Buddhist monk begins 1,800-mile Mississippi pilgrimage
by Steve Charles
March 2, 2005
The last time Tan Jotipalo ’88 undertook such a long journey was in the
foothills of the Himalayas, where he had a near-death experience that
led to his eventually becoming a Buddhist monk.
On March 1, the former Wabash art major was hoping for a little less
drama but no less illumination as he began a six-month, 1,800-mile
walking pilgrimage along the Mississippi River from New Orleans to
Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Jotipalo and Buddhist layman Austin Stewart of Gunnison, Colorado will
survive completely on donations in the Buddhist tradition of wandering
known as Tu Dong. Theirs is the first walk of this kind in the United
"By giving people the opportunity to participate in the walk (by
offering food or shelter), we hope to open up people’s hearts—to be be a
catalyst to inspire other people to do good."" Jotipalo told the
Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal.
"Our walk is also a physical demonstration of renunciation, and a return
to simpler values," Jotipalo said. "For me, this is training in giving
up comfort. It’s learning to improvise and deal with
hardships—thunderstorms, tornados, not knowing where you’re going to
stay that night. . . . Learning how to deal with those kinds of
Those emotions crept up on the monk soon after he arrived in New Orleans
"Taking the train from Chicago to New Orleans made me feel like we have
an impossible task ahead of us," Jotipalo notes in his first journal
entry. "It seems like an eternally long way. A little bit of doubt has
"But on the train, I was reading John Steinbeck's Travels with
Charley, and he mentions a similar apprehension at the beginning of
his journey. This morning we just decided to go for it—if I wait until
my health is great, I'll never get started. And today is an absolutely
beautiful day in New Orleans."
Jotipalo will update his online journal weekly through the Wabash
College publications office.
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