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Constructing and Contesting Sacred Spaces: International Buddhist Assistance in Bodhgayā

  • Kory Goldberg
Part of the Contemporary Anthropology of Religion book series (CAR)

Abstract

Bodhgayā’s global significance is derived from its association with the Buddha, who is thought to have attained enlightenment there approximately 2,550 years ago. Most Buddhists regard Bodhgayā as the “navel of the earth,” and this most important pilgrimage site in the Buddhist world ought to be visited at least once in a Buddhist’s lifetime. Located two-thirds of the way between Delhi and Kolkata, and 13 km south of Gayā, the district capital and a prominent Vaiśnava pilgrimage center, this sacred place is also situated in the central Indian province of Bihar, the most impoverished state in India. Encountering Bodhgayā’s social, financial, and educational challenges, several Buddhist pilgrims from various denominations have begun shifting their spiritual focus from traditional forms of expressing devotion—such as meditation and offerings—to social service, exemplified by pilgrim-sponsored schools, health clinics, and vocational training centers for the local poverty-stricken Hindu and Muslim communities. The increase of Buddhist-operated NGO (nongovernment organizations) in Bodhgayā is partly a response to the notorious failures of the Bihari government to provide adequate education, food, medicine, clothing, and in some cases shelter,1 and partly as a response to the Buddhist perception that education is a primary tool needed to lever personal, social, and spiritual transformation.2

Keywords

Sacred Site Sacred Space Local Teacher Spiritual Transformation Sacred Object 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Hiroko Kawanami and Geoffrey Samuel 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kory Goldberg

There are no affiliations available

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