Pilgrimage – Interfaith Perspectives
Posted by peacedevelopmentnetwork on September 2, 2009
What can we learn about pilgrimages that are common to all religions? On September 3rd we heard about jumping queues and ‘culturally determined’ mind sets that are challenged when we join a pilgrimage. Swami Saradananda, who coordinates pilgrimages (www.flyingmountainyoga.org), talked of India as a place where Europeans or Americans had to relearn everything from how to eat, talk, sleep and go to the toilet. The happiest pilgrimage was often the one where everything went wrong! Imam Mahmadou Bocoum spoke of wearing the white clothes of the Haj and putting away things of the world. Yet he struggled when others jumped queues, pushed and shoved to fulfil their heavenly duties. Brother Tashi spoke of accumulating merit by pilgrimages as well as purifying our karma. He demonstrated the sequence of devotion when approaching the holy mountain in Tibet near Llhasa: the sequential prostration every two metres along the path.
Angad Kaur talked of two pilgrimages. The first was similar to sightseeing. The second with a spiritual guide and mentor was an external manifestation of an enriching internal journey. She could experience the devotion suffused within the stones and creation where it was practiced by holy people of the past.
Joy Phillipou grew up in the Holy Land of the Levant, providing ample time to experience swimming in Lake Galilee while thinking of Christ walking on that lake or the joy of being given turkish coffee and sanctified bread at 4:00 am by monks after sleeping overnight in the Church of Holy Sepulchre or lying down in the Garden of the Tomb in the place where Christ’s body may have been laid to rest. She felt a sacred presence within the stations of the cross on Via Doloroso holding her arms out like Christ in crucifixion.
A Unificationist, Ashley Crosthwaite, saw life of faith as a journey. The pilgrimage is a small aspect of that journey. On a pilgrimage to a holy place in Korea he and his wife, who were having difficulty to have children, were told by a spiritual lady of that place to fast one day a week and have cold showers each day for three years. At the conclusion of those three years they had their first child.
Swami Saradananda quoted Mother Theresa’s conception of a castle with seven rooms in our inner world. Each room is guarded by those who check whether you have really learned all there is to learn from that room before passing to the next. Real peace must come from within she said as we change our own inner nature. A pilgrimage brings out the real inner nature in a way that allows us to deal with what we can easily hide in our own nation and regular life.