Consecutive Days Riding: 124 Days Blogged: 106
New Mileage: 6 Total Trip Mileage: 886
Often the synchronicity of events in my life makes me smile. Yesterday I shared with you the nature of my inner guide. I noted that this guide is embedded within a framework made up of several humanistic assumptions about life and that it represents a dynamic process that takes into account situational demands with a general goal of balance and growth. Several phrases I find myself using in my teaching speak directly to wisdom generated by this process. Statements such as: “One size does not fit all!; Never say never!; The ends do not justify the means!; Be certain, but humble!; Change is mandatory, growth is optional!”
I mention this because I had reported that we were going to visit a religious theme park in Orlando today. However, situational factors demand or at least suggest a change in these plans. As I mounted my bike to ride, of course, virtually toward Orlando, I realized we were going to pass by an important diversity pilgrimage site in Kissimmee. This site is unique as it offers a cluster of shrines unlike any that I have uncovered on my widening search for pilgrimage and retreat locations.
I use the term Diversity Site to label retreat and pilgrimage locations that feature a faith which are commonly located in other parts of the world but found more rarely in the United States. For example a small city near where I live houses a Vedic Hindu temple, A Coptic Christian church, and a Buddhist Ashram with one of the few female Buddhist monks in the US. I would classify all three of these Diversity Sites,as they are places one can visit to learn of the teachings, traditions and rituals of a unique world wisdom tradition. All three of these sites are embedded in a landscape featuring a multitude of Christian denominations, and each offers a unique educational opportunity.
Nestled on the outskirts of Kissimmee Florida is the Wat Florida Dhammaram, a Theravada Buddhist temple and monastery affiliated with a Buddhist temple in Thailand. The temple serves the local Buddhist community and has resident Buddhist monks. The central temple complex houses a large bronze statue of Buddha and welcomes visitors of any faith. What makes this site highly unique are the four separate shrines included within the temple compound.
Many major world religions suggest that adherents of their faith travel to sites that played a central role in the development of the faith (e.g., Mecca for Islam, Jerusalem for Jewish and Christian followers). For Buddhists there are four such sites, all located in present day India or Nepal. The Wat Florida Dhammaram has constructed replicas of the sacred places of pilgrimage honoring Lord Buddha’s life.
The shrine named Vihara Maha Mayadevil located in Lumbini Nepal commemorates Buddha’s birthplace. The shrine named Mahabodi Temple located in Bodgaya India commemorates Buddha’s enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. The shrine named Dhamekha Stupa located in Sarnath India commemorates Buddha’s first teaching of the Four Noble Truths. The shrine named The Parinibbana Temple located in Kusinara India commemorates Buddha leaving his moral body and passing into Nirvana.
While some people might argue that a visit to these shrines is not a substitute for a visit to the real thing, I suspect that time, distance and costs likely precludes many people from a pilgrimage to India and Nepal. I would argue that if a visit to a shrine replica helps a person renew and/or strengthen their faith then it has served a critical function in that person’s life. In line with my afore mentioned philosophy, I believe if kneeling before and offering incense to a replica helps the person find balance and grow in commitment to their faith (both representing positive outcomes) then the pilgrimage process was a healthy and productive one!
If you have enjoyed the blog please sign up for stationarypilgrim’s e-mail subscription by going to the upper right corner of this page. For more information about the temple and it’s shrines please visit the Pilgrimage Site tab at the top of this page.