The Way of the Pilgrimage

I ran across this beautiful piece on pilgrimage by Huston Smith:

The object of pilgrimage is not rest and recreation – to get away from it all. To set out on a pilgrimage is to throw down a challenge to everyday life. Nothing matters now but this adventure. Travelers jostle each other to board the train where they crowd together on a journey that may last several days. After that there is a stony road to climb on foot – a rough, wild path in a landscape where everything is new. The naked glitter of the sacred mountain stirs the imagination; the adventure of self-conquest has begun. Specifics may differ, but the substance in always the same.

Travel brings a special kind of wisdom if one is open to it. At home or abroad, things of the world pull us toward them with such gravitational force that, if we are not alert our entire lives, we can be sucked into their outwardness. Attentive travel helps us to see this, because the continually changing outward scene helps us to see through the world’s pretensions. With its phatasmagoric, kaleidoscopic character laid bare, we see it for what it truly is – perpetually perishing maya – and the world loses its wager. We can understand how perpetual wandering can be a spiritual vocation, as with dedicated pilgrims and sannyasins.

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