In less than a week I will begin my two month stay in India. I will be one of 100 million people who gather for the largest religious festival known, the Kumbha Mela. What is it that draws that many people to one place at a certain time? Is it hope, hunger, curiosity, adventure… Who knows? Do we pilgrimage to receive the promised miracle of the Ganges River, just in case it might be true?
But “why” is probably the wrong question. Perhaps the important question is “how” to
travel…how to find compassion for a body that will have traveled a seemingly endless journey to be 11 ½ hours into the future where night has suddenly become day and day is now night…how to allow emotions to be electrified in the staggering number of people and the stark newness of a different culture…how to let the mind be overwhelmed, yet keep the heart open.
What I do know about India is that she has a blessing waiting for those who come with an open heart. But it is her blessing and hers to decide, hence all expectations must be left behind because they kill the surprise she has waiting for us. India seeps into one’s heart in ways unimaginable, and once she has taken hold, she stays, offering her continual blessing.
India teaches one to trust the not knowing, to surrender to someone else’s plan, and to acknowledge both the insignificance and magnificence of human life. She models the value of practicing devotion as an intimate part of life, and she inspires a continual gaze of wonder at what is before us. India permeates the rigidity of habitual beliefs and habitual ways of seeing, breaking open the mind as well as the heart.
As I write these words, I ask myself why it is that I fail to see this same truth is available whether I stay here or journey around the world? Why is it that I need to travel to clear the cobwebs that have allowed the ordinary to become so routine. Perhaps this is what a pilgrimage ultimately is, a cracking open that allows one to see the pure wonder and magnificence of ordinary daily living.
So for now, I journey.