Pilgrimage … from chapter 19


Magic happens anywhere worlds meet. This includes airports, crossroads, the seashore, graveyards, hospitals, and temples but the places where the Ordinary World meets the Extraordinary World requires pilgrimage, either internal or external. The act of making a pilgrimage is that of suspending oneself between worlds. Those locations to which one makes a pilgrimage are called tirthas, crossing-over places, and standing on those intersections, one may be in both worlds at the same time. Tirthas mark hidden entrances to the Extraordinary World. They reflect the inner journey onto the external world and reflect the heavens onto the Earth. Those who go on a pilgrimage become like babas for that period.

The main reason for going on pilgrimage is to experience darshan and its blessings, which are made visible by prasad, offerings of flowers, fruit, and sweets offered by pilgrims to the deity and then given back to the devotee that seal the bond between humans and God. Darshan derives from drsh, “to see,” and is the Beholding, not “looking,” as tourists do, but true Seeing. The prasad, “that which pleases,” is the sign that the deity is pleased and therefore gives blessings. The pilgrim has compassion for the beggars, as he feels the compassion from the deity, so he gives alms as he receives the prasad sacrament. In order that the World benefits from his pilgrimage, the pilgrim brings the blessings (and the prasad) back home.

There are the tirthas of different deities, both local and culture-wide, there are sites where divine events have taken place, and then there are uncountable signatures of nature but there is one thing all these have in common. They are reflections of the sacred story that is played out in the stars. A gateway stands in that hinge between the reflections.

Pilgrimage is also story: each pilgrim is a hero and every hero has a quest. In the Extraordinary World, acceptance means connecting with the stars and reflecting the story told there onto the surface of the Earth. It means achieving a kind of immortality by living on in story when the body is no longer here.