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Pithas: The Seats of the Goddess And Their Hindu and Buddhist Connections

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  1. Introduction
  2. Pithas for beginners
  3. What the Pithas mean
  4. Pithas as actual places
  5. Who let the Buddha in?
  6. The tantric connection
  7. Review and concluding remarks

In India, there are many cities and other sites that are considered especially sacred to the Goddess and her devotees. These places are called p?th?s. P?th?s provide unique insight into Goddess worship and what the Goddess; the Dev?; the Mother means to her followers. What follows here is a brief survey of p?th?s: what they are, what they mean, and where they come from historically and mythically. The possible Buddhist origins and/or connections of these sites are especially crucial to this report; therefore, correlations between sacred Buddhist sites and p?th?s will also be discussed. First, the origin story of the p?th?s will be presented for reference.

[...] What the P?th?s Mean In one translation of the Dev? G?t?, the Goddess dies in the flames of the fire sacrifice, and what follows is described thusly: Hear, O King, this ancient tale. When the body of Sat? was consumed in the flames, The bewildered ?iva wandered about, falling here and there motionless on the ground. He was unaware of the manifest world, his mind being fully absorbed. Regaining his self-composure, he passed the time contemplating the true form of the Goddess. [...]

[...] In fact, this Goddess's name means severed head or foreheaded one (Benard At this point, the connections between the Buddhist tradition and the Hindu p?th?s should be made clearer. Who Let the Buddha in? Many scholars have noted the similarities between the Hindu p?th?s and the Buddhist st?pas (Erndl 33, Sircar 7). A st?pa is a mound containing ashes or corporeal relics, a funeral custom in India and many other cultures (Mitra 21). Before his death, the Buddha supposedly directed his followers to honor his remains in this way, by erecting st?pas at the crossing of four highways (Mitra 21). [...]

[...] Sircar theorizes that perhaps the Buddhist Tantra, which describes the p?th?s in a more sexualized philosophy, could have been ?either the cause or effect of the early recognition of four holy places as P?th?s (Sircar It seems that the Tantric belief system is shared between Hindus and Buddhists, much like the p?th?s. The Tantric Connection It is this sexual philosophy that might be the link between Hindus and Buddhists concerning the p?th?s. In fact, it is quite possible that the p?th?s are not just a symbol of the divide between Hinduism and Buddhism; these sites could be the result of the fusion of Hinduism and Buddhism through Tantric practice. [...]

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