The four places of pilgrimage and end of life

In the Maha-Panibbana sutta it is said:

  1. "There are four places, Ananda, that a pious person should visit and look upon with feelings of reverence.What are the four?

  2. "These, Ananda, are the four places that a pious person should visit and look upon with feelings of reverence. And truly there will come to these places, Ananda, pious bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, laymen and laywomen, reflecting: ‘Here the Tathagata was born! Here the Tathagata became fully enlightened in unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment! Here the Tathagata set rolling the unexcelled Wheel of the Dhamma! Here the Tathagata passed away into the state of Nibbana in which no element of clinging remains!’

  3. “And whoever, Ananda, should die on such a pilgrimage with his heart established in faith, at the breaking up of the body, after death, will be reborn in a realm of heavenly happiness.”

I found the phrase “should die” in the last paragraph to be interesting. Did the Buddha imply that one should pay homage to the four places near the end of life? Are the four place of pilgrimage a popular destination for those who are dying? Can we stick a wallpaper with pictures of the four places in the room of someone who is dying?

Interesting question. Could it be a fast track to Heaven (just light joke haha)?

For me, I always put pictures of Buddharupa (for remembering the Buddha), well-known pagoda, Arahants (for remembering the Sangha), and enlightened disciples (such as Vessavana Maharaja, for remembering the deities) found in the Suttas as my phone wallpaper. Then I can easily think of them when I look at my phone. I suppose the concept is similar to sticking a picture on wall?

Sure, it can’t hurt and will probably only help. On my altar at home, I have Maha Bodhi souvenir replicas (representing Bodh Gaya), a mini statue of baby Buddha pointing up (representing Lumbini), a statue in teaching mudra (representing Sarnath) and a reclining Buddha (representing Kushinagar).

As I said in my Halloween response and privately to another monk who criticized my post and picked details of the Dog Duty Ascetic:

There are 3 factors which increase probability of a good or bad birth.

  • Heaviness of the Kamma
  • Frequency of the Kamma
  • Proximity of Kamma to the point of the near death moment.

When we know the Dhamma from a whole-istic approach and then read the suttas we can avoid the pitfalls of taking words and phrases to the extreme literal meaning and then drawing up conclusions that deviate from the dhamma. This is often the mistake that Suttanta-only people do. They nit pick on words, and miss the tree in the forest, all the while accusing the CT’ers of the same.

Yes, one might think, “Oh… it only works if I am on a pilgrimage.” A CT’er would not deny how wonderful a pilgrimage can be . It can be with such great results if the conditions apply. However, there are many factors involved even for that to work. It is my belief that knowing these three contributing factors (listed above) and working with wholesome kammas, one can help themselves live a better balanced and wholesome life with good results to follow.

That’s the ticket… literally speaking.

1 Like