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Value of pilgrimages



The Dalai Lama on the Value of Pilgrimages

Newsweek[Monday, April 23, 2007 22:59]

With the right attitude, any journey to a sacred place becomes a pilgrimage, writes the Dalai Lama in an exclusive essay for NEWSWEEK.

By The Dalai Lama

Aijaz Rahi / AP The Dalai Lama greeting students


"Essentially, all religions teach us to discipline and transform ourselves so that we can achieve inner peace and a kind heart. Yet today, in different parts of the world, we see the flames of conflict being fanned in the name of religion. People take up arms in the name of religion only because they are too narrow-minded to grasp the true meaning of their respective faiths.

I firmly believe we can take steps to help nurture understanding and harmony among religions, and thus promote peace and security. One of the important ways of doing this is to encourage contacts among the faiths, perhaps by visiting others’ places of pilgrimage. If possible, they can pray together; if not, they can just sit in silent meditation. Pilgrimages like this are an immensely valuable and deep experience. On one occasion, for example, I visited Lourdes, in southern France, not as a tourist but as a pilgrim. I drank the holy water, stood in front of Mary’s statue and thought that here, in this place, millions of people find blessing or tranquility on this spot. As I looked at the statue of Mary, a deep feeling of admiration and appreciation for Christianity rose within me, simply because it provides so much benefit to millions of people. Christianity may have a different philosophy, but the practical value of the help and benefit it offers is quite clear.

It was in this spirit that, in 1993, I went to Jerusalem, a site holy to three of the world’s great religions. I went to the Wailing Wall with Jewish friends. I visited Christian places and prayed with Christian friends, and then I visited the Mount Rock, the holy place of our Muslim friends and prayed with them. I have also paid visits to various Hindu, Islamic, Jain and Sikh shrines and places holy to Zoroastrians both in India and abroad. Sometimes we prayed together and sometimes meditated together in silence.

More recently, I joined Christian and Buddhist leaders in a pilgrimage of prayers, meditation and dialogue at Bodhgaya. Each morning under the Bodhi Tree, we all sat together and meditated. Since the Buddha came more than 2,500 years ago, and since Jesus Christ came almost 2,000 years ago, I think that this was the first time such a meeting had taken place.

Source: ... ilgrimages
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...Thanks for posting the entire article.

Hi Geoff3 & Steve S, glad u liked it. I hold a lot of respect for the Dalai Lama. I had the opportunity to see him in person at a conference and was very impressed by his presence. BTW, the post is only an excerpt, I included the link for the complete article. Best, xm 8)
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.

I should have written "link," as I actually read the entire article a couple of days ago.

I, too, am unclear on what Minkey means. To clarify my own post, I simply meant that the pilgrimage is meant to be religious in nature. While that is indeed speaking from my own perspective, that is the true meaning of being a pilgrim (as opposed to a hiker).

Steve S
Hello, Steve S. There's no denying that pilgrimages started out as religious in nature and to many modern pilgrims, as well as the Pilgrims' Office in Compostela, they still r. And that's fine, I respect it. The Camino means so many things to so many diff people...For me it's a spiritual experience, of which hiking is a componet, definitely, among others. Though am not religious, I do like to participate in religious services. There are so many reasons why "folks do long to go on pilgrimage..."

When in April the sweet showers fall
That pierce March's drought to the root and all
And bathed every vein in liquor that has power
To generate therein and sire the flower;
When Zephyr also has with his sweet breath,
Filled again, in every holt and heath,
The tender shoots and leaves, and the young sun
His half-course in the sign of the Ram has run,

And many little birds make melody
That sleep through all the night with open eye
(So Nature pricks them on to ramp and rage)
Then folk do long to go on pilgrimage,
And palmers to go seeking out strange strands,
To distant shrines well known in distant lands.


xm 8)
It's not just about yourself... It's ABOUT yourself. If you walk away from the Camino thinking "gosh, that was tough" Then you're thinking the wrong things... Or more to the point, you'vr missed something. It's not necessarily about religion, it's about your inner self. It's not about you in META PHYSICAL way... It's about you as a person. If that makes sense.
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It's about you as a person. If that makes sense.

Right on target. I think a pilgrimage should be able to include rather than exclude pilgrims that embark on their own spiritual paths, whatever their reason(s) may be, should there have to be any. Sometimes it's as simple as a magnetic attraction to the experience, a beckoning, religious reasons, you name them; in a very basic way I believe these compliment themselves, the end being "about you as a person." Best, xm 8)
Wow. I hesitate to go down this path (pun intended), but I feel compelled.

Minkey, I couldn’t agree more that “If you walk away from the Camino thinking ‘gosh, that was tough’ then you're thinking the wrong things.” However, even to invoke the concept of a “self” involves certain fundamental metaphysical suppositions. As the entire postmodernist project of the last 50 years (or 150 years, if one wants to go back as far as Nietzsche) has endeavored to demonstrate, the notion of a “self” (at least outside of a metaphysical context) is little more than a chimera of the biological and material conditions of existence. Thus I have great difficulty thinking that one can speak of a self that is not tied to some notion of metaphysics.

