It would be hard to follow the path to Zen without having a close brush with Buddhism. One has always been associated with the other with teachings that intersect or intertwines the other. Many Zen practitioners find their way in Buddhist temples at some point for varied reasons. Whether for a brief visit to worship or stay for a retreat, the temples are centers of spiritual experiences and explorations. Here are some of the world’s most famous Buddhist temples for the bucket list.
Bagan, or Pagan, is an ancient temple town that is home to the Bagan Archaeological Zone. Thousands of temples, pagodas, and stupas remain alongside the ruins that date back centuries. The temples of Bagan are among Myanmar’s top attractions and continue to draw thousands of tourists from around the world.
Borobudur (Java, Indonesia)
Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple dating back to the 8th and 9th centuries. It took many years to build. Abandoned at some point for unknown reasons, the temple has survived natural calamities for over a thousand years. The Borobudur Temple Compounds is said to be the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world.
Boudhanath Stupa (Kathmandu, Nepal)
Also known as the Bodnath Stupa, the Boudhanath is the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet dating back to the 14th century. It is steeped with symbolic features like the Buddha eyes painted on all four sides of the square tower.
Jokhang Temple (Lhasa, Tibet)
The Jokhang Temple is the Buddhist spiritual center in Tibet. It dates back to the 7th century and has drawn thousands of pilgrims from around the world each year. The Jokhang Monastery serves as the nerve center of the Gelugpa branch of Tibetan Buddhism.
Mahabodhi Temple (Bodh Gaya, India)
Mahabodhi Temple is one of the most sacred sites related to the Lord Buddha. The heart of the temple complex is home to a Bodhi Tree that traces its roots to the original where beneath it Gautama Buddha attained Enlightenment. UNESCO declared the Mahabodhi Temple a World Heritage Site in 2002.
Shwedagon Pagoda (Yangon, Myanmar)
The Shwedagon Pagoda is also often referred to as the Golden Pagoda. Dating back to roughly 2,500 years ago, it is the most sacred site in Myanmar (Burma) and is said to enshrine holy relics including strands Buddha’s hair. The towering main stupa is covered in gold.
Tōdai-ji (Nara, Japan)
Tōdai-ji or the Great Eastern Temple was built in 752. It is one of Nara’s historically significant temples. Its Big Buddha Hall (Daibutsuden) is touted as the largest wooden building in the world and houses one of the largest Daibutsu in Japan.