“I’m just a poor wayfaring stranger. Traveling through this world below . . . .” So begins the song of life’s struggles in route to “that bright world to which I go.” This life is in deed a pilgrimage, a spiritual journey fraught with setbacks, mistakes, and trials. It is also one which gives of a taste of joy, and fills us with hope.
People of most religions feel this need to connect with the spiritual while still “here below.” To walk in the footsteps of our religious predecessors, prophets and saints. Because of this many take “a journey within the journey,” to visit places of religious significance to their faith. These visits, not mere holidays or vacations are often deeply moving, and allow us a taste of the divine.
Others, journey to places to connect not with deity per se , but with their own past, and identity. These can be no less moving. They are in themselves often spiritual.
These pilgrimages are ideally journeys of discovery. One’s past, one’s beliefs, and one’s physical being are often tested, and in so doing enhanced. It is because of this that the Sikh teacher, Guru Nanak discouraged pilgrimage. No, he was not against spiritual discovery, but rather he was against going through the motions. (Here I must explain that there is one Sikh teaching I wholeheartedly support: “The truth is the truth, no matter who says it.”) Nanak was right on this score. It isn’t going to the place (that’s a holiday), its not an obligation (that’s spiritual compulsion); but rather a personal connection with the divine.
I have seen each of these types of pilgrim. I have seen those who are in awe of the place; those seeking physical healing; those who fall on their knees in tears; and those in ecstasy at there nearness to God.
Whatever journey you are on today, let it be one that enriches and draws you close to your true destination.