We must reap great fruits out of pilgrimages. It is indeed very heartening to see thousands of pilgrims marching to the dizzy snow-clad heights of holy Amaranth. By August 24, around a hundred thousand pilgrims will have had the darshan of the lingam in the Amaranth cave. Then will start arrangements for the Haj pilgrimage.
Likewise thousands of Christian visits Israel and Palestine every year, where Jesus was born, lived, died and indeed rose back to life. Sikhs from all over the world visit the Golden Temple too. Thus, people of all religions go to pilgrimages. At times it is with a certain hope to attain some benefit or to fulfill a desire or sometimes because a prayer has been answered. Sometimes no material benefit is asked for but only divine grace.
Those who have almost fulfilled all their earthy desires go with another hope that of ensuring salvation or immortal or eternal life for themselves. In the process occasionally they even undergo a deep god experience and return converted, showing a marked improvement in their spiritual lives and indeed in their attitudes towards others and inner happiness.
Their spiritual quotient becomes higher. They become more tolerant and forgiving of others and as a result often attain greater peace of heart and mind.
As each place of pilgrimage has its own significance and importance, each place has its own set of prayers and rituals and most often the pilgrims are busy reciting long prayers, scriptural passages, nam japa, nam sankirtan and even fasting.
But the question we need to ask ourselves is whether in all our pilgrimages we seek our own good or also the good of our kith and kin and neighbour? Are the aims of pilgrimage self-centred or are the other-centred? Do the benefits of our pilgrimage actually percolate to the members of our family, our society at large, particularly the deprived, the poor and the needy?
Jesus once said, “It is not those who call me Lord! Lord! That will enter the kingdom of god but those who do the will of my Father in heaven!”
St James in his Epistle further explains what Jesus means: “Suppose there are brothers and sisters who need clothes and don’t have enough to eat, what good is there in your saying to them, ‘god bless you, keep warm and eat well.. So it is faith: if it is alone and includes no action, then it is dead… Show me how anyone can have faith without action,” Kabir once said he could not pray on empty stomach.
Our meditation should fructify in our realization that our prayers, fasting, visit to places of worship or places of pilgrimage are meaningless if they do not awaken us to the need of others, specifically the poor and deserving. Swami Vivekananda once said: “They alone live who live for others.” He further said that service of people is like service of god.