If we examine the existing scholarship on pilgrimage and emerging Buddhist communities in America, we see there is a missing piece: no one has yet undertaken a study of American Buddhist pilgrimage in India. My thesis undertakes that task, using two figures from America's Beat Literary movement as case studies. Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder's pilgrimage experiences are accessible through the journals they kept while traveling in India. The presumed structure of pilgrimage is in three phases where the pilgrim 1) departs from home 2) travels through the unfamiliar to the pilgrimage site and finally 3) returns home. The organization of my chapters reflects these stages. First, I will explore the disenchantment that motivates American Buddhists to embark on pilgrimage. Then, I will discuss their experiences in India, highlighting those that were most influential in forming their particular Buddhist identities. I will guide the exploration of Ginsberg and Snyder's experiences in India with Victor Turner's theory of liminality as well as phenomenological and performance theories. We will explore how the data from their travel is anomalous, challenging preexisting theories of postmodern travel, tourism, pilgrimage, and authenticity. Finally, I will explore the ways in which they reconcile their Buddhist values and religious identities with their American culture of origin by practicing socially engaged Buddhism, sanctifying the American landscape, and using literature as a vehicle of dharma transmission.


Crothers, Lisa


Religious Studies





Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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