▲ Pilgrims make their way through farmland
Every year, Ven. Pomnyun Sunim (법륜스님) and numerous Jungto practitioners embark on a transformative pilgrimage through India and Nepal, retracing the Buddha’s footsteps. Pushing pilgrims out of their comfort zones, this two-week journey allows them to experience the ascetic life of renounced practitioners as they visit sacred Buddhist sites. They often sleep in temples, on buses, and even during Ven. Pomnyun Sunim’s Dharma talks at each location.
▲ Varanasi, India
▲ Lumbini, Nepal
Each pilgrimage is unique and filled with special moments. The last trip notably took a massive group of approximately 1,250 practitioners and reenacted the setting for the Diamond Sutra, in which the Buddha gave a sermon to 1,250 bhikkhus in Jetavana.
▲ Ven. Pomnyun Sunim gives a Dharma talk in Sankasia
What makes the upcoming pilgrimage extra special is, for the first time, graduates of English Jungto Dharma School will also embark on the journey along with the rest of Korean-speaking Jungto members. Among these participants is Prince, a soon-to-be graduate of Introduction to Buddhism II. He currently resides in Italy and works in the software industry. When asked how he feels about the trip, his first reaction was to give thanks to the volunteers who are putting in the extra effort to support English speaking graduates.
“I am excited, and also grateful to all the volunteers who are spending so much time helping us.”
▲Prince, our English Jungto Dharma School student
Prince shared that what most excites him about the trip is the prospect of visiting the major Buddhist sites for the first time since he embraced the Buddha’s teachings. Prince’s journey into Buddhism began with a friend he met online. Back in the year 2020, at the peak of the pandemic, Prince went through a rough patch in life. He had separated from his partner, struggled to find a job after graduating from college, and perhaps most importantly, faced the uncertainty of his visa status as the Canadian government virtually stopped issuing visas to foreign nationals. Negative emotions filled his heart.
That is when his friend recommended him some Youtube videos to watch. Those videos from two Canadian monks following the tradition of Thai Buddhism were Prince’s first experience with the Buddha’s teachings (side note: the interviewer was amused to hear this as he was also introduced to Ven. Pomnyun Sunim’s Dharma talk videos by a friend he had met online). Before long, he learned about loving-kindness meditation. While practicing loving-kindness meditation, Prince felt his negative emotions melt away and he was no longer suffering. He wasn’t sure how it was making him feel better, but it had such an effect on him that he was determined to find out more.
In 2022, Prince joined the first Live Dharma Talk with Ven. Pomnyun Sunim after he found his Dharma talks on Youtube. Prince attributes his discovery of Sunim’s Dharma talk videos to his interest in Korean culture. Without hesitation, he enrolled in Introduction to Buddhism I at Jungto Dharma School when it became available.
Prince firmly believes that the Buddha’s teachings can play a huge role in bringing happiness to people. He sees that so many people are greatly suffering yet have no idea how to deal with their pain.
“The Buddha’s teachings have helped me personally, so they must also work for others. They can help people overcome their greed and live more mindfully.”
When asked about how his family feels about his interest in the Buddha’s teachings, Prince replied that they were supportive. He even managed to get his mother to begin watching Buddhist teachings online in Hindi. He is convinced that the Dharma can help people find happiness because it has had such a positive impact on his life and the lives of those around him.
As we wrapped up our interview, Prince repeatedly showed interest in volunteering at Jungto Society and making a contribution to help others find happiness.
“I would like to dedicate time to help others, and Jungto Society is a wonderful medium for it.”
We thank Prince for his kindness and wish him and other pilgrims the best of luck on their journey.