Sacred sites demonstrate the role of tradition in religious movements that often attach spiritual meaning to these locations. An evaluation of the use of such holy sites is essential to making valid conclusions about them in different religions. The work reflects on the writer’s journey to two such places associated with Buddhism and Shintoism.
Buddhism is among the oldest religions on the planet that has achieved international prominence. Devoted Buddhists recognize the importance of tracing Buddha’s life stages to also receive enlightenment (Ober 2).
Most of them spend years practicing meditation after Buddha’s example. They practice in temples and sometimes replicate Buddha’s experience by visiting important sites in his life. For instance, Bodhgaya stands out as one of the essential pilgrimage sites because of its association with the Bodhi tree under which Buddha became enlightened (Singh and Kumar 256). Thousands stream into the site every year to study Buddhism and seek enlightenment. Therefore, Bodhgaya is a site of acquiring wisdom through religion.
Buddhist followers and scholars populate the site in their regular worship practices. Most tourists to the site have a Buddhist heritage and proceed to seek guidance from priests and monks. They observe Buddhist groups throughout the expanse in different stages of meditations. These are usually led by scholars or monks who stand out as part of the landscape. The Mahabodhi temple is the most prominent feature at Bodhgaya, primarily because of its history that dates back to the 6th century. Other temples have since been erected around the Mahabodhi but retain architectural designs of their origin countries.
However, Mahabodhi temple holds prominence because it houses the Vajirasana and the descendant of the original holy Bodhi tree (Singh and Kumar 259). The Bodhgaya pilgrimage is a critical component in Buddhism because it allows believers to rejuvenate their faith after confirming Buddha’s dedication to achieving enlightenment.
The most common sound on the site is that of chanting monks and singing birds that live in abundance in the nearby forests. These sounds bring about a feeling of tranquility that is enhanced by the sweet smell of flowers and burning incense. Religious or enthusiast tourists can participate in most of the activities on-site because they revolve around the rich Buddhist culture. The best part of the visit is circumambulating under the Bodhi tree because it endows Buddhist with a spiritual ambiance. Prayers can also be offered here to relieve oneself from the weight of the world.
Shintoism is a predominately Japanese religion that revolves around several deities or kami. These entities are thought to inhabit everything, creating a link between religion and nature. Followers of the faith can worship the kami in the family or public shrines. The polytheistic religion is believed to be indigenous, given its incredible history that dates back to the Yayoi period. The Torri is a remarkable piece of architecture that is often associated with Shinto shrines across Japan. Therefore, it is accurate to hypothesize that Japan hosts important Shinto sites. For instance, the Ise Shrine is considered the hub of Shintoism following its connection to Kami and the royal family. The site is dedicated to the powerful sun goddess and purported mother of Japan’s royal family, Amaterasu (Matsumura 256). Shinto followers make the pilgrimage to shrine in honor of the goddess and to pray for their wellbeing. Therefore, the site brings believers closer to the kami in a unique way, allowing them to achieve spiritual fulfillment.
The Grand Shrine sits in the middle of a sacred forest. The shrine’s structures retain their architectural aesthetics from ancient buildings crafted in 7 CE. The shrine is also referred to as Ise Jengu and houses numerous sacred buildings. Shinto believers purport that Amaterasu gave the ornamental mirror to the first emperor, which is a representation of the goddess. Therefore, these believers also pray for the royal family during their pilgrimage to the shrine. People come to the shrine for purification and to pray to the kami. It is common to hear the sound of soft clapping and singing birds around the shrine.
The case of Bodhgaya and Ise Jingu accurately depicts the assertion that religious sects attempt to reconnect with their faith on these sites. Bodhgaya is the site where Budha achieved enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, which has since been considered holy. A sapling from the original tree is an essential feature of the Bodhgaya, and thousands of Buddhists travel to meditate under it. The Ise Jingu has a similar relationship and is dedicated to a powerful deity. Amaterasu is believed to have sired the royal family of Japan, which increases the site’s value to the believers and the government. Therefore, believers sanctify religious sites to remain attached to their traditions and become closer to their deities.