ahymsin newsletter, issue - 17, april 2010  

A Talk by Swami Veda Bharati

The Kumbha Mela, the most sacred of all the Hindu pilgrimages, culminated on April 14th in the sacred Maha Kumbha Sahi Snan – the royal bath. Thousands of holy men and women (mahamandeleshwaras, monks, saints and sadhus) in addition to the pilgrims who journeyed from villages far and wide in India, gathered to take a dip in Mother Ganga on this most auspicious of days. For the past month or so, millions of people have journeyed to Haridwar for the Kumbh Mela.  In addition to the major event of the ritual bath, other activities include religious discussions, devotional singing, mass feeding of holy men and women and the poor, and religious assemblies where doctrines are debated and standardized.

kumbha mela bath

What is a pilgrim? Where does the pilgrim’s journey ultimately lead to?

For answers, please read the following transcription of a talk on the subject given by Swami Veda.

In mystic traditions, particularly in India, life is regarded as a journey. A pilgrimage is merely an external projection of an inward journey. Before you can determine who is a pilgrim, you need to be clear about some aspects of pilgrimage.

A place of pilgrimage is one where a manifestation of divinity appeared for a particular purpose, where a sage performed austerities or meditated for a long period, or where someone got direct experience of God. One or more specific areas within the holy place get marked as a sanctum sanctorum, due to a still palpable divine power, like a vortex of energy. I have personally experienced this vortex in many places, particularly while taking a dip in the Ganga with my Guru at the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar.

kumbha mela procession

A pilgrimage is undertaken with many spiritual goals in mind. It may be an act of acknowledging to oneself one’s failures and misdeeds. You may aspire for freedom from this burden of misdeeds through prayaschitta, an act of atonement and purification. It could be in the form of renouncing a habit, addiction or worldly pleasure after the pilgrimage is complete.

It is not a myth that if a pilgrim is one who fulfils all the requirements, he may be granted the rare darshan of a sage who left the body thousands of years ago, but still dwells there as a light being.

You will feel the energy to the degree your mind is attuned. If you blanket your mind with the elements of the unsettled, the non-sacred, the mundane, and carry your anger and impatience with you, the energy plays hide and seek, and you return without being recharged.

While a pilgrimage is not the highest endeavour, it is far more conducive to self-enquiry and enrichment than a holiday. Rather than attending a lecture on silence, it is better to practise silence. Go on an internal journey rather than an external one.

If done earnestly the right way, it cleanses the mind, unburdens the heart, and you become confident in your capacity to explore your inner world. You then renounce pleasures you are addicted to and come to realise that you have the spiritual strength to live without them.

Begin a pilgrimage with an inner resolve or sankalpa, abandoning comforts, renouncing pleasures,

naga sadhus
Har Har Mahadev
remaining silent and still, practising celibacy, practising restraint in matters of food, accepting whatever the stations in the journey have to offer, controlling speech and all the senses and withdrawing from desires and from memories thereof.

Many spiritual seekers share Kabir’s view: “If taking a dip in a river would grant me liberation then the fish would have been liberated long ago.” Hence the internal journey is far more important than the external one.

A holy place is called tirtha, a point of crossing over. Let a pilgrimage be a point of crossing over, a transition to a higher level of thought, action and existence. Go with the resolve: “After the pilgrimage, I shall be a higher self, purer, brighter, more stilled, more akin to my own interior divinity.”

After the pilgrimage, be not what you were before. Let your life become a journey to your internal sanctum sanctorum. Until that final realisation happens, you will continue to remain a pilgrim. Thereafter, you become a guide to other pilgrims who might follow you, seeking to grasp the vessel of God’s elixir of immortality, the Aquarian fullness, the essence of enlightenment.

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