The purpose of pilgrimage

Among the best books on our reading list for next month’s Namarupa Yatra is Diane L. Eck’s Banaras: City of Light. (Another of her works, Darshan, was probably the best of our first Yatra readings.

Probably the most succinct review is: It really has made us want to travel to Banaras / Varanasi — now.

Early on in the book, Eck describes seeing the city through Hindu eyes — what the city means and implies in their faith — and she delves, just for a few paragraphs, on pilgrimage and how they are not out for sight seeing but “sacred sight-seeing.” Darshan, in other words. And she writes the following, which has become one of my guide posts as I prep for our journey:

Those who travel as pilgrims follow the path of the “holy men” (sadhus) or “renouncers” (sannyasins), those perpetual seekers and pilgrims who have given up on the settled life of home to live out the spiritual truth that all people, finally, are travelers and pilgrims on earth. Very few people become sannyasins or sadhus, but in going on a pilgrimage, ordinary householders become, for a short time, renouncers of sorts. Leaving home, they take only those few things they can carry, and their life is the simple life of the road. Their destinations are spiritual ones, and they are often difficult to reach. Going on foot to a distant place becomes for these pilgrims a kind of asceticism in which the journey itself is as purifying as the sacred destinations.

It’s on pages 20-21 of the latest edition of the book.

On our trip this time, Robert Moses has emphasized we need to stick within a 33-pound limit, due to our internal air travel. So we can only a few things. Our lives will follow the simplicity of the road (and train, and bus, and airplane). All our destinations are spiritual ones, even spiritual ones within spiritual ones. We will hike in the Himalayas and walk along the Ganga in Banaras.

Our journey will be purifying.

Posted by Steve

Published by


Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s