that was! I am so grateful that my dad insisted, because what an amazing place the Vatican is. St Peters Cathedral of course is simply amazing! Our tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable in theology, art and history and gave us an incredible tour! While I do not consider myself religious in the traditional sense, and was definitely in my agnostic phase at the time, I could not deny the spirituality of this place! Despite all of the amazing art and artifacts to see, the place just has a vibration that you can literally feel.
Travelling is in my blood, I feel a calling to see and do as much as possible while in this body on this earth. Even day trips excite me. Since embarking a few months ago on this pretty hefty spiritual journey that I am currently on, I have been thinking a lot about some new places I would like to visit. As I get ready to move to Hawaii, some of these places are closer and more easily accessed than at any other time in my life.
I have noticed some irony in the fact that spiritual journey has progressed as I move farther and farther West or East, I guess, depending on the perspective. I have some theories about the progression of spirituality (as I think of it,) but that is perhaps for another day.
Anyway, I digress. In no particular order, here are a few of the places I have recently added to my dream sheet (aka bucket list) (in the military, we call the list of places we want to be stationed a “dream sheet.”
Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar – Holds the relics of four Buddhas and is considered by many visitors to be one the great wonders of the world. (photo source: Flickr)
Swami Narayan Mandir, Toronto – Turkish limestone and Italian marble adorn this Hindu architectural masterpiece. (Photo Source: Flickr)
Ghats of Varanasi, India – I have heard that a boat ride along the Ghats at dawn is one of the most powerful, visceral and overwhelming experiences, not soon forgotten.Spiritual Capital of India, said to be founded by Shiva, the Chief deity of the Hindu religion and the site of Buddha’s first sermon. This city has been the home of many spiritual leaders and the origin of many spiritual texts. Like Nepal, some of my favorite philosophies and their texts originated here and the energy must be tremendous. Relics from the area are dated to be from the 20th Century BC and the Atharvaveda, and ancient text suggests the area was populated by indigenous inhabitants. If I were an archaeologist, this is where I would want to be. The Buddha is believed to have founded Buddhism here around 528 BC. (Photo Source: Flickr)
Batu Caves, Malaysia – Said to be one of the most amazing sights in all of Asia, this massive complex of limestone caves in Gombak Selangor is one of the most visited Hindu shrines outside of India. Said to be around 400 million years old is full of Hindu shrines, relics at and paintings, including a 140 ft. tall statue of the Hindu deity Murugah. (Photo Source: Flickr)
Boudhanath, Nepal – As my interest in Buddhism and Hinduism grow, Nepal is on my list of must see places. Home to one of the largest stupas and surrounded by 50 Buddhist monasteries, I can only imagine the energy in this place! A place of pilgrimage for many Tibetan Buddhists, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular tourist sites near Kathmandu. (Photo source: Flickr)
Bodh Gaya, India – Said to be the place Buddha obtained Enlightenment. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the most holy place and the most important Buddhist Pilgrimage site. It is home to the Mahabodhi Temple and the infamous Bodhi tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment. (Photo Source: Flickr)
Angkor Wat, Cambodia – Home to countless 900-year old temples and the largest religious monument in the world, this City of Temples was designed to represent the home of the devas in Hindu mythology. Cambodia’s prime visitor attraction is on the bucket list of many simply for its mystique and beauty. First a Hindu and later a Buddhist Temple, this site curiously faces West… unlike most Angkorian temples. This is another site, I just feel like is a must-visit in my travels. (Photo Source: Flickr)
The Baha’i Gardens Haifa, Israel –this religion follows the teachings of a series of diving messengers, including Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Krishna, Buddha and Bab. Surrounded by the most gorgeous gardens, reminiscent of the fabled Hanging Gardens of Babylon the Shrines to two most recent messengers are housed here. While not often mentioned as a religious site, these Gardens are among the most popular sites in the middle east, drawing half a million visitors annually. The official website describes the gardens as a tangible expression of the human spirit and the creativity and loving labor of many people from several generations from diverse origins, inspired by a common faith and optimistic vision of our collective future. Many of the tenets of this faith ring true to me, making this another necessary part of my spiritual pilgrimage. (photo source)
Takstsang “Tiger’s Nest” – A prominent Tibetan Buddhist temple built on the cliff side of upper Paro Valley in the Kingdom of Bhutan. (which borders China to the North, India to the South, East and West. A temple complex, built in 1692 around the Taktsang Senge Samdup cave is perhaps one of the World’s most famous hanging temples. Imagine the spiritual experience of hiking three hours to a stunning monastery perched 3000 ft. above the valley floor. The nearby cave is said to be where Guru Padmambhava is said to have meditated for three years, three months, three weeks, three days and three hours in the 8th century, the elegant temple is devoted to him. First off, high mountains always feel spiritual to me (as does the beach), but nature.. ah I do feel most in touch with my spirit when I am outside. To put a Buddhist structure in such a place, is to almost build the perfect shrine to my spirituality. This too is on my must see list. (Photo Source: Flickr)
Borobudur, Java, Indonesia – This temple complex from the 9th century is the most visited site in Indonesia. This, the largest Buddhist temple in the World is 7 stories high and home to over 500 Buddhas. The reliefs found here are a historical marvel as well as a spiritual one as they depict not only scenes of daily life from 8th Century Java, but also 1460 Buddhist narratives telling the story of Sudhana, the protagonist in the 2nd longest chapter of the Avatamsaka Sutra, one of the most influential sutras of East Asian Buddhism. Of course, this too is a Must See! (Photo Source: Flickr)
Do you have a spiritual Pilgrimage bucket list? Or do you have some spiritual places on your bucket list? For me, travel is a huge part of experiencing this world and the older I get, the more important these travels become for me. Visiting the places on this list not only meet my need to travel but appeal to my spiritual growth as well.
I would love to hear about what is on yours.