Buddhist pilgrimage passes Ontario

By Blake Wolfe, The Scugog Standard, Aug 22, 2008

Scugog, Ontario (Canada) -- Scugog residents may have noticed a visitor to North Durham this past month, travelling along the roads and highways of the township.

Venerable Shengguang Shi, a Buddhist monk of the Buddhist Association of Canada Cham Shan Temple, began a pilgrimage from the Thornhill temple on May 12 (coinciding with the Buddha’s birthday), bowing every three steps along the way. His journey, lasting a total of 135 km, will take him to the future site of the Wutai Shan Buddhist Garden south of Omemee. According to Venerable Shengguang’s on-line journal (found at shengguangshi.blogspot.com), the pilgrimage could last until November, depending on his health and the weather.

His pilgrimage took him through Scugog beginning in late July and much of this month, and took him along Simcoe St. to Shirley Rd., which he then took to Regional Rd. 57, then to Hwy. 7A towards Hwy. 35.

The Wutai Shan Garden is just one of four ‘bodhimandalas,’ or Buddhist temples, that are to be built in the City of Kawartha Lakes and Peterborough County that he will visit along the pilgrimage.

As of Aug. 19, Venerable Shengguang’s blog page stated that he had just passed 13851 Shirley Rd.

A group of Venerable Shengguang’s followers are accompanying him on the pilgrimage in a van, providing him with a place for meditation and rest.

Helen Ballak, a spokesperson for Venerable Shengguang (who is observing a ‘noble silence’ during his pilgrimage, in addition to a refusal to handle money or ‘luxury items’) explained the purpose of his journey, which she described as a rare event in Canada.

“This pilgrimage is for three reasons,” she said. “He is praying for world peace, the enlightenment of mankind, and the early completion of the four sacred temples.”

Born in Hong Kong, Venerable Shengguang came to Canada in 1988. An employee of the information sector for more than 20 years, he then took the ‘Three Grand Precepts’ required for becoming a Buddhist monk at Zhanshan Temple in China, and was elected as Deputy Abbot of Cham Shan Temple in 2005.