We have begun our second Dhammayatra at Vultures Peak. This time we are traveling with monks from the Mahayana tradition.
Vulture’s Peak may be the second “holiest” place of Buddhism, after the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya because this is the place where the Buddha spent so much time on retreat, in meditation, and most importantly, teaching.
Vultures Peak is frequently mentioned in Buddhist texts in the Pāli Canon of Theravada Buddhism and in the Mahayana sutras as the place where the Buddha gave particular sermons, including the Heart Sutra, and the Lotus Sutra, both of which will be chanted while we are in Rajgir.
It is said the place got its name because vultures used to perch on some of the peak’s rock.
The program in Rajgir began with a late evening chanting program at the top of Vulture’s Peak.
I wanted to see the Vishwa Shanti Stupa first, which sits on the top of the hill above Vulture’s Peak. You reach the Vishwa Shanti Stupa via a rickety, and yet fun, tram and then walk halfway down the mountain to Vulture’s Peak.
Most (but not all) peace pagodas built since World War II have been built under the guidance of Nichidatsu Fujii (1885–1985), a Japanese Buddhist monk and founder of the Nipponzan-Myōhōji Buddhist Order. After meeting Mahatma Gandhi in 1931, Fujii decided to devote his life to promoting non-violence. In 1947, he began constructing Peace Pagodas.
By 2000, eighty Peace Pagodas had been built around the world in Europe, Asia, and the United States, including the one in Japantown in San Francisco.