But to reiterate the point of my previous post(s): a pilgrimage, by definition, is a religious journey; and to call oneself a pilgrim means that one is engaged in a religious (or spiritual, though I resist separating the two) activity. After all, we go to Santiago (literally Saint James) precisely because the cathedral is (allegedly) the repository of his remains, the relics of one of Christ’s 12 apostles. Indeed, it is no accident that we translate “Camino” as “Way”: the word has specifically Christian connotations beginning with Christ’s stating “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” and then moving to Dante’s “Nel mezzo del cammin," and on through Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and beyond.

Now, all that does not mean that one has to be Christian to be a pilgrim; far from it. The Dalai Lama is no less a pilgrim than the Pope himself. (And for the record, I am not Catholic, nor even an evangelical Protestant. Just a plain, run-of-the-mill member of a mainline Presbyterian church in the U.S.A.) And to be as ecumenical as possible, a person might walk the Camino and not think of him or herself as a pilgrim but might already be starting unawares the process of the soul’s journey to God . One might reasonably ask, “Why are certain non-religious people so drawn to the Camino as opposed to, say, the Appalachian Trail?”

So, to conclude this longish post: Anyone can walk to Santiago, but to journey as a pilgrim means something very different. Significantly, the Spanish do not say that one “walks” the Camino; they say that one “makes” (the verb is hacer) the Camino. The latter formulation implies an intentionality that should not be lost on any of us who travel to Santiago.

I believe that the camino taken on a life of it’s own. Since its reanimation in the late 1970's (remember that it was dead and forgotten for almost 200 years) "THE CAMINO" is now the pilgrimage, not the walk to the tomb of St James the Greater.
It seems that ‘pilgrims’ today walk the camino to….. well ..... walk 'The Camino'. And then they go back and walk as many of the other routes as they can – or the same one over and over again - for the sake of walking 'The Camino'.
In the Middle Ages it was different - the majority of people walked to the town of Compostela to visit the shrine of Sant’ Iago in the hope of gaining indulgences for the remission of sins and time spent in purgatory.
But, times have changed. Few people feel compelled to walk the many camino routes today with the main purpose of visiting the tomb of Sant ‘Iago. That is not to say that many pilgrims don't pray for a miracle/cure/healing/change in their life. Many millions of bus pilgrims come each year to visit the shrine – over 12 million in the 2004 Holy Year. But most of those are Catholics and have nothing to do with 'The Camino'.
Nancy Frey (in her thesis for her doctorate in anthropology) said:
“There are as many reasons for walking el camino as there are pilgrims”
True. But I have never heard any of the many pilgrims I've met say that are walking the camino because they want to venerate the relics of St James in the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela.
On the other hand, I have often heard people say.
“I felt a compulsion to walk the camino.”
“From the time I heard/read about it, it was as though it was calling me.”
“I had a wonderful, spiritual experience walking the camino so I am going back to walk it again.”
“It is the journey that is important, not the destination.”

Perhaps then 'THE CAMINO' has become the pilgrimage?
The journey is the destination.
Pilgrim is a ‘pelegrinus’ - one who journeys in foreign lands.
I will let this be my last post on the topic.

For the record, Sil, I, too have read Nancy Frey. But again, to call oneself a pilgrim means to undertake a spiritual journey, whether one venerates the relics or not. Otherwise we do violence to language.

To be sure, the word "peregrino" comes from the Latin meaning "foreigner," but that word also is tied to any number of spritual/religious belief systems of the ancient Mediterranean/Middle Eastern world. Think of the hospitality required by the xenia contract (Greek), the idea of hosting angels unawares (OT), or even the surviving pashtunwali of Afghanistan today. Indeed, it is interesting to note the religious language of your own post: "calling" (vocation), "felt a compulsion," etc. I'm sure that we hardly need reminding that much of the revival of the Camino was fueld by spritualists (Coelho and MacLaine)--whom I would deem suspect, but who nevertheless made it a spiritual exercise.

And again, "a person might walk the Camino and not think of him or herself as a pilgrim but might already be starting unawares the process of the soul?s journey to God." Why else would people return to walk different routes repeatedly? Is there something deeper there that they don't yet recognize, or fail to see because of misunderstandings of the deeper meanings/wellsprings of their being?

But enough . . .

Steve S


I hope this won't be your last post! You have a succient way of getting your messages across that most can understand.
I agree with you wholeheartedly that a 'pilgrimage' - be it to a big red rock in Australia, to a pile of monolithic stones in England, or to a mountain top in China - is a 'spiritual journey' as apposed to a religious journey.
The one from Galicia (the round) and the one from Castilla & Leon. Individually numbered and made by the same people that make the ones you see on your walk.
Was in a massive strop yesterday and as a result was spouting a load of old tosh! Sorry! Not thinking straight :(
I think Minkey's by-line says everything we are trying to say - in once short sentence.

A pilgrim is a wanderer with purpose.

Thanks Minkey!

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