|Major Hindu Pilgrim Centers|
Children, everyone makes sacred journeys to various holy places. Some people may ask, ‘what is the point in making such pilgrimages, if devotion and the peace that results are an inner experience?’ It is true.
Devotion is an inner experience and expression. Devotion is the supreme love for God. Constant remembrance of God and surrender are its qualities. But today, it is just our goal. We have not attained that goal yet. So rituals, fasting and observances are all necessary for us. Planes flying in the skies have to run on the ground for a short time before taking off. It is like that.
Even though the wind is everywhere, doesn’t the wind that filters through the leaves of a tree make us feel refreshed and rejuvenated? In a similar manner, since a place of worship is saturated with the pure vibrations of prayers, devotional songs and mantras, that atmosphere helps us attain concentration and peace easily.
Such temple rituals, observances, vowed religious observance, pilgrimage are all paths to the goal of devotion filled with love. Once this devotion filled love is attained, then there is not much importance for these rituals and observances. Once the sun rises, the stars do not have any place. Path is needed for humans and vehicles to travel. But the birds flying in the skies do not need any path. Similarly, once we reach the goal of love, importance of rituals and observances reduce a lot.
All pilgrimages is a form of tapas, austerity. Fasting helps control and strengthen the mind. Through controlling the desires of the mind with discrimination, our mind gains power.
Observances are ways to bring the mind under control. If a river runs its courses in different directions, it is not possible to generate electricity. When the river flowing in different directions is directed in one directions, its power increases. It becomes possible to generate electricity from it. Similarly, it is possible to bring focus to the mind, which is running after many objects, and make it strong through observances.
A devotee who observed silence once a week told Amma once:
“Amma, I got angry at someone one day. When I started shouting at him, I suddenly realized that it was the day of my observing silence. So I controlled my mind. I was silent. Later on, when I was not observing silence one day, when I felt anger, I just wondered what I would have done if I were silent. The anger simply melted away.” Such observances help us bring our mind under control and cultivate good habits.
Whatever be the spiritual path, for our progress, constant practices and observances are necessary. In many pilgrimages, for instance the sacred journey to Sabarimala, the observances that last for forty-one days make it possible to keep our mind fixed on God for that long.
Along with that, our mind and body get purified. We have to be careful about one thing. When the fasting period is over and if we go back to our old habits, there is no use with all the observances we did. We should be able to continue observing the good habits we developed during the fasting period.
But many do not take care in this matter. They go back to their old ways. When we do that, the goal of the observances of austerities fails. This is something, which we have to keep specially in our mind. We should transform the culture, power and control of mind, which we longed for through the observances for leading a better life. That is when temple visits and religious observances become fruitful.
--Amma, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi